Pragmatism, Symbolism and Why I need you to book NOW!

I am facing a big decision in the next couple of weeks, finalising the venue for the Leeds Innovation Lab on Disrupting Poverty.  I want to get the best venue that I can, within budget and to accommodate everyone who wants to take part.

And there is the rub.

I have already got over 50 places booked, with many more saying that they are going to book, and a commitment that there will be a good turnout from the Council, both councillors and officers that has yet to translate into bookings.   So, the pragmatist in me says book a venue that can accommodate 100.

But I also want to drive bookings because I believe the interest in, and commitment to this event would be a real demonstration of the caring and compassion in the city and the concern that many share about the increasing divides between the rich and poor, and the part that we all have to play in tackling it.  Symbolically I want to book a venue that will hold 1000 or more!  I want to broadcast it onto the screen in Millennium Square and to a packed Elland Rd.  Where is the blasted Leeds Arena when you need it?  OK you get the point. Symbolically I want this to be BIG!

So, please if you want to book a place please book it soon, NOW if possible.  And if there are others who you think would like to attend or should attend (your councillors or MP perhaps) then please take a minute and encourage them to get booked on too!

You can book places for the Innovation Lab on Disrupting Poverty in Leeds here.


Nickel and Dimed

Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic Nickel and Dimed has been re-worked and re-released for 2011.   10 years after the original, the analysis seems to have held up pretty well, but has by and large been ignored as we have continued pretty much with business as usual, in spite of significant, widespread if sporadic traumas.

Although written about the experience of  being poor in the US there is much of relevance to the UK.


Is taxation the way to disrupt poverty?

It would seem historically not…taxes make little different to income inequality

Is the Pursuit of Economic Growth the Key to Disrupting Poverty?

Daniel Ben-Ami thinks so…

Is economic growth associated with more and better technology the root to disrupting poverty?

And if you want to learn about the choices between pursuing prosperity or living in caves….

You can get Daniel’s book at Amazon and other good book stores….

Or if you would like to discuss this and other ideas for disrupting poverty in our city then join us at the Innovation Lab on October 14th 

Disrupting Poverty in Leeds…Are You Up For Giving It A Go?

You may have seen the Poor Kids documentary earlier this year.  Or you may not.

No matter.

It spurred me to do a little digging into the phenomena of poverty in Leeds and to start thinking about what we might be able to do about it. What could we do that might make a difference?

So, the plan is to hold an all day Innovation Lab somewhere in the city on October 14th where we will pull together a large and diverse group of people who care enough to look at practical actions that we can take right now.

We will use methods designed specifically to disrupt our own thinking and help us look at the issue in fresh ways and will be using approaches drawn from theatre and corporate innovation strategy.  It should be a lot of fun!

But We Need Your Help!

First we need a venue.  Somewhere in the city where we can pull together a large group of 50-100 people.  Somewhere conducive to imagination, creativity, conviviality and fun!  A nightclub perhaps? Or a dance studio?  Perhaps an art gallery or a youth club? But we have no cash to pay for it.

This is going to be fun, but people are going to be working hard and will need fuelling.  Lunch and refreshments.  Did I mention that we have no cash?  So either we need a sponsor or we go down the ‘bring your own/pot luck’ route.  I think I know which I would prefer….

We will be inviting people to pay what they can afford to attend the lab, but past experience shows that those that can afford the least donate the most and it is unlikely that we will wash our face through donations alone….And as always ability to pay must be a barrier to participation.  Free really will be fine.

But mostly we just need you to come along, bring your brain, your heart, your soul and get in engaged.  No specialist knowledge needed.  And if you can contribute a little to help oil the wheels so much the better.

Book Your Place Here


And if you are interesting in sponsoring the event or just want to get in touch then…


Shaking Up Education in Leeds?

I trained as a teacher in Leeds back in the 1980s.  And ever since there has been nothing but ‘shake-ups in education’.  Nine years as a School Governor in the city was characterised by a succession of initiatives, mostly from Whitehall, to be dealt with.

But inspite of all of this change, very little real progress.  You don’t believe that rise in examination results every year for the last 29 do you?

So what happens when you float a radical idea related to education in the city?  A senior public sector manager snorts loudly and says ‘That’ll never happen’.

Nice.  Way to go.  Innovation Central.  Thank you!

The idea?  Not a manifesto.  Not even a proposal.  Just an idea….

What if every school in the city carried the same proportion of pupils from poor homes?  Instead of some schools having no ‘poor kids’ and others having a majority, why not find ways to ensure that every school has a very similar profile of wealth in its population?

What might the impact be on the quality of education right across the city?

Or how about this?

Why not take the money that we currently spend on inward investment and tourism in the city and instead use it to reduce class sizes across Leeds?  We might then attract employers to our city because of the quality of the education we offer, the resulting talented workforce and providing great education to employers and employees children?  Tourists might come because the citizens of Leeds are actually able to produce an experience  that few can match.

  • What are the other radical ideas that we could explore in relation to education in Leeds?
  • How do we produce citizens who know how to make their enterprising souls sing?
  • How do we overcome the disparity in achievement that is dictated more by a fate of birth than anything else?

Anyone up for an Innovation Lab on Education in Leeds?



Making Leeds the Best City in the UK

That is the challenge laid down to us by the new Leeds City Council Chief Executive, Tom Riordan.

What would it mean for any city to be the best?

What criteria would be used to decide and bestow such an accolade?

And who would it be ‘best’ for?  Employers?  Residents? Students? Homeless? Artists? Financiers? Children? Elders?

But suppose we framed the question of ‘best’ differently, and asked how we could make everyone in the city feel like Leeds was the ‘best’ place for them to make the most of their life and to fully explore and develop their potential?

To live their life the way they want to, making their own decisions and living with the consequences.  Feeling valued, respected and like they belong here.  Feeling supported in a community that they enjoy and contributing to it fully.

Now that would be a question worth asking.   An accolade worth pursuing.  A league table worth topping.

It would almost certainly not depend on physical infrastructure, but on psychological infrastructure.  A network of relationships, support and encouragement that valued people, regardless of wealth or education, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or age.  A psychological infrastructure in which help could be asked for and offered.  A city in which collaboration, association and innovation in the pursuit of progress was everyone’s business

It would be a city of both enterprise AND compassion.