Friday, 23 August 2013

Be purposefully transformative

The future will be knowledge and experience rich but increasingly, the current fracking bonanza not withstanding, resource and materials poor. There will be more people and organisations able to do good in the world but also more conflict about what exactly 'good' is. All these extra people with have immense potential but they will also need to be fed and housed.

So the future can be summed up as both hopeful and scary, and it is people working effectively in collaboration that will help realise the former and avoid the latter.

In order to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex and demanding future world partnerships and collaborations will need to be:

  1. Pioneering pathfinders
  2. Masters of the paradox
  3. Challenging and disruptive
  4. Influential players
  5. Socially enterprising
  6. Populated by a new breed of collaborative worker
  7. Purposefully transformative


Be purposefully transformative

Most partnerships exist to create transformational change, to solve complex problems that no one individual or organisation can do alone. To create this transformational change partnerships need to be transformational within themselves; they need to be able to mutate rapidly into shapes, systems, networks and layers that will best meet the challenges they face.

To do this effectively they need to do it purposefully, to have a clear guiding stimulus that will encourage them to transform both themselves and the areas they are focusing upon in ways that will ensure enhanced effectiveness and outcomes. They will also need to allow form to follow function, to allow their guiding stimulus and the demands of their context to dictate their partnership's architecture and shape.

Given the complex nature of the problems partnerships seek to solve this architecture will need to be multi-layered and multi-faceted; it will need to glitter like a diamond. It will also need to be modular and flexible, allowing it to splice, recombine and mutate easily according to the varying demands placed upon it.


Examples

Have a clear guiding stimulus

The Apache Software Foundation, which provides support for open source software projects, has a strong and straightforward mission that encourages both it and its collaborators to work continuously towards transforming and improving both its own activities and the quality of open source software available to people.     

The following 'mission statements' are at the top of its home page:  

  • We consider ourselves not simply a group of projects sharing a server, but rather a community of developers and users.
  • The Apache Software Foundation provides support for the Apache community of open-source software projects, which provide software for the public good.
  • The Apache projects are defined by collaborative consensus and a desire to create high quality software that leads the way in its field.

These statements make the purpose and aspirations of Apache clear. Additionally, by using phrases such as 'community of developers and users' and 'collaborative consensus' they make it clear how they expect those collaborating with them to behave. This concise mix of purpose, aspirations and behavioural values provides the guiding stimulus for Apache's probably perpetual transformation into an ever more effective global collaboration that produces publicly accessible software of ever increasing quality.


Allow form to follow function

UK health, housing and social services have begun forming partnerships of service providers around people's key life events and the outcomes they require, so putting function before form and allowing structures to grow out of the mix and types of services people need. Similarly, UK community planning has begun to form itself around communities and populations rather than according to organisational boundaries.


Be multi-layered and multi-faceted

A Community Planning Partnership in Fife, Scotland, added a local layer of evaluation to its processes that encouraged local people to contribute their comments and ideas. It then created a process for ensuring that these local contributions could be fed into its strategic decision making, adding an anecdotal 'evidence based' facet to its policy making.

A Community Health Partnership added a valuable facet to its activity by placing a broad mix of key public services in one place and within easy reach of those that needed them. This enabled the partnership to engage more effectively with those who were 'hard to reach', more easily identify crossovers in responsibilities and eliminate duplications in support and services. Additionally, the multi-faceted nature of the services available (for example a library was housed in the centre) enabled the partnership to engage with non-users of health and social services who would probably need to access them in the future.

A partnership between youth services and police added a mobile facet to its approach. It made use of a mobile youth and information centre that could reach out to hard to reach young people, so enhancing the flexibility and depth of its engagement work.

  
Be modular and flexible

Aberdeen City Alliance created a series of Challenge Forums to focus on specific problems and needs. The list of teams could be lengthened, shortened, 'spliced and recombined' according to need, allowing the alliance to respond flexibly to the varying challenges and changing priorities presented to it. 

A regeneration company/partnership in Liverpool, adopted a flexible 'patch partnering' approach to its work, selecting the most suitable team of partners for specific projects from the pool of available partner organisations.

A flexible approach to the leadership structure of a collaboration was demonstrated by an initiative tasked with procuring digital hearing aids for the NHS. When a more effective and affordable approach to procuring the aids was required those with the most relevant expertise, passion, motivation and credibility were given the appropriate leadership responsibilities, regardless of their organisational status.

The NHS has a wide variety of relationships and bilateral partnerships with local and national organisations that have specialist knowledge and/or specific interests. This approach, although complex, does give the NHS multiple options and flexibility with regard to how it goes about its work. (It also adds additional facets and layers to the structural network through which it engages with people and patients.)

A North of England Regional Improvement Partnership demonstrated flexibility of approach by encouraging the formation of 'self-initiated and directed networks'. These would form in response to some shared interest or problem and consist of people with the relevant knowledge, experience or simply motivation to explore and/or address it. For example, a group of drainage engineers formed and facilitated their own network to discuss, explore and address the serious problems associated with heavy flooding within their region.   

  

Friday, 16 August 2013

Populate your partnership with a new breed of collaborative worker

The future will be knowledge and experience rich but increasingly, the current fracking bonanza not withstanding, resource and materials poor. There will be more people and organisations able to do good in the world but also more conflict about what exactly 'good' is. All these extra people with have immense potential but they will also need to be fed and housed.

So the future can be summed up as both hopeful and scary, and it is people working effectively in collaboration that will help realise the former and avoid the latter.

In order to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex and demanding future world partnerships and collaborations will need to be:

  1. Pioneering pathfinders
  2. Masters of the paradox
  3. Challenging and disruptive
  4. Influential players
  5. Socially enterprising
  6. Populated by a new breed of collaborative worker
  7. Purposefully transformative

Populate your partnership with a new breed of collaborative worker

Our human society is no longer simply evolving slowly over time. Technological progress and the globalisation it enables are forcing it to mutate at ever increasing speed into ever more complex, diverse and interdependent  networks of people, organisations and nations.

The time is fast approaching, if it has not already arrived, when any one individual will find it impossible to comprehend the world humanity has created. We must all become collaborators in order to attempt to understand and take advantage of the immense opportunities we have created for ourselves. We will need to transform ourselves into collaborative workers that are: 

  • Innovation ready
  • Culturally, socially and politically intelligent
  • Rich communicators
  • Assertively selfless
  • Agile analysts
  • Creators of collaborative processes and systems

Be Innovation ready

To be innovation ready we will need to be triple thinkers with umbrella shaped knowledge. As well as being able to think logically we will need to develop and value the ability to identify and act upon our intuitive responses to things. We will need to move beyond thinking in a logical binary way about what is good or bad about something towards thinking in an intuitive triple way about what is good or bad or intriguing about something. Additionally, we will need to have not only a deep understanding of one or two subjects (the long handle of the umbrella) but also a wider knowledge of a good number of others (the umbrella itself). This will enable us to make creative and helpful connections across diverse disciplines and activities. 

The social enterprise Elvis and Kresse works with the UK waste industry and the Fire Fighters Charity. It has demonstrated its innovation readiness by finding a new way to perceive and use waste. It takes waste from landfill sites and creates top of the range accessories such as handbags, so linking the waste and luxury item industries in an intriguingly new way; their principle range of products is made from de-commissioned fire hoses. The ability to make this linkage between two such different areas of activity demonstrates a wide umbrella of knowledge and expertise. It also demonstrates the ability to identify and act upon new possibilities: to find a third 'intriguing' perspective.     


Be culturally, socially and politically intelligent

To be culturally intelligent we will need be able to identify, appreciate and work with differing organisational, racial and national cultures. To be socially intelligent we will need to be able to notice the subtle nuances of personal interactions and comprehend the fluctuating dynamics within and between groups of people. To be politically intelligent we will need to be able to identify and exploit our own and others' sources of power and influence.

Peter Holbrook, the Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, has demonstrated the above types of intelligence through his achievements so far and how he has positioned himself within the wider social enterprise sector. He has been appointed as a UK Social Enterprise Ambassador. He is also a board member of the Big Society Trust, the body that oversees the work of Big Society Capital, the social enterprise bank. Another significant achievement was his role in helping form the Social Economy Alliance, a group of 15 leading UK Social Enterprises that will seek to influence mainstream Political Party policies during the run up to the next UK Election in 2015. All these things could not have been achieved without well developed cultural, social and political intelligence.         


Be rich communicators

To be rich communicators we will need to be able to express ourselves through diverse media. We will need to become 3 dimensional rather than 2 dimensional communicators. We will need to be fluent in online communication and the use of social media and able to express ourselves not only through words but also pictures, sound and video. We will need to become multi-literate in diverse communication approaches. As the people we seek to influence tailor their communication channels to their needs and preferences we will need to mirror and keep pace with them, so ensuring our messages are not crowded out by the multitude of communication and media options available.

Peter Holbrook has a strong social media and online presence. He uses twitter to keep people abreast of his views and he also maintains a blog.

Another person who demonstrates a strong awareness of the importance of rich communication is Lucian J. Hudson, Director of Communication at The Open University, who also works hard at maintaining a varied and strong online presence.


Be assertively selfless      

We will need to work hard at being assertively selfless. In the past it was perhaps enough for us to stand up for our own rights whilst respecting those of others. Now and in the future the concept of assertiveness needs to develop and mature into one that more fully embraces the greater good, the fact that it is sometimes necessary for us to choose to allow others to win at our expense and for us to carry on helping and supporting them none the less. How we use our assertiveness will need to be guided by what is best for the collaboration and the achievements of its aims, rather than what is best for us and our organisations. To be collaborative in an increasingly complex and interdependent world we will all need to be assertive with ourselves and others and work hard at dampening down the power of individual and organisational ego.

Game designer Jane McGonigal has done some interesting work exploring the nature of mass collaboration and what happens when those killed within a game are required to carry on playing in support of their killers' strategy and goals. It is too early to say what conclusions can be drawn from this gaming experiment, but perhaps they will suggest that the nature of human interaction and collaboration is subtly changing to take account of the increasingly complex, ever expanding, interdependent and fast paced world we live in. Perhaps from now onwards we will increasingly need to find ways of meeting our own needs through willingly collaborating in support of others' aims.

Collaborative learning is increasingly being used within education. At the Victorian College of the Arts in Australia Dr. Mark Elliott set up a Collaborative Learning initiative called the Collaborative Contract. This involved encouraging students to work with each other on self-identified projects that cut across departments and disciplines. The majority of the learning was done through participation and by sharing experiences within the student groups, aided and supported by tutors. The nature of the learning meant that the traditional relationship between student and tutor was levelled out. Students had a significant say in how their learning and projects developed and the tutors had to take a step back, allowing students the space to explore and learn for themselves. Tutors took on the role of additional collaborators with expert knowledge that could be used to support the strategies and goals of the students. This change of role meant tutors had to alter how they perceived themselves as educators. Their more facilitative and supportive role meant they needed to suppress both their 'need to educate' and the sense of ego that comes of being a recognised and established source of knowledge and expertise. The key learning for tutors can be summed up by this heart felt comment from Dr Mark Elliott: 'Don't prescribe the nature of collaboration to artists!'

                          
Be agile analysts

To be agile analysts we will need to be able to sort the intelligence wheat from the information chaff quickly and accurately. Doing this is less about becoming fluent in the use of analytical software and techniques and more about building a large easily accessible network of contacts and then trusting its judgements about what information is useful, significant and important. For this reason agile analysers also tend to exhibit strong networking and collaborative leadership traits. Key amongst the latter traits is a willingness to trade the reassurance that comes of judging things ourselves for the agility we gain by allowing and trusting others to do it for us.

In creating (or co-creating) Wikipedia Jimmy Wales demonstrated why he is an agile analyst who can focus on what will become significant. This ability has been recognised by the UK Government, which uses him to advise it about the future use and distribution of research and how policy making could be opened up to the wider population. By assembling an extremely large network of wiki contributors and then trusting them to make judgements about the quality and importance of an immense amount of information, Wales provided himself (and the rest of us) with an immense sea of wisdom that can be dipped into to inform thoughts and actions. 


Be creators of collaborative processes and systems

We will need to begin to see collaboration as a worthwhile skill and activity in itself and become expert in creating collaborative systems and networks that people can join, engage with and develop. Much as a composer writes a piece of music for others to interpret and perform, the collaborative worker of the future will need to be expert in creating collaborative systems within which people can interpret problems in their own unique ways and collaborate to create innovative approaches and solutions.

Dr Mark Elliott and his ground breaking work on mass collaboration, as demonstrated by the activities of his company Collabforge, is a good example of someone who perceives the creation of collaborative vehicles and systems, such as online accessible websites, wikis and social media, as valuable ends in themselves. 

The United Nations is valued as an institution because it is essentially a global collaborative theatre within which the majority of the world's nations have the opportunity to act together.


For more about collaboration go to: Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition
         



Thursday, 8 August 2013

Be socially enterprising

The future will be knowledge and experience rich but increasingly, the current fracking bonanza not withstanding, resource and materials poor. There will be more people and organisations able to do good in the world but also more conflict about what exactly 'good' is. All these extra people with have immense potential but they will also need to be fed and housed.

So the future can be summed up as both hopeful and scary, and it is people working effectively in collaboration that will help realise the former and avoid the latter.

In order to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex and demanding future world partnerships and collaborations will need to be:

  1. Pioneering pathfinders
  2. Masters of the paradox
  3. Challenging and disruptive
  4. Influential players
  5. Socially enterprising
  6. Populated by a new breed of collaborative worker
  7. Purposefully transformative

Be socially enterprising

Firstly, you will have noticed in previous posts that I have tended to talk about social enterprise businesses as if they are collaborative initiatives. I need to explain this. When you examine how most social enterprises go about their business it becomes obvious that partnership and collaboration are essential to their approach and success. They will readily partner with recognised charities relevant to their activities and seek out other mutually beneficial partners from the private and public sector, as well as from within their own social enterprise network. Added to this, the predisposition of those that start up and lead social enterprises tends to be heavily biased towards a collaborative approach. This is further strengthened by the diversity of those working within and leading social enterprises, which necessitates a collaborative and participative style of management and communication in order to get things done.


Examples

  • Belu, the bottled water social enterprise, partners with and donates 100% of its profits to the charity WaterAid. It has also partnered with other businesses to create new ethical products. Furthermore, its predisposition towards a collaborative, sharing approach is demonstrated by its willingness to share the products it develops with other companies and businesses, so creating ethical capital that is steadily being converted into monetary capital for its partner charity through the attraction of morally motivated customers.
 
  • The Boards of Big Society Capital, the first mainstream social enterprise bank, consist of people from backgrounds and sectors that are quite diverse when compared with those of the board members of mainstream banks. This helps ensure that a wide variety of interests and perceptions are sort and taken into account during leadership discussions and decision making.

In the future partnerships will need to do more with less and compete for, protect and share ever diminishing resources. To do this they will need to adopt the social enterprise model and adapt it to their requirements. They will need to add a hard-headed business approach to their key activities to ensure continued funding and access to adequate resources. They will need to assimilate business continuity and resiliency planning into their overall collaborative and partnering approach to safeguard their people, resources and activities. They will also need to think carefully and systematically when selecting partners and forming collaborations, 'partnership proofing' collaborations to ensure their rationale and goals and the collaborative and business readiness of partners are consistent with that required for success.  Lastly, they will need to tap into the power and opportunities derived from their fusion of collaborative and business approaches, using them to go where other businesses dare not go and do what other businesses dare not do.


Examples

  • An enterprise, employment and training community interest company  (CIC) used a professional future proofing service to assure its business continuity and resilience. It also, as is common practice for social enterprises, ensured that its various partners and members could gain access to future proofing, so helping ensure their collaborative and business readiness.

  • The Heathrow Express Rail Link Project was a large-scale mainstream business project that exhibited some characteristics of the social enterprise approach, mainly through the way it sort to engage with and involve local businesses, so helping develop the economies of the areas within which it was working. The project initiated an on-going series of 'Scouting Meetings'. The purpose of these meetings was to identify and engage with potential partners who would be able to help the project address the challenges associated with specific stages of its work. The meetings explored the fit between the needs of the project and the knowledge, skills and resources of the potential partners. Additionally, they would have enabled the project to identify the level of collaborative readiness of potential partners and whether or not help and support were needed to increase it. Potential partners' organisational culture, style of communication and decision making, and approach to conflict resolution and problem solving would have been examined to find out if they were conducive to effective collaborative working.

  • Barefoot Power is a social enterprise that has gone and done things in areas where other mainstream businesses may fear to go. It combines its collaborative approach,  specialised knowledge and business savvy to work flexibly and innovatively with low income populations in developing countries, providing them with affordable renewable energy to power light sources and charge mobile phones. It does what the social enterprise movement does best: reduce poverty and create new markets.

Look out for future posts that will deal with the 2 remaining aspects listed above.



http://www.scribd.com/doc/139247212/Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition
      
www.tallistraining.co.uk

Follow on Twitter @charles_lines

Friday, 2 August 2013

Be influential players

The future will be knowledge and experience rich but increasingly, the current fracking bonanza not withstanding, resource and materials poor. There will be more people and organisations able to do good in the world but also more conflict about what exactly 'good' is. All these extra people with have immense potential but they will also need to be fed and housed.

So the future can be summed up as both hopeful and scary, and it is people working effectively in collaboration that will help realise the former and avoid the latter.

In order to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex and demanding future world partnerships and collaborations will need to be:

  1. Pioneering pathfinders
  2. Masters of the paradox
  3. Challenging and disruptive
  4. Influential players
  5. Socially enterprising
  6. Populated by a new breed of collaborative worker
  7. Purposefully transformative


Be influential players

Collaborations and partnerships will need to become adept at exploiting their unique positioning, status, knowledge and expertise to gain influence with and get things done through key people, organisations and institutions. They will need to emphasise the value of the trust and credibility they have developed with the people they represent and serve, clearly demonstrating how these can be useful in the achievement of mutual goals. They will need to build strong alliances of like-minded people and organisations that will work towards ensuring the improvements and successes realised through collaborative efforts are thoroughly embedded within the main stream of organisational and institutional best practice. In achieving all this they must not be timid about exploiting the 'conscience capital' they have accrued through consistently championing ethical behaviour and doing the right things in the right way.

An employment and training project had problems with office security and threatening behaviour towards its staff, until a local partnership that was representative of the community and well known within the area offered to assist with the running of the local office. Security concerns and problem behaviour quickly diminished, thus demonstrating the usefulness of gaining trust and credibility within a local area.

15 UK Social Enterprises have formed the Social Economic Alliance to act as a powerful lobbying group that will champion the cause of social enterprise and seek to influence mainstream party political policy during the run up to the next UK General Election. The first social enterprise bank Big Society Capital has been created, so making a significant step towards embedding the collaborative social enterprise approach within the key mainstream institution of banking and finance. 

Social enterprises are further exploiting their collaborative approach by creating commercially focused partnerships and networks of like-minded businesses. These will gradually form a global eco-system of social enterprise businesses that will rival the power and influence of traditional private sector companies.

Ethical Glass is a partnership between Belu, the bottled water social enterprise, and Rawlings the glass packaging specialist, that makes good use of its conscience capital to increase its influence within the bottled water industry. The partnership makes clear that the bottles it provides are the most ethically and greenest produced in the UK. Belu also generates useful ethical capital by publicly donating 100% of its profits to the charity WaterAid.

So, what are you doing to increase the influence of your partnership with those that matter? How can you demonstrate the value and usefulness of your local knowledge and expertise and/or the trust and credibility you have built up with local people and communities? What powerful alliances can you help create and/or join to increase the influence of your activities and approach upon mainstream organisations and institutions? What commercially focused partnerships and networks can you form with like-minded businesses and other groups to widen the scope and influence of your activities. How can you make your ethical credentials clear and use them to progress your work and achieve your objectives?                              



For more about collaboration go to: Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition

www.tallistraining.co.uk


Follow on Twitter at charles_lines