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Posts Tagged ‘development’

‘Bottom Up’ is the New Black

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Leeds – Dec 1st

Whether it is more ‘civic enterprise’, community engagement or ‘Big Society,’ people with power, but increasingly little money, are looking for new ways to get things done.  The large capital infrastructure projects have not given us more inclusive communities and now we can’t afford them any way, so in some quarters at least interest is shifting from old school top down strategy to a more emergent process of bottom up development.  To processes where large numbers of people can shape their own futures and as a result the futures of the communities that they live in.

But making the shift from top down to bottom up is far from easy….

Over the last few years I have been developing low and no cost approaches to economic, personal and community development leading to new projects such as:

These are my best efforts to provide an infrastructure that allows the private, public, third sector and those of ‘no sector’ to give and get the help that they need to develop enterprising projects and people, and for the development of ‘community’ by building relationships and networks around local activists.  To bring ‘bottom up’ development to life.

This one day masterclass will provide:

  • an overview of the ‘responsive’, bottom up philosophy that underpins each of these projects and its relationship to more commonly found ‘strategic efforts at community development and strategy implementation
  • the implications for strategists and policy developers of the patterns and themes for development that emerge from these bottom up activities
  • practical ‘warts and all’ insights into each of the 5 projects listed above including their progress, impact and cost base
  • an exploration of the links between the various projects and how they work together to provide an infrastructure for progress
  • an overview of the factors that drive their development and an exploration of how these can be managed
  • insights into how the projects manage social inclusion
  • opportunities to explore how these projects can be used to inform economic, community and personal development in your own area.

Who Should Attend?

  • Professionals and practitioners interested in new apporaches to economic and community development
  • Councillors and lcoal authority staff with responsibility for neighbourhoods and community
  • Representatives from the private sector with an interest in community and neighbourhood development, corporate social repsonsibility or looking to develop links with their community
  • Funders looking for new ideas in community development and regneration
  • Local people looking for affordable and accessible approaches to community development
Find out more and book your place here – http://bottomupisthenewblack.eventbrite.co.uk/
First 15 to book get 50% off.

Here’s to the compliant ones…

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Another afternoon talking NEETS and another bunch of folk who think that a few more entrepreneurs going in to schools to raise aspirations will make things better.

It wont.

Because for the vast majority of the time our cultures, in schools, councils and other machine bureaucracies actually teach a very different lesson.

The celebration of compliance and subjugation to the system.  So….

Here’s to the compliant ones

The submissives

The ‘OK’ folk

The shapeshifters occupying the shape shifting roles

The ones who see the reason of others

They are fond of rules and the security of routine

They can quote you, agree with you, glorify, and support you

And, when you need to, you can ignore them.

Because they challenge nothing,

They don’t push the boundaries

And, while some may see them as automatons, we see them as gun fodder

The people who will threaten nothing and will work for little more.

The business of human endeavour…

August 3, 2011 6 comments

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills.

This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a ‘Sales Director’, an ‘Operations Manager’ or a ‘Brand Executive’. Yuk!

What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour?

Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on.

What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be ‘Footballer in Training’, ‘Ballet Dancer under Construction’, ‘Surgeon to Be’ or ‘The Next Michael McIntyre’?  OK, so perhaps we don’t need another Michael McIntyre…. but you get my point?

Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their own futures.  It is about building a generation with both power and compassion. And a generation who really understand how to use the tools of collaboration, association and cooperation in pursuit of mutual progress.

Does it really only matter if their chosen endeavour contributes to GVA?  Or is there more to our humanity that we need to recognise and encourage through both our policy and practice?

And this is not just an issue in schools.  It runs like a plague through our communities from cradle to grave.

I think this is important because we lose so many who are completely turned off by the thought of a world of commerce (and let’s face it we don’t all want to dive headlong into a world of Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice).

So what about if instead of focussing on enterprise and entrepreneurship we attempted to throw our net wider and to encourage and support people to build their power and compassion in whatever they choose to be their particular fields of human endeavour?

Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

July 5, 2011 4 comments

  1. Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor.
  2. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship.
  3. Good mentors are rarely trained in ‘mentoring’, nor are they picked from a register.
  4. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn.
  5. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship.
  6. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity.
  7. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need.
  8. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing.
  9. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of ‘help’ they need.
  10. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it – rather than prescribe yet another ‘cure-all’ that happens to be ‘affordable’.
  11. We should focus our efforts on building social learning contexts and helping people manage their learning processes rather than setting up registers and schemes.
  12. If the national association of image consultants got their lobbying act together I am sure we might all end up being encouraged to use a national register of image consultants in pursuit of GDP.

If you are interested in implementing ill thought through policy and exploiting it as way to make a few bob please do not get in touch.  If on the other you are serious about building a context in which people  can really learn then I would love to hear from you.

Just leave a comment below.

High Growth and High Start Up Rates: Why We Shouldn’t Chase Them

April 1, 2011 4 comments

Colin Bell over at Winning Moves picks over this old chestnut in his latest post.

Should we throw our limited resources at businesses that we believe have high growth potential or should we just go for lots of start-ups knowing that a minority of them will experience high growth anyway?

The plain truth is that both are equally foolish policy goals.
We simply can’t pick winners/high growth businesses.  So how do we know which to resource?
And as Drucker said ‘you can’t have the mountain top without the mountain’ .  High growth businesses emerge from a strong and vibrant enterprise ecology.  An ecology that is diverse, tightly knit and well connected (bridging and bonding, social and cultural capital).
Focus on building the mountain and the top will look after itself.
But please don’t build the mountain by rushing to increase the start up rate.
When we do this we just increase the failure rate too and that undermines aspiration and confidence.  So start fewer businesses, but make sure they are good ones, team starts, well thought through and researched.  Get survival rates into the 90%s after three years.  Not just survival, but successful.  Allow these small but significant success show the way to others.
So set up a broad enterprise ecology – lots of people with ideas and the confidence to act on them (this is not just about business but about social impact, culture, festivals, campaigning and so on) and build social networks, communities, that know how to support their members.
Invest your economic development budget in supporting people, who really are committed to making things better, and building communities.  Smart, confident people in competent communities will not only give you the economic outputs that you require – but they might just give you something much more interesting as well.
I expect these ideas to be dismissed by those who have High Growth and Mass Start Up Programmes to sell, and by those running economic development teams who have for decades been buying these programmes and commissioning evaluations that say ‘much has been achieved but much remains to be done’.

But perhaps some will see that now is as good a time as any to try something new….

Start Up Britain – credit where credit is due…

March 29, 2011 9 comments

Well Startupbritain.org certainly splits opinion, at least amongst the twitterati and the blogger community.

Start Up Britain: Some love it, some hate it and some are just indifferent.  In 25 years of working on business support and enterprise in the UK and overseas I have never seen anything like it given such a ringing endorsement by Government.

Credit where credit is due.

They have shipped and made things happen.  And what a launch!  The Prime Minister, The Chancellor of The Exchequer and The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade all turning out along with assorted Dragons and celebrity entrepreneurs to offer their support and endorsement.

All of them want to see a more enterprising Britain.

More businesses starting up.

More businesses surviving and more businesses growing.

Now we might have an interesting conversation about the balance between economic growth driven by an enterprise led recovery, national well-being, and an environmentally sustainable future, but that would need us to take a holistic perspective on enterprise policy in the UK.  And I suspect, for the moment at least, this is all about wealth creation, employment, tax take and ‘a private sector led recovery’ rather than the wider role that enterprise can play in creating communities that people want to live in.

Startup Britain have shipped, and they have had feedback.  The makeover has begun.  Some of the typos have already been picked up and corrected.  I am sure the broken links (HP offer for example) will be mended and the links to malware (Growing/Staying Inspired/a bit of motivation/Warren Buffet) sites removed. (Although more than 24 hours since I first blogged and tweeted there has been no acknowledgement of the problem and no resolution)

I also suspect that a bit of a site makeover might be in order to make it a little less political and move the discount vouchers and special offers to a more discrete position.

But I think the challenges go a little deeper and wonder whether they will be addressed.

Surely Anything is Better than Nothing?

I do not subscribe to the school that says ‘anything is better than nothing’ – especially when that ‘anything’ is launched by half the cabinet and a host of celebrity entrepreneurs.  I work at the coal face of enterprise support in the UK, where regularly people lose their houses, marriages and occasionally their lives because the business that they were encouraged to start has left them in more debt.

And many more struggle on day after day living hand to mouth because they were encouraged to start a business that was at best marginal.  I have talked with many an adviser who have told me about the pressure they come under to make loans to would be entrepreneurs against their better judgement, because they have start up and loan making targets to hit.

Enterprise really is a double edged sword. And if we choose to promote it in our communities then we must do so with care, competence and compassion. Entrepreneurship is not all about computing in the cloud, venture finance and making the first million.  We love to promote the upsides of enterprise – but it also has a dark side.

A little more curation please…

If Start Up Britain wants to be a serious player in the long term they really do need to develop a professional approach towards site curation.  At the moment there are too many links to the same few sites, many of which are businesses affiliated to  Startup Britain’s founders and more vocal celebrity supporters with books and other products to shift.  When offering advice and support, impartiality matters.

I would strongly recommend that they appoint a credible curator/editor and possibly an editorial board that can ensure impartiality and quality of what gets listed on Startup Britain’s web directory and then a good folksonomy system that will ensure that the most useful content gets clearly flagged by the people that use it.   I used to argue that Business Link should have a folksonomy approach to rating both its own advisers and the third party service providers that they brokered out to – but this was seen as just too risky!

Sort Out an SEO Strategy…

At the time of writing if you Google ‘startup britain’ the main http://www.startupbritain.org site does not appear at least not on the first half a dozen pages, after which I gave up.  Instead www.startupbritain.co.uk and www.start-up-britain.co.uk take pole position.  Now that is enterprise.  Perhaps time to use some of those free adwords that you are entitled to…

Oh, and it would be lovely to actually link to a specific piece on the site.  But we can’t.  Think of all those lovely referrals that you are missing out one.

Re-think Peer to Peer and DIY Support

The Start Up Britain ‘peer support strategy’ needs a bit of a rethink.  It is great that the Supper Club and Prelude (both founded by Start Up Britain co-founder Duncan Cheatle) are offering free mentoring. (Free as long as you agree to provide 2 hours of free mentoring for every hour that you receive: it will be interesting to see the pathway through which mentee becomes mentor).

However we know that mentoring is not right for all, and a quick look at Prelude and The Supper Club suggests a certain emphasis on high growth strategies.  If I want to become a self employed window cleaner will I still get the mentoring?  Will I be invited to mentor others?

What about encouraging other forms of peer to peer support and an ethos of DIY?

What about helping entrepreneurs to become much more effective at managing their own learning rather than spoon feeding them courses and mentors?

What about helping entrepreneurs to figure out the type of support that they need and how they can best access it?

A truly British Campaign?

Start Up Britain needs to think a little more about developing a genuinely British presence.  Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland?  I am not sure yet that it really covers England.  It needs to quickly move on from being Start Up London and the South East – remember that stuff about re-balancing the economy?

For example I spent a bit of time trying out Enternships.com (another Founding Partner of Start Up Britain) to see what enternships might be available in my home city of Leeds.  Answer = 0.  Bradford = 0.  Yorkshire = 0.  A search for enternships in Manchester did turn up 4, albeit 1 of them was actually in London.  2 were for telesales positions and one was to do social media for a recruitment agency.

A Little More Transparency Too…

Start Up Britain is variously referred to as ‘a not for profit company‘, ‘an independent collective of UK entrepreneurs and big business’ and a new campaign run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.   It is described on the BIS website as ‘representing the private sector response’.   This leaves me confused.

So there we go.

I have been positive.

I only hope that we see a response.

Start Up Britain – Driving Enterprise Led Recovery?

March 28, 2011 7 comments

Another day; another website driving the ‘enterprise led recovery’.

Today sees the launch of Start Up Britain.  Described on the BIS website as ‘an independent collective of UK entrepreneurs and big businesses, representing the private sector response to the Government’s ambition for an enterprise-led recovery.  Over 60 leading global brands have pledged millions of pounds in support to new entrepreneurs’.

Now, 60 global brands offering discounts does not in my mind translate into millions of pounds worth of support. It smacks of introductory discounts designed to develop the start up market.

On its own site Start Up Britain says we are:

a new campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, launched on 28th March 2011. Designed to celebrate, inspire and accelerate enterprise in the UK, it has the full backing of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and HM Government.

This is a response from the private sector to the Government’s call for an ‘enterprise-led’ recovery. We believe that many of the important functions and services necessary to foster and champion new enterprise can be open-sourced, instead of provided by government directly. We aim to do this by creating a living market-place online for the wide range of enterprise support that is already available.

As a private sector organisation we aim to shoulder some of this responsibility for enterprise promotion with the government, re-modelling existing cost centres, and reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

So Start Up Britain is  a campaign.  But what kind of campaign?  A campaign to change policy? Or an advertising campaign?  Details on what is being campaigned for, and who the campaign is targeting are a little sketchy.

The line about ‘many of the important functions and services necessary to foster and champion new enterprise can be open-sourced, instead of provided by government directly’  leaves me perplexed.  What is meant in this context by ‘open sourced’?  What are the ‘important functions and services’?  I think they are saying leave business support up to private sector, because they can turn a few bob on it.  Not sure how this will pan out for the poorest in our communities but hey – this is an enterprise led recovery we are starting here.  We will have to rely on trickle down and philanthropy to sort out the poor.  Seems a bit like the privatisation of healthcare – where the profitable bits are taken on by the private sector leaving the expensive stuff – like enterprise in areas of deprivation to be managed by the state.

Now I love the idea of a living marketplace for enterprise support.  A place where buyers and vendors can meet, talk and exchange.  A place where customers can soon see who is the real deal and who is selling tat.  But I am not sure that a series of links to ‘some of our favourite sites’ really constitutes a living marketplace.  More of a sales and referral network really.  Many of which seem to end up in the US.

Follow ‘Tip 4 – Get a Logo’ and you end up on a San Francisco based platform that will crowd source you a logo designer on the cheap.  That is really going to help UK based graphics companies.  Thanks.  But the problem is even more acute than that –  ‘Tip 4 – Get a Logo’.  I must have assessed over 200 business advisers in my time and I have NEVER heard any of them give such a crass piece of advice as ‘get a logo’.

And it seems to me that just about every private sector sponsor/supporter of Start Up Britain gets a link to sell their book, their training course, their start up packs.  Vested self interest anyone?

If you follow the links to ‘Schools to learn about entrepreneurship’ you find there are just two.  One from Peter Jones the other from Doug Richards…

I especially liked the section that says ‘Knowing your market’. It offers links to a range of online survey platforms.  Is the implication really that an online survey is all you need to know your market?  Surely a link to some more generic advice on the importance of market research and its limitation might be more helpful?

The section on ‘Getting Funding’ does not even mention families and friends as a potential source!

If you follow the Warren Buffet link to ‘get some motivation’ then you get a malware warning.

And if you follow the link to Capital Enterprise at the time of writing you will find that it is broken.

At best what we have here is a bit of flaky directory, with no way for us to rate our experience of the providers.

And Cameron, Cable and Osbourne turn out to launch this curate’s egg?

The twitterstream for #startupbritain is telling.  Part spam, part gushing praise and hardly any objective comment at all.

What would a real Enterprise Zone be like?

March 21, 2011 1 comment

So much for innovation in enterprise policy.

The best we seem to be able to do at the moment is rehash 1980s style enterprise zones to distort the market in favour of some places over others through a combination of tax breaks and more relaxed approaches to planning.  An enterprise zone becomes little more than a place where we encourage entrepreneurs to put their businesses because of a few breaks that the state can afford offer.  They are often little more than a business park with flexible planning requirements.  It looks like there will be 20 of them, funded to the tune of £1.25m each per year.  And at that level of funding any tax breaks are likely to be tiny.

But what would a real ‘enterprise zone’ look like?  Not some policy makers confection but a community that really knows how to support enterprise?  A community that does not try to pick winners in the pursuit of GDP but really supports individuals and groups in pursuit of whatever matters most to them?

Well, the first pre-requisite for such an enterprise zone would be that a high percentage of the population really were clear on what mattered most to them.  They would be aware of the current situation (politically, environmentally, financially culturally and socially) what they love about it, what they hate, and what they want to change as a result.  They would be helped and challenged to clarify their self interest.

They would have some kind of idea of what progress looks like to them.  They would have some idea about the direction in which progress lies.  They would be encouraged to reflect on the nature of ‘better’ to produce a creative tension between how things are and how they might be.  This creative tension would drive enterprise.

And they would have some kind of game plan about how they were going to make progress.  They would accept that the responsibility for progress is theirs.  They would know how to deal with both set backs and success and have what psychologists call a high internal locus of control.  In short they would believe that they can influence their future. That it is not essentially down to fate, luck or others.

They would be living and working in a community that recognised enterprising people (NB these may or may not be looking to start a business.  Enterprise in human endeavour comes in many more forms than just entrepreneurship) and individuals and groups in that community would know how to help.  In short a real enterprise zone would be packed full of people who know how to help and are themselves ‘help able’.  In such an enterprise zones we would indeed ‘all be Jim’.

People would feel a sense of belonging because they were part of community that wanted them to succeed and likewise provided opportunities to help others succeed as well.  Success would not be down to fiscal policy but to social policy.  We would succeed in our enterprise because of the people in our community not because of planning or taxation perks.

In short an enterprise zone would be little more than a competent community.  And this has more to do with regeneration ‘between the ears’ than with planning regimes, taxation policy or property development.

A Community Ecology of Enterprise

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Enterprise is not just about ‘entrepreneurial types’ and ‘business ideas’.
It is not just about business and commercial endeavour.
If I want to make something happen to improve things in my community I may start a business, but I may start a campaign, or a festival, or a local action group.  I have worked with many people whose motivation was not to develop a business, but to make a difference, and in some cases setting up a business has been a means to that end.  No more than that.  It is simply a means to an end.
Well managed and run these kinds of community based activity all contribute to a more enterprising community and provide the kind of community ecology and practice ground from which commercial endeavours may spring.  They also help to build the social capital that is essential to building a sustainable and resilient local economy and community.
If LEPs were to think more about the kind of community ecology that supports enterprise and how this can be developed I suspect they would get a much greater ROI than on more traditional approaches of advice, managed workspace (we are awash with these in Leeds, mostly under-used and inappropriate for the communities they were built in) and access to finance.
Yes the web matters.  But it won’t be primarily because either a LEP or the national Business Link site offer generic advice and guidance (which to be frank just replicates what is already out there in most cases) but because local sites and sites of shared interest will provide highly specific and contextual advice – usually in the form of dialogue and conversation rather than factsheet.  The web will provide a platform for conversations that cannot easily take place face to face.
We have to start to think differently.  We have to innovate. We have to be prepared to try new approaches.  I hope LEPs are up to the challenge.
For me this means getting away from thinking about one to one advice for high growth, one to small group for lifestyle and start-up (in deprived areas) and one to many (content led websites) for the rest, and instead seriously building the networks, social capital, self belief and self-reliance that will allow our communities to become much more enterprising.

Sticks, carrots, coercion and coaching

September 20, 2010 2 comments

“What we did establish is that the carrots offered were far less effective than the sticks employed.”

Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts – talking about the ‘limited effect’ of Pathways to Work pilots

Sticks and carrots have a long and noble tradition in the  management of donkeys.  However even with donkeys there are times when the ‘bribe and  punish’ approach to change management fails:

  • When the donkey is not hungry enough
  • When the effort of reaching the carrot is too great (the burden is too heavy)

In these circumstances we may choose to resort to the stick.  But this too will not work if:

  • the pain of the stick is thought to be less than the pain of moving forward
  • the donkey learns to like the stick and the attention that it brings

But I think the real issue here is not about the limitations of sticks and carrots in the management of donkeys and people.

It is about the complete and utter failure to understand the nature of human motivation.  Motivation is that which energises, directs and sustains a person’s efforts.  Sustains efforts.  Sticks and carrots applied to move a donkey from one (expensive) field to another (less expensive field) do NOTHING to sustain efforts.  In fact it is likely to achieve the opposite.  The donkey returns to its passive state until more carrots and sticks appear on the scene.  And the state wants more enterprising communities?

But the major problem is not treating people like donkeys, and further dulling their enterprising souls.  It is that the state believes that this is the most effective, fair and just way of changing behaviour.  That this is such a common default setting when trying to manipulate the behaviours and choices of its citizens.

And we wonder why ‘community engagement’ is so difficult.  When you have beaten and bribed your donkeys into submission don’t expect them to engage with you, without the use of ever more sticks and carrots.

Perhaps instead of resorting to a coercive approach to change, we might try instead a coaching approach?

Helping people to recognise their long term self interest and how it may be pursued.  Helping  them to develop the power they need to make progress in their lives.  Helping them to recognise that it is possible and that they don’t need to be pushed around by a bureaucratic system of sticks and carrots.  That THEY have choices and agency in their own lives.  Vegetable wielding bureaucrats do not have to be the architects of their future.

And what if someone decides that their long-term self interest is served by staying exactly where they are?

Well, we could just leave them alone and put our time, energy and investment into those that want to explore pastures new.  Why should the squeaky wheel get all the grease?

Because perhaps people are more like sheep than donkeys.  When they see some of the flock moving forward others are sure to follow.

Aren’t they?

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