The Playable City
I’ve blogged a couple of times now about my interest in civic entrepreneurship. Last Monday I went to a BBC-sponsored day of workshops on the theme of ‘Digital Bristol’.
The city-region is something of a powerhouse for creative digital activity with not just the BBC and it’s diaspora of associated businesses, but four universities (Bristol, UWE, Bath and Bath Spa), and a wealth of both creative and computing talent.
One session that really grabbed me was on a collaborative project around the 'Playable City' and I’m mainly going to use this blog to share a load of cool ideas and videos that certainly got me thinking.
The central idea was to use fun/play/games to create new relationships between citizens and their cities. These activities should not only be engaging, but also enhance and improve the ‘use’ of the city. The project is very much rooted in the use of technology and IBM’s interest in the future of cities. With more people worldwide now living in cities than not living in cities, finding new ways to enable and engage urban populations is a challenge.
We started off with a concept video from Microsoft about the speculative use of technology in 2020. It’s rather impressive - but also a bit cold and clinical! A good degree of human interaction seemed to be lost and some of the ‘fun’ of waiting/being lost in a new place was definitely missing.
Compare that with some of these ideas for using technology to improve urban life:
See also the much-cited 'TheFunTheory' site for several more wonderful examples of digital technology improving civic life.
This last project was particularly compelling for a variety of reasons:
- the ‘animation’ of existing street objects to explore how people interacted with the city
- the deliberate use of SMS rather than smartphone functionality to make sure this wasn’t just ‘the preserve of hipsters’
- the way that technology and inanimate objects actually recycled human experiences to one-another - you’d actually learn what other REAL people had previously told the lamppost!
A few people observed this ‘could only have happened in Bristol’ - we have a reputation for this kind of madness.
However, the team behind Hello Lamppost are going to take it out to Austin Texas in the new year. Supposedly Austin has a city mantra - ‘Keep Austin Weird’ - just amazing!
It’s definitely convinced me that Fun/Play and the use of digital technology ought to be amongst the provocations for my own civic entrepreneurship work with students.
I know - I’ve missed a week again! But I have in that time blogged for the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services about the Witty Review - but I’ll also repeat it here for non-AGCAS people:
Not particularly Witty Review has implications for Enterprise and Employability Staff
Many colleagues will be aware of the Report for Government authored by Sir Andrew Witty this October – ‘Encouraging a British Invention Revolution’. It should be stressed from the outset that this is closely associated with the report authored by Sir Tim Wilson in February 2012 – ‘A Review of Business-University Collaboration’.
In an initial read as an educator or adviser working in enterprise or careers you could be forgiven for wondering where any reference to people and skills are in this report. It is very much a strategic technical paper that takes as its focus a revision of the ‘hard’ infrastructure of British innovation – how we encourage and fund high-tech innovations through to being sustainable businesses. Witty however suggests early on that the ‘people’ side of the argument has been covered by Wilson. Personally I think this is a missed opportunity to reiterate the significance of the vital capacity-building role that education and support services play in getting innovative people into the economy rather than just their ideas. The single most important output of universities remains bright young people – but that’s not obvious in this report.
I also believe an opportunity has been missed to discuss a wider base of outputs – not just high-tech innovation but social, civic, and cultural innovation too.
Nonetheless, there are some sections of interest and value to colleagues in enterprise and employability.
Witty’s 3 ‘philosophies’:
- Enabling better funding flows: revising how innovation is funded to reduce internal competition and help the UK compete in a ‘global race’ to produce innovation-rich businesses
- Creating ‘arrow projects’: identifying and supporting areas where the UK is globally competitive to translate more of those research breakthroughs into real businesses
- And most importantly for us… Strengthening the ‘3rd Mission’ of universities to engage in economic development – particularly through SME engagement and technology invention
Getting more high-tech ideas out of the research labs into production, and getting more connectivity between ‘innovative SMEs’ and universities dominate the remaining report. There are thus two big areas of importance for the enterprise and employability staff in institutions:
- Developing support for postgraduate researchers as future innovators (within start-ups, spin-outs, industrial research, and increasing impact-driven academic research). Whilst this report doesn’t stress the skills and people, they are critical to building innovation capacity and connectivity for institutions. This does also trickle down to undergraduates too – if we can skill them up for roles in innovative companies that will also support this agenda.
- Developing relationships with SMEs. Whilst Lord Young might be pushing the Business Schools to lead on this we all know that this agenda is actually pan-institution. We need to help our students better understand and connect with SME opportunities and we need to help SMEs navigate the university landscape to get the talent they need to succeed in scaling up. I do recommend reading the whole of Witty’s Chapter 4 on this subject (from Page 32).
In both these areas if your remit does not include postgraduates or SMEs then identify who does do it so you can collaborate to take advantage of a renewed focus in these areas.
So – some of Witty’s recommendations highlighted and digested:
Recommendation 1 includes a reference to universities reporting formally on their ‘3rd Mission’ activities (i.e. economic development engagement) each year. This could be something that enterprise and employability activity might use to highlight its contribution as a ‘capacity-builder’. In some institutions the majority of business engagement may well be through a Careers Service so watching how this recommendation is taken up will be interesting.
Recommendation 4 suggests expanding the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) from £150M per annum to £250M per annum. Given that most enterprise divisions and teams, and a good proportion of supporting activities in Careers Services, are funded from HEIF this is encouraging. Witty makes a point of saying that HEIF needs to be more secure. He doesn’t suggest broadening it back out again to include institutions that lost HEIF funding in the last round, but he does advocate a ‘sharpened’ set of metrics to encourage SME engagement. We will all watch this develop with interest.
Within Recommendation 4 he also suggests increasing ‘Impact’ as a percentage of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) – from 20% to 25% for the 2020 exercise. This means that more academics will be looking to find ways to apply their research and drive innovative activity from it. This is an opportunity for enterprise educators in particular to highlight enterprise and SME engagement as a route to impact.
Recommendation 5 suggests creating a single point of entry for SMEs into an institution – to encourage engagement and reduce confusion for time-limited SMEs. There are suggestions of providing a ‘triage’ service or arguably even a ‘concierge’ service for SMEs. I do actually endorse this but I would stress the need for enterprise and careers staff to make sure they are involved in how their institution might implement this! If Lord Young is looking at Business Schools to take a lead here we need to make sure central services are not cut out of the loop.
Recommendation 6 suggests that much of the money for the above will come from the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who will be spending European Structural Funds on this agenda. This means the money for some of our activities is likely to emerge through local bodies rather than national bodies. If you’re not already in touch with your LEP you really ought to be! In Recommendation 7 Witty suggests that universities should be co-chairing their LEPs to make sure connections are made. I fear a real patchwork effect here.
It should be stressed that this is only a set of recommendations and Government is by no means obliged to act to implement any of it. Supposedly the Secretary of State for BIS has already described the recommendations as “expensive”.
This is by no means an authoritative breakdown so I’d recommend reading the Executive Summary of the report for yourself – but hopefully I’ve picked out some key themes and trends.
Last night I found myself teaching enterprise to a group of Brownies (the junior bit of the girl-guide movement, not a group of pixies) here in Bristol. One of my work colleagues is a Brownie leader and had asked me for advice on a project and I ended up volunteering.
I volunteered because I like a challenge - and actually the prospect of teaching enterprise to 20 primary-school-age girls filled me with more terror than any number of undergraduates. How was I going to get the right messages across in a simple enough way? I couldn’t bear the idea of over-simplifying the message, but at the same time I had to engage the audience at an appropriate level.
It was great! I’d have photos but you can be arrested for taking photos of Brownies I suspect! But after an hour we had incredible levels of noise and a half-dozen flipcharts covered in ideas - including some really really good ones! There was one in particular I won’t share as I wouldn’t want to infringe the possible patent!
It really showed me that even very young people can have great ideas for businesses. Whilst they might struggle to deliver on those ideas commercially the ideas and insights are still impressive. And this is enterprise as a means to an end - education through enterprise.
I used three of the products from Concentrate Design who I remembered from TV’s Dragons’ Den as a product designer for schoolchildren. I used the rucksack-seatcover, lunchbox, and anti-smell sportsbag as printed case studies and asked the girls in groups to answer these questions:
- what problem does it solve?
- who is it for?
- would you buy it? if not why not and if so why?
This went really well and we got to discuss the basis of new businesses as solving problems or filling gaps, target markets, and customer decision-making - just because it exists doesn’t mean you’d buy it because there are alternatives.
Then we asked them to answer another set of questions about their own ideas:
- Think of some problems and gaps in the market - silly as you like - just lots!
- Think of some ideas that solve the problems and fill the gaps - again silly as you like!
- Give each idea one tick if it actually might work, two ticks if you actually know how to make it, and three ticks if you are able to make it yourself.
- Pick the most ticked idea that you all like the most and answer these next 2 questions:
- Who is going to buy it?
- And how can you test it before you spend lots of time making lots of them?
Basically we did some ideation, focused on solutions for problems, highlighted some feasibility issues and even used a little ‘lean start-up’ practice!
I suspect some of the pattern was lost on the audience but I felt satisfied I’d not grotesquely distorted the theory for the audience!
Some of the ideas were more imaginative and insightful than my undergraduates have come up with - maybe something here about trying to be creative rather than trying to be right!
I’ve got a bit of a thing about serendipity and it’s role in creativity. I’ve always believed that we largely make our own luck and I love a phrase my Director uses - “engineered serendipity” - how do we create situations in which we are more likely to be lucky? New ideas come from new connections and new resources which enable new combinations to arise.
I’ll just use one quote from the book: “you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you. Chance favours the connected mind.”
Serendipity arises from connections - lots of diverse connections. Those connections give you access to resources (knowledge, people, ideas, concepts). Innovation arises from new connections between existing building blocks - the process of innovation is an assembling of spare parts.
The biography of entrepreneurs and inventors is the biography of people who succeed in connecting up diverse ideas to access the ‘adjacent possible’.
So, if connections drive serendipity then networking is critical. However, this is usually where people (including me) start to baulk at the value of serendipity because we notice the opportunity cost involved…
Networking, and other processes of gaining access to often random and diverse ideas, takes time (and patience!). Do we have the time and will to indulge the conversational dead-ends and sometimes tenuous meetings to find the gold hidden in these unexpected locations? There is a reason why real innovations aren’t everyday - it’s because they take time and persistence, and a willingness to look beyond the obvious responses.
A colleague and I at Bristol get a regular ‘frowning at’ by another colleague for the time we spend indulging in serendipitous activity - the “why are you wasting your time with THAT?” look…(although I should stress they’ve rarely said it out loud) and this is from someone who does actually subscribe to engineered serendipity. They clearly feel that my colleague and I are not getting the opportunity-cost equation right. Fair enough - it’s a personal thing.
My colleague and I are, I think, regarded as amongst the more pioneering and inventive staff in the division - is that because we network so much or a result of being inventive anyway? It’s a bit chicken and egg - but they’re definitely related!
One tenuous meeting this week involved a whole afternoon spent with the University’s IT Services division - talking about infrastructure for innovation - this could have been a pretty dry meeting but actually it threw up (at least) two interesting ideas:
Firstly it reminded me of NESTA’s Randomised Coffee Trials which is basically a great way to network big groups. I’d been mulling this over for ages as a way to get PGRs together and to increase interdisciplinary activity. Thanks to IT Services I may now have an offer to build a simple software platform to deliver it…
Secondly it introduced me to Random Hacks of Kindness which is basically a hackathon movement for problems facing humanity. I’m now wondering if this isn’t a novel way to do some civic entrepreneurship in my role as a Town Councillor …
Just what I needed…MORE ideas… (sigh)
Enterprise for Postgraduates
What is it that makes postgraduates so different to communicate with and to teach? I’m going to generalise a bit here but by and large I find postgrads more challenging to work with (but more rewarding maybe when it works).
- PGRs are probably the next generation of innovation leaders in hi-tech and research-led spinouts and startups
- Academia is saturated with researchers so we need to translate more of them more effectively into external research environments and the wider business environment - for everyone’s sake!
- We need future academics who are more savvy about working with businesses and other external organisations - to drive impactful research and get more innovations emerging from universities
- Case studies
- Hard evidence
- Credible presenters
- Not being an expert
- The subject/format being at all anecdotal
- "Hand-waving" and so on
A chorus of voices
Had such a break between blogs I thought I’d write two today…
So after surviving a week of conferences and then a stag night in my old university town (no photos!) I came back to Bristol to teach our Spark enterprise ‘bootcamp’.
We had 22 super-engaged students that we put through their paces over 4.5 days.
This is a breakdown of what we did each day and why:
- Monday afternoon/evening was an introduction to the course’s aims and methodology (enabling and empowering resourceful and opportunity-seeking people), some mutual goal-setting, some definitions explored etc. We also looked at entrepreneurial traits, discussed the importance of attitude, helped participants think about what they thought success looked like and stressed the value of values to starting a successful venture. In the evening my team got them finding ideas for business ventures in the day’s papers to prove that opportunities are everywhere.
- Tuesday we did some brainstorming of BIG problems, daily frustrations, and curiosity-driven ‘what if’s’ as the background to a lot of work on creativity and innovation. We also did some MBTI work to support emerging teams and helping individuals pick out their own valid way of doing things. We then had Rick from Bristol’s SETsquared Centre explain the difference between an idea and a business idea… Tuesday is all about preparing the people and the ideas for the next 3 days…
- Wednesday the participants all got a chance to quickly pitch an idea and then we locked them in a room until just six ideas emerged, all supported by a small team. Then we used Doug Richard’s 10 questions, the Business Model Canvas (as explained by Julie Ellison) and some basic financial guidance to set them on their way. We finish the day with a Networking Evening - 20 or so local and alumni professionals come and join us for food and drinks to: a) help the students hone their ideas through feedback, b) build networks, and c) show that there is lots of interest and support for young entrepreneurs.
- On Thursday we supply a blast of expert guidance: Customer Profiling with Darren Coleman, Core Mission & Values with Alan Palmer, Strategic Advantage and IP with Ray Crispin, and Sales with Paul Elliot… then we give them some time to process it all… and then we challenge them to ‘make something’ and ‘talk to a real customer’ before the Friday finale…
- Friday starts with some fundraising guidance from Liz Gjoni, then presentation and pitching advice from myself before we cut them loose for the rest of the day… before regathering at Deloitte’s Bristol Client Suite for our Dragon’s Den event where we run an exhibition round and a pitching round for our cash prizes…
It’s a big rollercoaster of a week, and it keeps pushing harder all the way through. It is constructed deliberately to:
- hone articulation of ideas through regular pitching
- provide opportunities to try things, fail, and learn from them
- help iterate and pivot ideas quickly
- inspire and stimulate rather than overload with information
- create networks and resource-acquisition
- challenge the students to ACT and get speaking to real customers and businesses about their ideas
What we’re really trying to do is set up a series of echoes through the programme where the participants hear the same ideas and principles from different people - a chorus of voices singing the same stuff but in different ways - that’s what reinforces and validates the lessons.
Time for a long-overdue blog!
The week before last was largely spent in opposite corners of the UK talking loudly to large groups of people interested in Enterprise Education.
First up was a day at the University of Exeter for the AGCAS Biennial - this is a conference for Careers and Employability staff at universities. I had been invited to keynote the first day, for which the subject was ‘Enterprise: Beyond the Rhetoric’. You can find my slides on the AGCAS link above and on my LinkedIn profile page - but the subject matter was the SWOT analysis I mentioned in a previous blog on this site.
It seemed to go down well which in itself is an achievement - careers and employability education professionals haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with enterprise and entrepreneurship educators. This is for a variety of reasons:
- Sometimes the ‘business’ or ‘commercially-viable’ focus that EE professionals espouse rubs more ‘pastoral care/personal development’ focused professionals up the wrong way
- Building on that, EE professionals are often quite idea-orientated rather than people-orientated and that again creates a different tone and culture in the sector
- The Careers profession has gotten further in developing certification and standards for its members whilst enterprise and entrepreneurship education is still lacking some professional legitimacy maybe
- Careers advice can often seem a little risk-averse where Enterprise and Entrepreneurship positively encourages an approach where risk and failure are to be courted and encouraged as a means of learning
This is a shame because we have more in common than we have differences. Both professions are trying to help young people find their own routes to successful and fulfilling lives, both professions are rooted in an understanding of the workplace and the skills by which people make a living, and both professions represent ‘pervasive’ themes in education that sometimes struggle to get in-amongst the ‘discipline’ subjects in the curriculum.
After AGCAS I headed north-east to the University of Sheffield for the International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference. Here I was handing over as chair of EEUK, running our ‘unconference’ and participating in a few workshops to boot.
It was, as ever, a fantastically stimulating event and I’ve come back with my usual mix of wonder, admiration, inspiration, and outright jealousy at what some of my peers have achieved.
Part of that jealousy is where peers have been able to work in more conducive and supportive ecosystems where they are properly resourced or where the culture doesn’t resist enterprise actively or passively.
A few of us chatting on the sidelines observed that enterprise is not the pariah that it once was, and that where enterprise educators had been lone voices in their institutional wildernesses, it was now a more palatable and less ‘dangerous’ concept within a university.
Whilst we agreed that the road to acceptance and legitimacy was the right route to take, we still had to preserve something of the underdog character of old, the pioneering spirit, the entrepreneurial approach of supporting disruptive ideas that threatened the status quo.
Innovation, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship are inherently dangerous - because they threaten the accepted order of things and all those people who are invested (financially and emotionally) in that order.
This returns me to the AGCAS conference where their President, Paul Redmond, made a compelling case for careers education “helping students get 21st century careers not 20th century jobs” - all these pervasive themes in universities have to be helping our students work with today’s dangerous ideas because they’ll be tomorrow’s status quo.
Enterprise Education Provocations
This week I’m going to take the IEEC provocations as the basis of this blog. Sorry there was no blog last week - I had a proper holiday and that included an escape from social media!
The International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference is held next week in Sheffield. It’s run jointly by Enterprise Educators UK (of which I’m a director), the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education, and with a major contribution from this year’s hosts - the University of Sheffield.
This year the theme is the student voice and we’ve had three provocations from Sheffield students:
Provocation #1: I’m already spending 30+ hours a week running a student business, what can my degree teach me that would be of further value?
I’ve actually had the pleasure of seeing the Sheffield Enactus Team in action at the Enactus UK finals and they were impressive!
My response would firstly be that activities like Enactus are a part of a ‘degree experience’, if not actually part of a ‘degree syllabus’. As the student experience agenda grows I think that these kinds of activities will become increasingly central to a university’s provision, rather than a peripheral activity for the institution. This stuff will be seen as part of coming to Uni to take a degree programme.
Nonetheless; the value that curriculum learning could impart here is largely about the wider picture of enterprise and entrepreneurship. When you’re running something day-to-day it can be hard to look up, look around, reflect, and see the wood for the trees. An enterprise or entrepreneurship unit *should* give you that space to take inspiration from elsewhere, explore different business models and case studies, learn from wisdom gathered on a grand scale and distilled in useful ways, and it should help you reflect on what you’re doing elsewhere.
It may not feel as practical and immediate but that’s not a bad thing necessarily! Having a well-distilled set of theoretical models and case studies is a great way to iterate your own practice. The greater danger is that students who take our courses often don’t get the live practice that Enactus and other activities provide. Both theoretical and inspiration input is critical alongside experiential practice.
Provocation #2: Home postgraduate students are not interested in Enterprise Education - how do we maintain a coherent enterprise education programme that appeals to them?
It’s certainly also true at my institution that international PGRs tend to outnumber home PGRs at events. There are a variety of reasons why they seem more motivated to participate but the issue here is to attract more home students who seem to be differently motivated!
Embedding activity within the mandatory elements of PG programmes is one way, you may get a few hostages but they’re usually able to be persuaded by good content that adds to their professional skills.
Many home PGRs are a little hung up on getting on in academia so either making enterprise relevant via programmes on creative research, working with (not in) business, collaborative innovation etc, or by simply highlighting just how saturated UK academia is, you can hook them in to explore alternative options and future differentiators. Once I get in front of most PGRs I can persuade them that my work is at least valid if not essential and its not all apprentice/dragons den! It’s about doing things with ideas…
The support of the principle investigators is key to get their researchers ‘released’, and they’re often more unrealistic than the students! So ‘cultural’ work in the institution through Research policy and support can help create a permissive atmosphere.
'Professional development' seems to be decent hook though. It's also useful to encourage academics who are enterprising to show/tell this to their own students. Most academics are doing enterprising things but its not seen so no-one thinks its a valid part of the academic culture.
Provocation #3: How do we make enterprise and entrepreneurship more relevant to Arts and Humanities students? How do we integrate this into the curriculum?
This is challenging. As an arts graduate myself its tough sometimes to see enterprise and particularly entrepreneurship in the curriculum for arts and humanities degrees. Sometimes the students are more cynical than the staff about it and most would advocate it as a niche interest beyond the curriculum.
Nonetheless, there are routes for taught units: freelance careers in music, drama, and modern languages. Commercial decision-making in arts and cultural institutions. Looking at how historical innovations in literature, philosophy, or society came about and extrapolating lessons about how ideas become innovations…
Key as ever is good sympathetic embedding, winning hostages into volunteers, and breaking down the language. Personally I believe we’re on a hiding to nothing trying to do explicit enterprise education in some disciplines. Nonetheless education ‘for’, ‘about’, and ‘through’ enterprise is versatile to be smuggled into all kinds of places! And again, it starts with the staff agreeing it has use and validity, the students then follow.
Having a good extra-curricular offer as a plan B for every student is also important - some departments are going to resist our advances!
Enterprise Education SWOT
This week’s major event was a long-awaited ‘consultation’ meeting held by the Enterprise Alliance (EEUK, ISBE, and NACUE) with a host of other groups with an interest in the development of the sector.
Our subject matter was ‘the future sustainability of the sector’ and the aims were to share intelligence, build understanding, explore the issues and try to identify some shared activity going forward.
We developed some great SWOT analyses:
I’ve been thinking about these a lot and I think they may form an element in a keynote I’ll be giving to AGCAS next month. Here’s my short-form synopsis of the Enterprise Education SWOT:
- Energy – led by enthusiasts by and large
- Momentum – NCEE data suggests continued growth and expansion
- Diversity of approaches
- Desirable benefits to all stakeholders – great by-products: employability, skills, commercial awareness, impact…
- By and large not core-funded, vulnerable to changes
- Struggling to prove definable and attributable impact
- Diversity of footings and approaches! Patchwork.
- Credibility and legitimacy of content and advocates
- Business education and skills development ‘through’ enterprise as a microcosm: for employability, for impact
- Broadens horizons to the real labour market – serves the SME agenda
- Social enterprise, social innovation, intrapreneurship are engaging new audiences
- Ent Ed is often a more palatable way to add career-development content to the academic curriculum
- Working with student activities to improve the student experience and drive skills and awareness
- Partnerships to avoid territoriality
- Zeitgeists and bandwagons
- Tensions as peripheral activity in the institution moves centre-stage at perceived cost to established players
- Language difficulties - ‘entrepreneurship’ puts many people off
- Becoming all things to all people – loss of distinct identity
- Territoriality – it’s a crowded space
- Government attention – can we prove we’re worth it?
We went on to look at some clusters of interest including: impact & metrics, language, champions, creating ecosystems within institutions, and creating an ecosystem for enterprise education in the UK.
Whilst all the projects do need development there was widespread agreement and shared interest in all the issues.
One goal is to explore these Alliance Consultations as a regular series of events between wider partnership groups on specific issues. Sharing intelliegence, sharing best practice, and finding common cause to lobby the authorities.
We finished off looking at individual and organisational actions - and there were lots:
Hopefully more on this subject to follow soon!
Design Thinking & Civic Entrepreneurship
2 themes to this week’s blog; first up is Design Thinking. Is it just me or is there not a formally-accepted definition of exactly what this involves? Lots of slightly different versions have sprung up its rarely defined anywhere with anything like a clear process. Like many zeitgeist theories it strikes me as common sense given a slightly structured form!
I started tentatively exploring it after getting interested in the dschool ideas emerging from Stanford University. But it’s very much of the moment and I’m seeing variants of this methodology all around and realising that I’ve been endorsing one of it’s seminal texts for several years!
It seems to follow a series of chronological stages (although there are variations) from Observation (of a situation or problem), through Definition (specifying said problem), through Research, through Ideation, through Prototyping, through Choosing and Implementing said solution, to identifying the Learning.
One set of useful links can be found here.
There are clear connections here to the Lean Start-up methodology - in that it encourages engagement with the users/customers of a realised idea right from the first stage of development, through iteration and feedback and testing, to a final product or service. It’s about fast failure and experiential learning.
Working in a vast bureaucracy where failure is bad, planning encouraged but rarely executed so that it actually involves communication with users and thus leads to under-performing systems… I find this experimental model refreshing!
I know I learn best by doing, and especially by trying to teach something, so I’m going to develop a Design Thinking workshop for some PGR students to explore the impacts of their research… I’m going to try and get our researchers to explore their work from the user-experience end rather than the abstract end! Hopefully some more blogs on this process to follow!
Ooh - also found these really nice idea-planning and evaluation tools this week. They seem nicely designed so that’s my justification for inserting them here!
So Civic Entrepreneurship; another zeitgeisty thing I think. This idea for me has been seeded by a variety of sources:
- wanting to create motivating challenges for students who want to practice enterprise skills but not having an idea of their own… could I ‘mine’ an idea or challenge from somewhere?
- chatting to a number of peers over a few years at (for example) the University of Sheffield, who’ve found students prefer enterprise challenges for charities and good causes over those set by businesses - because they don’t like feeling like free labour!
- the election of a city mayor in Bristol whose background is better defined as a ‘civic’ rather than a commercial or social entrepreneur - George Ferguson
- my own co-option as an independent town councillor for Corsham and wanting to innovate around some of the issues we face
- trying to develop curricular programmes for the university that embed entrepreneurial learning in subject-appropriate ways
So I’ve got a set of related projects underway at the moment:
- A university-owned piece of woodland in Long Ashton just outside Bristol - trying to make this a ‘community woodland’ - where students work with the local stakeholders to generate a self-sustaining project which enhances the woodland through funds generated by activities which use the woodland as a resource.
- Working with Arnos Vale Cemetery, English Heritage, and the School of Humanities here to create new enrichment events for students exploring business ideas which drive sustainable funding for historic conservation
- I’m also working with groups like the City Council, the Federation of Small Businesses, and local schools to find ways to build a set of annual civic entrepreneurship challenges for all Bristol students to undertake as a professional development opportunity.
As ever - watch this space! Hopefully the Design Thinking will also feed into the work we do with students on the civic entrepreneurship challenges!