8 Pieces of Advice – and not just for graduands!

http://youtu.be/9Zt4CmMuFI4?t=9m34s … [Read more...]

Strengthening Bottom Up

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: Progress Schools Community Conversations Local Community Enterprise Accelerators (‘Elsies’) Innovation Labs and Results Factories 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 … [Read more...]

Enterprise, community and complexity….

Enterprise, community and complexity.  Slippery words.  But behind the slippery words are concepts that offer the possibility of progress. Lets start with 'enterprise'.  First, empty your mind of all those misconceptions that I must be talking about 'business starts', 'cash flow forecasts', 'profits' and 'Dragons'. I am not. I am talking about enterprise as a measure of 'agency' in one's own life.  The extent to which an individual is able to recognise what 'progress' (another slippery word) means for them and to take action in its pursuit.  This is what I mean by enterprise.  It is the product of clear self-interest (I know what I want) and power (I have the confidence, skills and knowledge to take organised action in its pursuit).  An enterprising person is one who is clear on what they want from their life and actively pursues it.  An enterprising community is one which has many such people - because they are valued and supported. Being enterprising does not make you a good person.  It just makes you someone who is acting in, what you believe to be, your own self-interest.  If self-interest is 'enlightened' then it is likely that the resulting 'enterprise' will make a positive contribution to … [Read more...]

Olympic Gold – It all starts with a dream….

Shaa Wasmund is a renowned enteprise guru whose own achievements both as an entrepreneur and as a provider of enterprise support have massively outweighed my own.   Shaa asserts that... Every athlete once had a dream to stand on an Olympic stage. But, they didn’t just talk about their dreams, they put in the hours, hard work and dedication to make them a reality. They gave all they had for one moment in time. In my experience many who achieve excellence entered their field because they loved it rather than because they wanted to stand on an Olympic podium or to be a millionaire before they reach 30.  Sometimes it IS the big dream that allows you to put in the hours of dedicated effort.  But much more frequently it is the hours of dedicated effort that eventually allow you to dare to believe in the big dream.  Most of us, to begin with at least, were not motivated by thoughts of winning on the big stage, but by pursuing our interests and exploring possibilities.... Our progress is driven by the dedicated development and exploration of passion and identity.  A journey that often begins with no real clarity over where it might lead, or how far it might go. I think this openness to journeys that start in different … [Read more...]

Enterprise Education Without Enterprise Educators

http://vimeo.com/40000072 … [Read more...]

An everyday story of ‘industrial policy’

Imagine I was to start-up a successful game development business right here in the northern town of Darkhaven, using the phenomenal talent available in the city, courtesy of a vibrant digital community carefully nurtured by public and private cash. I am exporting my games all over the world, employing hundreds in and around the city (as well as an army of coders over in Eastern Europe and Asia).  We are an economic success story. The Finance Director knocks on my door and says 'Mike, its time for us to consider a move.  If we were to relocate our business  to Brighthaven I think we could negotiate some great breaks in return for the jobs we would bring them.  They will prioritise an application for the Brighthaven Growth Fund that could pay for a purpose built HQ on their new business park, and they will give us the land for a snip.  So, unless the economic development team at Darkhaven council are really prepared to up the support they give us we should really think about moving.  And if Brighthaven don't come up with the goods there is always Southaven or anyone of another dozen cities that would love to be our home.  And that's before we even look at the possibilities of moving the whole operation overseas.  This … [Read more...]

A Way Forward for Communities?

There is no doubt in my mind that community based and bottom up approaches to enterprise support like those pioneered by Ernesto Sirolli and subsequently developed and transformed by projects like Bizz Fizz and on a much more modest scale Elsie, provide significant clues to the emergence of truly sustainable and enterprising communities. But instead we get celebrity entrepreneurs and academics delivering masterclass after masterclass after enterprise competition on a seemingly endless treadmill driven by incoherent policy and the increasingly desperate search for those Holy Grails of 'narrow'  economic development - the quick win and the high-growth start-up. It must be time for us to develop a focus on long term, community building  approaches to sustainable development that embraces the economy, culture and social cohesion as an inseparable trinity.  These things cannot be pursued successfully as separate entities managed by different silos. They are all part of the same process of 'development'. We need to develop affordable processes that engage the whole community in nurturing the development of those willing to act boldly and helping more of its members to see that bold action will often reap its reward, … [Read more...]

Product, Price, Place and Promotion – lessons for the entrepreneur from a virtuoso violinist

What happens when you take a £3m violin, a virtuoso violinist and a platform for them to perform? Well, the answer is - it all depends.  If the platform is the mass transport system of Washington DC or the Concert Hall with tickets going at $100 and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myq8upzJDJc At least two lessons to reflect on here: The first is pretty prosaic and pertains to that classic of the 4 Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. You have to get all four right.  A brilliant product is nowhere near enough. The second is more metaphysical and probably best captured by Weingarten:  “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?” … [Read more...]

The Problems with Buildings…

Buildings are expensive things to run.  And these days fewer of us need them as places to go to work.  Or at least we don't need to go to just one of them.  And we don't need to pay rent. Yet there is a vibrant industry driven by developers, politicians and consultants bringing semi derelict buildings, especially in poor communities where regeneration cash is easier to come by, back to life as managed workspaces, incubators and start-up hubs. When money is being sought to kick these schemes off the business plans always look achievable.  This occupancy rate at these rates per square foot, taking a contribution from the community cafe, with fixed costs of x and variable costs of y, within z months we will be generating a profit and re-investing in the local community.  Money is raised work is done and with hard work and good luck the building is eventually opened. Except it is rare that members sign up as expected, rents are hard to collect in an economy where most cities have millions of square feet of empty office space.  Fixed costs are usually higher than projected as budgets over-run and interest repayments are higher than anticipated. That break-even point always seems to be 'just around the corner' even as … [Read more...]

Paul Seabright on The Supply of Shirts

If there were any single person in overall charge of the task of supplying shirts to the world’s population, the complexity of the challenge facing them would call to mind the predicament of a general fighting a war. One can imagine an incoming president of the United States being presented with a report entitled The World’s Need for Shirts, trembling at its contents, and immediately setting up a Presidential Task Force. The United Nations would hold conferences on ways to enhance international cooperation in shirt-making, and there would be arguments over whether the United Nations or the United States should take the lead. The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury would issue calls for everyone to pull together to ensure that the world’s needs were met, and committees of bishops and pop stars would periodically remind us that a shirt on one’s back is a human right. The humanitarian organization Couturiers sans Frontières would airlift supplies to sartorially challenged regions of the world. Experts would be commissioned to examine the wisdom of making collars in Brazil for shirts made in Malaysia for re-export to Brazil. More experts would suggest that by cutting back on the wasteful variety of frivolous styles … [Read more...]

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