Bonsai People in a Bonsai Culture?

Bonsai = An ornamental tree or shrub grown in a pot and artificially prevented from reaching its normal size The bonsai is not a genetic variant but has within it the potential to become a fully grown tree.  However it is carefully cultivated to meet the demanding requirements of the gardener.  It is fed few nutrients, kept in shallow soil, not allowed to form deep roots, continually pruned and kept 'in proportion'; shaped to the precise requirements of the gardener and the specifications of their profession. Bonsai People Bonsai people have had their development limited, distorted and shaped by the influence of their environment rather more than it has been driven by their own potential and aspirations.  To an extent we are all Bonsai People.  But some people have been more bonsaid than others. And some seem to be very content with their bonsai nature.  While others are frustrated at the sensation that there must be something more in them than this. Yesterday I was on the phone with Rich Huxley and we were talking about developing musicians. I told him of a mentor in Leeds who had boasted to me about how they had worked with a 14 year old boy whose ambition was 'to be the best bass guitarist in the world' … [Read more...]

Some forgotten truths about enterprise…

Poverty is not about scarcity – it is not that there is not enough – but that it is not shared The challenge is to give more people the power that they need to play a positive and powerful role in markets; This means accessible and relevant processes to develop individual capabilities and power Markets will always have a place in our society but not everything can be bought and sold.  Care for example is an emotional relationship that cannot be bought and sold. Development is a measure of the extent to which individuals have the capabilities to live the life that they choose.  It has little to do with standard economic measures such as GDP. Helping people to recognise choices and increase the breadth of choices available to them should be a key objective of development. Developing the capability and power of individuals provides a key to both development and freedom Development must be relevant to lives, contexts, and aspirations Development is about more than the alleviation of problems – stamping out anti social behaviour, teenage pregnancies, poor housing and so on. It is about helping people to become effective architects in shaping their own lives We need practices that value individual identity; … [Read more...]

Leeds as a twin track city…

This was at the heart of the debate of the Inner South Leeds Area Committee meeting recently. In short, our residents die too early, our streets are full of fast food take-aways, our air is polluted by the motorway and we need a new sports centre. What should we do about it? We will put health at the heart of local government and tackle it... This is classic Visions of the Anointed Stuff! I can be pretty sure that if I knocked on 1000 doors in south Leeds and asked ‘what keeps you awake at night’, or ‘what is it that really stops you from living the way you would want?’, not many would say,’Well, if only I could live as long as those folk in leafy north Leeds, or even those exotic southerners in Kensington and Chelsea!’ (K&C has the highest life expectancy of any local authority in the UK I believe). These are the concerns of the health professionals and the public health statisticians. They are not the everyday concerns of local residents. And, if we want to do meaningful development work we have to start with these everyday concerns. Of course if we wish to build service empires around the ‘healthy living’ agenda… We also know that the real determinants of longevity are, at root, not based in … [Read more...]

Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship. Good mentors are rarely trained in 'mentoring', nor are they picked from a register. 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. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity. 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. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing. 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. 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'. We should focus our efforts on … [Read more...]

The Art and Enterprise of the Luthier

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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. … [Read more...]

Towards the Enterprising Community

No-one can agree on a community.  Is it defined by political geography? Physical geography? Economic geography?  Interest, practice, culture?  So how do we use such an elusive, slippery yet, for some of us, attractive and powerful concept? Well, personally I have given up worrying about how 'communities' are defined by outsiders (politicians, funders, missionaries of various kinds, what Paul Theroux calls the Dark Angels of Virtue).  The only thing that matters for me is the individual, or the usually small group sat in front of me, and their perception of their community, defined their way.  Any other attempt to work with the concept for me is just hot air.  We all define community personally and, very probably, uniquely. But that does not make the concept useless.  Quite the opposite. I spend a lot of time helping people to look at the relationships and contexts that they are a part of and the extent to which they help or hinder them to become the kind of person that they wish to become, accomplishing the things that they most wish to accomplish.  And I will spend time working with them on how they can get more of the support that they need from their 'community'.  I spend a lot of time and energy building networks … [Read more...]

Enterprising Communities – Missing a trick?

One of my favourite frameworks for thinking about team work was published in a book called Dialogue by Bill Isaacs. The model suggests that if a group is to make progress it needs to have 4 distinct roles handled effectively. Firstly it need Movers.  These are people 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 … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Breaking the Stranglehold on Enterprise

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 … [Read more...]

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