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With Sonia Ali: soft systems facilitation

I had a great conversation with Sonia about soft-systems facilitation. How this is needed and how the communities of practice like "The Art of Hosting" network and also Pioneers of Change have something substantial to offer in this domain.

We discussed the notion of the soft systems setting a frame within which hard systems can be developed. This will enable a space in which we can find solutions that scale-up. We had had conversations earlier about youth agencies accessing hard to reach young people and failing to truly engage them,yet seemingly reaching their targets through filling their programmes with young people that are not so hard to reach.

It is as a result of this kind of activity that the most disadvantaged (the real hard to reach) stay out of reach of the opportunties. Much in a similar way to the very poorest in Bangladesh who could often get sidelined in aid distribution. We spoke about the London scenario; the need for a more holistic approach to change.

With Suresh Fernando: financing a Social Business

Suresh mentioned the efforts towards standardisation in SROI (social return on investment) and that the leaders for this are in the UK. Our conversation came down to the need to come up with innovative financing strategies. Suresh explained "social cost bonds" and that people in the UK are working with this concept.

For example let's say that the cost of delivering healthcare services = X. If, through Social Business, you can find a way to reduce that cost, you can fund those programs against that cost. Suresh drew attention to the fact that this is a cutting edge field with a lot of research going on. It would be worthy of more attention if we are to focus on health.

With Robert de Souza: integrity

Robert is someone who knows about integrity and its value in the business world. We discussed the need for social entrepreneurs to better learn about finance but also about the value of social business as a vehicle through which wealthier investors can tune into very positive flow.

With Mostofa Zaman: "It is up to us to show it"

Mostofa stated that many people ask whether Social Business will work, and that his answer is "Well it has been proven to work in the most difficult of circumstances. It is up to us to show that it can work in others.

With Michel Bauwens: p2p/commercial social contract

I realise that the intersection between open-source and commercial is crucial to navigate properly. I had conversations with Michel Bauwens in 2007 and he helped me to understand that the social contract between the monetizing community and the open source communtiey (overlap assumed) needs to be navigated well.

Dialogue with Tav

tav: are you trying to recreate Pioneers of Change?

sofia: No I'm not! but why do you ask?

tav: what you first described for London Creative Labs seemed like a niche, broad in its approach but specific too, not trying to be everything to everyone. Now it seems like you are trying to recreate PoC

sofia: what is your concern?

tav: well many networks make the mistake of trying to be the ultimate generic network. we already have one -- humanity!

tav: the espians for example are a hand-picked network. i think if you just include everyone you run the risk of cliques forming.. as default power structures emerge

sofia: yes... look we (pioneers) did a lot of experimentation with self-organisation

sofia: pioneers were part of my life... i want to build on the spirit of what they did -- the essence of pioneers of change will always be part of me.. and i want to contemplate what that was as right now I am sculpting what London Creative Labs is -- what the spirit of it is

tav: but pioneers failed in many ways

sofia: and they also succeeded -- both points are valid. right now I am looking at what they did right... they were significant things.

tav: thing is, at the time they were around, people were not as connected. now there are so many networks that are doing what they were doing

sofia: well i am not sure. what i experienced at that time were a set of principles and practices that have still have relevance now and i do not see the same spirit everywhere. it really was magical. and that doesn't mean comfortable. it was not always comfortable.. it opened a space for us to try things but it was also challenging. so we grew enormously through this.

tav: but what you experienced was just a result of the calibre of people who gathered there

sofia: well, i don't know. yes the calibre was extremely high. but it was the principles. and the practices... they answered a deeper calling in people. also, from watching the videos, it is reminding me of how much it was a sandbox for experimenting with systemic change. that's what it was for me. See what Juanita Brown says in this video: 

and Tim Merry in this one:

These skills are largely still missing. These are the soft-systems facilitation skills that are overlooked mostly in industry. And yet there are networks like these with sophisticated skills.

sofia: I cannot go ahead without going back into what it was about Pioneers that I want to build on.

I cannot stop being a pioneer. 'Being a pioneer' was always a self-selecting, non-hierarchical thing. It meant being part of a learning community. I am actually trying to find out what the current cultivation team are focused on as they will be taking the network in new directions. It is difficult to find out from the website. The technical side of PoC was never great.. we had little in the way of resources. but the process side was awesome.

sofia: Combining this with the spirit of what I experienced in Bangladesh, with the principles of confluence, and the experience of working in monetized network-based organisations, what I want to do is focus on peer-production. To address the societal challenges

tav: but it sounds different to the clear remit you had at the beginning

sofia: the remit is to tackle societal challenges. With the zero mission drift. Soft systems facilitation of rapid social innovation, tackling whatever it takes to address the challenges.

tav: just trust that the spirit you are talking about is in you - trust yourself!

sofia: thank you and please trust me in this process. its a creative one and i don't know all the answers but i am following my intuition. there is so much to grapple with and i have to be clear about what is at the essence here. The details will be worked out as we go along. that is why there is a first project.. a pilot.

With myself: ecosystems

  • no one thing is a panacea
  • focus on ecosystems
  • spot opportunties
  • keep a fresh approach
  • question assumptions
  • rapid and disruptive social innovation
  • freedom to experiment
  • work with real challenges

With others: a number of other people have contributed ideas and will be duly attributed

If you do not see your name here, please do not hesitate to prompt us. We are keen to keep a record of the process of thought that LCL generates and the people that are part of that. If your contribution is more recent, have a look at the people page and prompt us if your name is not there!

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