Where Have All The Disruptors And Innovators Gone? II

In November, notdeadfish hosted our first discussion evening – drawing on the ideas and experience of attendees embedded into the third sector in a variety of roles, organisation sizes and stages in their careers. We reflected on the initial findings of our first policy report, Where Have All The Disruptors and Innovators Gone? and what more needed to be done to foster a culture of innovation throughout the third sector.

There was lively discussion throughout the evening, but there were some issues that were never far from the agenda.

  • The necessity of vision – and of asking whether a manager or a leader is needed.
  • The importance of robust and meaningful governance and trusteeship.
  • The necessity of addressing unconscious bias and “invisible knowledge” – that is, asking ourselves what we don’t know we don’t know.
  • The need for clear and bold vision to combat the shifting political climate around the third sector – it is more important than ever to have embedded impact measurement and to be clear-sighted about effectiveness and efficiency.
  • The need to rethink what mergers and closure mean, and to think of them not as failures but as learning opportunities, and as part of a life-cycle. This is an important part of developing a more co-operative and less competitive attitude within a market structure.

Some thornier issues raised as many questions as they answered.

  • How can we address diversity in the third sector? How can we use quotas and data not just to make the problem visible but also to increase the diversity of skills and experience in a workplace in a meaningful and long-term way? How can we remove the perception that diversity hiring has no value beyond diversity?
  • Although diversity is often on the agenda, is it really understood? Having a clearer understanding of what diversity adds to a workplace and why it is important to governance and leadership (rather than from a purely ethical position) makes it possible to assess more clearly how successful initiatives to promote diverse hiring and promotion are. It was suggested by numerous people that the key benefits were a more comprehensive view of possible problems and new directions – the ability to access previously “invisible knowledge” of both dangers and opportunities.
  • How can we ensure charities and social enterprises reach their full potential without losing the skills, knowledge and purpose of a small business? Is it important that some organisations stay small to keep their fast-response, community-embedded capabilities and if so how can we reflect their importance in a more co-operative relationship with large charities?
  • Are charities fiddling while Rome burns? Does the emphasis on business viability make co-operation difficult to implement – leaving some problems “too big to handle” while others are over-served? Could large charities act as a haven for those starting out?
  • Is there a “brain drain” problem in regional or depressed areas, meaning third sector workers feel parachuted in, rather than organically part of the community? Does this contribute to the leadership problem in these areas, increasing the imbalance in provision between rich and poor areas? How can we encourage ambition for potential leaders in these areas but also boost regional provision?

We are very grateful to everyone who attended the event, and would like to thank them for their input. If you attended and have any comments you would like to add, or you would like to write a blog for us on an issue that was addressed, we would love to hear from you - drop us a line at isabel@notdeadfish.co.uk!