Openness and transparency, at breakfast, lunch and dinner

I was trying to work out how to capture a few different bits of learning from the week and various different meetings, and thought I'd do so via the theme of openness…and three meals. 

1) First up, I met with David Gold and some of the Prospect-us team over dinner to discuss how to use social media effectively. Prospect-us are a third sector recruitment agency, and, alongside being their CEO, David is also a knowledgeable and supportive champion of SSE (and many SSE Fellows). It was great to meet some of his senior team and share our experience of using social media to achieve SSE's communication aims. Indeed, much of the conversation was about twitter, blogs, facebook, linkedin and the like being means to an end, not an end in themselves (something I made clear in my contribution to the excellent Social by Social guide), and the need to cut through the noise + measure impact / success.

Openness was also central to the conversation: how it was refreshing to be honest and transparent (which builds trust, which builds credibility); how it was about internal organisational culture, not just external web activity; about the limits of openness (i.e. how open and honest can you be on an organisational blog: needless to say, I have blogged about this…); and about the line between personal and organisational on web 2.0. Fascinating couple of hours for me (to reflect, and strategize retrospectively!), and hopefully for David and the team too.

2) Secondly, lunch at the Ideas Exchange run by Gordon D'Silva over at Training For Life. Whilst attracted by lunch at the great Hoxton Apprentice, of course, it was the content of the debate that was of more interest. Gordon is committed to sharing and openness and had invited people to learn from some of Training For Life's experiences over the last couple of years. As he said, to learn from the good and the bad; I'd agree with his acknowledgement that this sector is not always very good at sharing its mistakes and challenges as much as its success. This is natural, to a degree, but (as we see on SSE programmes day in day out), learning comes from doing things, getting things wrong, and learning from them. Kudos to Gordon both for sharing, and for challenging others to be open and share. And, actually, though counter-intuitive, sharing the reality of challenges doesn't necessarily impair an organisation's standing. In many cases, as mentioned above, it can build greater trust and greater credibility.

3) Finally (and we are going in reverse meal order), I attended a Social Innovator breakfast at NESTA where the Young Foundation were launching their newest publication and companion website: the Open Book of Social Innovation and As the name would suggest, this is a book of social innovation: of the processes, connections and methods by which social innovation is achieved. A superb piece of work, filled not only with great case studies and innovations from across the world, but also with insights into how successful social innovation is instigated, replicated and implemented. Whilst some of the speakers present at the breakfast were seemingly congenitally unable to stick to anything like their allotted time, Sophi Tranchell brought a welcome clarity and concision to proceedings, and urged those present not to be 'thinkers' but be 'doers' and find ways to implement and put ideas into practice.

Much food for thought (if you excuse the pun) from all three meals, and no doubt more to follow as I process and digest (!) it all. For me, transparency and openness is so important for social entrepreneurs (see the Transparency of Social Entrepreneurs), and for all new aspiring businesses, that it holds great interest and great relevance.

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