Explaining the platform and its potential— How ecosystems, networks, creativity, diversity and innovation can work together to benefit society and the economy (and accelerate social, cultural and economic transition)

Wes Hinckes
52 min readMar 22, 2023


In my previous writings on Medium I have delved into the social and economic possibilities that can be opened up by the existence of a new type of collaborative platform which can operate across the entirety of society and the economy.

I have previously referred to Socially Enterprising as “a platform and strategy that brings communities, civil society, the state and
business together around the shared purpose of; making a difference to people’s lives and communities; and accelerating social, environmental and economic transition.”

It is this stated ‘social purpose’ which I have dedicated a decade of my life towards and it is this ‘social purpose’ which you will see coming across in almost all of my publicly available thinking and work.

In this post I’m going to make more clear the ‘commercial potential’ of the platform and it’s underlying technology.

Socially Enterprising CIC is a social enterprise that has created the Socially Enterprising platform and as a social enterprise there is a requirement to make money to fund the social purposes of the organisation.

As you read this post the picture of the actual ‘commercial potential’ should begin to develop in your mind.

Who is this post for, what does it cover and why?

I’m writing this post for decision makers working in government and public services but also innovation organisations such as Innovate UK and Nesta.

You will see numerous examples given within the post that are directly connected to the work of government and public services. Government and public services would be a major customer.

Innovate UK and Nesta should also be able to see how such a network would benefit their work as organisations and also help innovation, social or otherwise, to flourish in the UK. Innovate UK and Nesta could make good stakeholders.

My efforts to gain business support locally have been unsuccessful. It seems that local support just isn’t geared up for what I’m proposing. The organisation requires the right kind of support, minds and organisations to be onboard and I simply don’t have the contacts and I certainly don't have any funds.

I’m sure I also complicate the matter by refusing to reach out or work with commercial investors and venture guys in the platform space as well as the consultancies who are operating there. I don’t believe their involvement would ultimately lead to the type of organisation I feel can be created which would be a community owned networked developmental NGO of sorts and very much a 21st century proposition.

It’s a social and public thing to me you see and government involvement (funding and convening) could be much more applicable in the early stages.

I’ve actually been seeking support unsuccessfully for many years.

It seems that I’m the wrong shape, in the wrong place, thinking at the wrong scale, and doing something nobody sees the need for — so there is a complete lack of suitable grants, funds and support.

This post is an attempt to open up people’s minds to the possibility of what the full potential of Socially Enterprising actually is so that maybe some more bespoke type of support could be made available.

What I am proposing could be much bigger than the telephone, though not as large as the Internet. A society and economy wide collaborative ecosystem… and the technology is real, developed and ready to go.

In a dream world it would be nice to get support from ARIA (UK Advanced Research and Innovation Agency) but it’s perfectly possible to put together a small geographically local pilot with a very modest budget and some support around convening the local partners.

There are also many other funders and organisations out there who could help me or become a more official part of making it happen but they need to be receptive to the idea.

Maybe inferring the ‘commercial potential’ is the only way to get people to take the proposition seriously? It takes time and effort to understand something new and different — but once understood the potential should be perfectly obvious, not just commercially but also economically and socially.

It is rather a long post but there is much to explain — even though the premise is actually very simple.

What is a collaboration platform?

Collaboration platforms come in different shapes and sizes to suit particular uses.

Collaboration platforms enable people and organisations to come together to solve a variety of challenges, problems and needs.

Collaboration platforms are able to lower the barriers (discovering each other, obviating geographic distance etc) to connecting and working with others, as well as potentially improving the generation and distribution of; information, learning and knowledge.

What does a collaboration platform consist of?

The term ‘collaboration platform’ covers a lot of different ground especially if we include ‘collaboration tools’.

What I’m going to try to do here is explain some key aspects which will help to understand Socially Enterprising which is a collaboration platform that is designed for place-based and cross-sector collaboration across society and the economy.

It is not a tool but a platform and underlying infrastructure.

A basic collaboration platform might consist of;

  • a directory / social network functionality
  • a messaging system
  • groups / workspaces / forums
  • blog / news / activity

With this core functionality in place the platform users can; connect with each other, communicate, organise and learn around a specific interest or need.

For example you could create a collaboration platform designed to bring together; the state, civil society, business and communities so that they could work on local climate adaptation projects.

What is the problem with today’s platforms and networks?

The state of play today is that local authorities, public services, institutions, NGO’s, charities, and businesses are beginning to create ‘their own’ collaboration platforms.

This initially makes sense as organisations are looking at their organisational/sector/niche ecosystems and wondering how they create more value for themselves, their partners/customers, their membership, their sector etc.

Creating a platform can be a natural next step towards becoming more connected and intelligent.

Platforms, if conceived correctly, can also be wonderful for connecting across silos and thus breaking through siloed ways of working and thinking.

Where the decision to create platforms makes less sense is a few years in the future, as the next generation of platforms may actually become the next generation of silos.

They may be larger, more connected and more intelligent silos, but by their own design each new platform will create new boundaries to participation and these boundaries then raise a new set of barriers to highly diverse, cross-sector, inter-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary collaboration, information sharing and learning.

A quick example;

Let’s take Arts and Health as two separate sectors.

Arts UK and Health UK (I’m making these up by the way!) are the lead institutions within each of their sectors. Each of these organisations decides to take the bold step of platforming their sectors ecosystems which will; create a number of strategic benefits for their organisations, improve collaboration and learning across their sector, add value to their membership and work etc.

Are you following the logic so far?

Ok, so where do you place ‘Arts & Health’?

“We define ‘arts and health’ as arts-based activities that aim to improve individual and community health and healthcare delivery, and which enhance the healthcare environment by providing artwork or performances.…” — Arts Council

It is very much a bit of both isn’t it.

So, does it belong in one or the other of the 2 developed platforms and their relevant ecosystems (Arts UK or Health UK) or do you create an entirely new Arts & Health platform and ecosystem?

As it is at the moment the answer seems to be create a new platform.

But now you have 3 platforms all of which;

  • have their own distinct membership databases
  • utilise different language (style/voice), design, technologies and user interfaces
  • have different policies and terms and conditions
  • treat privacy and data concerns differently to each other
  • improve collaboration within their own platform but create a barrier to communicating and collaborating with other networks
  • etc, etc, etc

You get my drift of course and it keeps on getting more complicated the closer you look and the further into the future you travel. Where does social prescribing fit in? Or ‘health and nature’? Or social enterprise? Or place-based working? Or Integrated Care Systems? Or the VCFSE sector? Or the actual local people and communities they’re all serving?

And this is just looking at immediate connections to Arts & Health, the actual national picture across the whole of society and the economy multiplies this problem a thousandfold.

It’s all going to get very fragmented very quickly even though the intent is actually to connect and improve things.

Plus, it’s going to be incredibly expensive.

I mean who pays for the initial development all of these platforms and then their long-term development and maintenance? Who pays for the support staff, backbone services, legal etc.?

It’s going to be government (tax payers), charities (public donations) and philanthropic organisations.

It’s money which could be far better spent.

Nationally and globally.

Of course, if you understand why, how and where today’s decisions, actions and behaviours will eventually lead to future problems and opportunities then you can create a solution ahead of time.

What we need then is some kind of standardised General-Purpose Technology and infrastructure for collaborative platforms.

“General-purpose technologies (GPTs) are technologies that can affect an entire economy (usually at a national or global level). GPTs have the potential to drastically alter societies through their impact on pre-existing economic and social structures. The archetypal examples of GPTs are the steam engine, electricity, and information technology. Other examples include the railroad, interchangeable parts, electronics, material handling, mechanization, control theory (automation), the automobile, the computer, the Internet, medicine, and artificial intelligence…” — Wikipedia

I happen to have done this. I have put together a potential new GPT in the form of infrastructure and strategy for ‘collaborative platforms’.

It’s at the core of what Socially Enterprising is and how everything (the organisation, strategy, business potential, social and economic possibility etc) then works around the existence of this new network/platform infrastructure.

So please keep reading…

First let me try to illustrate very briefly; what we are doing with collaboration platforms in society and the economy, why we are doing what we are doing, and why a new type of platform could present a much more beneficial way of doing things.

What is a GPT? A quick lesson from history

Let’s use the national telephone network as our example.

The telephone handset and telephone network are examples of General-Purpose Technology. The telephone network is a form of standardised infrastructure which allows telephones to be interconnected and conversations to be made via those connections.

The telephone handset is also a general-purpose technology. It too is standardised around certain aspects of design, function and usability so that picking up and the phone and having a conversation doesn’t force you to learn new things every time.

You could understand the kind of collaboration platforms I’m trying to illustrate (Arts UK, Health UK, Arts & Health etc) as being a bit like the PBX (Private Branch Exchange) internal telephone systems that get installed within offices/organisations.

They are great for connecting and collaborating within the boundary (inside the organisation — internally) as you can have good awareness, information and knowledge of who to contact and for what purpose by asking a colleague, talking to your receptionist or taking a look at your internal telephone directory.

But as soon as you need to work with a wider network (outside of the organisation — externally) then you’re forced to switch to the national telephone system (a public space) and root through public/business telephone directories for contact details, perform information gathering using the media of the time (journals etc) to find the right contacts and then initiate relationships and collaborations via conversation and letter (I’m setting this illustration pre-internet).

What was previously easy has now become a more difficult task.

The internal system only provides benefits within the boundary. Those benefits disappear as soon as you need to work externally.

The public and private space outside the boundary is messy (public) and opaque (private). Everything and everyone you could possibly want or need for your work/need is out there but you’re going to have to work much harder to find it and bring it all together.

All the organisations within a country are interconnected by the national telephone network (public system) but their PBX’s (private systems) exist as black boxes which you cannot see into.

I think we’re doing something very similar with collaborative platforms and I’m going to attempt to explain why we’re doing it, and also why we shouldn’t, especially if there’s a way to do it better.

Where we are at the moment historically is that we have the Internet, which is a GPT consisting of network infrastructure, protocols and standards for information and data exchange.

It is massively open in that you can build anything you like in any way you like upon those protocols and standards. It is upon this GPT, The Internet and its protocols and technologies, that collaboration platforms are built.

But there isn’t a specific platform infrastructure (or set of standards, or common pattern) that we can make use of to build standardised inter-operable platforms which means we are forced to create our own bespoke platforms for our own specific purposes.

The only choice we have today is to create platforms which do not inter-operate as 1) it’s a complex problem to solve and 2) it’s unnecessary if we are only concerned with solving ‘only our own’ immediate needs.

If I’m creating a platform for selling cars then I have little reason to think of inter-operability as I will be operating as a type of private system (organisation + market + customers).

But if we are concerned with inter-operability then it is a crucially vital problem to solve.

Arts UK, Health UK and Arts & Health UK are important strategic, social, cultural and economic organisations/sectors/ecosystems. Their inter-operability is important as is their ability to invite and foster wider collaboration, engagement and participation.

The majority of the collaborative platform needs of government, public services, civil society and local communities are of the same relevance as the above.

They are important social and economic concerns.

Treating them all as private concerns which we then place on the Internet (like PBX’s which we place onto the telephone network) may be the state of play today but it is not going to move us towards a fully inter-operable collaborative and participatory future and all the possibilities and potential which could be realised through this for society and the economy.

What we want is a way to have all the benefits of private systems along with all the benefits of public systems.

What we need is a GPT for collaboration platforms.

This would combine the benefits of private systems with all of the benefits of a public system.

Using this GPT for platforms would allow you to create (at the push of a button) standardised base collaboration platforms which would be immediately inter-operable with existing platforms on the network.

You no longer need worry about where the ‘Arts & Health’ network belongs as the combined public/private nature of the GPT allows any created platform to be self-managing (user management, content management, administration etc) by their creators i.e. internal; focus, management, concern and ownership. Whilst at the same time being seamlessly connectable to any other networks such as the Arts UK and Health UK networks/platforms (and by logical extension social prescribing networks, health and nature networks, social enterprise networks, place-based networks, Integrated Care Systems (networks of networks) and the VCFSE networks, all as part of a common inter-operable public space of platforms and networks.

Once the GPT for platforms exists you can just plug in networks/platforms just like you would plug in a private telephone system (PBX) into the telephone network.

A key difference being that any newly added network allows for communication and discovery in both directions whereas PBX’s remain black boxes to the outside world.

Any open/public aspects of the newly created network can become available to the entire public network (yet necessary private spaces can still remain private and/or by invitation only).

And just as the telephone presents a common interface and functionality for making calls, so does each base collaboration platform for collaborating with others.

You don’t have to keep learning new things as you are reapplying a common pattern of functionality across the whole of society and the economy.

A GPT like this could have a significant impact on society and the economy and also in how we do things in the future.

“GPTs have the potential to drastically alter societies through their impact on pre-existing economic and social structures.” — Wikipedia

Now that we’ve outlined the GPT let’s take a look at how and where it becomes applicable.

Networks in Society and the Economy

There are many existing networks and ecosystems in the UK. They may not be connected into platforms and they may not understand themselves as networks and ecosystems as such but they exist nonetheless.

  • Innovation Networks
  • Inventor Networks
  • Business Networks
  • Place-Based Networks
  • VCFSE (Voluntary, Community, Faith and Social Enterprise) Networks
  • Social Enterprise Networks
  • Creative Networks
  • etc

In the coming decades there will be a vast increase in platformed networks and ecosystems as practice and understanding shift to accommodate the new potential for organising and developing ecosystems across society and the economy.

  • NHS Integrated Care Systems
  • Place-based Innovation (City/Region Scale)
  • Net Zero Ecosystems
  • Sustainability Networks
  • Educational Ecosystems
  • Innovation Ecosystems
  • Climate Adaptation
  • etc
An innovation ecosystem is a network through which a set of diverse actors interact to enable constant innovation outcomes in a given region or domain.

Much like earlier in the post when we considered ‘Arts and Health’ in relation to ‘Arts’ and ‘Health’, all of these networks in real life also have a fuzzy nature. We may give them a name and a definition but in practice there’s a lot of non-visible participation that sits out at the periphery, is on the edges or simply looks in order to observe and learn.

The networks and ecosystems above all overlap and interact in so many different ways that it would be impossible to fully measure and quantify it or draw a hard line around any particular part.

The individuals and organisations within those networks and ecosystems also have a plurality to them. They have multiple connections, roles and interests which mean that they will continuously be operating across different ecosystems/networks as part of their day to day work.

In short networks and ecosystems all interpenetrate and interact in the real world and should also be able to do so when platformed.

People also have a plural and fuzzy nature.

Creating an ecosystem where everything can interoperate, interconnect, interact and overlap, as well a a system where people can do the same is actually the most accurate reflection of the underlying reality we live in and work in.

We’re now going to take a look at Integrated Care Systems.

This should give us a good working model of an ecosystem to help develop our understanding of; what they are, how they look and behave, and why they will be important in the future.

Integrated Care Systems (The NHS Long-Term Plan)

Integrated Care Systems are a response to modern health and care needs in the UK.

“When the NHS was set up it was primarily focused on treating single conditions or illnesses, but since then the health and care needs of the population have changed. People are living longer with multiple, complex, long-term conditions and increasingly require long‑term support from many different services and professionals. As a consequence, people too often receive fragmented care from services that are not effectively co-ordinated around their needs.” — The Kings Fund, https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/integrated-care-systems-explained

We need to do things differently.

Integrated care systems (ICSs) are partnerships of organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up health and care services, and to improve the lives of people who live and work in their geographic area.

Within each ICS, place-based partnerships will lead the detailed design and delivery of integrated services across their localities and neighbourhoods. The partnerships will involve the NHS, local councils, community and voluntary organisations, local residents, people who use services, their carers’ and representatives and other community partners with a role in supporting the health and wellbeing of the population.

In short ICS’s allow services, communities and individuals to work more intelligently and with better outcomes by working together instead of separately.

The ecosystem is collaborative, it represents a connecting and organising (of the health and wellbeing sector) and in order to work and deliver better outcomes (adapt and remain adaptable) it will require a focus on continuous organising as well as capacity development and improvement within the ecosystem and its constituent parts (sub-groups, networks, organisations and participants).

The diagram below is my attempt at illustrating what the top-level of the Somerset ICS ecosystem may look like. It is by no means complete or even intended to be accurate, it is here simply to help me communicate some key thoughts.

I will now step through and provide some detail for each group or network within this picture.

This will give us; an understanding of what the elements of this ecosystem are; how they interact and overlap; how they have private/public aspects; how systems change can be embedded and supported; and how they exist within the ICS ecosystem and outside of the ICS ecosystem at the same time.

Each of these elements also has an internal organisational structure with public/private spaces but I am not going to go into that level of detail here.

Somerset Integrated Care System — This group represents the dedicated roles that help support, administer and manage the ICS. These will include persons from the NHS, local health organisations, local authorities, key representatives from the voluntary sector etc.

Place-based Partnerships — Multiple groups with a similar make up to the above. These place-based partnerships zoom in closer to the needs and organisations that work within a smaller geographical area for example a town or district (and local organisations).

Places, Communities and Neighbourhoods — Multiple community level groups which are citizen-led and concern themselves with local engagement, local needs, local people, local capacity and local possibility.

Primary Care Networks — These are GP practices working together with community, mental health, social care, pharmacy, hospital and voluntary services in their local are.

Peer Support Groups/Networks — These networks connect those with existing conditions or needs so that they can communicate, meet and support each other. They exist for physical conditions (breathing groups for COPD), mental health (hearing voices groups), and care (peer groups for parents with autistic children).

Patient Groups — Patients who make use of local services. There to engage, involve, and listen to patients with the goal of improving services and outcomes.

Health Watch Somerset — Somerset’s independent health and care champion. Staff and volunteers listen to what people like about local health services, and what could be improved. These views are then shared with the decision-making organisations, so together a real difference can be made.

Open Mental Health Network — An alliance of local voluntary organisations, the NHS and social care, Somerset County Council, and individuals with lived experience. We provide access to a number of specialist services including NHS support, housing advice, debt and employment advice, volunteering opportunities, community activities, peer support and local exercise groups.

VCFSE Network — Volunteer, Community, Faith and Social Enterprise organisations who have; some connection to health and wellbeing, connections within existing communities, utilisable assets and resources which could benefit local people and local work.

Social Prescribing Organisations and Practitioners — Social Prescribing connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing.

Wellbeing Activities — Local activities such as yoga, swimming, gyms, cycle clubs, running clubs, sports etc. Included here as their capacity and understanding can be developed allowing them to better contribute to local health and wellbeing.

ICS/VCFSE Peer Groups — These allow cross-sector peers to communicate, support, organise and work together across Somerset. This would also have potential related to sensing, understanding and implementing change across the ecosystem or within organisations. The success of ICS’s will depend on successfully implementing change and being adaptable to ever changing contexts, situations and needs.

Communities of Interest — Bring people with a shared interest together e.g. Somerset Sport Rehabilitation. COI’s can transition or lead to new COP’s.

Communities of Practice — COP’s perform a developmental role for their members. The intent is learning and development leading to improvement and shared knowledge.


  • You should be able to see from the above that the elements within the ICS ecosystem are not entirely singular or independent of each other. They are overlapping and contributing to public health and wellbeing in different ways.
  • Can you see where a defined ecosystem boundary could be drawn? It’s an impossibility even if relatively static, but it will be in constant motion with ever shifting involvement and participation.
  • The old organisational system utilised by the NHS and providers is a closed system where actors and activity can be more narrowly understood and defined.
  • The new organisational system represented by Integrated Care Systems is more open, relational, non-static and organic.

Creating a Collaborative ICS and Health & Wellbeing Ecosystem

The entire ecosystem as outlined above would benefit greatly from being connected into a collaborative platform which would improve communication, organising, collaboration, innovation, learning and adaptation.

Also, certain constituent parts would also benefit greatly from being connected into their own collaborative platforms. For example, bringing all local VCFSE organisations (the VCFSE network) into a VCFSE platform provides a number of benefits for coordination, collaboration, sense-making and visibility for the network and participating organisations.

But if all of these collaborative platforms made use of different; user databases, logins, technologies, design, user interfaces and core functionality, then we would end up with a terribly confusing and complicated mess. An unintended consequence of this would be to impede the generation and flow of knowledge, learning, improvements and innovation across the wider ecosystem and associated networks.

This is a problem that the Socially Enterprising platform avoids.

The Socially Enterprising platform enables the creation of platformed ecosystems and networks within an overarching ecosystem that can contain as many ecosystems and networks as you need.

Let’s take a look at how that would work in practice.

So… Step 1…

A new collaborative platform can be created on the Socially Enterprising platform (with a push of a button) that will be the collaborative space for the Somerset ICS and Health & Wellbeing ecosystem. Let’s call this somerset.ics.org for now (this would then be accessible via the https://somerset.ics.org URL).

This new somerset.ics.org platform gives us the common basic functionality we need to start building the structure of the ecosystem.

  • a directory / social network functionality
  • a messaging system
  • groups / workspaces / forums
  • blog / news / activity

So, now we can start creating the groups/workspaces/forums that we need to reproduce the logical structure for organising the ecosystem, communicating and collaborating.

These groups (collaborative spaces within the ecosystem) can be public, private and/or by invitation only.

Discussion forums can be created wherever required and for whatever purpose.

Hopefully you can see from this description that creating a platform for the ICS is relatively easy and is a matter of reproducing elements of the actual ICS into the online collaborative platform.

The benefits for the ecosystem;

  • The collaborative activities taking place within the ecosystem can be highlighted and promoted through the blog functionality. The idea is to make the system visible and understandable to the participants by providing them with content that tells the story of what is working, where, how and why, so that good ideas, practice and learning can distribute across the ecosystem.
  • Participants can communicate with each other through the messaging system and also self-organise by creating new groups/workspaces as and when they are needed.
  • This is not a website, a promotion/marketing/PR channel or a social media platform. This is an online collaborative space that is there to support and benefit the ICS ecosystem and its participants.
  • Its existence would improve;
  • The initial organising/structuring of the ecosystem
  • Ongoing organising within the ecosystem
  • Communications with and within the ecosystem
  • Targeted communications to specific groups
  • Collaboration across the entire ecosystem
  • Generation, production and distribution of learning and knowledge

Onto Step 2…

Many collaborative platforms are going to allow you to do something similar to the above.

Socially Enterprising is different in that you can create additional ecosystems and networks within the same overarching ecosystem.

You don’t need multiple; user databases, logins, technologies, design, user interfaces and core functionality.

This means that everything becomes inter-operable.

The movement of; users, content, data, information, conversations, discussions, and knowledge can become seamless between every ecosystem and network within the overarching ecosystem.

As mentioned earlier certain constituent parts of the ICS and Health & Wellbeing ecosystem would benefit from having their own self-managed collaborative platforms for their own internal purposes.

With the Socially Enterprising platform we can now also create these inter-operable collaborative platforms.

We can create collaborative platforms for;

  • Places, Communities and Neighbourhoods
  • The Open Mental Health Network
  • Health Watch Somerset
  • The VCFSE Network
  • etc

We could even create a national ICS ecosystem which would connect and bridge all of the UK’s ICS’s so that ideas, learning and improvements can distribute themselves across the entire national ICS ecosystem.

All of these collaborative platforms can also create and manage their own users, content, groups etc.

They are self-contained just as any other collaborative platform or space would be.

But they all exist within the larger national ecosystem (network infrastructure) which allows everything to work together seamlessly.

By doing this we can create an ecosystem of ecosystems and a network of networks that is fully inter-operable.

It creates a sweet spot, a currently missing societal collaborative space, that exists between the wild and unstructured openness of the public Internet and the private isolation offered by internally focussed bespoke platforms.

It’s almost like a private Internet.

An open infrastructure for inter-operable platforms.

It’s networks all the way up, it’s networks all the way down and it’s networks all the way across.

They are all inter-operable and they can all overlap and intersect with each other naturally.

As a user you connect with and operate only in the networks which make sense to your work or what you are trying to achieve, so your exposure to the potential scale of the network is actually quite limited and manageable.

It matches how things work in the real world.

In this national network ecosystem, the problems we had earlier with Arts UK, Health UK and Arts and Health don’t exist.

Each can have its own platform and they can all interconnect and intersect.

And new platforms, more specific or specialised, can be created as and when required.

We can create platformed ecosystems for any sector and any number of bridging platforms for trans-disciplinary/cross-disciplinary/cross-sector collaborative spaces.

In our example earlier creating new bespoke and isolated platforms for Arts UK, Health UK and Arts & Health solved a problem of immediate organisational needs but created a number of long-term complications for wider participation and collaboration.

In this network of networks, we solve the need, avoid the problem and create vast new benefits. The networks are all inter-operable and can seamlessly exchange users, information and knowledge.

Plus, a new society and economy enhancing network effect is created.

Each time you add a new network the entire ecosystem expands and becomes more connected, interconnected, searchable, discoverable and intelligent. This growth, interconnection and diversity creates new possibilities, opportunities and forms of value for each ecosystem and network as well as for society and the economy as a whole.

You’re not just connecting in network nodes either.

You’re connecting in the individuals and organisations which form those networks and you’re beginning to create links to their assets and resources (knowledge, intelligence, employees, buildings, transport, materials etc) some of which can be shared with the ecosystem for particular projects, for example working towards local food or flood resilience, or meeting high/low priority community need.

This asset-based aspect is part of the answer of how you leverage existing but latent assets and resources to meet local need, level up or accelerate transition.

Local Government, Place-Based Approaches, Ecosystems and Relational Commons

The way public services, civil society and business organise, operate and perform their roles or work are beginning to shift.

Local government, local services and civil society organisations are beginning to transition to place-based working and strategies.

The following examples are only a flavour.

To bring your attention to a problem on the horizon.

A region may have any number of region scale ecosystems which could support their work and strategies.

A city may have any number of city scale place-based ecosystems.

Smaller geographic concerns (towns/boroughs) would have appropriately smaller place-based ecosystems.

All of those places, with all of those place-based ecosystems and strategies, and all of those different actors (the state, civil society and business), and they will in all likelihood be using different systems and platforms to support their work.

Even within a single local authority several different platforms may be in use which are specific to specific sectors (health & wellbeing for example) and different needs within those sectors (e.g. care at home).

You do understand the gradually unfolding mess and the increasing difficulty I’m trying to communicate here?

This path of everyone looking at ‘their own’ problems/needs and creating an isolated platform doesn’t lead to a vision of a cohesive and connected UK with local and national government, public services, civil society or citizens working together as seamlessly and effectively as they could.

The UK’s collaborative future without some kind of strategy or intervention in place will become totally fragmented, consisting entirely of black boxes with closed borders.

Yet every; place, ecosystem, and place-based project or strategy, has a common set of needs which are communicative, connective and collaborative.

It is these common requirements that Socially Enterprising is able to do.

Using one system which connects everything together.

I understand that there will be problem specific needs which require specific/bespoke applications, tools or functions but these would be better developed separately or as platform integrations as opposed to having a collaborative platform wrapped around them each and every time.

We keep reproducing the same thing.

It’s ridiculous and unnecessary.

Plus, by reproducing all these distinct and separate platforms across society and the economy we continuously place user/public data into the hands of private enterprise where it cannot necessarily be protected and kept safe.

A single overarching ecosystem and common infrastructure can provide far stronger protections and assurances for the public, public services, civil society and business.

Uses of the Platform

I’m going to provide some additional examples to illustrate how the potential of the platform can be harnessed for different sectors and purposes.

You should begin to see that what I’m describing is a new type of ‘collaborative space’ that exists outside and between all existing organisations.

This ‘collaborative space’ already exists conceptually but without some early stage ‘organisational infrastructure’ it will remain fragmented, limited in potential, and mostly closed and privatised.

I personally believe this ‘collaborative space’ represents a new form of ‘relational commons’ which should not be treated as a private concern but as a common public, social, cultural and economic good.

Placing a social enterprise and platform infrastructure (superstructure?) over the top of this ‘relational commons’ protects it and allows the generated value to be steered towards the social, economic and environmental goals of the social enterprise.

Doing this as a platform cooperative allows for mass public membership and thus common ownership and protection of the ‘relational commons’.

It’s a little bit like the enclosure of the commons but this time we give the commoners the keys and the productive value.

Now back to some uses…

What you should see in the following examples is that they demonstrate;

  • place-based working and strategies (local networks/ecosystems)
  • the active involvement and participation of citizens (the public)
  • cross-sector collaborations between the state, civil society, business and communities

Please note: You can can skip through the following section very easily. It is here to get your mind working.

I only want you to connect what you have read and understood so far with these various different needs and purposes all of which could benefit from the existence of this new collaboration infrastructure.

This should allow you to begin connecting other needs/purposes/projects that you are aware of into this bigger picture.

I’m just scratching the surface with these examples. What I would also like you to bear in mind is that even if the small list of organisations below turned up in a town each with their own isolated platform — any local person or organisation would very quickly find the number of platforms too overwhelming to engage with sensibly. Providing a single overarching ecosystem solves this by creating a single entry point to collaboration with any of the organisations instead.

To help with skimming through this section I’ll add a couple of images (start/stop) to help you.

Local Community Networks (LCN’s)

Note: LCN’s may not be a 100% perfect fit for the Socially Enterprising ecosystem of ecosystems but the network technology that Socially Enterprising is built with can be readily applied to the online; creation, management, communication and collaboration needs of LCN’s and thus this presents itself as a key business opportunity for Socially Enterprising CIC.

An LCN is best described as a network of health, council, voluntary sector leaders, working with local communities to create a shared ambition and more integrated approach to organising and improving the health and wellbeing of their whole local population.

On 1st April 2023 a new unitary Somerset Council will replace Somerset County Council and the four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset).

Somerset Council will cover a large geographical area. Council Leaders are mindful that we need a model for communities where local voices are heard, partners are brought together, and decisions are taken with the benefit of local knowledge and experience. That’s why all the Somerset councils support the development of Local Community Networks (LCNs).

LCNs will be established in every part of Somerset. They will be Committees of the unitary Council, supported by dedicated officers and managers, with formal decision-making powers and influence. They will enable the Council, partners and communities to work together to address local issues and priorities, support health and wellbeing activities, and improve outcomes for residents.

Why LCNs:

  • LCNs encourage community engagement and development.
  • They’re about listening, sharing and local partnership working.
  • They look to improve outcomes for residents.
  • They provide the strong connection between Somerset Council, our residents, businesses and partners.
  • They’re the voice of local communities.
  • There will be 18 LCNs covering every corner of the new Somerset Council area.

They are:

  • To be a forum for community voice, engagement and influence
  • To be a means for enhancing participation in democracy and local decision making
  • To enhance collaboration by bringing together at a local level, representatives from partner organisations, town, City and parish councils, community groups and residents

They will include representatives from the following groups or organisations:

  • Local Neighbourhood policing team
  • Somerset National Health Service
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
  • Education
  • Representatives from Voluntary, Community, Faith and Social Enterprise Organisations
  • Representatives from Businesses or Trade Groups

Coastal Communities Alliance and Coastal Community Teams

The Coastal Communities Alliance is a partnership of coastal Local Authorities, coastal organisations and individuals with an interest in coastal matters.

The “vision” for the CCA is to offer a joint / united voice for coastal communities as collaborative working is stronger than individual working”

The CCA operates as a brokerage organisation with its objective to seek to ‘…build alliances and common purpose around the coast of Britain, with a particular focus on socio-economic challenges.’

The CCA has a well-established relationship with DLUHC and worked closely on the development of the Coastal Communities Fund, and previously led the Coastal Communities Teams program.

Coastal Community Teams

From major coastal towns to seaside villages, the Government sees great potential in supporting and enabling this local knowledge. MHCLG are therefore encouraging the establishment of Coastal Community Teams to enable local communities to come together and develop a common vision and plans for their area.

For the purposes of this programme a coastal community is defined in the same way as for the Coastal Communities Fund.

A coastal community is therefore any coastal settlement within an English local authority area whose boundaries include English foreshore, including local authorities whose boundaries only include estuarine foreshore. Coastal settlements include seaside towns, ports and other areas which have a clear connection to the coastal economy.

A Coastal Community Team is a local partnership consisting of the local authority and a range of people and business interests from a coastal community who have an understanding of the issues facing that area and can develop an effective forward strategy for that place.

While Coastal Community Teams may choose their own priorities, suggested areas of focus, particularly for very new partnerships, are as follows:

Enhancing the attractiveness and accessibility of public areas

  • Providing increased community facilities
  • Promoting the visitor economy
  • Encouraging sustainable uses of heritage/cultural assets
  • Creating links to support the growth and performance of the retail sector
Funded through the Coastal Revival Fund, New Brighton Coastal Community Team will relight Perch Rock Lighthouse for the first time in over 40 years on Saturday.

Catchment Partnerships and Catchment Based Approach

The Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) is an inclusive, civil society-led initiative that works in partnership with; Government, Local Authorities, Local Communities, Farmers and Landowners, Businesses, Non-Governmental Organisations, Policy Makers, Water Companies, Academia and more, to maximise the natural value of our environment.

CaBA partnerships are actively working in all 100+ river catchments across England and cross-border with Wales, directly supporting achievement of many of the targets under the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

What is the Catchment Based Approach?

From the source of our rivers to the sea, across our towns, cities, countryside and coasts — a healthy water environment is essential to all of us. It provides us with the water we need to live and to run our businesses efficiently. It reduces the risk to our homes and livelihoods of flooding. A healthy water environment means better places to live, where people and wildlife flourish. In the past, management of the water environment has fallen to Government, to private companies and to landowners, often operating in isolation.

The Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) embeds collaborative working at a river catchment scale, delivering a range of environmental, social and economic benefits and protecting our precious water environments for the benefit of us all.

The Catchment Based Approach is proudly supported by an impressive array of organisations.

This includes, but not limited to, the following organisations:

The Rivers Trust, The Environment Agency, Wildlife Trusts, Defra, Forestry Commission, Water UK, Freshwater Habitats Trust, WWT, RSPB, Groundwork, WWF, Natural England, Angling Trust, Salmon and Trout Association.

Westcountry Rivers Trust’s Head of GIS, Data & Evidence, Dr Nick Paling gives an overview of how data and evidence can be used to inform and facilitate participatory catchment planning in catchment partnerships.

Catchment Based Approach and Flood Resilience

Hills to Levels is a holistic catchment management approach across catchments in Somerset, aiming to ‘slow the flow’ to reduce flood risk, reduce erosion, improve water quality, deliver wider environmental benefits and increase resilience on the floodplain.

The idea is that a lot of small-scale interventions will have an effect at the large catchment scale with the motto that ‘every field, every farm, every stream has its part to play in flooding and water quality’. Hills to Levels is part of the delivery team of the land management workstream of the Somerset 20 -Year Flood Action Plan.

Catchment Based Approach and Water Quality

Mersey Rivers Trust has now trained more than 50 River Guardian volunteers to take regular water samples, to help identify changes in the water quality in the Mersey Basin.

The training is part of the Love Your River and Call of Nature campaigns and will contribute to the water quality reporting required for the LIFE IP funded project, Natural Course.

High levels of phosphates and nitrates in the water can drastically affect the water quality damaging the wildlife that the river supports, and these River Guardians will play a vital role in reporting any disturbances affecting the water quality.

Mersey Rivers Trust have now trained more than 50 River Guardian volunteers to take regular water samples, to help identify changes in the water quality in the Mersey Basin. The training is part of the Love Your River and Call of Nature campaigns and will contribute to the water quality reporting required for the LIFE IP funded project, Natural Course.


Note: I’m aware of the larger place-based Net Zero industrial strategies but for the purposes of this post I’d like to remain with an example that’s more oriented around smaller organisations and local community engagement.

Exeter City Futures is a local community interest company working collaboratively with the city to help Exeter become carbon neutral by 2030, through the delivery of our Net Zero Exeter Plan

We aim to achieve this through our mission: to bring Exeter’s businesses, individuals, communities and leaders together and provide the coordination needed to deliver the city’s carbon ambitions.

Building on our engagement with the residents and businesses across the City over the last 3 years, we have defined 12 Transformational Goals to help us build a healthier and more sustainable City of Exeter — fit for future generations

Every One Every Day

Formally launched in November 2017, Every One Every Day is an ambitious partnership between Participatory City and Barking and Dagenham Council aimed at turning Barking and Dagenham into a “large scale, fully inclusive, practical participatory ecosystem … the first one of its kind in the world.”

Rooted in Participatory City’s nine years of engagement with people at the forefront of developing “participatory culture” as a critical building block for sustainable urban neighbourhoods in the future, Every One Every Day is an attempt to turn one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK into a new type of community: one teeming with rich relationships, collaborative projects and civic participation.

Every One Every Day is a network of 1000s of people living in Barking and Dagenham who are working together on different neighbourhood projects around the borough to make everyday life better for everyone.

Neighbourhoods made by everyone, for everyone — that is the aim of a new £6.4 million initiative coming to Barking and Dagenham later this year (2017).

Community Preparedness and Resilience

Somerset Prepared is a multi-agency partnership working closely with communities to deliver advice, support and training to help enhance local resilience to emergencies. The partnership is made up of many organisations able to provide advice, guidance and support to help you develop local initiatives that enhance resilience to emergencies.

Our aim is to promote and support community resilience across Somerset by:

  • Raising awareness of local risk within Somerset amongst partners, communities and businesses;
  • Providing advice, guidance and support to locally led community resilience initiatives;
  • Providing resilience networking and information sharing platforms for community groups through meetings, events and supporting technology;
  • Supporting partner agencies in delivery of community resilience initiatives; and
  • Sharing information and coordinating activity between member organisations.

Our full membership includes:

  • Avon & Somerset Police
  • British Red Cross
  • Community Council for Somerset
  • Community Representatives
  • Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service
  • Environment Agency (Joint Chair)
  • Rotary International
  • Safe South West (Treasurer)
  • Somerset Local Authorities Civil Contingencies Partnership (Joint Chair & Secretariat)
  • Somerset Rivers Authority
  • South Western Ambulance Service
  • Spark Somerset

Additional organisations delivering local projects such as charities, voluntary agencies and utility providers are invited and encouraged to do so in coordination with the partnership.

What is a Community Emergency Plan? This short video explains.
This two minute animation summarises some of the key messages from the handbook ‘Exploring Community Resilience’.

Innovate UK Place-Based Innovation

Not currently operating in the UK but good ideas exist everywhere…

Our Place-Based Innovation (PBI) intervention will strengthen the capacity and resilience of local innovation ecosystems through first working to better understand regional challenges, capabilities and potential for innovation, and then supporting action-orientated local innovation networks in areas of high potential.

Our Place-Based Innovation (PBI) intervention will strengthen the capacity and resilience of local innovation ecosystems through first working to better understand regional challenges, capabilities and potential for innovation, and then supporting action-orientated local innovation networks in areas of high potential.

Community Improvement Districts

CID’s build upon the concept of “Business Improvement Districts”, where businesses collaborate to effect change in an area in order to spur regeneration and boost business. The key difference with Community Improvement Districts is that they seek to give local people, and community and charitable organisations, as well as businesses, a say over the strategic direction of local high streets which is vital to creating sustainable town centres for the future.

The belief is that the involvement of the community in shaping their town centres will bring many positive impacts: increasing residents’ sense of ownership and responsibility for their high street. It is hoped that community organisations moving onto the high street, and developing their services, could provide diverse and vibrant activities, services and places for people to meet. All of this will strengthen the local economy.


What are Community Improvement Districts — otherwise known as CIDs? Our Policy Manager Nick Plumb explains how these innovative partnerships place communities at the heart of town centre regeneration.

RSA Networked Heritage

Heritage shapes how people identify with the places they live, work and play. Yet a role for heritage is frequently missing in conversations and plans for how we want places to develop into the future.

Networked heritage means having sufficient connections in a place for heritage to be understood as and treated as a common public resource — drawn upon and enhanced by the full diversity of citizens and organisations. The role of the heritage sector will still include facilitating access to heritage assets, but it is by enabling others to integrate heritage into their thinking and their actions that networked heritage can have a transformative impact on people and places, helping communities create heritage for themselves.

Networked heritage has both a local and a national dimension. At the local scale networked heritage connects heritage sector organisations to each other helping to, for example, share information across heritage groups about opportunities for involvement in local life such as upcoming public events. It will help to build contacts and relationships which can be drawn upon for informal support and advice — for example in recruiting board members and trustees from a wider pool. And it can provide reciprocal marketing support for heritage activities for the public to access, so drawing in new audiences.

Networks between heritage organisations at a local level are essential support structures. Groups can otherwise easily feel isolated, unsupported and in competition with each other for the attention of citizens and officials. Smaller organisation can be particularly afflicted, especially as they have often evolved in response to a specific threat to a specific asset. Through formal meetings, informal connections, and shared participation in community life, small and volunteer-led heritage organisations benefit greatly from reciprocal support. Groups are then better able to sustain themselves, get noticed and achieve impact.

At the same time, networked heritage means organisations being linked to the day-to-day structures which determine how a place functions; for example, in relation to planning consultations, neighbourhood planning, adult education provision, employment support, youth services, and the workings of local media. At the local scale, deep, broad and collaborative networks help projects and organisations achieve more than they would be able to do alone. Such networks are strengthened when heritage activists, volunteers and community leaders have voice and influence in the decisions of professionalised institutions.

At the national scale there are efficiencies to be gained from networked heritage. Many national heritage organisations have regional offices and a presence in multiple localities, but don’t have a way to have a local dialogue with other national organisations in those cities and counties. The Bristol Heritage Forum is an early indication of a local initiative to try and address this. In Scotland, museum professionals have self-organised a community of practice, connecting national institutions to smaller community trusts to help address this. As government devolves decision-making, so communities will have higher expectations of being able to have a local dialogue about the local footprint of heritage organisations.


Business in the Community Place Programme

Communities that are thriving, socially and economically — working collectively for a meaningful, shared outcome.

Business in the Community’s (BITC) Place Programme is about bringing everyone together in a place to act collaboratively. To act on long-term goals, based on a common agreement of the challenges, opportunities and solutions and drawing on the strengths of everyone in that community, whether they are a business, a community organisation or from the public sector.

Over the last five years, Blackpool has brought together a unique local partnership between the Council, businesses and the voluntary sector, supported by Business in the Community (BITC), to find new ways to tackle the town’s long-standing opportunities and challenges together.

Civic Universities and Network

The Civic University Network was one of the key recommendations from the UPP Foundation’s Civic University Commission, an independent inquiry into the future of the civic universities and how they can best serve their ‘place’ in the 21st century.

The Network will work to support the growing civic university movement so that universities can increase their civic impact — and connect universities with other sectors which are prioritising issues around ‘place’ to level up the economy and society.

Sheffield Hallam University is leading the development of the Network alongside the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and The Institute of Community Studies (ICS), supported by network partners: University of Glasgow, University of Newcastle, Queen Mary University of London and the University of Birmingham.

Arts Council (Creative People and Places)

Creative People and Places is an intervention by Arts Council England to inspire new ways of thinking about cultural engagement in local authority areas where the official statistics showed historically low levels of engagement.

Arts Council England’s aims for Creative People and Places are:

  • More people from places of least engagement experience and are inspired by the arts· Communities take the lead in shaping local arts provision
  • The aspiration for excellence is central — this covers both excellence of art and excellence of the process of engaging communities
  • To learn from past experiences and create an environment where the arts and cultural sector can experiment with new approaches to engaging communities
  • To learn more about how to establish sustainable arts and cultural opportunities and make this learning freely available
  • To encourage partnerships across the subsidised, amateur and commercial sectors
  • To demonstrate the power of the arts to enrich the lives of individuals and make positive changes in communities
  • That activity is radically different from what has happened before in each place

Creative People and Places was developed as an action research programme, with ongoing evaluation commissioned by Arts Council England, and with an associated peer learning programme. This has created more than 80 pieces of research, including a number of thematic studies of top

Ten keywords for Creative People and Places

COMMUNITIES — Creative People and Places is fundamentally about finding ways for communities to take the lead in shaping or co-creating local cultural provision. This means having community voice present throughout, in transparent and well-supported ways.

TIME — Taking a long-term approach changes how people working together in a place can think about the challenges and opportunities facing that place and its communities. Taking the time to sit with the issues, and to get to know people and build trust is essential.

TRUST — The cultural sector needs to earn trust with communities. Every action builds or destroys trust. Be open, honest and talk to people directly. Also, you should trust yourselves, your processes, and the communities and artists you work with.

LISTENING — A core skill for this practice is listening to communities, their dreams, desires and stories — and also to what they don’t say or those who may not immediately come forward. Listening to the evidence of how something works is also crucial.

PARTNERSHIP — Changing the governance paradigm from the single objective-based charitable model to a consortium with shared purpose encourages a shared collaborative effort among partners with a stake in the success of local communities and the place

ASSET-BASED — Even communities lacking in visible cultural infrastructure are rarely ‘cold spots’. They are rich in creative practice and have spaces and festivals that can be utilised. Take an asset-based approach rather than focusing on deficits.

FLEXIBILITY — When working alongside communities who may have challenging circumstances, and who may be reluctant to engage with some things, there is an even greater need than normal to be flexible in how you work and what you aim to do with people.

RISK — From inception to its place in the heart of Arts Council England Let’s Create strategy, Creative People and Places has been ambitious and risk-taking. Risk-taking has also been integral to approaches at local level, with failure relished as a learning opportunity.

LEADERSHIP — Although it has developed less hierarchical, distributed models of leadership, Creative People and Places builds on leadership that connect people across their differences, collaborates and encourages collaboration and multiplies the voices of others.

LEARNING — Creative People and Places is notable as a large-scale example of a funder investing in a long-term action-research programme, with as much interest in the learning as the outputs and outcomes. Each place has been an ongoing learning programme.

Find out how communities are shaping arts programmes that are relevant and inspiring to local people in this 1 min film. Creative People and Places aims to get more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in art experiences in the places where they live. There are 21 projects, located in areas where people have fewer opportunities to get involved with the arts. The programme is funded by Arts Council England through the National Lottery.

Midway Recap

Ok, you should now have an understanding of what the technology can do and the many types of work and collaborations which it would be suitable for.

You should also be getting an impression of the scale of what could be achieved and the ways in which it would ultimately benefit society and the economy. It’s a really big thing.

In the above section you will see the same organisations popping up again and again. It makes no sense to have a hundred separate platforms. It makes sense to have a common platform which can support a an infinite number of uses, they are all just networks of people and organisations after all.

It is the specific use that should be secondary and the networks that should be primary, it is this which creates an infrastructure where everything is fully connected and easy to work with.

Collaboration across society and economy can then become the norm just as the telephone network did for conversations across society and the economy.

I’m going to attempt to fill in a few gaps with this final section.

Why Socially Enterprising?

The term ‘socially enterprising’ allows us to reach across silos and divides as well as between organisations, networks and movements.

‘socially enterprising’ can be applied to many things;

  • creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship
  • social action, social innovation and social entrepreneurship
  • social prescribing and socially engaged arts
  • design thinking and co-production
  • communities, the state, civil society and business working together
  • citizens participating in community development
  • the circular economy and sustainability
  • community climate action
  • citizen-led nature-based solutions
  • businesses implementing changes around diversity and inclusion
  • local economies, community wealth building and community businesses
  • community improvement districts
  • public services with humans at their heart
  • place-based working and strategies
  • integrated care systems
  • citizen science
  • the SDG’s

It is the type of society and economy that people and organisations are already bringing into being but that today lacks the connectivity between its many parts.

Our platform provides that connectivity.

It is the flexibility of the term and its ability to connect across silos, society and the entire economy which is the most important function.

It allows a society and economy sized ecosystem to be formed and interconnected.

This would be an ecosystem connected by and actively demonstrating the potential that exists across society and the economy for the application of collaboration, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship towards creating a socially and environmentally just version of the world in which we live.

Creativity, Diversity and Innovation

All of the examples provided above are collaborations between civil society, the state, business, communities and individuals working around a particular purpose within the context of place.

Each collaboration due to the mix of people and organisations will be unique and this mix will shift as time progresses, these are not static systems — they are dynamic and organic.

The unique mix of people and organisations creates a unique mix of skills, strengths, resources and knowledge which can be brought together to create unique ideas, solutions or approaches that are aligned towards the purpose of the collaboration.

At the place-level too there will also be a unique mix of assets and resources which can be tapped into to assist with the local work.

This is why these place-based collaborations are successful. They are connecting across sectors/silos and tapping into local knowledge and otherwise latent local potential.

They are acting like a network and not singular organisation — it is a different form of organising, thinking and behaviour.

This is applicable to almost any work that happens in diverse networks — being able to bridge diversity is important.

It is the many different diversities of people, organisations, skills, knowledge, local contexts, assets, and resources which when brought together create a new foundation for creativity, diversity and innovation. And this foundation for creativity, diversity and innovation already exists everywhere as this is what every place, anywhere in the world, actually consists of.

To get the most out of place, networks or ecosystems you don’t want to separate all of these different collaborations off into closed non-communicative working group style organisations i.e. you don’t want to create new (collaborative, connected and intelligent) silos.

You want the collaborations to overlap, interact and be aware of each other and their work, to be open to possibilities to work together for greater effect and better use of resources.

Creating an overarching ecosystem which allows the creation and bridging of diverse networks enables this to occur.

Good facilitation and skills/capacity development around creativity, design thinking, and asset-based community development can then unlock this potential.

It’s possible that organisations such as The Design Council, Innovate UK and The RSA could create an entirely new social and economic effect by bringing their work and their networks into the ecosystem I’m proposing.

Why would Innovate UK continue using their isolated ‘Design Innovation Network’ platform when they could instead place the network within a society and economy spanning ecosystem where it can then inter-operate and interconnect with existing collaborations, ecosystems and networks actively carrying out work and activities?

Why would The Design Council not want to bring their networks and platforms into such an overarching ecosystem so that they could exist in close proximity and with immediate relevance and benefit to work and thinking actively taking place in the UK?

Why would The RSA want to create a platform which sat separate to the society and economy which it and it’s fellows do so much to support and change for the better when instead The RSA organisation and network could become deeply interconnected and embedded within the entire society and economy ecosystem?

These platform adoptions could represent a massive shift from an institutional campaigning and broadcast operating model over to something much more relational, developmental and wider in reach through being placed in close proximity to the work and thinking of these many different collaborations and place-based projects.

Collaborative ecosystems/networks for place

I have to apologise here as I’m reusing diagrams from previous posts so they won’t be a perfect fit.

Here is a place-based network diagram which is intended to illustrate how local organisations can be connected into a community level network and national organisations can be located within the same global network ecosystem which then allows new types of relationship and support to come into existence that can strengthen and further the activity (of local people and organisations) taking part at the place level.

The diagram was developed to illustrate the possibilities for place-based ‘social action’ but you should be able to understand how the same principle of organisation can be applied to all of the networks and ecosystems so far mentioned in this post.

The network diagram above can also be understood from a multi-level strategic perspective.

Ecosystem activity and network levels can also be viewed regeneratively to better understand place, roles, and social, cultural and economic resilience and transition.

Finally here’s a look at what a local employment ecosystem might look like which could offer highly personalised employment pathways for local people.

How the ecosystem/s network/s create a new type of learning and development environment

Another bit a diagram reuse here, my apologies again.

This is the place-based social action network diagram again.

I’m going to try to provide some additional ways of perceiving the learning and development activity which is or could be taking place within the ecosystem.

  • The national organisations are producing learning materials and knowledge which are intended to benefit beneficiaries, audiences and communities (place-based people and organisations). The network enables this learning and knowledge to better distribute to places and communities where it can be put to use.
  • The local organisations, communities and individuals are also generating new knowledge and engagement materials which can also be of use to the national organisations and other communities. The network enables this learning and knowledge to find distribution up and out into the wider ecosystem.
  • Although not illustrated it is possible to bring Mentoring, Coaching, Peer Groups and Communities of Practice into any and all of these ecosystems. The ecosystems and their internal activities and purposes create a form of structure, foundation or framework which can support new forms of ‘learning in place’, ‘action learning’ or ‘praxis’.
  • Organisational capacity development and skills upgrading needn’t necessarily be a single supporting organisations responsibility but could become highly networked (unbundled across multiple capacity development collaborations) and thus much more adaptable to local context and immediate or long-term needs (developmental).
  • More traditional local/national education and training providers can also find new roles within these place-based learning environments.

To further illustrate the point I would like you consider the following diagram which is an example of a ‘place-based employment ecosystem’ which could be used to create unique and personalised employment pathways for individuals and imagine how embedding learning & development and place-based education & training would expand the possibilities and benefits for local people as well as developing the talent pool for businesses and key sectors.

The ecosystem can bring together local; needs, assets, resources, civil/civic organisations and employers to create personalised pathways to support and develop the confidence, skills and literacies of local people.

I am using the example of ‘place’ in the above examples but the principles are applicable for any form of ecosystem/network (Sustainability, Climate Action or Community Preparedness etc).

The multi-place/cross-sector/cross-geography/cross-disciplinary collaborative ecosystem thus also becomes a society and economy wide learning and development environment.

Finally, place-based collaborations allow us to create entirely new opportunities to deliver learning that is highly suited to the needs of 21st century society and economy.

You can do this while collaborating on;

  • climate adaptation projects
  • local resilience projects (food)
  • community preparedness (flood/disaster/emergency)
  • citizen-led local economic development
  • youth-led community projects
  • etc
Local needs are fertile ground for fresh solutions and personalised learning and development opportunities.

There’s a lot going on. How does something so complex operate?

It will appear complex as I’m trying to communicate a lot of different things at the same time. Trying to explain the telephone network and telephone is easier as people speak to each other — you don’t really need to explain what they say or why they say it.

To stick with the analogy I used earlier, Socially Enterprising is is a new type of telecommunications infrastructure in the form of a platform which supports mass-collaboration and participation across society and the economy.

If you want to collaborate with others then it provides the essential elements you need to do this.

  • If you want to have a conversation with somebody — then you pick up the phone and start a conversation using the public telephone network.
  • If you want to collaborate with others — then you create a network and start collaborating using the public collaboration network (Socially Enterprising).

The activity taking place across the telephone network is mind-bogglingly diverse and complex if you stop to think about it or attempt to explain it to a visiting alien along with some examples.

I’m probably trying to communicate things in this way.

Not everyone understands; platforms, or networks, or place-based working, or innovation practices, or systems change.

Underneath the complexity there is absolute simplicity. It’s just new and requires some foundational knowledge to be developed.

How does Socially Enterprising fit into all this? What ecosystems are this organisations responsibilities?

Socially Enterprising CIC has an interest in thriving places, communities and people as well as social, environmental and economic transition.

There are 2 locations within the platform/ecosystem where Socially Enterprising CIC would intend to have primary responsibility.

There is the top level story which arises (can be created or curated) from the activity taking place within the entire overarching ecosystem.

This allows us to highlight what is working so that good ideas, activities and practices can be discovered and distributed. It also means that we can focus our platform media content strategy on activity which aligns with our social purpose.

This top-level story will exist at sociallyenterprising.org

The second location is actually multiple — it is the community story happening at the place level.

This story arises (can be created or curated) from the activity taking place across the local place-based ecosystem.

This story is community facing and is intended to engage and inform the public. It is local media reinvented to meet the needs of the 21st century and would exist as online platform and offline physical media (a newspaper of sorts for a participatory society).

You can get more of an idea in the following post and begin to see how the local story becomes an entirely new way of engaging people at a population level across multiple agendas, needs and potentialities.


To attempt to bring this post to a close.

I am hoping that the ‘commercial potential’ is very apparent to anyone who is reading.

I am one person who had a vision 10 years ago and set out to achieve it.

I am working across boundaries and my work is better because of this. I know this can make my work more difficult to understand but this doesn't mean that I should go away and make it more simple or smaller so that I can then go step by step through an arduous process of building a sustainable social enterprise from scratch — this approach would be very easily steered off course and in all likelihood stuck forever within a small niche of the much larger potential ecosystem.

The proposition requires the right support and some sheltering whilst it takes form — that is the path which leads to bringing something new and game changing into the world.

My other writings can sometimes appear indirect but they become much more navigable if you read the following post which demonstrates how everything is connected.

End of post

Notes for self

Short section concerning ICS, the NHS and Population Health with specific mention of upstream causes of ill health such as poor work and housing.

Include zoomed out diagram which includes the expanded (businesses / housing providers) engagement ecosystem with key sectors and points.

Imagination Infrastructures

The Socially Enterprising ecosystem can contain diverse ecosystems and place-based networks.

Imagination Infrastructures are not separate to this, they would hopefully an important part of it.

My work on Socially Enterprising began back in 2013 through participating in British Council Active Citizen’s training, learning about asset-based community development, and with reading Alison Gilchrist’s ‘The Well-Connected Community: A Networking Approach to Community Development’.

I realised that I could combine these things into platform and set out to figure out how to do ‘citizen-led community development at scale’.

I’d like to believe I’ve gone a long way towards that goal.


Connecting society and the economy into a collaborative ecosystem can lead to entirely new; organisational forms, ways of doing things and possibilities.

How can many stupid things combine to form smart things? How can proteins become living cells? How become lots of ants a colony? What is emergence?

Creativity, Innovation and Evolution

A society and economy spanning collaborative ecosystem which fully integrates learning and development creates an ‘evolutionary environment’ for ideas, creativity, innovation and their potential applications.

It is place-based continuous development and adaptation using existing but latent local assets, strengths and resources connected to a global network of ideas, knowledge and technologies.

Regenerative, distributive and ever evolving.

This fully embedded ‘evolutionary environment’ could lead to a society and economy that is able to keep pace with exponential change as it connects always existing local needs, problems, challenges and opportunities to new and ever expanding knowledge, technology and practices.

Getting everyone onboard

It is even possible to move entire existing networks (and networks of networks) into the Socially Enterprising platform so that they become part of the national ecosystem and are able to more easily work with the people and organisations within it.

The Transition Network is blah blah blah. The organisation is currently utilising a bespoke collaborative platform for their work. But it would be possible to instead move the entirety of their network into the Socially Enterprising platform.

They could have;

  • a national platformed ecosystem which connected and bridged their local networks e.g. uk-ecosystem.transition-network.org
  • platformed local networks e.g. exeter.transition-network.org

All of this would be self-contained and self-managed but it would also exist in the same platform and ecosystem as the people and organisations that the Transition Network need to collaborate with; citizen groups, local authorities, charities etc

Systems Change and Innovation


By bringing multiple place-based work and strategies into a single ecosystem as well as any participating; public services, civil society organisations, businesses and communities, new forms of place-based organising become possible that can leverage the platforms pre-existing place-based connectivity.


The Socially Enterprising ecosystem can connect across the entirety of of society and the economy. It can also bridge traditional systems and emerging systems (and is purposefully designed to do this) at national, regional and local levels.

To assist with learning and development, innovation and systems change within places, networks and across the entire ecosystem, the platform content strategy needs to be identifying and promoting this work so that it can be understood and widely distributed.

Much socially and environmentally beneficial activity of this kind remains niche and little known, to turn this situation around and assist wide-scale innovation adoption and systems change efforts, this activity in the form of stories, knowledge, and information can play a fundamental role in the platform content strategy.

Socially Enterprising is not intended to be a user driven ‘social media’ platform. To perform a strategic role requires a different approach where more thought and consideration is given to where platform content is coming from and what it is intended to do.


Socially Enterprising by bringing together and demonstrating the effect of collaborative working across society and the economy is intended to help shift entire systems to new ways of thinking, organising and working.



Wes Hinckes

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.