Mission Impossible Community of Practice…..a Movement?

A friend has been given mission impossible, “you are required to”………:

  • Bring together a large group people from diverse and often
    competing sectors;
  • Across a wide geographical area and un-specified
  • Get them to share skills, knowledge and resources;
  • All for the greater good, there’s no money in it;
  • There aren’t any obvious or immediate benefits from participation;
  • You must make this happen with no real resources;
  • You need to call this a Community of Practice; and
  • There is no option to refuse the mission……

You’re doomed friend!

Actually I think the core proposal is good, so I’m sticking with it and I’ll try and  help. (By the way, it’s not Big Society or anything; I don’t have those sort of friends).

In talking this through we identified some of the likely problems, particularly if  it’s treated as an extension of doing traditional business. Hierarchical, command  and control structures won’t be effective in what looks like a complex adaptive system. To meet expectations we’d need something less formal and more unstructured. Light touch governance arrangements, safe to fail pilots and Trojan Mice. Certainly not PRINCE2 project initiation documents, milestones and a risk register.

What we want is something more like a “movement”……………. Oh dear!

An alarm bell went off at this point….I could hear the questioning voice…….  “a
movement you say?…….. That’s all a bit 1960’s….”

Actually a movement or social movement is very modern  and just what we need:  “large informal groupings of individuals and/or organisations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out a social change.”

To help my friend in their task here are two movements that show what can be achieved. One is a hugely successful global movement and the other Cardiff based (which I think is going places): TED and Cardiff Blogs.

TED: Ideas worth spreading, describes itself as “a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading — through TED.com, our annual conferences, the annual TED Prize and local TEDx events.”

This is a very modest description for something that since 1984 and has attracted speakers that include US Presidents, UK Prime Ministers, numerous Nobel Prize Winners and just about anyone important and influential on a global level you can think of.

The best bit is that their ‘ideas worth spreading’ really are ‘spread’.  Videos of the talks are freely available via the TED.com website. In September 2011 there
were over 1000 talks available that had been viewed over 500 million times.
This is incredible and I would recommend looking at what’s on offer (it will pull
you away from watching TV).

The other expansion of the movement has been into the TEDx events that take place
in over 60 cities globally.  There have been about 750 of these free events that follow a format defined by TED and are hugely popular. I was lucky enough to attend the TEDx Cardiff  2011 event, which nicely links me to a local Cardiff movement, Cardiff Blogs.

At the last Cardiff blogs gathering ‘doing it for love not money’ was the topic of discussion.  I think this really gets to the heart of a movement and why do a bunch of diverse people get together to share knowledge, skills and experiences for no obvious benefit to themselves?  The short answer is I don’t know. There is no compelling campaign or cause to fight against or support here. It’s about like-minded people who happen to be bloggers, in the Cardiff area linking up to share ideas.

In conversation with my good friend Mrs Motivator we’ve compared what is happening to the intellectual flowering of the ‘enlightenment’ that took place in the London Coffee Houses in the 1650’s.  A fluid network of varied people coming together to discuss interesting things.

Where it will end up is anyone’s guess but it does feel a  privilege to be part of it. This TED talk from Steven Johnson on “where good ideas come” from gives a description of the important role of fluid networks in creating innovation and change. It’s why I think things like Cardiff Blogs are important to the future of Cardiff and Wales (no pressure on the Admin Team).

Back to my friend with mission impossible.  I think there is a globally successful movement in TED we could learn some lessons. More locally there is something flowering in Cardiff Blogs you could look at for inspiration and perhaps become part of? Go on start your blog.

So what’s the PONT?

  1. Applying traditional business approaches to Communities of Practice
    can inhibit them, and disengage some of the people you want to attract.
  2. Fluid networks are more likely to enable the growth of a movement.
  3. Have a look at what TED and Cardiff Blogs do for inspiration.

Picture Sources:

Cardiff Blogs http://itvwalesblog.com/2011/08/23/guest-blog-cardiff-blogs-for-love-not-money/

TEDx Cardiff http://huwdavid.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/hdd-makes-a-creative-mark-at-tedxcardiff/

Mission Impossible http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/title/36422/Mission%3A+Impossible

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

3 Responses

  1. yes, yes, yes – so agree with this – we are living in such exciting times, where learning, culture, economy all recalibrating…And the atmosphere at Cardiff Blogs is just so uplifting. Great post and thanks for the mention.

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