Tag Archives: Organisations

More Organisation Lite

Dan McQuillan, who was also at the Tuttle Breakfast yesterday, has now blogged his perspective on the need for lightweight, dynamic and flexible structures to take forward the sort of projects merging from Social Innovation Camp and ensure their sustainability.

Our criteria for the camp selected for ideas that could be carried forward after the weekend. The winning projects have certainly showed dynamism and commitment; but how can they organize to get things done when it’s not (yet) anyone’s day job? How can they get structure without losing the passion?

Synchronously, similar questions & suggestions have cropped up in other discussions. In the Gaming for Good roundtable folk wondered how to apply the voluntary association & dynamic purpose of the World of Warcraft raiding party to the real world. At the Tuttle Club Breakfast, freelancers were feeling their way to structures that sounded to me most like medieval Guilds (an idea that Open Business has already written about) . And in an ippr briefing, the MP Tom Watson invoked the cooperatives of the nineteenth century as a good fit for organisations making a social use of the web.

Seems there’s a sea-change coming as organisational models are mutated by the web. With the emphasis on lightweight, dynamic & flexible structures, it seems to echo the radical architecture of Archigram back in the 1960s.

Whatever model we raid, from real or imagined history, there’s still the practical question of who pays the bills. Sustainability is the plan for all Social Innovation Camp projects, whether from a commercial business model, grant funding or a mix of the two. Can we also learn from open source, where companies pay staff to work on open source projects for part of their time because there’s a wider value to the employer? Social Innovation Camp had the backing of a sizeable posse from Headshift (thanks guys) – perhaps signposting a wider possible solution where commercial companies support social ventures with geek-time? As my colleague Peter Grigg has pointed out, companies need to go beyond CSR and get real about supporting pro-social activity; and what better way than to back projects like these ?

Picking up on historical allusions, this also reminds me of 1980s when I and many others looked around for legal and financial models that would enable community-based regeneration projects to package together funding, volunteering and revenue streams. We ended up with development trusts and similar bodies that were companies limited by guarantee with charitable status, sometimes with associated trading companies.

Those structures have worked well – and are now very widespread in the Third Sector. However, they do carry a substantial management and governance overhead. One additional option now available is the Community Interest Company.

It isn’t just about structure, though. One main things I learned in grappling with development trusts was that legal format was not the first thing to look at. You needed to be clear about purpose, activities, business model, people involved and lots more. There’s no off-the-shelf solution, even in the more virtual world. Archigram was fun – but how much was built?

Organisation lite over coffee and croissants


The Tuttle Club gathered again yesterday in the rather smart OneAlfredPlace, and a group of us considered the realities of organising without (much) organisation.

Tuttle organiser Lloyd Davis and and club member Steve Moore had prevailed on Rob Shreeve, who runs OneAlfredPlace, to turn over one of their splendid gathering spaces to social media types for coffee, croissants and creativity. Rob is seeking members, and after a look around yesterday I’m really tempted.

We did the usual networking, with more space than Friday at the the Coach and Horses, then moved to some mini-open space: pitch an issue or idea and see who gathers around. As Lloyd reports there was a good spread:

Building a list of interesting folk to talk to BERR (Jane O’Loughlin)
Combining relentless creativity with social media (Steve Lawson)
Turning your passion into something that makes money (Pippa Crawford & Dan McQuillan)
Finding new clients online (Rebecca Caroe)
Business podcasting (Mike O’Hara)
Organisation Lite (David Wilcox & Jemima Gibbons)

In the organisation lite group we talked around a number of issue, ranging from Clay Shirky’s work on organising without organisations using social media, through to the practicalities of Lloyd’s vision for a permanent place for the Tuttle Club that combines workspace, learning opportunities and sociability. Here’s what I added as a comment to Lloyd’s post:

On the one hand we were taking inspiration from the open source movement which has evolved ways of organising without heavy-weight structures … on the other hand recognising that when it comes to taking leases, employing people and so on, the State places on us various responsibilities and regulations that can’t easily be avoided.
In both cases you need leadership, and varying degrees of trust and collaboration. If structure and regulation is lite, trust and collaborative commitment is doubly important.
I thought that Anecdote recently provided us with a useful framework in their white paper on teams, communities and networks – blogged here at the Membership Project where we are discussing these issues.
The key question for me, is how to make practical progress on this through our voluntary contribution to Tuttle evolution. I think it might be done by blending what someone called primary and secondary purpose and and interest. That is, we’ll do something for Tuttle and the cafe if it also has some spin offs for our businesses, networks, organisations.
How about a workshop where we play through the Tuttle development scenario – taking on property, recruiting members, setting up a company (or something) – in a way that provides useful insights for other organisational development. See if we can interest a social media lawyer and some other professionals interested in connecting with us. It would be another step in prototyping.
Organisation, lite or otherwise, comes after considering context, purpose, stakeholders, and a host of other factors. I think the best way to deal with the complexity is to get some experienced people into the same room and play it through. As well as prototyping organisation we could be fulfilling the learning aims of Tuttle too.

The valuable primary and secondary purpose idea came from Adriana Lukas, and I’m hoping to continue the conversation with her, Jemima Gibbons and others at the regular Tuttle meeting at the Coach and Horses. If you want to come, just sign up on the wiki. The only uncertainty is whether there’s a sponsor this week for the coffee and croissants … otherwise good fun, excellent conversation and new friends guaranteed.