Leeds – what a day!!!

So – if you follow me on twitter you will probably know I spent an intense but brilliant day in Leeds on Tuesday meeting all kinds of fascinating people. This post is an attempt to capture my initial reflections – I know that lots more will come of it as I mull over the many and various conversations.  I have started a twitter list appropriately called fabulous Leeds which I will populate when I am on a better internet connection.

The day was curated by the amazing Emma Bearman aka Culturevultures and PlayfulLeeds. Emma and I encountered each other online when she came across my stuff on digital leadership and Network of Networks and she invited me up to visit as so much of the stuff I was writing about resonated with her experience of Leeds – she has blogged about this here.

I have been following a bunch of people from Leeds for a while and had noticed that there seemed to be an active discussion about ‘civic’ Leeds (more on that later) and I wanted to find out more. Rather than something structured here are my 10 points which turned into 12:

  1. It was great to experience a place from the point of view of the people who live there. A lot of the time I ‘meet’ places through the Council or Police rather than the citizen and I have made a huge mental note to balance this better in the future.
  2. Really interesting to talk to active engaged people about local democracy – and whether the political party system helps or hinders – also really interesting debate with @leedscitizen about removing the whip …mmmmm…..
  3. The range of people in Emma’s network is huge and she has built it by providing a really excellent local resource in CultureVultures and by being generous with her time and her ideas. She is just the kind of people that is essential to the network of networks idea but there is no job description for what she does. Lots of the people I met were connectors in their own way and one of the things that struck me was how wide a range of motivations and rewards there are for this kind of activity – this needs to be reflected in the experiment design for network of networks
  4. This is reflected by a diversity in what the people I met want from the Council and it got me thinking about how a single organisation might be able to maintain a range of relationship ‘styles’. A lot of my stuff is about changing the relationship between citizen and state but how is this reflected in a range of relationships? Is this just what happens when you move to networked behaviour internally and externally or does it need more coherence in order to work organisationally?  The council is made up of many people – perhaps its a question of making sure they all have voices
  5. I had some excellent food thanks to the Arch Cafe, Sunshine Bakery  and The Reliance – yum
  6. It was great to meet a couple of elected representatives and to hear how attuned to this network of people they are
  7. There is some excellent ‘fifth estate‘ blogging going on in Leeds and I wonder how central this is to the fact that this is a group of people actively talking about what it is to be a citizen
  8. I saw countless examples of how physical space can be used to create or dissipate community connections – I can’t wait to see how Emma will disrupt it with her robots – I will leave it to her to explain about those.  Extra thanks to @PhilKirby for a discussion on this
  9. I noted and kept coming back to the fact that when viewed from the POV of citizens the Council is not a real thing – partly because its description is different for different people but also because it can only be really seen as the sum of its parts.
  10. Emma has been thinking about what ‘welcome’ means to Leeds – how can you welcome people, how can you invite people in (like she did with me) and how can you be more welcoming – can’t wait to hear what she does with this idea
  11. Something about networked individualism vs tribalism needs to be put into the network of network thinking – this is definitely one for another post
  12. Its always lovely to see John Popham – there is a man who knows his Hitchhikers Guide references!

This is before I start thinking about the conversation with @victoriabretton which was basically the first sentence of 20 other conversations.

I will be back in Leeds in the next few months (if they will have me!) and I hope to have mulled a little more by then.  I also hope to invite Emma (and anyone else who fancies it) for a return visit to Brighton as it would be great to carry these conversations on.

The day in Leeds was frenetic but brilliant – thanks so much to everyone I met for so many interesting thoughts.



  1. victorianaomi

    August 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    An absolute delight to meet you and looking forward to meeting again for a more leisured conversation 🙂

  2. Pingback: Leeds – what a day!!! – Curiouscatherine’s Blog | Public Sector Blogs |

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