The Great Reset – Lessons for Leeds?

The most successful examples…result not from top-down policies imposed by local governments but from organic, bottom-up, community based efforts.  While…government and business leaders pressed for big government solutions – new stadiums and convention centres – the city’s real turnaround was driven by community groups and citizen-led initiatives.  Community groups, local foundations and non-profits – not city hall or business led economic development groups – drove…transformation, playing a key role in stabilising and strengthening neighbourhoods…Many of…(the) best neighbourhoods…are ones that were somehow spared from the wrath of urban renewal…

Richard Florida – The Great Reset

Talking about the transformation of Pittsburgh.

It is not about getting citizen led groups to do the work of the state – which seems to be the idea behind BIG Society – but about engaging the state in the work of the citizens.  Making a transition as far as possible from authority towards enabler.

This requires community development workers to not be ‘bought’ by the state to foist policy on neighbourhoods.  To recognise that their role is to facilitate enterprising communities and not to be an extension of the state with a smiling face.

Sounds reasonable?  The get involved with Progress School and/or Innovation Lab.

Towards An Innovation Lab for Leeds?

The Vision for an Innovation Lab in Leeds – What If….?


The city is facing real challenges.  Increasing demands on services and reduced budgets for their delivery.  Making the transition to a low carbon, sustainable economy.  Creating meaningful work in a modern economy.  Delivering the possibility of healthy and fulfilling lives for all.  Facilitating communities where people choose to stay and develop.

Such profound challenges bring the possibility of a step change in service design and delivery.

Better integration between service providers, increased use of volunteers, social enterprise and more efficient use of the private sector.  Increased flexibility to respond to the emerging needs, aspirations and goals of individuals and communities.  To shift the agenda from the amelioration of symptoms to the facilitation of hope and opportunity.  Leveraging the potential of new technologies and emerging ideas of the Big Society.  Encouraging more people to engage in ‘good work’ and be active citizens rather than passive consumers of public services.

Having initially floated the idea of an innovation lab and got some very warm interest I was asked to put some more flesh on the bones of the idea.  Please help in this process by adding your thoughts and ideas.

And if you might be interested in sponsoring such a process then please get in touch.

But How Do We Get There?

It is clear that service reviews in traditional departmental and sectoral silos are unlikely to deliver more efficient and integrated services.  Nor is a mindset that encourages us to ‘hold what we have’ – to advocate for our narrow self interest and the maintenance of the status quo.  Public, private and third sector need to collaborate on service design and delivery rather than to advocate for their own self interest.

We need to create a space for thinking and imagining where the realists and pragmatists can take a back seat while the idealists and the imagineers can develop ideas about how things might be.  To build a consensus and commitment to move towards a very different but eminently possible future.

Such a space can be created through an Innovation Lab.

What is an Innovation Lab?

An innovation lab is a process – not a place.  It usually culminates in an intense workshop to allow key thinkers, influencers, technologists and service users to come together to work intensely and constructively on developing a vision for how things could be;  To ‘fish for ideas’ that might lead us forward to radically lower cost but higher value service delivery; To shape the agenda to enable quick wins but also to provide a vision to inform longer term development.

In an Innovation Lab nothing is sacrosanct, everything is possible.  It is a chance to get beyond ‘the paltry limits of conventional wisdom’ to explore the art and science of the possible.  And to develop a pathway for getting there.

Innovation Labs are led by skilled and experienced facilitators – who are able to recognise and challenge pragmatism and defensiveness while encouraging idealism and imagination.  They usually include keynotes and other interventions to encourage forward thinking and the art of the possible as well as whole and small group work to develop and hone important ideas.  Innovation Labs shape and are shaped by those who take part and their ideas.

Innovation Labs can take a multitude of formats.  There maybe several events and processes throughout the Lab all of which are designed to develop:

  • A mindset that seeks radical innovation by drawing in diverse pools of talent and knowhow
  • Skills in the processes of innovation, scenario development, vision building, collaboration and joint venturing
  • Understanding and awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the city and the talent and resources available to tackle them
  • Relationships across traditional boundaries to allow new partnerships and programmes to emerge
  • Commitment to practical action – developing a big vision that can be pursued through little steps

Who Would Be Involved?

Participation in the Innovation Lab would need to be a carefully considered.  It would need to include individuals with the influence and power to lead real change.  But also people with practical hands-on experience of service delivery.

It would need to include:

  • Technologists and service design experts
  • Private, public and third sectors stakeholders
  • Housing, health, education, policing, welfare, politicians, investors, philanthropists, community development practitioners, architects and planners, transformational project managers, futurists, environmentalists and cultural stakeholders and, of course, residents.

What Could Be Achieved?

  • A new shared understanding of the challenges of service design and delivery and the need for cross sectoral collaboration
  • The identification of ‘big ideas’ and opportunities that hold the key to radically more effective and efficient services
  • The identification of work streams that seem to hold the greatest potential for progress and the commitment to contribute to them.
  • Potential structural and systemic changes that might support progress.
  • Shifts in mindsets from defensive to innovative
  • The development of scenarios that transcend departmental and budgetary silos
  • Priorities and Tasks for action.

Here You can find out much more about the Leeds Innovation Lab.

Mike Chitty – Realise Development – June 2010


Big Society Business Support in Leeds

On Friday afternoon @culturevultures convened one of the best business support/development sessions I have witnessed in the last 30 years.

Some 30 creatives came together in a room donated by a local managed workspace to provide peer to peer support on a range of topics related to marketing, branding, writing and social media.  Lots of expertise in the room, lots of desire to explore and learn.  No-one labelled as an adviser – no-one labelled as a client.  Just lots of people willing to share what they knew and ask for help with what they didn’t.

No public funding at all.  Just people donating whatever they thought it was worth.  Donations were used to help pay for cupcakes and cocktails and an afternoon of fun.

Business development as it should be.

This is what the public sector could be paying for.

Crib Sheet for The Entrepreneur’s Workshop

A Crib Sheet

Workshops are fascinating and dangerous places. In the right hands they can produce things of great beauty and real lasting value.  In the wrong hands they can do great damage and wreck lives.

The entrepreneur’s workshop is no different.

True enough; the tools in the entrepreneur’s workshop have no sharp edges, burning fires or high speed drills.

The entrepreneur’s tools are a set of ideas, principles, practices and habits that, applied with care and passion, can produce a wonderful lifestyle.  Learn to use these tools properly and they will serve you well.

Misuse them and the consequences are likely to include debt, damaged relationships and misery.

10 of the most powerful tools in The Entrepreneur’s Workshop:

  1. The Truth Detector – How to decide what might work for you
  2. Want to or Have to…?
  3. The Double Edged Sword
  4. Getting Organised – doing what has to be done, and doing it well
  5. Entrepreneur Artisan or Artist?
  6. Have, Do, Become…
  7. Build a Team OR Do it All – the choice is yours
  8. The ‘investment ready’ Business Plan
  9. Situational Enterprise – the importance of technique and motivation
  10. Towards the Total Quality Enterprise – a tool to decide ‘What’s next?’

For more information contact Mike on 07788 747954

Twitter: @mikechitty

Facebook: mikechitty

LinkedIn: mikechitty

Enterprise, Self Interest, Power and Love

I have written before about the potential of representing enterprise (E) as a mathematical equation, and offered this as a starter for 10:

Enterprise = Power x Self Interest

This week I had a wonderful conversation with Mike Love – who runs Leeds based Together for Peace to explore some of his reservations about my work on community based enterprise and to help me understand some of his perspectives on community as the building block rather than individuals.  Mike is a deep thinker about philosophy, theology and social change and conversations with him are always a delight

We discussed the work of Adam Kahane – especially Power and Love – A Theory and Practice of Social Change . Kahane suggests that we need to learn to move forward in a rhythm in which power and love are exercised alternately.

This harks back to some ideas that Martin Luther King helped to articulate:

Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change…

There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly. You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites — polar opposites — so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love….

Now, we’ve got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

So in the equation I have described ‘self interest’ – the role of self properly negotiated amongst others – can be seen as the exercise of love.  Love for self – and love for others.

So perhaps we could re-write the equation as

Enterprise = Power x Love

Love, in this case, for a better future for self and others – and power the ability to move towards it.

  • Enterprise without love can become exploitation of people and planet.
  • Love without power can be anemic and sentimental.

Good enterprise takes very seriously both concepts of love and power and seeks to use them in tandem to create a better world.

If we took this seriously our enterprise education programmes would focus on love at least as much as on power (the organisation of money and people to achieve purpose).  And our programme sand schemes would look very different.

More thinking to be done I suspect….

Treading the Line Between Courage and Stupidity

Yesterday’s attempt at a satirical post on ‘How to Depress an Enterprise Culture‘ has triggered some interesting responses through both public and private channels and I have been reminded of something that my Dad once said to me,

It is a thin line between courage and stupidity.

I never thought of the post as ‘courageous’ but nor did I intend it to be a ‘stupid’ wrecking ball in a professional life that depends to some extent on working with the public sector and its partners.  My judgement was that by holding the mirror up I might provoke some reflection and the possibility of innovation as we move into an austere period for those of us interested in the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship in developing cohesive and effective communities.

Phil Kirby (@philkirby) is perhaps on the money when he says,

this is too close to the truth. There has to be a fraction of fiction for it to count as satire….Never a good idea to tell the truth so bluntly.

I suspect he maybe right in professional and corporate terms.  I have previously been warned, politely and through ‘diplomatic channels’ that ensure ‘sources’ remain anonymous, that making comments about public service providers and funders that are less than fully complimentary may be harmful to my ability to work in that sector.

I think this is fascinating and sad in equal measure.  Public sector agencies that tweet and maintain facebook pages about their workshops and services but NEVER enter into a dialogue.  Who think that they can ‘protect’ their brand by closing down dissenting voices instead of working with feedback and advocating their position.  Who take private disgruntlement at a blog post but never choose to post a comment to put forward their perspective or constraints.  Who believe that they can pursue ‘world class’ by engaging yes men and women who will never risk pointing out the apparently naked emperor.

A regeneration professional was also in touch about the post, privately, saying,

I agree with 75% of what you say. As an employee of a consultancy to RDAs/Business Links etc I don’t really have freedom to say so. Corporate life.*

Clearly they have taken a different stance in weighing up the risks and rewards of speaking their truth – of following their path, wherever it may lead.  I find it deeply ironic that so many enterprise professionals are ‘pragmatic realists’.  They deal with things the way they are, do the best they can given the limitations and demands of funders, and are willing to put professional integrity and the possibility of doing ‘good work’ in thrall to paying the mortgage.   They are ‘reasonable’ men and women who adapt themselves to the world.  Who subjugate personal values and beliefs in order to effectively carry out the work of the system, to follow orders. I think such ‘reasonableness’ holds enormous risks – not only to our enterprise culture but to our personal humanity and self-esteem.  To our ability to forge communities of work and life that recognise and value us for who we are and who we are becoming and not simply as a willing pair of hands.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw

Diminishing ourselves to fit in with a ‘corporate world’ is surely a sign of malaise both in our own development as a human being but also in the modus operandi of our employer.  This is the methodology of unreconstructed industrial bureaucracy. Not of a modern, knowledge based service industry working in a wired up world.

I have written before about enterprise being the emergence of identity.  A process for becoming more fully human, of the development of potential.   It is a process for the idealist.  One who sees a difference that they wish to make and sets about making it.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – GBS again…

I find it deeply ironic that so many working on enterprise culture have taken the opposite path.   To bite their tongues, to hold back their truths and to do the bidding of funders, wherever it may lead, while encouraging others to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.

* The 25% difference in opinion was around the fact the enterprise and incubation centres are not always poorly utilised and that loan and grant schemes can be effective.  Now I agree with both of these points.  Enterprise and incubation centres in places that have vibrant enterprise communities can work brilliantly.  I have yet to see the success replicated in areas of multiple deprivation.  In such areas the centres are usually half empty, or social objectives are quickly relaxed  to appeal to a more affluent target group who can help to pay the rent.  If you know of an incubator or an enterprise centre that is working well and sustainably, serving primarily those who live in deprived communities, I would love to hear about it.

Grants and loan schemes can also work well.  My point is that they should not be managed by the same organisation, or under the same brand, as the organisation providing the coaching advice.  Several reasons for this:

  • Some (sometimes many) clients will be attracted to the coaching service by the allure of cash rather than by the possibility of transformation.  This distorts the coaching relationship, discourages disclosure and makes progress difficult.
  • Loans and grants are just one source of finance for the would be entrepreneur – the coach and their parent organisation needs to be free to help the client explore all funding options and not simply refer them to an in-house solution – especially when adoption of the in-house solution forms part of a ‘payment by results’ contract with a funder.
  • Organisations that provide loans and grants are seldom loved in poor communities.  They are a place of last resort.  Requests for support are either turned down or, if accepted, result in obligations and repayment terms that again frequently lead to a degree of tension that is not helpful.  It is hard to be coached by someone who has lent or given you money.

A funding service does need to be there, and it needs to be well managed, but in my opinion it should not be managed by the same provider who runs the coaching service.

And as I sit here about to press the publish button, I am reminded of another old saw of my Dads,

When you find yourself in a hole – stop digging