As a CEO, freelancer and mum, I'm used to making lists, putting things into spreadsheets and spending time tracking outcomes, KPIs and evaluating impacts. Whilst this is great to get an established project on it's own journey, it doesn't leave much space for creative or innovative thinking. Something that I've been exploring lately is connecting with groups and people who are doing interesting work, across sectors, and letting that percolate. There's no deadlines, no outcomes, no plans to write, just simply exploring what's there and what I can learn. Over the past few months, I've been meeting with mindfulness practitioners, film makers, Montessori educators, social enterprise leaders, cultural leaders, start ups and senior business leaders- some of whom I've come into contact with as part of my day to day, and some who I've reached out to to grab a cup of tea with.
This is culminating in ideas of how to improve my own practice, as well as exploring what service design can look like for vulnerable groups. Whether it's the gentle energy of a mindfulness practitioner, the vibrancy of creatives, or the headstrong determination of senior business leaders, each of these connections have opened up new ways of thinking and doing. From my children, I've learnt the importance of play and have absolutely brought that into my workshops and sessions for adults. What better way to enhance learning than through cutting, sticking and balloons?
But working in direct services, this development and thinking space is somewhat of a luxury. Direct services are at the coalface of systemic failures, and we're often running to stay still, bouncing from a funding struggle to a young person in crisis, there's little time to just think and chat. But it's vital for anyone looking to make long lasting change. Reading The Innovator's DNA about what supports innovation and innovators,the research tells us that "associating, or the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields, is central to the innovator’s DNA."
For social change makers to be able to make change, we must innovate, and we must connect.
When we're dealing with huge social problems, we have our own patterns of thinking, organisational cultures and assumptions that we rarely test or investigate. The reality is that the answers aren't all held within our own sectors or partners, or even in our own teams, and having these brand new conversations can help shape our practice. The key then, is how to give ourselves permission to explore the unknown, be curious, have a cup of tea with an interesting person, and prioritise this as part of our work.