16th January, 2015

A post inspired by the BBC Radio 4 journalists' roundup over Christmas.

There were some great shows on the radio over Christmas (which is more than can be said for the tele, but that's another story); One of the shows which captured me while I was knocking up the cranberry sauce was a review of the year with some of the Beebs best journalists.  They provided a fascinating insight into the state of our world.  I don't promise to be quite so fascinating but hopefully these thoughts will be slightly provocative and might insight you to make a comment.  Since this is the first post on our blog, a few comments would get us off to a fabulous start........

I've chosen the topic of "Themes for 2015" for this first blog.  What are the words that I would like to see encapsulate some of the happenings of 2015, both here in Wakefield and further afield?

My two words for 2015 are Collaboration and Femininity.......

Let’s take Femininity first. In 2015 I would like to see us embracing the feminine and by that I mean embracing empathy for our fellow human beings, learning to solve our differences with the pen and the spoken word rather than the sword, learning to fess up to our failures (really important!) and acknowledging some of the things that are set to severely restrict the future of the human race (consumerism, climate chaos, restricted biodiversity etc) and actually doing something about them! And when I say we, I do mean all of us but particularly those who have global impact……. our politicians - men as well as women. Our adversarial political system needs to bite the dust, but not only that, from somewhere needs to rise the concept of the care and thought for our fellow man.  The role of the voluntary sector in all this?  Well, I think that we in the sector often embody the values of the feminine - we work hard to empathise in our chosen communities so that we understand them better and can provide properly for their needs - perhaps there is a role for us here to shout louder about what works and show others how it can be done.….. which brings us on to…. 

Collaboration: Collaboration relies on trust and friendliness, an absence of competition! Many of us in the not for profit sector fully recognise that collaborations can bring huge reward and yet increasingly we are being required to compete with each other for ever scarcer resources. Nonetheless, collaboration remains at the core of the values of many voluntary sector organisations - we collaborate with other organisations, with the communities in which we work and indeed one of our key strengths is often that we have collaborated to such an extent that we are view as friends within our communities…… something which cannot always be said of central government bodies, much less of private corporations! Collaboration is, and will continue to be a key to our success and we mustn’t let the competition for contracts, work and money undermine this. 

What themes do you think will be key in 2015 and what do you think of my ideas?   Leave a comment below and let us know.

Written by Fiona Cooper who is the Communications Manager at Nova Wakefield District. She has an MBA from Cranfield University and has a range of experience in organisations around the world from . She is a big believer in the power of soft skills and humour to help change minds.

Comments (2)

By Debbie Heath: Jan 21, 2015 at 11:35 AM

I can't agree with you more Fiona, but developing collaborations feels like it is becoming so much more difficult as the environment becomes ever more competitive. Surely though, this should be a motivator for us, as working together will stimulate greater innovation and better solutions for our service users - which is what we all come to work to achieve - isn't it? But is that a bit 'motherhood and apple pie' though? When the stakes are high (not simply the best for our service users, but the drive to keep our own jobs and organisations afloat) and the competition is great, is it possible for collaborative working to happen? And what is the best way to make it a success?
I found an interesting blog highlighting the work of Uzzi, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (yes, there is a Kellogg school of management!). He has found that selecting team members carefully is key if you want to tackle a problem successfully and generate the greatest creativity.
In one of his most well-known studies, Uzzi looked at the networks of teams in a Broadway musical and the effect those teams had on the show’s success – or failure, an intensely competitive arena!
His research found that it’s often the same small group of people who are well-known to one another who work on shows. But that familiarity didn’t bring great creativity or financial success. At the same time, those teams that had people who didn’t know one another fared the same, he discovered.
The key to success, he learned, were creative teams made up of those who knew one another before, as well as those unknown to one another. The reason? Uzzi said that teams that have too much overlap in their social networks are less creative because they generally have the same knowledge – and teams composed of all newcomers don’t do a good job of sharing what they know with other people.
The solution, Uzzi said, is having some of both.
“My goal is to have people recognize that success isn’t just based on internal talent and knowledge,” Uzzi explained. “Success is partially derived from relationships with other people, through whom they get access to expertise and capabilities beyond themselves.”
Uzzi further explained that the Broadway study “shows that if you take a talented person, then you can see that his talent becomes amplified or inhibited based on his connections. “Also, we show that mediocre talent is brought up by the structure of these networks more than the superstar, even though it helps the superstars, too. The key takeaway is that everybody does better,” he noted.
So what does this mean for us - the Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise Sector in Wakefield?
Yes, we need to collaborate more - rather than compete - that is a given. But while we develop small collaborations of familiar groups and organisations, maybe built upon the successes Nova have had in delivering key contracts, should we also look to be inviting the private sector into the collaboration too? Would this diversity stimulate more innovation? Is it now better for us to focus on the best collaborations to address the growing inequality we see happening across our District, moving away from a 3rd sector only solution??

By Fiona Cooper: Jan 23, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Good point Debbie, but I'd go beyond just looking at interesting mixes of people (which can be achieved in all sorts of ways incidentally, not just looking to the private sector), there is also lots of evidence that looking for inspiration in new and different areas is really important. The great innovators out there tend to be polymaths with expertise in lots of areas. They also tend to be awkward types who stick with their ideas, no matter what (read Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath for more on this). Plus, collaboration requires all sorts of other skills too - I'll be going into lots of detail on this in my course on Collaboration, Innovation and Improvisation on the 25/26 March (you can book on it here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/facilitate-present-collaborate-tickets-14973018702).

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