John Hitchin, Renaisi’s CEO writes week notes to capture and reflect on the realities of running a social enterprise.

This was a strange week for me. I resolved to not work more than a standard working week for the first time in, well … I kept finding myself twitching to open the laptop in the evening. I also found myself frustrated that I was further behind on work than usual. And finally, I found that I felt a little more balanced by the end of it. My conclusion is that it’s impossible to do senior roles in the social sector effectively (and maybe other industries, but I only know what I know) without working more than a 9-5. But that I (we?) probably take that too far sometimes, and get carried away with our own self-importance. The sky didn’t fall in.

Hackney anchor workshops

Hackney aerial shot

This was a fun week for our Hackney anchors work. We had two thematic workshops, which is the real meat of the work. Julia Slay facilitated colleagues from procurement and workforce/HR in two different sessions, and it was fascinating to see how people brought their challenges and work to the collaboration.

I was struck by a few things:

  • There were two broad types of challenges being brought – incremental and radical. Some brought current work, talked about how they’ve progressed a thorny issue, and got feedback from others. This meant that some really excellent work was shared across the local system, which will hopefully lead to important, incremental improvements across the place. Others brought bigger opportunities, which could be worked on together in a completely different way, and which nobody had a clear plan for yet. Different people enjoy or are good at different things here. I enjoy the second type of challenge but I know that not everyone does. I also know that the incremental can have a huge impact.
  • There are different sources of organisational inertia. In one of the workshops, there were lots of reasons to not do things. I was really struck by the power of that feeling from certain organisations, and how it manifested itself in different ways in the two workshops. One of the anchor organisations was able to be quite open in the procurement workshop but struggled to engage on workforce. It was important for us to help people see ways they could work together in a place, despite that inertia.
  • The language of anchors, community wealth building and collaboratives need to be repeated and clarified for everyone. We have spent a lot of time building a shared understanding amongst a range of stakeholders, but one workshop brought in some new people, and their assumptions about the concepts was different. The work of collaboration is so often about language, understanding and trust in the intentions and concepts. If you get that right, then people are free to work collaboratively if you don’t, then they will return to institutional ways of working.
  • A Zoom workshop in a heatwave means that you are all managing the physical conditions differently. If you’re in the same room, then you can navigate the breaks and cadence together. It was hard to respond to the very physical needs of ‘heat’ when we were in different places, and that made the sessions harder than had we been together.

We’ll be sharing the learning from this work soon. Sign up to receive email updates. You can also follow @Renaisi, @Juliaslay and #CityandHackneyAnchors on Twitter.

Subscribe to #CityandHackneyAnchors

Place-based transformation

We’re doing some work with Right to Succeed on their theory of change and embedding their transformative approach to education into local places and systems. They are doing some really interesting thinking and work, and we are enjoying working with them. This week we had a great session with the team on their overall work, and getting feedback for our research. We also had a conversation about running some training with one of their new programmes, where they are implementing work to facilitate and encourage long term place-based change in North Birkenhead. I’m very much looking forward to working more with the team in the coming months.

Reading, listening and watching

I received my copy of Mordew from the fabulous Galley Beggar Press this week, and am already working my way into that strange and fascinating world.

I greatly enjoyed watching Knives Out. It was funny and distracting. I also really liked seeing Daniel Craig not be James Bond.