Recovery, regeneration, renewal, renaissance.
What is it with the ‘Re’ prefix in the economic development business?
‘Re’ indicates a sense of reversal, going back to the original place, a sense of ‘undoing’.
Recover -”to regain health or strength” – “to get (anything) back“
Regenerate -”make over, generate again,”
Renew – “to resume, revive – to bring back vitality“
Renaissance – “to be born again“
In each case there is a sense of making good something that is now broken. Of restoring things to how they once were – of returning to better times; of making new starts as if we had somehow jumped the gun in the 100 metres.
So what about that other old chestnut in our business – ‘development’? Isn’t ‘de’ just another prefix indicating a retrograde step – meaning, as it does, ‘to undo’?
But what about the second part – ‘velop‘ as in ‘envelope‘ meaning ‘to cover‘ or ‘to veil‘.
So the root of ‘develop’ is something about ‘uncovering’, ‘unveiling’ a sense of ‘revealing’ something. Think photography in the pre-digital era.
Development is not about going back but allowing, even facilitating, movement forward. It is about removing ‘covers’ so that what is already there can flourish. It is not about putting things right, making fresh starts and ruing mistakes.
It suggests that things are just the way they have to be. The question is not about what we once were – but what we have the aspiration and potential to become.
The challenge is how best to move forward to a new future rather than how to move back to a ‘glorious’ past.
If we believe that our job is to put right something that has gone wrong; to mend what is broken, this will define our work. A belief that our job is to help good people make progress will define our work in a way that will prove much more effective.
Here are 998 business ideas – just free for the taking:
Business opportunities are like buses, there is always another one coming along – Richard Branson
At least that is the case if you are already ‘enterprising’. Then the main problem is to stop the flow of opportunities and ideas long enough to make disciplined progress on any one of them.
However if you have been born and brought up in a struggling community there is a fair chance that the way you see the world makes it almost impossible o recognise ‘opportunities’ other than those that everyone else in your peer group recognises – the military, shelf stacking, alcohol, benefits, crime etc.
Your own self image may mean that ‘business opportunities’ are either not identified – or are quickly dismissed (‘I wouldn’t have what it takes’, ‘I would only mess it up’.)
Engaging those who are not yet thinking of themselves as enterprising or capable of learning the skills of enterprise is a major challenge in using enterprise in community transformation.
‘Enterprising’ people can recognise a gap between the way the world is, and the way they would like it to be and are taking actions that they think will help to close the gap between the two.
They are practitioners of the fine art of progress. I would also make a case that everyone is already enterprising, acting in ways that we think will make things better. We are all practitioners of the fine art of progress. It is a fundamental characteristic of of healthy people. It is just that some – many - of us have got ‘stuck’.
For some the nature of ‘progress’ is purely personal – making things better for themselves and their immediate families. For others it is a much more social objective – about making things better for others or for the planet. For the vast majority it is some combination of the two – which is why the distinction between the entrepreneur and the social entrepreneur, enterprise and social enterprise is such a tricky one to maintain.
If we want to develop more enterprising communities then our task is to:
- encourage more people to reflect on the gap between the way the world is and the way they would like it to be;
- nurture the skills and passions required to help more people believe that they can take action to close the gap;
- help people to recognise that action can and often does lead to progress;
- recognise that each ‘failure’ represents progress – a lesson learned.
It is about helping more people to become active citizens in shaping their own futures rather than to be passive consumers of whatever ‘life’ throws their way. It is about helping ‘stuck’ people to ‘unstick’ themselves. If we can help more people to get on this ‘enterprise journey’ then incredible progress becomes possible. We will be building more enterprising communities. We will even find that the business startup (and survival) rates go up as some enterprising people become entrepreneurs. This will be a by-product of our efforts to develop a more enterprising community and not a cause of it! Indeed by pusuing business start-ups direclty we may become the victims of at least two unintended consequences:
- we ‘skim’ the most enterprising people from the least enterprising communities
- we temporarily increase start-up rates with a parallel increase in business failure rates – the net result of which is more people even more certain that ‘enterprise’ is not for them
In some of the most deprived communities we have to recognise that large numbers of people have become stuck. The options for progress that they see are narrow. Their belief in their own ability to make progress has been eroded. They have little or no confidence in their own skills or their ability to develop them. This is one of the reasons that I have been finding out more about the work of The Pacific Institute. The Pacific Institute started life in 1971 with a simple idea – if you open people’s mind to their own potential and how to achieve it, step changes in organisational and community effectiveness will follow.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr Neil Straker who heads up TPI here in the UK. I found out that they are already massively engaged with Leeds City Council and with Education Leeds – although the links to enterprise in the city do not yet seem to have been made. They seem to have developed a strong track record in the city for helping individuals to recognise and develop their own potential. They have developed a large number of ‘facilitators’ in the city who have worked with both children and parents in many of the secondary schools throughout the city as well as with young people and adults in some of our most deprived communities.
They may have an important part to play in the enterprise agenda in the city.
It is deeply ingrained in most enterprise professionals to try to fix things. Business plans, cash flows, products and people.
We listen to our clients for signs of weakness or difficulty and then we try and fix the problem, usually by referring them to a course or another expert.
Much of our work is biased towards exposing and managing deficiencies rather than uncovering and celebrating strengths. This has become a deeply embedded part of our work – an almost medical approach to helping.
Think ‘Inform, Diagnose, Broker’. Think ‘Best Practice Business Diagnostic’.
We become just another part of the system that has for years highlighted and exposed weaknesses.
How would our work be changed if instead of this focus on the weaknesses we spent our time helping our clients to recognise what they have done, what they can do and what they can do to use these strengths to make progress?
The Development Trust Association exists to help communities to take control of the physical assets in their community and use them for public good.
Is there a similar service that helps individuals to uncover their assets (skills, passion, energy, talent, anger) and reclaim them in pursuit of progress?
So why not spend some time trying to avoid highlighting the problems – and instead accentuate the positive.
Developing a healthy pre-occupation with what is right, rather than re-emphasising all of the things that are wrong is likely to hold the key to building really constructive relationships in support of more enterprising individuals and communities.
Policy makers are keen on promoting enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Those who work in Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) see enterprise as a way of increasing competitiveness and gross national product (GNP).
The Department of Work and Pensions are interested in promoting enterprise as one way of getting people off of benefits and back into work.
Those in the Department of Communities and Local Government see it as a way of narrowing inequalities around wealth, building more sustainable communities and empowering communities to create their own future.
The Department of Health is interested because of its potential to engage individuals in meaningful activity that may reduce their needs for prescription drugs – but also because enterprise – especially social enterprise may provide vehicles for engaging the community and voluntary sector further in developing and delivering a range of health care services.
So there are a wide range of policy drivers from a wide range of government departments for the current and continuing interest in enterprise.
However what few of the policy makers seem to understand is that enteprise is not about ‘opportunities’ or social and economic policy. It is much more personal than that.
Enterprise is driven by personal and often very private ideas of how progress can be made.
How things can be made better.
And a precursor for this is that individuals must believe that they can make things better – that they can make a difference in their own circumstances by taking action and making things happen. They must have dreams of progress for themselves, their families and their communities.
Yet so many have given up dreaming as they associate dreams and hope with failure and disappointment. Safer to accept the status quo than to risk the dangers associated with progress.
A key part of the work of the enterprise coach is to help their clients to dare to dream again.
- ‘I just wanted to say thank you very much for the workshop, I thought it was absolutely brilliant and made me think on a deeper level of what community is all about. The book is great and very inspiring so thanks for that too. I had a lot of fun and it wasn’t one of those meetings where we were talked at it was very interactive and I really look forward to the next one’
- ‘good networking event’
- ‘good style of delivery’
- ‘good selection of talk and exercises – kept my attention’
- ‘met new people; found out about other organisations; loved the opportunity to share and learn from others’
- ‘excellent delivery and content’
- ‘the whole day was very good ‘
- ‘liked the style and format; good exercises and examples’
- ‘built rapport and gained more info on partners’
- ‘opportunities to network and see the LEGI bigger picture’
- ‘presentations very good. re-assured about things I did in the past. learned about innovative ways to deal with disaffected’
- ‘good mix in terms of style and delivery – light hearted but meaningful tasks – theoretical and practical
- ‘informative – with interesting ways of getting the points across’
- ‘good networking, meeting other LEGI partners, more information about enterprise, the activities were educational’
- ‘liked the interaction, presentations, venue, networking and the presenters’
- ‘liked the mix of activities – fun and engaging’
- ‘liked the process model and the stages, Boyatzis Model and the group work, the learning from the videos was good and the interaction with others’
- ‘I liked the exercises that put us out of our comfort zones’
- ‘I see that many people could really benefit from both you and Anne as I have to admit that I have been on so many workshops and training days but I have to say yours was the best by far’
- ‘I liked Anne, I think she is very knowledgeable and is a great presenter. She thinks outside the box and stretches other peoples thinking. I have just been sharing my day with [colleagues] and telling them how fantastic the workshop was. I would like to include the others from our team if possible onto your next planned workshop as its important that we can all learn as much as possible to benefit the people that we try and reach everyday within our jobs’
This was just some of the feedback from the first time we ran our ‘Engaging Communities in Enterprise’ workshop.
I am delighted to say that we plan to run it again in London on September 26th. You can find out more and book your place here.
I run the event with Anne Sherriff. Anne has a strong background in regeneration, in particular community engagement, communications and marketing, and developing effective partnerships. She joined re’new in 1996, having previously worked for Bradford City Challenge and before that the Community Development Foundation.
Initially appointed to lead and co-ordinate Leeds’ SRB2 funded East Bank regeneration programme, Anne’s role with re’new has developed to now encompass overall responsibility for all of the company’s work throughout East Leeds as well as leading the development of renew’s neighbourhood management and community activity. Anne also coordinates re’new’s corporate marketing and communications activity, and leads on the development of new business across the Leeds city region.
The East Bank regeneration programme encompassed housing and environmental renewal, economic development and social and community development. Throughout, the ability to engage successfully with local residents was key to the success of the regeneration programme.
Forming and sustaining effective partnerships – between agencies and with local communities – is fundamental to successful intervention at neighbourhood level. Anne developed and led the East Bank partnership and has subsequently coordinated the formation of the to’gether Partnership. This is a unique multi-agency approach to solving inner-city problems in east Leeds based on shared responsibility among public agencies and buy-in by local residents, including developing a ‘residents network’ of local people who have endorsed the to’gether Partnership, currently numbering over 1000 and still growing.
Anne has been involved in community development and community engagement for nearly thirty years, as a practitioner, trainer and manager. Committed to developing innovative and effective solutions to local issues, and to ‘joining up the dots’ between disparate interventions and approaches, she is an effective and creative strategic leader whilst retaining a pragmatic approach to getting things done. Anne is an experienced Investment in Excellence facilitator committed to enhancing personal and professional development opportunities for those working in or with local communities.
More enterprising communities are stronger, wealthier, happier and sustainable.
The advantages are obvious.
So how come, when we’ve explained the benefits of enterprise so carefully, and offered all the help and support any budding entrepreneur could possibly need, we’re still not mowed down in the rush as enthused and energised communities respond to the call?
I am starting a collection of barriers to enterprise – reasons why people do not put their enterprising ideas into practice.
My collections is a little small at the moment – so please help me by using the comments box to add to the collection:
- If I start my own business I will lose my benefits and be worse off – The Benefits Barrier
- I don’t have the ability to run my own business – The Confidence Barrier
- I don’t have any ideas for a new business – The Creativity Barrier
- Whatever I try to do will end in a mess – The Confidence Barrier II
- I don’t have any cash to help me start up a business – The Access to Finance Barrier
- I can’t start a business – who would look after the kids – The Childcare Barrier
- I haven’t got anywhere to run a business from – The Premises Barrier
- I haven’t got any way of getting around – the Transport Barrier
- If I start a busniess the taxman will not make it worth my while – The Taxation Barrier
- I don’t know how to go about employing people – The ‘HR’ Barrier
So please add to my collection – either new barriers or different examples of the barriers already identified. Then perhaps we can look at ways to remove them…