Whilst working on Socially Enterprising there have been many thoughts which changed how I saw things.
In the early days I was wondering how social mobility might become an integral part of the platform by connecting people to employment and education opportunities in their local area.
Employers could get involved with social action projects and learn a little about potential recruits and local people could learn more about the companies at the same time.
In this way what was at that time a crowdfunding platform for social action projects started to become something quite different — the relationships between actors and things started to come to the fore.
I was also reflecting back to the real world and the systems that we have in place (e.g. the welfare state; education; and training) that I knew by personal experience had little understanding or sympathy for the everyday reality of people’s lives.
Surely in this modern age it should be possible to design systems that would be flexible, responsive, supportive and fair?
Perhaps the welfare system didn’t need to be a safety net at all and instead it could be something that was supportive, available when and where people needed it, and ready to match their efforts with its own potential.
There are many similarities between a child’s fishing net and a tennis racket. How could one transform into the other?
I thought of how greater connectivity between people and organisations could help current models turn into more solid platforms which supported people’s choices and realities.
Interconnecting what already existed could create opportunities to alter their properties and behaviours.
Could systems transformations be seeded from very simple principles and values which everyone in the network could agree upon and share?
Network as an Architectural Space
Maybe in our hyper-connected reality it was beneficial to think of the combination of digital and real as a form of conceptual matter with unique properties (distanceless and availability) and architectural potential (scale and locality).
A networked reality is already exists around us at all times. It’s an invisible aspect of our social reality.
Why shouldn’t we as a society be able to design, architect and engineer within this networked space to improve the way the world works (e.g. social mobility everywhere)? Embedding and weaving higher principles and values into the very systems and artefacts that this networked space allows us to create.
Limitations of our own making
The world we have created; our organisations and our institutions were conceived, designed and built for a different time.
But moving beyond their limitations is difficult.
Our minds are used to their presence and functions. Their existence influences the way in which our minds construct our own thinking. We’re stuck in and with the past.
This limitation is not just applicable to organisations; it applies to almost everything including our actions and behaviours. The past is saturated throughout our culture. It’s inescapable.
Following this argument could the Internet’s potential so far have been restricted by the ways in which we have been thinking?
When Internet adoption began the technologies were thought of as either ‘media/publishing’ or ‘information technology’ and found their implementation dominated by the thoughts and practices found within each of those existing industries and/or departments.
It’s difficult to see the scope for human and social potential from those viewpoints.
We are merely replicating physical practices in a digital form.
How do we go further? How do we open up new possibilities for thinking, seeing and doing?
From atoms to actualisation
If we think of our organisations now existing as part of a networked material, an active and available substance, could that help us to move beyond our current limitations in practice and behaviour?
Within this hyper-connected reality organisations would begin to look less like separate nodes and instead flow out to exist at all points, allowing their resources, assets and potential to be available everywhere and realised in different ways for different purposes by different actors.
All of our potential is currently locked away.
· Look at the potential of every human being.
· Look at the resources of all the organisations and businesses combined.
· Look the intelligence and knowledge within the state and civil society.
If we could put a percentage of this to work for the common good, the world would be a very different place. It would change the way we do everything.
Networking our society and releasing untapped assets, resources and knowledge could present us with a different way of doing things. A reality which would offer us as citizens, organisations, businesses, civil society and the state, entirely new roles and opportunities to continuously transform ourselves and the world around us.
Putting this potential into the hands of communities would give them the ability to bring into existence improved social conditions directly on their doorstep through their own efforts and will.
A concept of social mind meeting networked matter.
Now leap forward a few years.
The knowledge and educational resources contained within civil society now exist everywhere and can be put to use in any way you wish and in different ways for each group, individual or participating organisation.
The resources (physical, skills, and knowledge) contained in the local area have been made accessible and available for the social good.
Universities, government departments, local authorities, civil society organisations, charities, and citizen experts and groups are available to support your efforts. They are now active, adaptive and boundaryless. They are able to deliver capacity to where you are when you need it.
Local partnerships form around local need –consisting of diverse citizens, representative groups, local authorities, organisations and businesses.
An expanded Community Learning and Development platform extends 21st century learning and skills development opportunities for free to any person who contributes to local efforts.
A network of facilitators, educators and organisers are available in a local/global mix to boost capacities and generate additional forms of value from participation.
A diverse mix of funding is available which is carefully calibrated and matched according to local need, local strategy and organisational/project capacities.
This is what our society and public sector could look like at the local level.
This is a future which harnesses the generative value and potential that is already contained within our civilisation.
Putting it all together
How do we move from where we are to where we should be?
Richard Buckminster Fuller proposed that “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”
Socially Enterprising proposes that there is a different way of doing things.
That it’s possible to connect our institutions, civil society, businesses, and communities in the mission of meeting our social needs and in the generation of further public goods, knowledge and assets.
We provide participants with easy access to examples, peers, tools, support and funding.
We make available local (and global) resources, skills and knowledge.
We include access to organisations and experts who are able to help facilitate innovation, development and transformation.
It is these things together which make the platform. The platform is the tool which when used leads to new ways of thinking.
We don’t replace, we work with what already exists.
It is by collaborating and transforming our local conditions that we in turn transform ourselves.