Popse! takes think tanking onto the street

I have to confess that I wasn’t paying much attention to the tweets this week from @popupthinktank … until I met up with Nick Temple at the On Purpose party. It was an occasion where the formal presentations were interesting, but the chance to sit outside and have a quiet beer with a few old and new acquaintances was even more engaging. It is these conversations that most often leave me with the new idea or connection.

I discovered that Nick, formerly head of policy at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, had joined up with some other free agents, social artists, creative collaborators and generally sparky types and turned hanging out into a new form of Think Tank. Of course, there was a bit more to it than that, and I had to find out for myself with a trip to Exmouth Market, in Clerkenwell.

There Nick and his team had taken a vacant shop for a week and created Popse! – where each day this week there have been chats around different topics. Yesterday was all about Big Society and community, and it gave me a chance to meet up with Henry Hemming who has written the excellent book Together. Here’s the blurb:

Together is about the extraordinary revival of small groups in Britain today.

What happens when a room full of people decide to work towards the same dream? Why is it that when we come together in small groups we are so much more than the sum of our parts?

From druids to bingo-clubbers, eco-warriors to flash-mobbers, historical re-enactors to bee-keepers, books groups and knitting circles, W.I.s, Young Farmers and the fan-owners of a football club, Together reveals the true story of modern Britain. The country we live in is in fact an extraordinary composition of small groups powered by shared interests and common ideals. Hemming reveals a different way of seeing society, one that recognizes the massive, untapped potential of these hundreds of thousands of small groups, how they work and what they enable us to do that we can’t do alone.

Witty and provocative, Together gives us an extraordinary cast of characters, a series of unlikely alliances and most importantly, a vision of what we can achieve Together.

It proved to be an occasion when the author was at least as engaging as the book, in style a well as substance, as I think you see from my video. Nick explains Popse! and Henry talks among other things about why seeing London – or any city – as a cluster of villages may not be very helpful. Henry is off to Saudi for a few weeks – which sounds an even more challenging exploration than British society – but I hope to resume the conversation on his return. Meanwhile more here about Popse!

This week’s Popup was created in the spirit of “let’s just do it” … and the spontaneity and creativity shows. However, I hope that an innovative funder or sponsor reflects on where they have had the most useful conversations on policy issues, and if it wasn’t in one of these traditional Think Tank panel sessions, considering investing in Popse!

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