What’s Happening #2, WeWork

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Life is not all sunshine and light for younger creative people who have chosen not to take the seemingly easier path of employment – ‘getting a job’ in an established organisation – often choosing a trade-off between becoming cogs in a larger machine, with its seeming security of work and pay, and a risky freedom to pursue their own dreams. Not to say many don’t find satisfaction in being part of a larger enterprise, understanding they are contributing their own part to a bigger vision. But change is afoot.

Education and a higher standard of living have created frustration with the industrial paradigm, where those with the capital have been able to call the shots and utilise the working masses for their own profit-making ends. Many educated younger people are wanting to follow their own aspirations. They want to make their own contribution, not someone else’s. They are  choosing a path that values quality over quantity, creativity over the mundane, responsibility over obligation, and trust over micro-management.

If Celine is representative of many individual younger creatives who are done with big companies, WeWork might be representative of how she finds community.

All over London old buildings are being refurbished to create collaborative workspaces for this new generation. But not just bland office space. To buy into a space one buys into a lifestyle and a cultural aesthetic. Hundreds of autonomous individuals or project groups live synergistically in a setting that maximises networking and collaboration. It’s an exciting place to get on with ‘doing your dreams’. No wonder the saying, ‘Thank God it’s Monday!’

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Our son, Nick, has just gone into business on his own. He rents a desk at WeWork London Fields for 300 pounds a month.

This is a large multi-story old building. On the ground floor there is Reception – the receptionist sits inside a renovated old Renault van. Book yourself in at the iPad nearby and the person you want gets a text message to say you are downstairs.

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The rest of the ground floor, separated from the WeWork reception, is a cavernous restaurant.

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It leads to outside seating. But also in the same space there are some ‘pop up’ stores, a wine shop (presumably to wine and dine clients) and a Podcast studio.

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The upper floors contain a number of different kinds of spaces for people to work and meet, and even soundproof booths for important phone calls. There is an open kitchen anyone can use. Free craft beer and good coffee are provided. Everything a Creative needs is provided – including super fast internet!

                                                                                                      

24/7 Building Access.               Global Network.                                Craft on Draft

                                                                                                    

Business-Class Printers.          Micro-Roasted Coffee.                      Office Supplies

                                                                                                     

Bike Storage                               Private Phone Booths.                      Mail & Package Handling

There are three full-time cleaners in the building and the management are always providing inspirational seminars, workshops and support.

Buying into WeWork puts Nick in touch with the WeWork network, whether he needs a logo designed, graphic work done, a film made or collaborators on a project. It also means he runs into other creatives as he goes about his work – sources of inspiration and possibilities.

I am told that WeWork are now the second largest property holders, after the government, in London. This represents a huge shift in the way work is being undertaken. It seems to confirm Frederic Laloux’s proposition that a new organisational paradigm – soulful organisation – is emerging.

What’s Happening #1

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Celine is having a mid-morning breakfast, a boiled egg and coffee, sitting at a narrow table outside a little coffee shop in North-East London. She is catching up on a few phone calls before heading off to work.

It is a beautiful day. I ask if she would mind me joining her, while son Nick and Sandy go inside to order coffees.

We get chatting. I can’t pick her accent, but discover later that she is French. She is a shoe designer for an Italian niche fashion shoe company. She is wearing one of her designs, Primury, white leather, crossing boundaries of formal and informal, typifying the aesthetic of this generation of younger entrepreneurs.

She has worked for one of the bigger shoe brands but her tone of voice tells me that she has disdain for them.  I suspect that, like many of this generation, her expectations of creativity and work have not been satisfied in that environment. Here she is, mid-morning and free to determine her own work schedule, while enjoying the aesthetic lifestyle that feeds her inner life.

She asks me about myself. She doesn’t understand the concept of chaplaincy. I explain that while chaplaincy has religious roots, for me it is about nurturing those inner qualities that are life-giving.

Our conversation turns to the topic of trust. Clearly she has experienced a breach of trust  from the shoe company she used to work for. She tells me that she was brought up Catholic, but has rejected the Church with its instillment of guilt and fear.

I think she typifies the movement of younger generations, not only away from the church but from the world of institutional work. I am excited to find this move toward spiritual freedom.  There is a spontaneous valuing of the spiritual for its own sake, but without conscious calculation, free from the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ that institutions are good at instilling, yet responsible and seemingly open to others.

She is interested in the themes of my new book and makes a note of its title. I am interested in looking at her work. It’s the kind of interchange that also seems to characterise this dynamic new paradigm.

Sad Little Circles

Today I got wind of what I think is a very sad story. I see it akin to one of those Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse stories. Sad because it is a story of ignorance and control in a church where one would expect enlightenment and grace.

I recall a conversation I had with my Rabbi friend some years ago. She had volunteered to be part of a multi-faith team invited to a regional city as part of Project Abraham. This was an ecumenical initiative to encourage respect between Jews, Christians and Muslims, seeking to promote inter-religious understanding and respect following the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City – remembered as 9/11.

We were having a coffee together the week after she returned from this visit. She told me how amazed she was that the young people they engaged with in schools were totally ignorant of the Bible. They appeared never to have heard about Noah or Moses; and Jesus was simply a swear word. She is American. So I suppose I was not totally surprised at how stunned she was that Australia, having its roots in a Christian past, had been so careless in its disregard for the sources of its moral heritage.

The problem we have, illustrated in the story I am about to share, is not that we have lost religion. It is that where we have religion, it is often uninformed. It is no wonder that young firebrands declare themselves qualified to be leaders, whether they be upstart, untrained Muslim clerics or so-called Christian (Youth) pastors who seem to claim they have all the answers. It has ever been so. But, as we are beginning to discover, our modern society ignores its ramifications at its peril – and at huge cost.

Here is a largish Uniting Church whose youth leaders have signed a covenant. It commits them to uphold a narrow view, including a rejection of homosexuality. And it claims to be ‘biblical’!

In days gone by, my first response would be to demonstrate that any number of the propositions put forward in the ‘covenant’ are actually ‘unbiblical’, particularly when lined up against the values displayed by Jesus and by his emphasis on love of God and neighbour, and his passion for inclusion of the marginalised.

But I now think there is a more fundamental dynamic at play.

I am informed by the missiologist, Paul Hiebert, who wrote a paper on a thorny issue facing Christian missionaries. Could an uneducated peasant, who couldn’t read the Bible or pass a catechism test, ever become a Christian? Reaching to a missiologist might seem a far stretch, but bear with me.

In my soon to be launched book on Radical Hospitality, I quote large sections of Hiebert’s paper as an appendix to make some points about exclusion and inclusion. Ironically, inclusion-exclusion is exactly what is at the heart of this ‘covenant’ approach. Culturally control and protecting religious purity are attained in one hit. It is classic Phariseism.

The untidy scribble below, an outcome of a coffee discussion with friends about organisational management, draws on Hiebert’s set theory modelling, applied to a discussion about ‘New Wave’ organisation.

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The circle on the left, with its list of ‘rules’, represents the ‘covenant’ approach, whether it be churches or other institutional or business regulations.  To enter the circle, there is a recruitment process and then an agreement to the demands of the culture inside the circle. You are either in or out. And if you break the rules inside, you are thrown out. The line of the circle and the rigid demands it protects keeps those who won’t play the inside game, out; and those who submit to them, in.

BTW, this was never the picture I get of Jesus as one reads the Gospels.

The mess on the right of the scribble represents an alternative model. Obviously we had quite a conversation about it! There is a centre. Our belonging in an organisation depends on our direction with respect to the centre. The nature of the centre itself is not necessarily settled. The centre itself is also dynamic, itself moving in a direction determined by the centre’s vision and values, carrying along those who belong by their relational connection to the centre.

Enlightened organisations support this second ‘centred’ model. It is a model that builds responsibility and releases freedom for creativity. It is risky (Jesus called this ‘faith’). Commitment to the vision and values of the centre relativises ‘rules’. ‘Purity’ becomes irrelevant. Change is inherent. Re-evaluation, both about the centre itself and its vision and values, is continuous.

Those who, for whatever reason, join the inside group in the closed circle will one day feel de-personalised. It is a sad outcome that their own spirit will become a spirit of conformity. Their human potential is captured in a bubble that is not interested in what lies outside its own interest. It is ultimately selfish.

Those who take the experimental risk of commitment to a vision and values centre that is moving into the unknown will know they are alive!

What a pity any institutional church with an intent on religious purity, or any business intent on protecting its brand, promotes an ‘in-out’ protectionist consciousness. Coping with present realities of pluralism for social inclusion becomes near impossible.

Perhaps the most exciting thing for me that came out of our coffee conversation was the suggestion: what if there are multiple centres heading in the same direction? I think that is worth further conversation.

 

Book Taking Off!

What a fascinating process, this business of writing a book. Certainly takes one out of circulation while you are working to a deadline.

I have the opportunity of a launch at the Conference of European University Chaplains in Dublin at the beginning of June. That meant a launch in Adelaide before Sandy and I head off. So this launch will be at the Duke of Brunswick Hotel, Gilbert St, City at 3 for 3.30 on the afternoon of Saturday May 26.

Front Cover copy

Anyway, today we finished a fairly intense month or so as we head for the finish line. I’m celebrating it being off to the printer so that the process of making it available globally through on-line booksellers can begin.

You can order a print copy here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/geoff-boyce/radical-hospitality-space-for-human-flourishing-in-a-complex-world/paperback/product-23630504.html

An eBook will soon follow.

Many thanks to the many who have encouraged, cajoled, proofread, made suggestions…and particular to my editor Paul Foord for the layout and negotiating all the technicalities of getting to print; and my son Nick for laying out the covers.

The surprising thing for me has been that throwing myself into burning the candle at both ends to get there has actually been invigorating, smashing my image of retirement as a gentler period of life. Not that the ability to find the right word for the elusive thought is anything but a slow Thesaurus operation! Or it is not a fight to keep at bay  the temptation of sleeping every afternoon!

But this morning I pressed the final button for Lulu.com to go to print.

Yeah!

I hope you enjoy it!

The Impact of a Dream

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My friend Robert Muller sent a link to The Now Tribe, which I pass on. It shows what can be done when a couple of social entrepreneurs put their mind to achieving a dream – 230,000 jobs created over ten years, impacting a million people in rural India.

http://www.womenonwings.com/2017/09/the-impact-of-a-dream-230000-jobs-for-rural-women/

Women on Wings’ founders Ellen Tacoma and Maria van der Heijden built a network of likeminded business professionals in the Netherlands and India that work consistently on realizing the dream of creating one million jobs for women in rural India.

230,000 families out of poverty
In ten years, Women on Wings has co-created 230,000 extra jobs for women in rural India, in partnership with 35 Indian social enterprises. That means for 230,000 families an escape from the cycle of poverty – directly impacting over one million people in rural India.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, banker to the poor and founder of Grameen Bank, is the key ambassador of social business. Yunus aims to build an eco-system to support the growth of these new kinds of businesses. Yunus’ belief: “We need to transform this greed based civilization into one based on real human values. We can do it, if only we want to.”

For me, this achievement demonstrates the success of a new way of doing things that matter for humanity, congruent with Frederik Laloux’s emerging fifth paradigm of organisation.

The challenge for churches, corporates and governments is to adapt to empower such new ways of thinking and going about their roles for the the good of humanity.

For the churches this will mean not just accepting religious and cultural pluralism in principle, but to boldly cross sectarian lines to network and work together across historically deeply divisive lines of exclusion, for the benefit of all.

 

Corporate Hospitality

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Have you ever been invited to a meeting and when you arrive it seems that everyone else knows each other, but you?

Picture senior management sitting around a big long table in silence, waiting for a meeting to begin. You get to sit at the far end of the table.

You start up a conversation with the person alongside. You find out what she does and why she is at the meeting, but that’s about all.

There is some finger food on a side table and we are invited to help ourselves. We are killing a bit of time before the exact time for starting the meeting. There are small bottles of water on the table and some mints in little bowls.

There seems to be complete social dislocation, as only individuals go to the side table one at a time and return with some food to their seat at the long table.

The time to start arrives, but the person to chair the meeting and the top boss haven’t arrived. So we begin a process of going around the table introducing ourselves. It comes around to me eventually, and I have nearly finished my introduction when the boss and his entourage walk in with apologies for their busyness. The process of introductions immediately shuts down as they take over.

The meeting is about a large commercial development with strong social and cultural aspects. These are the stakeholders and heads of various planning departments. The meeting provides an opportunity for the stakeholders to hear how the overall project is progressing.

I don’t get to go to meetings at this level very often and I am grateful for the invitation – offered on the basis of my interest in providing appropriate space to create a culture of positive intercultural and interfaith hospitality, particularly visitors to Adelaide.

I began to reflect on my experience of this meeting  when my daughter Aly and I had a conversation the following evening about a wonderful evening she had, coinciding in time with the meeting I just described.

Her husband, Tim, had written a jingle for Friends of the ABC a few years back: ‘Save the ABC!’ She and Tim had been invited to an ABC dinner, and Tim invited to play a couple of his songs and lead everyone in singing the jingle.

But what blew Aly and Tim away was the culture of genuine hospitality among the gathering.

‘Someone would come over, introduce themselves and after some exchange, say ‘O you must meet so and so! And then escort her over and introduce her to someone else – and so on!’

I must admit that I would have been happy just to sit next to Max Gillies, as Aly did, once the dinner started! (Max Gillies became famous for his Bob Hawke impersonations).

Good luck with commercial ventures that want human connections, if the strategists do not even know how to welcome a stranger to their meetings!

As Ghandi advised: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’!

The Friday Post

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Sydney bus sign –
If you think violence against women is a big problem, tackle it when it’s little.

Idea of the week –
Project Auction

Projects are pitched in front of invited philanthropists and corporate representatives, who then bid on projects they want to support. Relationships are developed between the entrepreneurs and their benefactors.

Thought I’m pondering –
The god of religion is too small.

‘NOW’ New Years Party – 
I’m looking to support someone who would like to set up a date and venue for a BYO ‘New Years Party’ to enable the Now Tribe, and others on the same page, to make face-to-face connections and celebrate the opportunities of 2018.

Great Moment of the week – 
Paul Kelly and Co at the Sydney Opera House on ABC TV.