Real Innovation, Real Change, Real Challenge
- What am I doing?
- We will listen, we will talk and together we will act.
- The funder’s view
What am I doing? (seriously, what am I doing??!?)
I am currently in the process of trying to pull together a new event, in a new location (in fact in a part of the country where I don’t have any contacts or experience), using a format I’ve not tried before, and working with a dozen or so new partners.
It’s challenging and pretty scary and I have the nagging fear that no one will turn up, rather like a fragile teenager sweating that no one is coming to their party because they’re just not cool enough.
I am testing out a new concept; an entrepreneurs’ event built around structured networking and offers of help from peer-to-peer. The basic idea is to get a lot of people in the room from very different social circles, differing ages, sectors, experience and at differing points in their enterprise journey, and make them help each other. In theory, if 30 people turn up, each entrepreneur gets an expert panel of 29 supporters.
I have decided to test it in rural North Wales.
Apart from going to Snowdonia to meet friends, trail run, or hike Mount Snowdon with some primary school kids, I have no real links here. It’s an area of dispersed enterprise activity, of slow regeneration, and it’s a blank canvass to me. I am testing the concept in Snowdonia because it’s hard. If I can make this work then the idea might really have some power ….and to be honest I’m taken with the idea of giving birth to a new concept in rural Wales. Balls to having good ideas migrate from Silicon Roundabout to the sticks, slowly trickling out from the city. Let’s make something great happen, around a lake at the bottom of a mountain in a county bigger than London with about 120,000 people living in it.
Constantly in quiet places somewhere, small bands of people gather to meet and talk about what might be. Sometimes those people make a small but noticeable change, sometimes nothing happens, sometimes it changes everything.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead
We will listen, we will talk and together we will act.
The origin of ideas is fascinating to me. I have come to realise that what is more interesting, is what is the spark that powers an idea through from a quiet thought to action?
Ideas on their own never change anything. It’s the action that changes, it’s communicating the idea and being brave. Given that there are exponentially more ideas than action, what makes some come to the surface and evolve? In my case it was caffeine, serendipity and Jim.
Jim, from The Carnegie UK Trust, happened to be in London at the same time as me; we met for a coffee, fuelled up on a day of caffeinated meetings and I started soap-boxing about the shortfalls of enterprise competitions.
“I just watched some brilliant 13yr olds present their own business ideas Jim” I rattled on “and the only people watching were other 13yr olds waiting to present. Then the judges picked a winner, the ‘losers’ looked crestfallen and they all went back to school to their usual lessons. We’re letting that inspiration disappear; there should be 30 & 40yr old entrepreneurs watching these kids present and they should all be offered support if they want to take their ideas further! Why don’t we have events with all manner of ages and stages all helping each other?” I asked.
I should caveat all the above with the fact that I have run enterprise competitions for years – national ones reaching 100,000 people and small school ones for 30 students. It’s not the existence of competition I was bemoaning, just the lack of cross-fertilisation and realistic next steps.
A month later Jim and I were on the phone and he called my bluff. He challenged me to run something different. Jim is exactly what every blowhard, coffee-shop or bar-room politician needs – a quiet man who says “I’ll back you then. Do it!”
So 6 months later we’re running a multi-age multi-stage enterprise event in Snowdonia. I am attempting to get a group of people in a room from 16-96yrs old, from those with just a business idea, to established start-ups wanting to leap forwards.
The event has no preformed idea of outcomes; there are no solutions already in place, the format is very loose. We’re going to get as wide-a-variety of people possible into a room, get them to air their challenges, their stories and offer advice, contacts, resources, expertise and experiences to really move forwards.
The solutions will not be prepared in advance by a panel of experts or a public-sector committee. We will listen, we will talk and together we will act.
Enterprise: All In (Menter: Amdani) is taking place on Thursday September 24th, 10am-3pm in Plas-y-Brenin, Gwynedd. There are more details below and here.
“Real innovation happens when people with different experiences and expertise meet. Real change happens when local people get together with local people to make things happen. Enterprise: All In is about getting motivated, connecting people to help each other and create real change.”
The funder’s view
So apart from wanting to challenge a caffeine fuelled soap-boxer to put his money where his mouth was, why are the Carnegie UK Trust interested in this at all?
“The magic of ownership works wonders, not only upon the soil but upon the happy working owner thereof” was the firm belief of the Carnegie UK Trust founder and internationally celebrated entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie. While many would argue that the current economic climate is far removed from that of Carnegie’s day, the demands placed on employees in the 21st century workplace are, in many ways, the same as on entrepreneurs in any era – to be flexible, innovative and to venture into unknown sectors and environments.
But while Carnegie obeyed the ‘great laws’ of supply and demand, competition, wages and profits, the value of teaching tomorrow’s workers about enterprise, and providing opportunities for them to test out entrepreneurship is about more than income and expenditure. It is about the experience and skills gained, the aspirations and attitude developed and, ultimately, contributing towards positive outcomes for young people and preparing them for an unknown future economy.
As an organisation, the Carnegie UK Trust has gathered a wealth of knowledge about empowering young people and supporting access to education. Their previous grant-giving and current policy and practice work have informed our new Carnegie position on enterprise which calls on policymakers, practitioners, educators, businesses and civil society organisations to work together to energise the employers of the future. The position has five key points and is based on an inclusive, coordinated approach to delivering enterprise education and entrepreneurial learning, and providing real-life experiences for young people.
1. Share success and learn from the leaders
2. Match young people with role models
3. Provide opportunities for entrepreneurship
4. Place young people at the heart of town centre turnaround
5. Civil society support for enterprise
Jim Metcalfe from the Trust summed up the rationale for wanting to see Enterprise: All In happen, and evaluate its impact. “Getting the most from the country’s entrepreneurial talent demands a whole range of different approaches. Finance, pitching skills, marketing, training are all key: but so is giving talented entrepreneurs the space and freedom to share ideas and learning. Enterprise: All In does that, and in a really fresh and exciting way. We’re delighted to back it, and to be capturing the learning from the events to share with others across the UK.”
The first event for Enterprise: All In is happening on Thursday September 24th, 10am-3pm at Plas-y-Brenin.
Everyone is welcome.
All audience members must come prepared to offer real help to other; be that contacts, resources or advice.
There will be positive discrimination towards a balanced gender and age split. We will also focus on those on the cusp of starting up or in early stage entrepreneurship.
Five audience members will be asked to present their businesses and the current challenge. All audience members will get to network, ask for, and offer, support.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @EnterpriseRich with any questions.