#1 Week Notes – Week beginning 30th September 2019
This is an experiment. I’m going to try it for a few weeks and see how it goes…
I’ve been thinking about doing week notes for a while, and our new website felt like a worthy time to start. Largely I’m doing this because I can’t believe how much happens each week in running this social enterprise, and I want to try and capture it and reflect on it a little more systemically. We’ll see if this works and has any value to me and others!
New website and a new staff video
I am delighted that we have launched our new website and brand this week, as it makes it easier to point people at something that clearly articulates who we are and what we do. I’m also really interested in how having that clarity changes our thinking and our practice.
This matters as we look to sell our offer to customers and stakeholders, but also to potential new colleagues. As a result, we were filming a new staff video this week. I believe that we’re trying to do something interesting and important here at Renaisi, but it is a constant, circular task to be clear about what we do, to evolve what we do and to communicate what we do. This process has helped me to articulate our work, and in better articulating it, it is now changing.
A big issue in my week has been thinking about governance and recruiting new board members. We’re a social enterprise and constituted as a company limited by guarantee with social aims. All of our funds go back into those aims. From a governance perspective, that means we need non-executive directors to support the executive to run the business properly.
I’ve been very lucky to have supportive colleagues on our board, and as we’ve been looking for new ones I’ve been trying to focus on the needs for skills, diversity, experience and challenge in the mix. We’re delighted that Rohati Chapman has joined us in recent weeks, and following this week’s conversations I’m looking forward to (hopefully) announcing some more new colleagues soon.
There’s always more to be done on the governance question, but I’m very pleased with the progress we’re making. I’m particularly interested in what diversity means for our governance, and what the make up of our board is to achieve our mission. When I took over as Chief Executive, we did some work with Bob Thust and Practical Governance that helped me to make some immediate changes, but it also planted some seeds about how our governance should evolve. As I’m noticing with lots of work over the last two years, those seeds can take a while to grow.
Since coming back from paternity leave in August, one of my priorities has been evolving how we support our people. As with any organisation, there are things that we’re good at and things we’re less good at in terms of our offer to our people. I think we’re great at autonomy and flexibility, but less good at clear handlebars and precise progression steps. Different people thrive in different environments, but also different operating environments accentuate how people experience their work.
We have an all-team away day (or days) coming up in November, and something that I want to talk about there is mentoring and communication. I’m getting ready for that by starting to do some more mentoring of colleagues myself. I caught up with two colleagues this week, both of whom have been with us for a while, are middle managers of some kind, and who have experienced quite a lot of change in recent months. I wanted to give them some personal and professional support, and start to build a longer-term relationship, but if I’m honest I almost felt guilty by the end of the two meetings. I feel like I learnt so much about how things are going at Renaisi, from a very personal perspective, that I fear I got much more from the sessions than they did. A reminder to do much more of this.
Supporting the social economy
I’ve had four different meetings and done quite a lot of work this week that all in some way connected to a lot of our thinking about the social economy. This has included:
- A fascinating chat with Sam from Free Ice Cream about some work they are doing with Onion Collective in Watchet, building and using games to facilitate work around social action. How can a game help people to think differently about the whole system that they are operating in and the power that their action can have in that system? It is a really impressive engine that they have developed, and I’m so excited to see where it can go.
- A meeting with the Mayor of Hackney about our investment in learning about anchor networks in City and Hackney. This is a huge part of what we want to do and learn about in the coming years, and I’m going to be working on this, with our new associate Julia Slay, and talking about this a lot soon.
- Linked to the above, I met with Beth from Supply Change to understand their product and work. The joy and challenge of working on the social economy is that it is about so many different things, from investment to collaboration, procurement decision to workforce development, local multipliers to accelerator programmes. Supply Change are looking at how procurement teams in the public sector can access better information about social enterprises that may be able to offer them services.
- Charlie from Social Enterprise UK and I met with colleagues at Deloitte to talk about how they can think about the impact of their work on the One Million Futures Programme. We have been working with SEUK to help Deloitte learn about their work in the last couple of years, and we think that the skills that they bring to social enterprise and charity partners can be really powerful and important in supporting and creating change. As with all of us working in this space, it seems so important to know what your role is and to know what you can bring.
My week notes are always going to be work focussed, but I’d imagine that the personal will bleed in. I have finished this on the train up to the North West for a family funeral. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt as Chief Executive in the last couple of years is that the personal always bleeds into people’s work, and it is often the thing that knocks all your plans for six. It’s not easy, but it’s important to be kind to yourself and your colleagues when that happens.
Reading, listening and watching
I’ve been working my way through Candice Hampson from Big Society Capital’s work on Scale. I’m not sure I agree with it all yet but it’s an interesting read that brings a lot of things together.
I have been interested to learn more about CityFunds in Bristol, and am intrigued to see how that develops.
Pod Save America has dominated my listening this week as I try to understand what is going on in terms of American politics and the impeachment debate. Perhaps also as a retreat from our own politics.
I’ve also been listening to The Memory Palace, which I have completely fallen in love with. There are so many great stories in there. My two favourites are Distance and Local Channels. Just perfect storytelling.
And finally, I’ve just started reading the new James Meek, To Calais in Usual Time. I greatly enjoyed The People’s Act of Love and would recommend that highly.