"the problem is the solution" - Bill Millinson, Permaculture Specialist
At its most simple Socially Enterprising is a member owned online platform for community development and social action.
It’s a simple idea that connects to many things… everything builds into something much larger.
To get you up to speed I’m going to try to explain how the idea came about and how it connects to the real world.
From social action to community development
Work towards Socially Enterprising began over 4 years ago with a realisation that purposefully designed social action projects could bring wider social and economic benefits and extend far beyond the scope of a projects desired aim.
There is an incredible range of complexities and requirements for social action projects (building an accessible community garden is not the same as a local litter pick), and it is these increases in difficulty that present an opportunity to engage more deeply with local organisations and businesses, tapping into their skills and resources and furthering the development of local capacity and social capital.
The illustrations above show the benefits of social action projects within a local context and from different perspectives. Within them we can see how multiple forms of value can be generated and exchanged.
Social action operates best when it is used to solve social problems.
So let’s look at some social problems…
Those problems all have solutions which local engaged people can participate in producing…
Social action projects of this type naturally connect with community development and place-based approaches which are oriented around solving these more complex and interconnected issues through partnerships with communities themselves.
Thus the initial seed of Socially Enterprising was formed.
An online platform for community development and social action projects.
Transitioning to a New Economy
As a country we have economic and industrial concerns which we must address in order to function and survive in the 21st century.
The Internet, digital technology, AI, robotics, 3d printing, and bio-medicine. These are just a handful of rapidly accelerating areas of research and innovation that will expand to affect every aspect of our lives and industry in a just a decade or two.
The world is changing faster than our education systems ability to keep up or for our companies to retrain their workforces.
The ever increasing pace of change also means that people have decreasing knowledge of the types of modern roles available and those which they would find rewarding and fulfilling, or even which current jobs their previous skillset or experience could be easily transferred to.
There is a crisis on its way and our inability to face this problem head on will lead to our inability to take advantage of the economic and social opportunities it presents – creative people will drive the economy of the future.
It is creativity which sits behind all of the technologies mentioned above and drives them forward and it is creativity which conceives the possibilities and the potential for new inventions and discoveries, leading to new innovations in products, services and society.
A quick look at the workforce needs of our Creative Industry highlights how very ill-prepared we are to take advantage of these changing times.
It is not only our Creative Industry this affects. It is our entire economy.
Every business, every sector, and every organisation will need workers with a suitable set of skills and abilities for this new age.
At Socially Enterprising we believe that the only way achieve this level of rapid change is to recognise that it cannot be solved by our educational system within time, or by our industries and businesses alone.
We believe that community development and social action projects present an incredible opportunity to combine the learning and application of 21st century skills and innovation practices, alongside exposure to new careers, and workforce knowledge transfer and skills development.
We can develop the skills and experience we need right on our own doorsteps.
We can benefit our communities and help our economy at the same time.
Releasing the potential of people
The 21st century isn’t just about creativity and technology, it’s about collaboration and partnership.
It’s about how we work together in diverse organisations and teams that encompass different ages, beliefs, and abilities. This will be the modern workforce in a world of change.
To bring out the best of people and teams and for innovative ideas to take form requires us to work in different ways, to organise ourselves differently, to adapt our behaviours and open ourselves up to differing opinions and viewpoints, we must assume less and listen more.
We must do things differently.
Meetings don’t have to be dull. They can be fun, engaging and encourage participation.
Effective engagement with communities demands these approaches and through immersion in these new ways of working local organisations and businesses can learn where their application may improve their own internal operations and results.
Working together in diverse groups creates opportunities for us to counter stereotypes and change opinions.
If we want organisations to improve their hiring practices we need to change their thinking. What better way to do this than working together in a safe space for the public good.
The Socially Enterprising Formula
To connect the different parts of our thinking we came up with a formula to illustrate the central concept and made it a little easier to understand and communicate.
While this is great as an overview of the concept it doesn’t explain how the parts interact.
For that we needed a Theory of Change.
Our Theory of Change
Our Theory of Change
Community development and social action can take many different forms and have multiple implementations.
There are relationships between partners; communities, civil society, the state and business to consider and the wider social context.
We felt our theory needed to work with all of these conditions.
So we looked for the most basic building block we could which was also flexible enough to use in any situation.
We settled for a transition.
Let’s start by drawing a line and at one end of the line we put our starting condition, and at the other end of the line we put our ending condition. The movement between these 2 points is the transition.
If we look back at the problem diagram and the solution diagram we can see that these can all be described as transitions.
We can use the same principle when we look at community development and social action projects which due to the increase in size and complexity consist of multiple overlapping transitions.
This seems flexible enough to work with!
So we have transitions as our basic theoretical building block.
This is our theory of change and it can be customised to address any set of local conditions, partners, community, needs, and social action project at any level of abstraction.
We call it a transition engine.