How does it feel to be a NESTA/Observer Radical winner?
So I’m Radical. It’s official.
It’s been official since Sunday when The Finance Innovation Lab, which I co-lead, was voted number 22 in the NESTA/ Observer 50 Radicals competition – people changing the face of Britain.
How does it feel to be so rad?
Well not as perfectly fantastic as you may think. It’s really made me think. Here’s what:
Proud that my parents who made me enter and my varied friends can actually see that what I’m doing has some value. I may move from ‘doing something in CSR with accountants’ to at least doing ‘something radical in CSR with accountants’. Which is a gratifying.
Valued and proud for ICAEW where I work. Who’d have thought an accountancy organisation would be on the radicals list? The project was pioneered by my amazing boss Richard Spencer and our Head of Department Robert Hodgkinson, who have always championed it from a place of deeply held values and integrity. As a result I have been asked to use our Lab process to start other big multi-stakeholder discussions around trust in business with my colleagues at ICAEW.
I’m Delighted to wear it as a badge of honour for all the haters – those scores of people who told us we didn’t know what we were doing, we weren’t credible, weren’t mainstream enough etc etc. Of course we didn’t know what we were doing- we were doing something NEW! (sorry quick rant, over now)
Hypocritical. I’ve been working with @KevinDoyleJones on a series of ‘anti-hero cards’ for SOCAP Europe. Oh the irony.
I am under no illusions that I am the 22nd most radical person in Britain. As I said in the blog that prompted our project - I sit within an ecology of change makers who all play crucial roles in moving things forward.
Which brings me swiftly on to another emotion- Guilty. Similar to Tessy Britain‘s excellent blog, I could probably list 50 radical people and inspiring projects who are thinking and doing things that consistently blow my mind. But here are the first that come to mind;
- Maria Scordialos, Hendrik Tiesinga, Vanessa Reid and Sarah Whitely at The Hara Paractice Collaborative who’ve brought their knowledge of social innovation for deep systemic change to the Lab and are by far and away the most radical and people I know
- Edmund Colville at West Lexham a hub for connection, collaboration and learning set in a stunning rural estate and family home
- Faisal Rahman at Fair Finance which creates financial products and services designed to meet the needs of people who are financially excluded
- Ed Dowding at Sustaination which enables small businesses to create local and regional food networks which have the efficiency to compete with supermarkets
- Ben Dyson at Positive Money a campaign for a simple solution to the debt crisis
- Bruce Davis at Abundance the first community investment platform that makes it possible for people to earn a cash return by investing in renewable energy farm
- Pavan Sukhdev who launched and still advises the economics of econsystems and biodiversity project at the UN
These people inspire me because you can feel the power of their intention when you’re around them. They know deeply why they’re doing what they’re doing and are single minded in their determination to make it happen.
Who have we missed from this criteria?
The organisers asked ‘who have we missed’?
For me there is an important category- the people I call ‘new paradigm connectors’. They juggle numerous projects and spend much time introducing us to each other. They are the oil that moves the system towards one that’s aligned with people and planet.
Cassie Robinson is a brilliant example of just such a person, who I met through another US based version David Hodgson. They weave ideas between us, finding needs and resources. And between them, I’m convinced they know everyone.
I love this model by @VanessaMiemis and @gavinkeech which explains the different roles in a system that’s changing.
What is Radical? Finding the right words
It’s tough to explain what makes something radical. Which is why I’m so happy that NESTA and The Observer were bold enough to host this competition.
There has been a vicious and quite overwhelming response to the project on The Observer website and much of it has been around the use of this term.
Maybe ‘radical’ wasn’t the right word. Those of us who entered it all knew exactly what they meant. And the organisers faced the same challenge that we’ve all faced in this movement – how the hell do you write about something so new? It’s so hard to find the words to express what your doing and why it matters.
I hope that one of the first tasks of this group might be to reflect on how we can explain the value of our work well.
What is the value of this competition?
What I think the competition has hit upon is a group of people that I call the New Paradigm or System and that David Hodgson and Vanessa Miemis would probably call ‘The Next Edge’ (after their growing secret Facebook group).
As Vanessa Reid said in her beautfiul blog. These people and projects are;
creating environments where we can activate the values and simple behaviours that bring out the best in us.
The Berkana Institute Two Loops model has helped me to understand why this competition felt so important.
It describes the process of the death of one system and the birth of another and argues that as one system peaks, isolated alternatives slowly begin to arise and give way to the new. When an existing system is about to decline, it’s inclined towards self-preservation and wants to crush the alternatives because it doesn’t want alternatives threatening it.
But, if these alternatives connect to each other, then they can withstand the pressure and they begin to give rise to an alternative system. At this point they argue, it is important to ‘name, connect, nourish and illuminate’ these alternatives.
To me, this Radicals list is a collection of these alternatives and this is what The Observer/NESTA are doing. They are shining a light on a possible way of doing things differently.
I imagine that the competition is also trying to create an ongoing network for the new paradigm projects it has found. A place to support and protect those who are working on something that might change everything. To give credibility to a group who need it at this stage of development and to encourage them to keep going.
And Kudos to them for doing it frankly! We need it.
The value of brands in the transition
It’s obvious to me that NESTA & The Observer are contributing what they can to build a better system.
In their case, what they can offer is the reputation of their brand. By nominating us, they are giving us their backing in some sense.
This means that our work is creeping further into the zone of credibility. It gives me the klout and permission to carry on my work within ICAEW. And on a personal note, it means I sound less like a nutter when I try and explain to people what I’m doing with my life.
Our job is now to leverage that to best effect - to lend our newly fortified brand to those entreprenuers and civil society leaders in our community and help them become established brands in their own right. We hope that when they become successful they will do the same to us.
In this way we are passing credibility from the old system to the new, with the help of a few existing brands that understand how much change is needed.
The new paradigm needs support and I am so grateful that this competition exists to highlight that.