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Posts Tagged ‘enterprise coaching’

‘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.

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.

The Art and Enterprise of the Luthier


Elsie is Born…


I seem to have been a bit quiet on this blog, while I have been doing other things, including pushing Progress School along, working on Collaborate Leeds and incubating a new idea which has finally found the light of day today:

The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator or Elsie for short.  This provides a community based network of support to local enterprise coaches, advisors, facilitators, in fact to anyone who is helping someone else in the community to make progress.

I have high hopes for Elsie in post Business Link austerity economy.  I think it will provide a sustainable high value model to provide practical crowd sourced enterprise support to those that most want and need it.

Have a look at Elsie and tell me what you think.

Enterprising Communities – Missing a trick?


One of my favourite frmaeworks for thinking about team work was published in book called Dialogue by Bill Isaacs.  The model suggests that if a gourp is to make progress it needs to have 4 distinct roles handled effectively.

Firstly it need Movers.  These are peopl who float ideas, lead initiatives and generally make things happen. Spontaneous, action orientated and often extrovert – happy to put their ideas out there. In a community I often think that these Movers are akin to entrepreneurs.

But a productive group also needs skilled Followers.  These are people who can take the energy and ideas of the Movers and build on them, add to them, take of the rough edges, put in the hard work and generally get the job done.  They are close to what Mike Southon calls cornerstones.  People who help turn the vision into reality.

But in addition to Movers and Followers a productive group also needs effective Opposers.  These are people who are going to check the facts, collect the evidence and if there is an objection to be raised, they will raise it.  Constructively, powerfully and effectively.  They will skilfully play the role of the Devil’s Advocate and if there is a weakness or a fault-line in the thinking they WILL find it.

And finally a productive group, or I would argue and enterprising community, needs Bystanders.   They stand back from the cut and thrust of the idea and its development but will instead provide perspective, an overview and perhaps some historical context.  They also help to manage the group process, ensure that deadlines are met and that resources are available when they are needed most.  They may well ‘chair’ the conversations.

People can play more than one role in the model, but in an effective group or community all 4 roles are played well.

Yet we seem to be obsessed really with just one of them.  The Movers.  The Entrepreneurs.  We spend a lot of time and money developing the entrepreneur, but very little time developing people to play the other three roles.

One of the marks of the enterprising community for me is that it knows how to engage its Movers and Entrepreneurs and equip them with the Followers, Opposers and Bystanders that they need to really build a successful project, whether it is business start-up, a community project or a campaign.

We often rely on advisers or mentors to play these roles.  But when an entrepreneur works with a group of their peers, drawn from their communities and markets who know how to follow, oppose and bystand skillfully, I can guarantee that they will get much more value.

And they will also win lots of advocates for them and their work.

Enterprise Hub or Duck Farm?


I visited a really great community centre recently.  Busy, friendly, homespun, clearly doing great work in and with the community. We were using several rooms, one of which was called the ‘Enterprise Hub’.  It was spotlessly clean, airy, spacious and well furnished, just like every other room in the building.  But for the life of me I could not work out what made it an ‘Enterprise Hub’.  It was not set up for hot desking, there were no PCs, no mail boxes, none of the usual paraphernalia…

So I asked the centre manager about the Enterprise Hub.  The answer surprised me – but it shouldn’t have done.  They were looking for cash to modernise and re-decorate the room and in conversation with the local authority it become clear that the only budget with cash available was in ‘Enterprise’.

‘They said if we called it an Enterprise Hub we could have the cash.’

I love the way this demonstrates the inherent enterprise of the community centre management team in tracking down the cash that they need to ‘get the job done’.  I am less impressed  by what it says about some investments in ‘enterprise’.  I can just imagine the report to the councillors about the new enterprise hub…

I remember a colleague saying to me at the launch of a major enterprise initiative,

‘The problem is that many of the people in this room don’t really understand enterprise.  They don’t live it and breathe it.  If the Government was announcing a major initiative to invest in duck farming, because an economist had said THAT is the future of the UK economy, many of these same people would be in the room, nodding sagely, and would run home to invent new policies to encourage duck farming’.

Breaking the Stranglehold on Enterprise

May 9, 2011 2 comments

For a few years now I seem to have been living in Groundhog Day.  Not everyday, but enough to be disconcerting.

I will be chatting with an enterprise professional, perhaps a lecturer in a University, an enterprise coach in a ‘deprived’ community, a start-up business adviser or a bureaucrat managing an enterprise project.  In our conversations about enterprise we will recognise how it is not all about business.  How enterprise can be expressed in a seemingly infinite number of ways.  Sure, for a significant and important minority, it is about commercial endeavour. Business, profit, and social impact in some combination.  In order to express their enterprising soul a minority have to start a business.

But for the majority being enterprising, being proactive in pursuit of a better future, does not mean starting up a business.  It may mean making a phone call, having a conversation, calling a meeting or writing a letter.  Taking some action that increases agency and power in pursuing a preferred future.  It may be taking the opportunity to reflect on ‘The direction in which progress lies‘, or ‘What are the next steps that I can take to make progress?‘  or ‘What options have I got?

We will reflect on how some of the most enterprising people we know may work in the Council, or the University, or organise festivals and campaigns in the community.  That the enterprising soul finds its expressions in many forms and not just in entrepreneurship.

We will agree that the real point of leverage in our communities lies not in providing start-up advice with those who are already minded to start a business, although of course this IS important.  The real leverage lies in helping more people to establish the direction in which progress lies for them and their loved ones and helping them to plan and execute actions designed to move them in that direction.

If we can significantly increase the stock of enterprising people then, as sure as eggs is eggs, we will also increase the stock of entrepreneurial people.  And we will not lose so many who are completely turned off by enterprise because of the Gordon Gecko or Victorian perceptions of enterprise nurtured by the reality TV shows and newspaper headlines.

We will also increase the survival rate of new businesses as people make natural progress into entrepreneurship instead of being persuaded to start a business (‘all you need is the idea and the determination to succeed’) when they have not yet gained the real skills or capital that they will need to succeed.

In our conversations we will agree on these things.  And then almost invariably they will head off to run another course on ‘Marketing and Sales’ or ‘Business Planning’ or to look at monitoring returns that count bums on seats and business start-up rates.

If ever there was an industry that needed to innovate and re-invent itself and its role in modern Britain it is the enterprise industry.   If we really want to build a much more enterprising Britain then we need to break the stranglehold that the business start-up industry has on enterprise policy.

This might be just one of the ideas we can explore at Enterprising Communities: The Big Conversation in Leeds on May 19th.

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.

The E in LEP is for ENTERPRISE

November 9, 2010 1 comment

Not Economic.

Not Entrepreneurial.

ENTERPRISE.

If LEPs really focused on encouraging enterprise rather than economic growth how would things change?

If LEPs looked at how they create a culture where enterprise (the ability to act boldly in pursuit of progress) was the norm rather than the exception, a mass participation sport, something that was seen as cool and for everyone, not just those smart ‘entrepreneurial types in suits’ what sorts of things would they be doing?

How would our communities change?

What would happen to our economy?

Dear Lord Young…

November 1, 2010 7 comments

Congratulations on your appointment as the new enterprise csar.  I am sure that the unpaid and part time role will keep you engaged.

I am pleased that you will look at how to ‘encourage people to start businesses rather than find jobs as employees’.  It makes a refreshing change from the usual line of the ‘private sector creating jobs’.  As we know big businesses have, on the whole, been laying people off over recent decades rather than taking them on. And just how long can we keep going with the mentality of ‘gizza job’ and ‘on yer bike/bus’ in a 21st century globalised and localised economy?

Can I suggest you take an early look at the semantics of ‘encouraging people to start businesses‘  and the very practical consequences that are likely to flow from it.  When a figure in authority, never mind Government, sets out to ‘encourage us’ to do something, some of us come over all suspicious.   Are you really interested in our well-being, or is there a more self centred game being played?  There is a good chance that in the very act of ‘encouraging us’ you serve to engender resistance to the very idea you wish us to entertain.  Psychologists call this reactance.

I have not read in detail the guidance on the Regional Growth Fund.  But I understand, from correspondence with someone that has, that it specifically says that self-employment is not something it should be used to promote.  Instead it should be used to encourage jobs created by employers.  There seems to be somewhat of a contradiction here.

But back to the point of encouraging  people to start businesses.  I believe that what you really want to achieve is a society where more people do start businesses that survive and thrive.  This should be the real policy goal.

So how to get there?

I would advocate that you should dissuade as many people as possible from starting new businesses.  Only for those people who insist that this is something that they have to do should we roll up our sleeves and help.  By working in a focussed way with a relatively small number of highly committed people we might have a chance of getting some real success stories.  And as we know, success breeds success.  More positive role models out there leads to more people following in their wake.  This contrasts with the current approach of offering a little support and encouragement to a lot of people, resulting in high business failure and loan default rates and a widespread perception that a journey into enterprise is likely to leave you worse off than when you started.

Can I also suggest that you do not wave money at people, New Enterprise Allowance style,  in a bid to encourage them to start a business?  The reality is that we have armies of advisers out there wading through thousands of appointments with people who are often half-hearted in their aspiration to start a business, but whole hearted in their commitment to securing the money that they see themselves as entitled to.  Instead of offering them a carefully calculated economic incentive (calculated to make things cheaper for the treasury I suspect rather than enabling people to start businesses with a decent level of working capital), offer them nothing, except excellent and committed advice, coaching and support that they need to put together an idea that is worth investing in.   I suspect that almost overnight the numbers of individuals engaged in ‘enterprise development’ would fall dramatically, but those that remained engaged would be there for the right reasons – to develop long term and sustainable strategies for self employment or entrepreneurship – and not just to secure a grant or a loan that they can default on with relative impunity.   NB don’t expect many of the enterprise support agencies to support this idea.  They have developed business models that survive on a mass market for enterprise development.

Of course access to finance matters.  But let others be the gatekeepers to it, not those who are supposed to be coaching clients to develop their enterprising ideas.

Then of course we have the challenge of helping the hundreds of thousands of people who will be faced with redundancy over the next few years.  Can I suggest that we put in place a service that does not ‘encourage them to start a business’, but that does encourage them to fully explore and understand all of their options?  I am sure that many of them have the potential to become successful, if initially reluctant entrepreneurs, if only we can provide them with the right kind of support.

And finally, don’t get all hung up with ‘national voluntary mentoring schemes’ and traditional business support organisations.  Instead get interested in what you can do to encourage communities to provide the support that local people need in pursuing their enterprising ideas (these may be much wider than self employment and business start ups).  Some of the more imaginative enterprise coaching schemes have started to develop community panels to provide practical assistance to local people.  This is an approach that can certainly be developed further.

There is tons of potential out there – and at the moment we are wasting much of it.

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