‘Make the Impossible Possible’ is a wonderful book by Bill Strickland. You can hear Bill talk about his experience in engaging communities in enterprise and creating transformation results by watching the video here.
NB it is about 30 mins – but well worth a watch!
There is a lot of stuff being written about enterprise and entrepreneurship at the moment. And there is a lot of stuff that was written years ago that still holds valuable lessons.
I am starting an Enterprise Reading Group for people who like to read the enterprise literature and find ways to apply what they learn in their own practice. ERG will help this process by:
- developing a book list of relevant and powerful texts
- providing an online forum where readers and practitioners can discuss a book – on a chapter by chapter basis – and share insights, experiences, questions and answers in relation to the books
- hosting real meetings where the key ideas in each book can be discussed and developed.
I have already set up the online forum featuring the first four books which are:
- Ripples from the Zambezi – Passion, entrepreneurship and the re-birth of local economies – Ernesto Sirolli
- The Social Entrepreneur – Andrew Mawson
- Community – The Structure of Belonging – Peter Block
- Make the Impossible Possible – Bill Strickland
You can find out more about each text and purchase them online by clicking the titles above. You can join the Enterprise Reading Group through the online forum. It is a completely free service so please do get involved.
If there are other texts that you would like to discuss please do let me know and I will add them to the repertoire.
Please use the comnets box below to ask any questions or give feedback about the idea of the ERG.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I have been doing some work for a while now with LEGI practitioners in Leeds looking at the quality of marketing that we use to promote enterprise services and the people that might respond to it. Below is a piece of (non LEGI) marketing collateral that is currently doing the rounds. I think it originates from Business Link – and is featured on their website.
All, the following FREE events are happening on:
14th July 5pm to 9pm at Met Hotel, Leeds
15th July 9.30 to 1.30 at Agbrigg/Belle Vue Community Centre, Wakefield
22nd July 5pm to 9pm at Leeds Media Centre
8th September 9.30 to 1.30 at St Roberts Parish Centre, Harrogate
18th September 9.30 to 1.30 at The Tower House Hotel, Halifax
29th September 9.30 to 1.30 at the Town Hall, Bridlington
Explore! – Motivational events for the BAME (Black and Ethnic Minority) and Diverse communities
Motivational events are aimed to enthuse, inspire and excite BAME and Women groups into exploring the world of business. These events will also offer further information on what to do next and how to move your idea forward.
Who should attend?
Individuals from BAME and Diverse communities who are looking to start-up in business and who will be inspired to make their business ideas a reality.
What will it cover:
- Why you want to start your own business?
- How to generate more ideas
- Where to find customers
- Building Confidence
- Gaining inspiration from success
- Learn from inspirational key note speakers
- Showcase of successful entrepreneurs
- Information sources and networks
- Friendly people to talk through your idea
To find out more about these FREE events or to book a place immediately you can call on 0845 xxxxx or email xxxx
For more information about these and other events visit http://www.businesslinkyorkshire.co.uk and click on ‘Events’
Well it’s another piece of lovely piece of ‘enterprise’ marketing.
When you go the Business Link website (as instructed in the e-mail) to try to find more information about these events it takes a while to find exactly the information that is given above – no extra information at all!
When I rang the telephone number I got a loud piece of ‘Dire Straits/Mark Knopfleresque’ guitar music – almost painful on the ear – and I like Dire Straits!
At the third attempt I was successfully transferred to someone who worked on the events team who promised to e-mail me some further information. I am still waiting…watch this space…
The piece is written in a very passive and remote style.
It talks about BAME and Women Groups in one line and then BAME and Diverse communities in the next.
It talks about these communities rather than to individuals from these communities. (Is it just me or is this (close to being) insulting?)
I am not a marketing copywriter – but I can recognise this as BAD! It is unlikely to motivate anyone to want to attend the events.
What qualifies as a ‘diverse community’?
Are we really happy to group BAME/Women and Diverse communities into a workshop? Seems to me that only Caucasian men from ‘non-diverse’ communities need not apply!
Has it become ‘OK’ to use this sort of language in tokenistic efforts to be socially inclusive?
I don’t think so!
Or am I the one who is losing the plot?
I am delighted to say that I did get my e-mail from Business link – with exactly the same information that was on the website. They also gave me the name of the organisation that is running the programme and told me that one of the dates have been cancellled.
‘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.
I get to work with a lot of businesses. Some of them are successful. Very successful.
And all of the successful businesses have one thing in common – a successful management team with diverse talents. Between them they are able to produce a great product or service, market and sell it brilliantly and have in place first class financial management, planning, forecasting and controls.
Nearly all of them were founded by a team as well. It seems to be a very difficult transition for most founding solo entrepreneurs to make from being the lone ‘big cheese’ to being part of a management team. Generally they either sell their business to a management team – who are often able to grow it significantly – or they retain complete control of a pretty small empire.
If good management teamwork is a pre-requisite for successful high growth then why are so many entrepreneur development programmes designed to work with individuals and to promote the cult of individualism rather than good management teamwork.
Good business plans are always written by teams. The best entrepreneurs always build the team first. Then they help the team to develop the plan.
Are any of you working on enterprise development programmes that put this reality smack bang in the middle of things?
- When we are encouraging individuals to become more enterprising we are encouraging them to consider the merits of changing.
- To consider replacing one pattern of attitudes and behaviours with another.
- So if we are going to succeed in helping people to change in this way what can we learn from other professions and professionals who have been working overtly on changing behaviour for years?
This was one of the questions that we set out to explore when we asked Vicky Sinclair from the substance misuse unit in Leeds Prison to work with a group of enterprise professionals in Leeds as part of the Sharing the Success Capacity Building programme. Vicky shared with us the Cycle of Change model developed in 1982 by Prochaska and Diclemente – which seems to have tons of relevance to enterprise professionals.
The cycle of change has 6 phases:
- In ‘pre-contemplation’, the person does not see any problem in their current behaviours and has not considered there might be some better alternatives.
- In ‘contemplation’ the person is ambivalent – they are in two minds about what they want to do – should they stay with their existing behaviours and attitudes or should they try changing to something new?
- In ‘preparation’, the person is taking steps to change usually in the next month or so.
- In ‘action’, they have made the change and living the new set of behaviours is an all-consuming activity.
- In ‘maintenance’, the change has been integrated into the person’s life – they are now more ‘enterprising’.
- Relapse is a full return to the old behaviour. This is not inevitable – but is likely – and should not be seen as failure. Often people will Relapse several times before they finally succeed in making a (more or less) permanent to a new set of behaviours.
A couple of things require thinking about when we look at this model in relation to encouraging people to change to more enterprising behaviours.
Firstly, most enterprise professionals think that the path to entrepreneurship is (or should be) a fairly linear one if the client has a half decent business idea. We just need to give them the right training at the right time and bingo! This model suggests that there are a whole range of factors that are liable to lead to lapses – if not relapses – on the enterprise journey and we should be aware of this. Lapse or Relapse does not mean failure – and should not be taken as indicators that the person is not capable of making the change. Indeed they should be EXPECTED as a normal part of the cycle of change in relation to new behaviours.
Secondly, the change cycle will often operate over a timescale of years rather than months. When we are designing enterprise services we need to take account of the fact that different individuals move at a different pace. Any attempt to group people into cohorts and move them at the same pace through a change process needs to take this challenge very seriously.
Thirdly, and perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY, enterprise services generally seem to market themselves at those that are already contemplating or have already decided that ‘enterprise’ is for them. They recruit those who are already at Stages 2, 3 or 4. If we are serious about really changing the enterprise culture then we also need to find ways to engage and work with those who are at Stage 1 – Precontemplation. This stage requires a very different approach to marketing in terms of both the message and the media. It also requires a different type of service.
I keep track od some of the thinking on economic development and enteprise that develops in the US. One of the current ideas on the rise (fads?) is that of the Career Readiness Certificate or CRC. The Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) is a qualification that gives employers and career seekers a ‘uniform, standard, objective measure’ of key workplace skills. It is being used by job seekers across the country as an employment credential, and by employers as an assessment of a person’s trainability for an entry-level job or for a promotion within the company.
- Do we have a similar qualification here in the UK?
- What is it?
- How is it valued by employers?
- Can it be easily accessed by those who have failed to thrive in the education system?
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.
Weasel words are tricky.
We all think we know what they mean – but in fact their meanings are fluid. While two people may think they are talking about the same thing – often they are not. This is just one of the reasons why trying to make progress on ‘engaging communities in enterprise’ is so tricky. There’s another weasel word- ‘engaging’!
Perhaps one place to start is by collecting the ‘labels’ that people use to describe various ‘communities’ that they wish to engage in enterprise. In no particular order – and garnered from a number of policy/strategy type documents on the subject here we go:
- people with low educational attainment/skills
- people with disabilities
- single parents
- recent immigrants
- people living in neighbourhoods with high rates of worklessness
- people living in neighbourhoods with low rates of enterprise
- people who have been long term unemployed
- black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
- incapacity benefit claimants
- people at risk of offending
- young people
Feel free to add your own ‘communities of interest’ using the comments box.
- Can these labels help us with engagement? If so, how?
- Do they hold clues that can help us to think about our approach to engagement?
- How we design workshops, leaflets, posters etc?
- Who we spend time with?
- Where we choose to go?
- What do we need to be like personally and as a service if people from these communities are to invite our help?
- How do we go about winning an invitation?
- Do the labels serve any purpose when we are face to face with a potential client?
DCLG has sparked a renewed interest in enterprise in deprived communities with its investment in Local Enterprise Growth Initiative. The focus on enterprise is in danger of being overwhelmed by the much larger and wider investments going into the worklessness agenda (with more of a focus on routes into employment rather than creating your own work). It must be quite strange from the residents point of view. One week someone from the ‘Government’ is urging them to get ‘a great business idea’ or ‘start a social enterprise’ and the next week someone else is telling them to ‘brush up their CV’, ‘join a job club’ and ‘seek work’. I suppose we should not be surprised that these appear to be competing initiatives at the neighbourhood level – fighting to engage the same people in their respective ‘customer journeys’. But I would like to think that more could be done to help individual residents to see these as two possible options on their journey.
I think it is interesting to meet the range of service providers involved in the local enterprise work. Some come from a very ‘public service/third sector’ orientation while others have a much more ‘follow the money’ mentality looking to deliver the outputs (often very poorly specified) at lowest cost. This latter group usually have more experience of the way that public money is spent and understand that at some point they will be held to account for what they done. From day one they count and record what they think will interest the funders. The worrying thing for me is that both sides of this divide need a little bit of what the other side has to offer. Both risk failure for different reasons.
It is also clear to me the LEGI investments are not an end in themselves but rather provide an opportunity to play a part in a much monger term, potentially lucrative and worthwhile game. The cities and regions that can show that they can take public sector funding and provide a return on that investment in terms of reduced benefit budgets, improved health and psychological well being, reductions in crime and grime, increased tax takes and NI contributions and a whole range of other social and economic benefits will surely position themselves well for future investment.
Those that deliver a range of occasionally interesting, but ultimately unproven projects, are unlikely to see further funding once the LEGI money runs out. My worry is that some do not seem to be aware of the possibility of this larger game and are happy to settle for the effective project management of what they already have resigned to the fact that it will all be wound up in a few short years when the money has all been spent.
So the challenge is to create significant value from the current investments and to demonstrate that value in hard cash terms to funders.