How to Destroy an Enterprise Culture

This is the title of a workshop I am submitting to the International Conference on Enterprise Promotion, taking place in Harrogate next month.  Don’t know yet if it will be accepted as it bends the ‘submission guidelines’ a little.

Workshop Aims

  • To illustrate how and why most contemporary interventions designed to promote enterprise usually have precisely the opposite effect;
  • To demonstrate how narrow conceptions of enterprise serve to undermine the value of enterprise development for both funders and citizens and sells our profession short;
  • To outline ‘in which direction progress lies’ if we really want to develop more enterprising behaviours in the community;
  • We (policy makers, professionals and community leaders) need to re-conceive what we mean by ‘enterprise’ and ‘enterprise development’ and understand more fully its relationship to ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘business development’ and ‘community’.
  • We need to adopt much more ambivalent approaches to ‘entrepreneurship’, of all kinds, if we really wish to engage ‘community’.
  • We need to take seriously the principles of person centred development in our work to teach people how to live a ‘becoming existence’ and pay serious attention to a credo that says above all ‘Do No Harm’.

Sounds interesting?  See you in Harrogate.  Or get in touch.

Greed, Anger and Development

Greed and anger have always been powerful forces for change.

Greed is given more or less free rein in our society. It is incentivised.  It creates wealth and jobs, it provides products and services.  Greed is good.  To those that have, more shall be given.

Unlike greed, anger  is usually discouraged (‘just play nicely’, ‘stop moaning’) and dulled through engagement in bureaucratic process. Anyone who has tried to make anything better by engaging in a committee of some description will recognise that dynamic.  Vision Building process anyone? Participatory budgeting? Citizen’s Panel?

As a society it feels like we TEACH helplessness when it comes to social change.

We design systems and structures that sap energy and will from the angry: that neutralise those who are driven by love or hate.

If we want to see our communities develop then we must

  • raise levels of love and hate about the issues that really matter,  and then
  • provide meaningful and rewarding avenues through which ‘what matters’ can be pursued with power, creativity and compassion.

For me, this means helping people to understand and feel their anger and their love, before building careful associations with like-minded folk.

It is not a question of how we change people, but how we provide a context in which they choose to change themselves.

For me, the most promising answer lies in the provision of effective community coaching using mechanisms such as Local Community Enterprise Accelerators (ELSIEs), supplemented by group learning processes such as Progress School, Innovation Lab and Results Factory.

Community, Council and Commerce in Leeds

The three big Cs in our city.

Each is diverse and varied in itself.  Each embodies different values, visions, beliefs, goals and aspirations.  Each labours away in its’ own context with opportunities and threats, restrictions and obligations.  Each has its own processes, rituals and structures for getting things done which make it hard for effective partnerships to be built and to last.  We might manage to find an accommodation, but to find real synergies?

It easy for each to see the other as the enemy, or difficult, or greedy.  I know this is a trap that I fall into MUCH too easily.

How good a job do we actually do at bring all three constituencies to the Party?

Getting them to listen to each other.  To understand each other.  To help each other as much as they possibly can. To learn to really associate.

We need much more than Victorian Philanthropy models and trickle down.  We need genuine partnerships.

How well do we design our processes as a city that ensures that not only do we get the job done, but that we also improve the relationship between these three constituencies?

I suspect we worry much more about the task than the process and the relationships.  I may be wrong.

Time for some innovation anyone?

Social Enterprise and Good Work…Provoked by Craig Dearden-Phillips

Craig Dearden-Phillips wrote an excellent piece on the need to financially incentivise social entrepreneurs.

When I read it I was not sure whether I agreed violently or disagreed violently.  Let’s just say I ‘felt’ strongly about it.  It troubled me.  I was provoked.  As I am sure Craig was when he wrote the piece.

Schumacher (Fritz, not Michael) helped me to explore the basis of my feelings.

He pointed out that from the perspective of the employer, work is a bad thing.  It represents a cost.  It is to be minimised.  If possible eradicated – handed over to a robot.  This truth always makes me smile when the government talks of the private sector ‘creating jobs’.

From the perspective of the worker too it is  often a bad thing. What Schumacher called a ‘disutility‘. A temporary but significant sacrifice of ‘leisure and comfort’ for which compensation is earned.

Schumacher pointed toward a Buddhist perspective where work serves three purposes:

  • to provide an opportunity to use and develop potential
  • to join with others in the achievement of a shared task – to provide opportunities for meaningful association
  • to produce the goods and services that are necessary for what he called a ‘becoming existence’

He then went on to say

to organize work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence

What can we do to make sure that more of our work is ‘good work’ and not merely a disutility for which we are compensated?

What products and services do we really need for a ‘becoming existence’.

This for me is the true role of the ‘Social Enterprise’ sector in our economy.  The development of good work.  The enhancement of association and compassion.  To provide a real alternative to the mainstream work as profitable disutility philosophy of much (but not all) of the private sector.

And there is no good reason why we should not take sufficient value from our business to lead a ‘becoming existence’ is there?  So I agree with Craig’s thesis, but not with the line of argument that took him there.  Are the risks really any greater?  Can a business be anything other than directly social?

I’m trying to learn just to die with pride,

Like the birds and the trees and the earth in time

But I’ve got this complex and it makes me fear,

That I’ll die knowing nothing and feeling less.

Hope and Social

Now, anyone for some truly social enterprise?

What if Leeds carried on as it is..?

Leeds Architecture

This is an interesting question asked on the What If Leeds.…website (registration required before you can contribute)

The underlying sense is that perhaps Leeds is fine.  We can just keep on keeping on.  Now I am sure that the sustainability crew would have a thing or two to say about that.  Interestingly they haven’t, yet.  As might those who don’t get to share in the benefits of living in the city, the poor and marginalised.

But, change is inevitable, progress is not.  Leeds’ own Max McKeown taught me that.  The art of strategy is about increasing the chances of progress being achieved, because change takes care of itself….
The real problem here is in the methodology that we use to try to think about change and ensure that it is progressive.
The current vision and plan methodology is, how can I put this, a little clunky.  A touch slow.  Impractical.
However if we write it off and do nothing then the usual suspects will maintain power so that they and their friends can order the city as they would like – some would say as  a big investment opportunity to suck disposable income from a city region while providing the promise of good work and jobs for all.
We need a process for influencing strategy in the city that is a)continuous and b) gives everyone a voice and power in the process.
We need a market place of visions where we can choose to work towards as many or as few as each of us personally prefer.  We need to use visions to enable self-organisation, conversation and action.  Not to produce statutory documents.  We need personal visions of what progress means – not just a ‘city’ vision.
We should be thinking about how we continually facilitate a process of ’emergent change’ rather than a vision session every 5 years followed by decades of bureaucratic management in its pursuit.  No-one does strategy like this anymore, do they?
But what is this process really about?
  • Are we giving a steer to the city fathers so that they can benevolently chart our progress to a better place?
  • Or are the city fathers really trying to engage us in creating our own future?
  • Or is this just a necessary/statutory piece of ‘consultation’?
Time will tell.
But Leeds has to change.  The only questions are how, and who will benefit?
I think it is time for Leeds to have a complete rethink about how it organises itself to be a truly innovative city.  And innovation (the prodigal child of strategy) is not an elite sport.
It is very much for all of us.

Good Work – some lessons from Fritz

“Experience shows that whenever you can achieve smallness, simplicity, capital cheapness, and nonviolence, or indeed, any of these objectives, new possibilities are created for people, singly or collectively, to help themselves, and that the patterns that result from such technologies are more humane, more ecological, less dependent on fossil fuels, and closer to real human needs than the patterns (or lifestyles) created by technologies that go for giantism, complexity, capital intensity, and violence.”

EF Schumacher – Good Work

The Web Changes (nearly) Everything…and what to do about it…

The web has changed (nearly) everything.

BloggersTweetersPatient OpinionFill That Hole and so on…the web is full of people’s opinions, experiences, ideas and beliefs about you, your organisation and your products and services.

It is far more likely that we will read about what you do in a piece written on the web by our peers than a piece written by your Press Office or PR agent on your website.

We have learned to recognise and respond to authentic voices that want to converse.  We are increasingly immune to your sales pitches….

In this one day workshop we will explore exactly what has changed because of the web and how.

This will not be a day for technologists and web geeks, but for communications professionals, service managers, business developers, strategists and others who are wondering how to manage perceptions on the web and use them to build a better business.

We will not be looking in any detail at the specifics of particular social media platforms or web sites but we will be examining how the new information that it surfaces can either kill or cure an organisation.

We will then look at practical actions and strategies that will help to re-position you effectively in the web enabled world.

Remember:  your customers and service users know more about your products and services right now than you do.

And whether their experience is good or bad, increasingly they will use the web to tell people about it.  The only question is, once you accept and understand this, how do you respond?

Who Should Attend?

This workshop will be useful to anyone who is coming to terms with how the web is shaping their business and how they need to re-think strategy and communications as a consequence.

Whether you work on the delivery and management of a public service or in the private or ‘third sector’ our promise is that  this workshop will provide yo with practical ideas about how to make the most of the new web2 world.

What we will cover:

  • Why people listen to the web, and how you can too…
  • When a story breaks – how should we respond?
  • Why SHOUTING on the web won’t work – how to engage in polite yet powerful conversation
  • Finding your voice and speaking your truth
  • Moving from online to offline – what to do when you actually meet the online community
  • Dozens of ways in which the web changes everything and how you might respond as a result

Workshop Leaders

The sessions will by led by some of Leeds most influential and experienced bloggers, tweeters and social marketers.  By people who care passionately about the web, good business and civic society.

So far the list includes Mike Chitty and Phil Kirby – but is likely to grow!

If you fancy lending a hand in the design and delivery of the workshop rather than coming along as  participant, or if you have any questions then please do get in touch.

Workshop Costs

£200 per person plus VAT and booking fee.

Just 10 early bird tickets are available at £150 per person plus VAT and booking fee.  Early bird ticket sales end when all 10 have gone or on 31st September.

Grab an early bird ticket while you still can:

If you would love to attend but can’t afford to then drop me a comment and I will see what we can do….