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Friday, 30 December 2011

Homework for 2012

As mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be gathering materials over the next few weeks to inform the design of two healthcare interventions: a self-care management document and 5 Key Messages, with dissemination programme. 

So here is the first post of one of the useful discoveries, a video from the California Healthcare Foundation about coaching patients for successful self-management.

If you have any additional suggestions for any written or broadcast material on self-care management or the use of 'key messages' with patients with chronic conditions, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More on Design Thinking

My head is full of an exciting health project which kicks off the New Year and for which I will have responsibility. It will involve using design thinking to shape three interventions aimed at reducing the number of people with diabetes who lose their sight as a result of of an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. We will be developing the interventions and testing them in my home town, which is an added bonus. 

With this in mind I have been glued to some of the latest videos posted on

Two leapt out at me, one very short (2 minutes) that demonstrates why creativity needs time and one which outlines what design thinking is, and how it works (28 minutes). I am posting them both. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Big Society- A story and a film

There were reports in the UK press yesterday of a Parliamentary Select Committee which came to the conclusion that the government's 'Big Society' policy was little understood and confusing to people. Commenting on this on Twitter, I referred followers to a blog that I had posted a few months ago about Big Society called 'Right Stick, Wrong End'. I believe that the politicians have grasped the right idea but by giving the impression that it is all about citizens running public services, they are limiting the possibilities and turning people off.  

The impact that Big Society could have is illustrated by this story and film from my past work in Bradford.

In 2004 more around a hundred people - all with a good idea to improve their neighbourhood by making it cleaner and greener - came together to agree which ideas should be awarded some funding. The money that was to be spent, £700,000+ , came from central government. Some were individuals with a passion for a particular action, others were from neighbourhood community groups, others were from schools or larger voluntary organisations. They shared the desire to take action to improve their neighbourhood environments. Many of them had never applied for funding before.

Local politicians and their partners from the public, voluntary and private sectors had been persuaded that involving local residents in making these funding decisions was worth trying.

It was one of the first examples in the UK of what has become known as 'participatory budgeting'. This short film of one of the two decision-making sessions shows the process that we developed.

At the start of the film, you hear the comments of Richard Wixey, then the Director of Environmental Services in Bradford. What Richard learnt from the process is what makes this such a good example of what 'Big Society' could mean.

As he listened to the tens of ideas that people were pitching, he began to understand something of the types of actions that local residents were prepared, and able to do. 

These included 'greening' areas that were being used for flytipping; running education programmes to prevent littering or to encourage recycling; developing allotments and pocket parks; organising neighbourhood clean ups and beautifying public spaces for people to enjoy. 

The process also clarified the sorts of things that local residents could not do. They could not enforce the law or run large scale rubbish collections and recycling.

It led him to reflect that in addition to concentrating on the core of what only his department could deliver, perhaps some of the budget should be used to support and encourage people to take the actions that they were prepared to take. This would both improve the quality of neighbourhood life for everyone and make his department's work more effective.

Within twelve months the funded projects had been delivered right across Bradford District enhancing the environments of eighty neighbourhoods. 

This then is the core for me about what Big Society could be about. Local residents, local government and partners deciding together what it is possible and proper for 'reasonably resourced' individuals, families and communities to do for themselves or in partnership with others; and then to agree what it is that we need government (local and national) to do.

To ensure that where people and communities are not reasonably resourced, or where improvements to community life would be enhanced for all, then a very modest amount of the public budget could be invested in individuals and groups to make their contribution.

It makes economic sense too in hard times for the public purse. Our Bradford experience of devolving funds to neighbourhood partnerships showed that for every £1 of public money invested, the partnerships brought in a further £10-20 to augment that original investment.

The Big Society policy needs to be clearly expressed in terms the nature of the partnership between government and citizens that is proposed. A proposal for a partnership that is good and right in and of itself, not a shirking of responsibility by central  government just because the public purse is strapped for cash.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yad Vashem, Israel

 "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a "yad vashem")... that shall not be cut off." (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5)

The threatening clouds in the sky on Friday matched the feelings engendered by this visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial. Having been to Auschwitz, I was prepared for the likely impact.

The terrible story is carefully laid out along a timeline, starting with a historical summary of Jewish persecution.

On my visit to Auschwitz in 1994, I was undone by how powerfully the place spoke not just to the past, but to the present. It was the time of Rwanda genocide. However the holocaust memorials speak not just to atrocities but to the everyday slights and discourtesies that breed permission for atrocity.

I heard that discourtesy on the flight over to Israel, in conversation with someone from the Jewish community. The person spoke contemptuously about the Palestinian people, blaming them for the lack of peace. It was doubly hard to hear in the face of Jewish history and experience. Time to check out my own behaviour and attitudes.

The three photos are of Jaume Plensa's work referred to in the previous blog.

In See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, three internally lit fibreglass figures have the terms panic, stress, anxiety, insomnia, hysteria and amnesia inscribed on their faces. The Exhibition Guide says:

'The physicality of these words branded on the skin openly reveals conditions of the mind that are usually internal and hidden. Their posture reflects a natural method of defence, to make the body small, curling it in on itself for safety, echoing the protected position of a baby in its mother’s womb.'

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The wonderful humanity of artist Jaume Plensa

Photos taken on 1st November 2011 at Yorkshire Sculpture Park @YSPsculpture

Urged on by my friend Jane, I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see this extraordinary exhibition. Jaume Plensa's work is normally displayed in urban settings, indeed I discovered I had seen some of his work in the centre of Nice.

In the glorious Yorkshire landscape it was breathtaking and deeply moving. Here is a taste of Jaume Plensa in his words and sculptures.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Living democracy

I wonder how many of us really think much about the quality of the democracy we live in? 

When compared with what we have witnessed across the Middle East, our political arrangements look incredibly benign. Complacency or frank disinterest would be the response of many in this country to debates about the quality of our democracy.

For instance, how many of us have rushed out to read and respond to the Boundary Commission review of constituency boundaries? What are the implications of having fewer MPs representing more of us? 

Are these proposals a good move to strengthen democracy or about saving money by having fewer MPs, or a conspiracy to skew the constituencies in order to increase the chance that a particular party remains in power. 

To my shame, I cannot give an informed response to this issue - and I would say that I am interested and informed about UK politics and democracy! 

On the other hand, the recession is prompting debates about how we organise local and global finances (the Occupy movement); the Health Bill's seeming threat to the NHS has galvanised tens of thousands to debate, march and sign petitions; public service cutbacks are forcing us as a country to weigh up whether public services are the villains some politicians would have us believe. 

All these jumbling thoughts were prompted by an email from a friend at the week-end confirming that he had handed in his resignation from a job that he loves.

He is a senior public servant of long years standing and lives in a country that is openly proud of its democratic credentials and history.

Over the last couple of years, he has become deeply concerned about the 'systematic and methodical' action being taken by corporations and political extremists that have started to do real damage in communities and wider society. From his particular position in the public sector, he has had to deal with the fallout. He has become so alarmed that he feels he can no longer remain in a public position where he is unable effectively to challenge and resist - hence his resignation

Even in an allegedly mature democracy, standing up to challenge powerful interests is still not for the faint-hearted. My friend has not been put off by the thought that he is one man. His soundings and early actions have uncovered others who share the concerns. With his deep understanding of communities and a track record of building citizen participation, he will certainly create a force to be reckoned with.

I am reminded of Margaret Mead's now famous words:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Play, Creativity and Impact

Are you and your colleagues or employees fully engaged at work? Are you continually in a position where you have the right challenges that employ your skills, stretch them and cause you to want to develop further? Are there creative opportunities for you to contribute and develop ideas or innovations? If the answer is no, you might find this illuminating.

If you are an employer and are not sure how to maximise the potential of your employees then here is a video that might give some food for thought.
With thanks to 99% - Behance.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The enterprising path to peace?

Stef Wertheimer

Next month I am going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit the sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus. What though of contemporary sites of hope and vision for peace in the places that I will visit?

This week-end, thinking about this, I realised that I did know of one. When studying with David Cooperrider, co-originator of Appreciative Inquiry, he was explaining to us the concept of 'appreciative intelligence', the ability to see 'the mighty oak in the acorn'.  To illustrate this he told us the story of Stef Wertheimer.

David had been giving a lecture at the Arison School of Management in Israel. He raised questions of where peace was to come from. From the military? From governments? From religious leaders? All he felt were unlikely. He argued that the world of business could be 'the most important ground and force for peace'. Though at that point he said hadn't any examples to back up his thesis!

After the lecture, David was approached by a businessman, Stef Wertheimer, who invited him to go the next day to see this thesis in action. 

On a once barren hilltop, Wertheimer has created the Tefen industrial park surrounded by beautiful homes and neighbourhoods. As well making money, attention is paid to the social, educational and cultural life of the community that lives there. Wertheimer describes it as a 'capitalist kibbutz'. David told us:  'The whole park is based on the principle of co-existence, Arab and Jewish living together, going into business together, building schools and museums together, and dramatically transforming entrenched conflicts into collaborative energies for economic empowerment, development and peace'. 

Three more industrial parks have been set up in Israel and work is well underway to develop these parks in Turkey and Jordan as well. The Palestinian Authority are positively disposed though plans to develop sites there have had to be put on hold for the moment. The fuller story is told in 'The Tefen Model Book' and can be found at:

In the book Stef Wertheimer gives his thinking behind the inspiration: 'Our survival in this region depends, ultimately, on the resolution of current conflicts. Alongside the security issues there must, however, be a road map for economic development, for industrialization, for job creation and for export production. Only by increasing the income levels of all countries in the region, will we begin to reduce the immense friction of disparities between neighboring countries and between the Middle East and the developed nations. While the Middle East produces 60% of the world's oil, it manufactures just 2% of the world's goods. With high levels of unemployment in the Arab countries and a rapidly increasing young population, there is a desperate need to generate meaningful employment opportunities and the hope for a better future.

For me, the term “Middle East” has no real meaning. Rather, I see two areas separated by their ownership of oil resources, whereby those of us without oil are the eastern Mediterranean countries that formed the old “Levant”. Among the “non-oil” countries are those that would choose to compete on world markets and seek economic independence such as Jordan, Turkey, Israel and, potentially, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Successful advancement along this path can lead the countries of our region towards the creation of a thriving economy, towards a work ethic based on reason and responsibility and towards the achievement of peaceful coexistence between like-minded neighbors.

Recent history in other regions of the world has shown that the deep-rooted conflicts of the past can be overcome by investing in the creation of a prosperous future. We can learn much from the success stories of European integration through the development of joint economic interests and of the achievement of economic prosperity through the development of export markets in countries such as Singapore, Ireland and South Korea. These models must be copied by those of us who choose economic and social freedom and peace - those who embrace the goal of being part of the European economy and of the free world.'

Perhaps the Tefen Model, as well as a vital path to peace, has something else to show us

The growing wave of protest about the austerity we are all having to embrace because of the misdeeds of financiers, signals a growing desire for more responsible ways to create wealth. Does the Tefen Model of collaborative enterprise, where profit is created and some of it invested in the  development of quality, healthy communities, show us a more humane version of wealth creation?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Values and standards - why Ward Sisters matter

The news reports about the Care Quality Commission findings on the care of elderly patients made for grim listening this morning. Their conclusions about what made the difference between good and poor practice identified the quality of leadership and staff attitudes, rather than resources.

It reminded me of a time in my life when I worked with vulnerable, elderly people as nursing assistant for six months. It was 1973, I was nineteen and taking a gap year from my social work degree. My experience chimes with the CQC's conclusion about the importance of leadership.

The Lancaster Moor Hospital was then a 2000 bed psychiatric hospital, almost a small town in its own right with shops and a Post Office.  Over the years my family were involved in the hospital, at times as staff (my Nan and Mum) and sometimes as patients (Great-grandparents and two Aunts).

It had dozens of wards. At the far end of the hospital were the 'back wards' and it was to one of these that I was sent.

Ward 22  had been newly re-furbished and rather daringly, the male and female wards shared a common day room. The patients were elderly men and women with severe dementia conditions.

Presiding over the wards was the senior Ward Sister. A tall imposing presence, immaculate and with a scathing way with words for the young and thoughtless. The first part of her working life had been in the mills and she had that brilliant ability to lip read and to enunciate her words with her lips so clearly that everyone could lipread what she was saying from a distance of twenty yards. She did not need to shout.

The end of my first day saw me walking home in tears. How was I ever going to cope with people in such a complete state of mental and physical disintegration? How was I going to cope with all the shit and urine without vomiting every day?

By the end of the week I was an old hand, able to change filthy bedding in the early morning, wash the excrement off the ladies, wash hands thoroughly, feed them breakfast and then sit down to enjoy my own breakfast break without a qualm.

So what wrought the transformation? Without doubt a growing appreciation on my part of the uncompromising values of that Ward Sister about how the women patients were to be cared for. All patients were to be treated with dignity. With such good standards expected as a norm, I was also given the background of each patient, so that I was able imagine their past and look for signs of it in the present. As a result, what had at first seemed irksome and distressing, became part of a satisfying sense of achievement.

Key practical arrangements that I remember:
- at mealtimes, every member of staff, including the Sister and Charge Nurse, helped to feed those that needed such help;
- the atmosphere was kept cheerful and light, we bantered, sang and even danced with patients;
- it was seen as important that we had time to sit and talk with people, listening to stories of their past and a daily routine was established that allowed this;
- no-one was to be 'toileted' in the dayroom in front of the other patients. If there were any 'accidents' in the day room, portable screens were to be erected around the person;
- teeth did not remain in jars at the side of the patients' bed!

It would have been so easy for high standards never to have been established on those 'back wards'. Doctors rarely came except when there were acute episodes, nor were there many visitors. But the staff on the wards were proud of their work, there was an excellent spirit and good relationships between the staff on that ward. 

My mum was the first Volunteer Co-ordinator appointed by the hospital. She remembers that a formal, measured quality of care across the hospital was established later that decade. One initiative that emerged from that was the recruiting of volunteers to come in to help with feeding patients. 

I wonder what sense of professional satisfaction is being felt by those nurses whose wards came out badly in the CQC report today? What has caused them to lose sight of the values that motivated them to come into nursing in the first place? I hope someone is going to provide them with a proper opportunity to design the right kind of care for their patients. Care that is worthy of their profession and most importantly worthy of the people they serve.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Parents and business - more than just helicopters?

This week I am helping out at my son's business. 

Tom is enjoying his honeymoon and his business partner is spending time with his brand new baby son. A double set of joys and testing for a small business.

In the spaces between managing the phone calls, I am struck by how much I am enjoying this glimpse of what Tom and Graham have created. It sheds new light on the man that our son has become.

Musing on this I realised that I have been given similar glimpses of my daughter in her professional role in PR in London. 

The first glimpse came when she and I were enjoying a gin and tonic on the South Bank. She was hailed by a group of people from one of the national arts organisations. One of them detached himself from the group to come and talk to her. I listened in as they engaged in banter and work talk. Latterly I had a meeting with Libby's boss, as it transpired we had similar interests in creative methods for organisational development.

We have 'Take your daughter and son to work day', so maybe 'Take your parents to work' is a logical follow on. It turns out this is not a new idea. 

There is a Facebook page trying to set this up. Others have run it as a one off idea, as a Wall Street Journal blog shows:

Some recruiters and companies with graduate schemes are choosing to deal with the phenomenon of 'helicopter parents' by providing information packs (Enterprise Rent-a-Car) or even meeting them. Attracting the right talent is important to them and they recognise the influence that parents can have on their children's decision-making (

Employees' parents provide other untapped or unseen support for businesses: 

- parents, and their friends, are potential clients and customers;
- they are the ones ensuring that members of the workforce can still turn up for work when their children are ill or have school holidays;
- they play a key role to helping ensure members of the workforce are fit for work when their personal life is tough;
- they sometimes provide a sounding board or act as an advisor to their children about their work situations.

Any other examples of this potential being exploited by businesses?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Surprised by joy

Our daughter's wedding
This last Saturday our son Tom married his lovely fiancee, Katy. It was the second September wedding in a row for Tim and I, as parents. Last September our eldest child Libby married Paul.

These two wedding days have provided us with the most amazing and unexpected experience of what I take to be 'joy'. 

It sounds a bit stupid to say that this emotion was unexpected. We had approached Libby's wedding anticipating a happy day with family and friends. The careful planning had been a shared and enjoyable process. We knew too that everyone we had invited had a special relationship with Libby and/or Paul, so they would be determined to make it a happy occasion. And then the day came....

What neither of us had anticipated was the powerful effect of the love between two people being made manifest in front of a crowd of witnesses. Nor the depth and power of the love for our children being made manifest in and through parents, family and friends. 

I know now why we use the phrase 'to burst with joy'. The body cannot seem to contain the emotion - smiles cannot be wide enough, tears flow at the slightest prompt. The emotion, carried us, glowing, through the following few weeks.

Approaching Tom's wedding, I was apprehensive about being opened up again in this way quite so quickly. So not to be surprised a second time, but readier and steadier........ha ha, not a chance.

Reflecting on this second experience, I have to acknowledge that joy is also a highly disruptive emotion. It opens us up and makes us vulnerable. It is overwhelming. It creates in us outward expressions of love, generosity, and gratitude to others.  At the time, all this is on open display and has a public impact because it cannot be contained.

Whilst this level of intensity is not sustainable on an everyday basis, it is interesting that the expressions of joy can be accessed daily. Positive psychological and management research show major benefits are to be gained, both in personal life and business productivity, where people make opportunities and are proactive in practicing these expressions. 

'Deviantly successful' teams (i.e. successful beyond what might reasonably be expected) were found to be the ones who were encouraged to notice the best in themselves and others, to celebrate together, to express gratitude and to show their compassion for others.

Soft stuff ? The profit line says otherwise! I wish you just enough joy in your life to create greater happiness and peace every day.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Inside Knowledge - uncovering hidden wisdom

- What best helps families with complex needs to become stable? 
- What else needs to happen to prevent people of Pakistani descent losing their sight, as a result of diabetes? 
- What can we do to help young people use alcohol more wisely? 

These three major questions have been occupying my work and waking life over the past six months. 

In each case the work involved asking those with the inside knowledge - the families, people of Pakistani descent and young people and their parents.

 Of course, we listened to what all the relevant professionals had to say as well. In fact we listened to the 'whole system' i.e. everyone who had a contribution to make in one way or another, to the issue being considered.

There was thoughtfulness and animation in the focus group discussions; a real willingness to share experiences generously, even painful ones, in the individual interviews. Parents who had never been involved in anything like this before helped to design and shape community responses to family needs. 

Revelations and insights abounded. From the interviews with families who have succeeded in becoming far more stable, a common pattern emerged of what things had helped them to change life for the better. Their analysis provided a possible model for professionals to use to help more families at an earlier stage. 

It took nerve and not a little courage to turn up to a workshop with professionals; to air ideas; to listen and to be changed what you heard.

This sort of involvement, engagement , designing and learning is immensely powerful for everyone participating. It shows that people, no matter how vulnerable or how complex their lives, can deliberate and analyse with others, offering insights that the professionals could never guess at. 

The most surprising thing for some professional participants was just how much consensus there was about what needs to be done, when all the different perspectives had been shared and heard. 

I would love more public services to dare to draw the public in to help with innovation, strategy and planning. 

What are your best stories of work like this?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Building community made easy

Four women with an idea, two forty minute meetings, a few telephone calls made and emails sent. That was all it took to create a 'Chand Raat' community event last Saturday for more than a hundred women and children at Highfield Community Garden in Keighley.

It was a lesson in how working in partnership and making use of each others networks can make things happen quickly and leave everyone feeling ' oh, that was easy!'. 

What are your tips for making community events 'easy'?

A Chand Raat event was new to the women from the local church, who had partnered with the local community centre to put on the event. 

For anyone else who would like to know about Chaand Raat, Wikipedia says:

'Chaand Raat (Bengali: চাঁদ রাত , Hindi: चाँद रात, Urduچاند رات literally, Night of the Moon) is a HindiUrdu and Bengali locution used inPakistanIndia and Bangladesh for the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr; it can also mean a night with a full moon.

Chaand Raat is a time of celebration when families and friends gather in open areas at the end of the last day of Ramadan to spot the new moon, which signals the arrival of the Islamic month of Shawwal and the day of Eid. Once the moon is sighted, people wish each otherChaand Raat Mubarak ("Have a blessed night of the new moon") or Eid Mubarak ("Blessings of the Eid day"). Women and girls decorate their hands with mehndi (henna), and people prepare desserts for the next day of Eid and do the last round of shopping.
City streets have a festive look, and brightly decorated malls and markets remain open late into the night.[1] Chaand Raat is celebrated festively and passionately by Muslims (and occasionally non-Muslims as well) all over South Asia, and in socio-cultural significance, this night is comparable to Christmas Eve in Christian nations.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Revealing a culture of contempt?

One of the things that has shocked people is the sight of looters openly laughing at  the mayhem they were causing. It has looked like contempt - contempt for authority, for their communities and for their neighbours.

In 1992 Professor Kenneth Galbraith wrote 'The Culture of Contentment'. Wikipedia describes its contents thus: 'In it he traces the growth of a stultifying contentment in the western industrial world represented by the G7 group of countries. He pays particular attention to the self serving economic comfort achieved by the fortunate and politically dominant community and contrasts this to the condition of the underclass which he sees as being for the first time in these countries stalled in poverty.'

Nowadays it feels like the culture of contentment, bad as that was, is morphing into a culture of contempt:

 - the contempt shown for our economic well-being by the bankers as they continue to pursue disastrous financial strategies which loot our economy, paying themselves massive bonuses along the way; 

- the contempt shown by this government for public services and the people that work within them, adding denigration to the insult of job losses; 

- the contempt being shown towards the most vulnerable people in the way that the social security system changes are being made and talked about;

- contempt shown by many politicians through the expenses scandal;

and now contempt being acted out on the street.

Contempt grows  in the spaces created by disconnection, dislocation and a lack of trust. We create this culture in the language we use and the manner in which we speak, which then translates into action. 

I listened to the Prime Minister talk about 'sick' people and bringing in water cannons and rubber bullets to use against looters. Keen to place responsibility everywhere else. I wondered whether that also sounded like contempt. The self serving rhetoric of the parliamentary debate gave me no confidence that our political leadership really has a clue. A clue about people's lives or a clue about what it actually takes to end the violence and thieving.

Our language and actions construct the society and the communities we live in, and the relationships we have with one another. If we don't like what we have, there are ways of re-imagining and creating positive responses at neighbourhood, town and city levels. See 'Imagine Chicago' at  for a start.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots or peace and well-being?

For those of us in our fifties the rioting and looting in London and other places provides us a sense of deja vu.

Riots have featured in my working life, having been involved in Bradford in the Commission set up after the 1995 riot and involved in responses to the 2001 riot.

Out of interest I googled to see if riots have occurred in countries with high well-being scores. I found a fascinating article about the Geography of Peace. One relevant statement leapt out:

'Nations with less income inequality have higher levels of peace, while inequality is associated with peace's opposite'  Britain has a substantial and widening inequality. People's experience of that inequality undermines their well-being.

In the mid-1990's the then Prime Minister, John Major said that he wanted to create a society that was 'at ease with itself.' Whatever it is that is happening in London, and now other cities in this country at the moment, it is certainly not a picture of a country at ease with itself.

The former Labour Government and the present Coalition have recognised the importance of paying attention to the quality of their citizens' lives. 

The Labour Government responded with substantial public investment in the most economically disadvantaged communities and the public services on which they depended during the 2000s. Local politicians were given the 'power and duty of well-being' i.e. the ability to act in any appropriate way to increase the well-being of their areas. This investment and focus did make a difference - but a fragile one.

The Coalition have so far held a survey about well-being. They have also felt obliged by economic circumstances to cut drastically public investment in their citizens and the services that support them.

Bad behaviour on this scale is not just about criminality and the ability to exploit social networks. Politicians would be unwise to write it off as just that.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Power of Invitation

A great example today of the power of invitation.

I was reminded of it whilst looking at the Open IDEO's latest design challenge - The question was how might we seed conversations or change mindsets in ways that any of us could do?

My friend Dorothy was at our local Community Garden doing a litter pick this morning. The local teenage boys playing football in the garden accepted her invitation to help. As they cleared the litter they got into conversations about their different faiths (Islam and Christianity) and what that had to do with litter. Most people locally would have hesitated to speak to these guys at all.

Whenever I ask people about how they came to be involved in some activity, they invariably reply 'Oh so and so asked me.' The cynics say that people are apathetic and won't get involved.

It may just be that they are people who haven't been invited yet!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

More than happiness

So taken was I with Martin Seligman's short lecture at the RSA (see previous post of the video), that I bought his latest book. It is particularly salient for those of us working with communities and organisations to improve the quality of life.

His identifies the five elements that are to be found in people who are flourishing:

Positive emotions
Engagement (being absorbed by and in some activity)
Relationships - positive ones
Meaning - a sense that their life has purpose and meaning

He shows how people can consciously increase their ability to flourish. And provides the evidence to support his theory of flourishing. This has important implications for policy making as some governments and authorities are discovering.  

It will also provide a useful check list for my work with clients. Useful for yours as well?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Human Flourishing - Your business and mine

I thought - oh I'll just watch this for a few minutes - ended up glued to the whole thing.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

Social Innovation By Design

Illustration by Gracia Lam

I am using product design methodology in my work with clients to re-design public services. I was introduced to this way of working whilst studying Appreciative Inquiry in America. 

There was a great example of how design thinking can be used to transform delivery of services featured in The Telegraph Magazine on Saturday, 16th July.

It describes how a design team went into Southwark and listened carefully to what older people said they wanted and needed. They then designed a social network cum concierge service which is having a positive impact on the lives of older residents. People do not feel patronised or 'done good to'. They can be contributors and receivers.

Friday, 8 July 2011

An Antidote to the NOTW Scandal

Something tells me that we won't be seeing News International being featured in the global inquiry 'Business as an Agent of World Benefit!

This global appreciative inquiry is collecting stories of where business is both 'doing well' i.e. making a profit, and 'doing good', benefiting humankind.  It is run by The Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

As part of my studies into positive business and society change there in 2009, I had to submit a case study to BAWB. I chose 'The Co-operative' trading group.  The Co-operative Bank story is featured on the BAWB at: 

In the early days of the inquiry, David Cooperrider, co-originator of appreciative inquiry, interviewed the management guru, Peter Drucker about BAWB. Cooperrider wrote:

'In the interview Drucker discussed how management needs to operate as a profession with a Hippocratic oath of “doing no harm” and how every social and global challenge of our day could be turned into business opportunity given the right mix of innovation, organizational competence, pragmatism, and business social entrepreneurship.'

'Do no harm' - News International might like to learn from the businesses featured at BAWB that you can make profits without resorting to dirty tactics and illegality.