Fantasy system…what would you dream?

Tree and clouds

I have been pitching an idea for a while now which almost always lands well and which I can’t leave alone, so I thought I would put it out more widely in the universe and see what happens….

I want to be part of an event which brings together a set of system actors from different places who share a common belief in the potential for a positive and regenerative future for public services and civil society.  In the absence of such an event I want to help create it – does anyone fancy coming along?

The participants don’t need to be in agreement around what that potential future is but they need to be focused and energised by its emergence and open to shifting their perspectives in order to create a more connected whole.   I want relentless optimism and possibility bedded down in the pragmatism that comes from trying to make things work in the here and now. I want to feed off that energy and new ideas for a couple of days – and I am hoping that others would want to do the same.

I think we could use that event to illuminate some of the system shifts needed and take these back to our local systems with fresh energy and insight about how to build that future as a counter to the work that so many of us are doing right now which is trying to stop the current system crumbling away.  I think we could also use this time together to build a network of people operating in different contexts who could support, challenge and inspire each other.  Deeper system change needs us to build bridges and make connections between different parts of the system – this would be a chance to do this.

This is also infrastructure building – or an experiment in it – and is about moving system work beyond relying on good relationships and using these to get beyond the limitations of the status quo and into tangible actions and transactions that create sustained bridges between different parts of the system*.

I’d like to take away the immediate pressure of what is needed now and get a coherent picture of what could be.  Just for a moment.  I’m hoping we could work towards building the trust needed to believe that if you make a shift then other people will meet and catch the opportunity.

I’m calling it fantasy system with a nod both to fantasy football (pick your dream team!) but also the work of imagination architecture and social dreaming that Cassie Robinson led while she was with the National Lottery here.

I have been pitching the idea with the vague hope that someone would pick it up but I now realise two things;  one is I need to get off my arse and actually do it and the other is that to make it work it needs to be designed by the tribe not just delivered to them because the different future I am dreaming off has different forms of leadership and organising.

One weekend isn’t going to address this dilemma but I want to find a way to put aside the inherent tension between actors (with resources) who are vested in the old system and actors (who tend to be more resource constrained) trying to develop the new and create a space where we co produce those ideas.

I see this tension in the two context I operate in;  I am non-exec for a small (but mighty) NFP and we often get stuck in the collaborate / compete prisoners dilemma which is a result of a competitive market for the right to work on new ideas. Speaking from my perspective as a CEX in local government, while we have resources their use is so constrained as to make work to build something different almost impossible.

So here is the invitation; let’s get together and dream a bit.  If you are interested in helping organise / design the event or just want to participate let me know here and we can take if from there.  My step – following brilliant advice and a contributions from Anna Birney, Cassie Robinson and Rowan Conway is to develop a proper pitch document for the idea and see what others make of it when its more fully formed.

I am hoping this idea is both selfish and altruistic as the best ideas feed you as much as they feed anyone else.  If you feel the same then please do get in touch.

*My definition / boundaries of the system are public services (whether delivery by the state or someone else) /civil society (formal and informal civic groups) and ideally at the scale of a ‘real’ regional geography with a cultural identity.

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