Community-led Innovation

Community-led Innovation

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I haven’t written a blog post for what seems like an age. It was a period in my life when I felt there was nothing much to say – and a great deal for me to do.

There is much for us all to do, as communities.

We recently celebrated the 3rd birthday of The Dandelion Project and marked this occasion by becoming an official bona fide organisation: The Dandelion Foundation. Most people didn’t realise we got this far without being a formal entity. We also extended the scope of our mission to make Guernsey the best place to live on earth by 2020, in order to help other communities around the world solve their toughest challenges through community-led innovation. This also allows us to bring in more resources to deliver the change we want to make in the world.

From everything we have learnt in the past few years, one lesson stands out: communities have a serious role to play in accelerating the performance and ambition of their governments.

Governments are not generally good at proactivity, innovation and risk-taking. For all the right reasons, they are conservative, steady and focussed on making as few mistakes as possible. They are the tortoises of the world – slow to evolve, and slow to move. Governments tend to maintain the status quo by being risk-averse and resistant to change – which can be very frustrating to members of the communities they are meant to serve.

But it isn’t enough to feel frustrated or shout complaints about what the government isn’t doing. That sort of behaviour would just make a tortoise retreat into its shell. Communities need to understand the role they can play in helping to create the right environment for government to perform well.

A goldmine of untapped philanthropy – ideas, time and resources – is available in every community. Think of all the ideas that people are too afraid to share. Think of all the time spent on mindless TV and internet usage. Think of all the things people buy that they don’t actually need. Evidence shows that making a contribution to the community is one of the keys to happier living – so we should find ways to market the personal and social benefits of getting involved. In Guernsey, we are learning to unlock that wealth of resources to effect national transformation.

Once unlocked, these valuable community resources need to be invested in the higher-risk elements of community development, rather than replicating or replacing ‘staid’ statutory services. Many 3rd sector and community resources are spent on tasks that local or national government should be doing but can’t afford to do – such as mental health or social care. And yet, focusing resources on de-risking innovations would enable Government to become much more effective in future. Communities needs to experiment, trying new things to identify what does and does not work. Through positive collaborative action, we can inspire Government  to make the changes needed for it to capitalise on all the wondrous possibilities in the world.

Risk-averse organisations like governments are structured to create valid reasons to say ‘no’ to things. Human progress comes from saying ‘yes’. Communities need to work on solutions that governments can’t say ‘no’ to.

This involves such things as:

  • sourcing solutions that are reverse-engineered towards government policies;
  • providing face-to-face opportunities for changemakers from around the world to meet local representatives;
  • providing resources to validate global or national ideas in a local context;
  • lobbying to demand changes (via media and popular demand).

It isn’t the job of Government to lead the community. Any such expectation leads only to frustration – as seen in the world today. It is the job of the community to lead Government. For that to happen, the community needs to have a bold vision, to be well organised, to be innovative, to take risks and to provide resources.

Our ultimate dream is for every community in the world to invest in its own community-led innovations, and to develop and implement the necessary leadership, ideas, solutions and approaches to enable its transition to a brighter future. 

On May 5th, we will curate and deliver our 6th major community event: TEDxStPeterPort, which focuses on how our community can contribute to creating a better place for us all to live.

Communities in small nations like Guernsey hold the key to the future of governments worldwide. I hope you can be part of our positive and constructive revolution for better community by joining us, in person or online, on the day.

To community!

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add a comment
  1. David Ryan says

    Hi Marc, this says everything about community building for me. Great blog!

    Thank you

  2. Wonderful piece Mark!

    So happy to hear you are looking to work with additional communities around the world. Would be happy to hop on a call in the coming month (OR even better meet up in Europe this summer) to explore some relevant prototypes and emerging experiments. Will you by any chance be attending Oui Share Festival in Paris? The theme this year is ‘CITIES OF THE WORLD UNITE’! Happy to feel your inspiration all the way from California.

  3. Mamokhethi Sepiriti says

    ” It is the job of the community to lead Government” thank you Mark

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