Improving Employability…

Businesses reading the future of the labour market and feeding employment needs back in to the education system sounds like a great plan. Except we haven't yet found a way to do it. We do not know enough about how the labour market will shape up with enough 'notice' to make any real difference to the educational process at all. And then there is the small matter that education is not all about employability and entrepreneurship. Few teachers join the education system as a kind of prep school for employers and have an innate suspicion of employers looking for ready made employment 'fodder'. The vision for education is larger than slotting people into jobs. It is about the realisation of potential. In the heads of many education professionals the two goals of realising potential and developing employability make uncomfortable bed-fellows. I have been involved in Vocational Education and Training, both on the policy side and in practice for over 25 years. Not one of those 25 years has gone by without similar diagnoses and prescriptions: A stronger role for employers, more business in the curriculum, better specifications of what it means to be employable (whole careers can be developed in this … [Read more...]

Smile or Die – Why I don’t subscribe blindly to the school of positive thinking … [Read more...]

Big Society and Young People … [Read more...]

Towards A Community Advertising Network for Leeds

So, here is the idea, developed by Paul Burr of The CAN-Do Project (CAN= Community Advertising Network). We set up a Leeds community group to run an advertising business.  We put up roadside hoardings on land on some of the prime thoroughfares in our city, having got the permission of land owners and applied for planning permission where necessary. Advertising on the sites gets sold to: National and multi-national corporations at premium rates Local small businesses at heavily discounted rates - with further discounts available for those that agree to take on a trainee, provide a placement or take on a mentoring role for example (wouldn't it be nice to see local small businesses advertising on prime sites as well as the big corporates and multi-nationals?) Local social enterprises, charities and other good causes who help to manage the network get to a limited number of adverts free of charge. Surplus revenues get re-invested back into the local community, for example to fund a micro-enterprise startup or loan fund, or to fund community and youth workers perhaps. A great way of helping to use assets in the community (roadside land, and passing traffic) to realise community development … [Read more...]

What People Say About Progress School…

Because I choose to let it, Progress School forces me to focus on what I need to do to develop my future plans. Attending the sessions makes me focus at least once a month [if I'm lucky enough to escape work to attend] and that focus is nudging me into taking actions that I might ordinarily push to one side 'until later'. The only negative side manifests itself in my frustration when my paid job is too demanding to allow that precious time for me to attend. Precious is what Progress School is to me at the present time. Now I need to find ways to ensure my escape in good time every 2nd Thurs of the month.   “I’ve always known personal development was important, but rarely actually made any time for it. Progress School changes that. It means that at least once a month I’m forced to think about my own development, and better still it gives me the tools, support and motivation for doing so.” “Joining a group which is focused on self development has focused me on what I need to do. Knowing that I will be “reporting in” once a month has helped me to find the time to put in the effort to do something in readiness for the next session.”   Thank you very much for inviting me to Hull Progress School which I … [Read more...]

Spock Logic or McCoy Compassion – where should we start?

What should we do when we are asked to help someone develop their project, and we really don't like what we see? Top to bottom, wall to wall the project just seems to be full of problems.  To our eye it seem poorly conceived, badly executed and almost pre-destined to fail. Where should we start? Well the classic 'expert' approach is to diagnose the problems and put them on the table.  We confront them with the reality of the situation as WE see it.  If our relationship is strong enough and our credibility is robust they might just take it on board.  But more often than not what we get is denial, and shown the door. Because this is a person who has taken their very best shot, using the resources they have available to make something happen. It is as if they had shown us a photo of their children and we respond by rattling through a list of their obvious deficiencies 'bad skin', 'overweight', 'terrible dress sense' and 'awful smile'.  We might be trying to help, but.... ...this IS their baby.... So, when someone shows us their idea and asks us to help, and we see it as full of flaws where should we start? By pointing out 'the obvious' or rolling up our sleeves and helping? What will really … [Read more...]

The business of human endeavour…

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on 'enterprise' and 'entrepreneurship' as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills. This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a 'Sales Director', an 'Operations Manager' or a 'Brand Executive'. Yuk! What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour? Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on. What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be 'Footballer in Training', 'Ballet Dancer under Construction', 'Surgeon to Be' or 'The Next Michael McIntyre'?  OK, so perhaps we don't need another Michael McIntyre.... but you get my point? Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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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