UnLtd Futures

Collaboration, Sustainability, Systems thinking

I’m lucky enough to have been accepted onto a social entrepreneurship mentor programme with the marvellous UnLtd. It’s called UnLtd Futures, which, though slightly hyperbolic, is deliciously optimistic.

Our first session took place at NESTA a few weeks ago. It’s an odd course in as much as none of us – including the mentors – really know what’s going to happen, or how. It’s the first time it’s happened, so they’re taking the very enlightened view that if we all get together and behave intelligently, we’ll work it out.

As such you can expect to see a series of inchoate blog posts which will hopefully form some coherent utility before the Angels start blowing the trumpets and calling time.

Here are some thoughts and notes from the first session.

It’s interesting (disappointing) that ‘entrepreneurship’ now has a sister branch we can distinguish as ‘social entrepreneurship’. Isn’t ALL entrepreneurship social? When Ben Franklin started the first library and fire brigade, it was a socially-minded business venture. Yet at the same time there was a healthy slave trade, so it appears it has always been much the same. That a business like Procter & Gamble can be lauded as ‘entrepreneurial’ for cultivating a market for nappies in China by undermining the status of long-favoured, sustainable, low-cost traditional methods strikes me as particularly vulgar. Perhaps the changes we need to make to avoid resource collapse could be accelerated by creating another moniker of ‘anti-social entrepreneurship’?

Power belongs to people who take action.

Sometimes I talk too much, and wax lyrical about ideas. I find it all very exciting and love it, but I think I lose people from time to time. Not everyone is as excited about the same things as I am. Rather than accepting that, I assume they’re not wowed because I’ve not painted the pictures of the epic underlying genius with bright enough colours, and so use brighter colours until I possibly appear as a gibbering neon loon.

PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS. (Kidding.) (But some are, though, like the ones who work at / praise Procter & Gamble).

We can be so well shaped by the careful application of structured compliments. In fact I’d argue that this is possibly the most powerful tool any of us have for changing the world. “You’re such a kind person” makes that person kinder. Just as we replace the cells in our bodies, we are all in a constant process of re-forming our own identities, and as such we can reform our own identities, too. (I’m pretty sure good parents are do this as they sculpt their children into being). If someone you just met goes on to describe you as fascinating you will naturally consider yourself to be fascinating, and thus become more so. We like being told who we are, even if it’s not quite true yet. “I love how you don’t just use your wisdom bluntly – you seem to understand exactly what people need to hear, and when.”

This need for self-definition seemed to be a reasonably common theme through the day. We are navigating a major paradigm shift, and trying to build businesses which straddle it successfully. This is worth a blog post of its own, I suspect.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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