1316 and all that

Networking - consultation or compromise

There seems to be massive concerns about the rapid level of environmental change and irreparable environmental damage.  Those who lend money secured against property have suffered the largest scale losses in human history.  There is a sense that the government must do something differently in order to illicit social change.  Yet still, in the face of economic cataclysm, the returns on the trading figures of the top companies evidence higher profits in this year than in the previous decade.

These were the lessons I learned reading a very interesting article about Britain in 1316.  Perhaps it is true that there is nothing new under the sun.

On or about this year one of the most important texts in medieval England was published.  Piers Ploughman continues to be one of the most significant and challenging of the canon of English literature.  The text is shot through with reflections on the meaning of life and was sewing the seeds of uprising against the powers of the church and of the state.  It is used by John Ball, a revolutionary priest, only a few years later as part of his inspiration for the Peasant Revolt.

What the heck has all this to do with leading a growing social enterprise?  Well probably because I think it is sometimes important to keep thinking and learning because when we stop doing that, we stop inspiring other people to do it, and there is only so much inspiration in Leadership and Management training with wafer thin wisdom!  Also I think that it touches on the agenda that is always present underneath our working days.

I have commented often on the idea that effective social entrepreneurs are fundamentally those with the skills of muti-sectoral networking.  In the last couple of weeks I have been to Big Society consultations, sat in the Boardroom of international investment banks and had a cup of tea with the north east’s most notorious reformed gangster.

Sometimes networking is really good, sometimes to makes things happen; sometimes it transforms the perspectives of those involved in the network.  I think as social entrepreneurs we always need to be conscious of when networking becomes sucking up, when challenge and not co-operation is appropriate.  For Piers Ploughman and John Bull the realities of 1316 were not about consultation but challenge.

Both are appropriate, it is just sensing the when and the how…


About Sarah Dunwell

Sarah Dunwell is executive director of Arena Partners and has twenty years experience in the corporate and business sector. After a number of senior roles in customer service and retail management, Sarah led her own successful catering business and is experienced in business turn around and SME growth. Sarah has a particular interest in the role of robust business planning and development in the not-for-profit sector. Her passion lies in seeing social businesses grow successfully and sustainably through creating mature businesses that deliver strong social agendas.
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