Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Practivist of the Week - POPse!

Friday's theme
What's a POPse!?

A pop-up social enterprise think tank, of course!

Practivist Mark Walton told me about a new venture.  In the wake of redundancies and restructuring of organizations, some smart and talented people got together and decided on a proactive course of action.  POPse! was created to take a collective, collaborative approach to identifying the needs of the community, the individuals, the skills and talents available and marrying those with purpose.

What makes POPse! practivist? The idea of not sitting on your hands, embracing doldrums or bitterness, not misusing or thwarting your own energy, but adding it to a pool of other energies and stirring.

For 5 days POPse! inhabited an old Subway shop in Exmouth Market. They invited groups in, had a daily theme, and hoped to pull in curious people from the street outside.

I wanted to check it out, but didn't know what I'd find.  As the afternoon session began, I felt a little out of my universe.  The vocabulary was as foreign to me as it would be to any of the people there if walking onto a film set.  Jargon, abbreviations, not to mention the language barrier between English and American!  Still, I was able to parse the spirit, and ask silly questions about what I was pretty sure I didn't understand.

I made a conscious decision not to bring my computer - I wanted to be as live as possible for the event.  Ha.  As soon as I got there, I realized I was the only one not connected to some piece of technology!  
Men at computers - and chicks, too

It was blogger central as people were tweeting to the POPse! account, posting simultaneously and instantaneously to their blogger, and checking Facebook.  Between iPads, iPhones, MacBook Pros, and possibly 2 PC's the place was buzzing! At one point the internet went down, which quietly threatened the electronic proceedings, though happily went unnoticed by those in the session.

The theme for Day 5 was Trust and Transparency.  With members of On Purpose present - a leadership training program - the discussion got underway quickly.  One issue that came up in different forms was the disparity of perception between an enterprise that is doing good, and one that looks like it's doing good.  I've worked with and in and alongside plenty of not-for-profits and one big issue always seems to be that the ones actually changing peoples' lives and communities are not always the ones receiving funding and garnering public awareness.  It's the kind of issue I've not heard brought up before, and the kind that POPse! was not shying away from.

A session at POPse! facilitated by Nick
In fact, shying away is not POPse!'s style.  My first observation was that the people in the room were of one clear demographic - white, middle-class, 30's, mostly male.  I was encouraged to ask about this, so I spoke to Sarah about it. As far as age, she described the risk vs. opportunity ratio to consider, which might involve self-selection within the group of those currently embarking on a new career path.  She expressed that to some degree, the lack of diversity could be attributed to both the social enterprise world, and perhaps even moreso, the think tank world, and might not be specific to POPse!

It was surprising to me, because it's really different in the US, with the non-profit world attracting minority populations, and in many cases, a female majority.  Sarah said, "some of these agendas don't resonate with other communities...they want to become professionals."  This makes sense to me - cultures new to a country wanting a clear path to success.  Service to the community at large does have a long tradition in the UK, and perhaps the tradition has been solidified in some communities and not yet in others.   I'm grateful to her and other people at the event for sharing their thoughts candidly and being so open to whatever came up.

The main thing that seems to have come out of POPse! for most participants was when the next event was happening.  Overall, it's a start to a long, free-form dialogue, a small step in building a new community and a beginning of sharing success models across platforms.

There is such good and thorough reporting on the POPse! site, it seems silly to do anything but direct you there to learn more!

Yes, I think it is!

Follow POPse! on Facebook!

P.S.  Sorry this blog took so long!  It's been a topsy turvy couple of weeks, especially where internet is concerned!

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