Some years ago, in the time before Ed Miliband committed political fratricide and after Durham County Council had well and truly shafted our micro social enterprise, Du, and its integrated transport project, Du-it, Cameron and I wangled an invitation to a meeting in Jarrow, where Ed and his older brother and Labour leader in waiting, David, were speaking.
In the audience was an official from the Regional Development Agency, Chris Pywell. After our public, caustic observations about the bureaucratic suppression of social enterprise, based on our painful experience, Chris approached us, piqued by our cheek, and asked us what projects we had in mind. Building on the corpse of the murdered Du-it, we proposed a peer to peer community development design, which we called communityNet. Having an idea of the sum he might be able to disburse without too much red tape, we proposed an outline design paper of 50 pages for £5k, which he agreed and indeed paid, within days.
Having requested a month to deliver this paper, we set off on an amazing adventure of co-creative activity, engaging local community activists and turning the usual top down approach upside down ... or rather, the right way up ... with an infrastructure of community hubs, owned and governed by local communities, community animateurs as outreach staff, projects that the local community wanted and the whole thing linked horizontally, ideas shared and services aggregated.
The month was not just hugely creative, but great fun too ... all consuming ... awake with ideas bubbling pre-dawn, discussing with Cameron over phone and internet and face-to-face, back and forth with versions, until within the month we had a document of 52 pages, full of radical suggestions and highly commended by folks in the field, such as the Chief Executive of Ruralnet.
At our meeting with Chris, he said he had never received a report like it before. He didn't elaborate on whether he loved it or loathed it, but he brought in his assistant to take it forward.
The assistant, an ambitious young man without any obvious sense of humour, really didn't like it, and managed to kill it, while Chris was either away on holiday, looking the other way, or otherwise engaged in matters more important than a bright idea which could only bring trouble to the very staid status quo, which was the N.E. England establishment.
Or maybe it was rubbish!
Du found other work, some equally energising, like the Hi3 event at the Sage in Gateshead ... Hi3 being Cameron's inspired title for the rather wordy "Health Inequalities in the North East the 3rd sector way" ... and co-created with many enthusiastic players ... it was a day when at least three things were happening at once, with participants advised not to hang around at events that did not excite them ... a tasty peasant lunch to remind folks that health inequalities worldwide were often life or death issues and over £1k raised for an Africa project, most of it from the savings from the reduced budget for the free food expected in those pre-austerity days ... echoing Chris' remark about communityNet, the speaker from Durham University, who had previously explained how most government programmes designed to reduce health inequalities had the opposite result, having stayed all day, said it was a conference unlike any other he had attended ... and this time in an unequivocally good way!
More about Du things in another blog perhaps ... the time and place were not propitious and we moved on to other things ... Cameron to set up a very successful cafe up Weardale in St John's Chapel, me a variety of jobs to see me through to pension time (for younger readers, this system operated for the benefit of the Babyboomer generation and ran out of money when demand exceeded supply) ... and a legacy project with Weardale Community Transport, based at the local community hub, "Wheels to Meals" ... still going strong and much loved locally.
The trigger for all this nostalgia was a Facebook post reminding me of the Hi3 event ... which raises the issue of FB knowing things about me I have long forgotten, as well as photos from devices deceased and not backed up ... maybe a tool when Alzheimer's arrives ... more likely a whole new application, with our own avatar holding all the information about us, ready to share as required with health services, employers, children, grandchildren .... and so on ...
Synthesis was the card given at the start of Experience Week at Findhorn in 2011, and in a nice synchrocity, it popped up in a video clip of the Dalai Lama during a blog break just now ... whilst another Syn, synergy is buzzing around with the Noomap folks ... other Syn words will be explored in future posts, suffice it to say that things are coming together beautifully at this time and in this unlikely, soon to be vacated place ...