Monday, 9 May 2011
I give you ....... the Transition Institute
This week we launched the Transition Institute (TI) with our partners Nesta. We had a pre-launch dinner at the Hoxton Grill, in partnership with our friend Craig Dearden-Phillips, the night before and then the official launch at the wonderfully snazzy Nesta building 1 Plough Place on Thursday.
The dinner was exceptional. It was one of those where almost everyone who had been asked accepted probably because as Patrick Butler, Editor of Society, Health and Education Policy at the Guardian said, it read like a who's who of social commentators in this field, which is persumably why he agreed to chair. I kicked off by welcoming everyone and explaining a little about the TI, its vision and our journey up to the launch.
The TI is a platform to debate, reflect and produce research, guidelines and best practice in the field of public sector outsourcing. It will not deliver support but act as a commentator among those that do. It will be the place where decision makers such as local and health authorities go to find out how to outsource effectively in a way that will maximise social value. Those that are involved in the TI and subsequently get involved hold one thing to be true: we agree that public services can be delivered more effectively through independent provision but only when providers want to maximise social value above profit.
The journey to the launch has been quite a ride. Dom Potter, SEL's Head of Innovation, and I sat down and thought about what was needed to help those challenged with outsourcing to see the value in social enterprise and other associated models that gave more bang for the buck through increased social and human capital. We started to talk to those working in the field to find out what they thought.
The universal consensus was that something like the TI was timely. It, like the models it encourages, needed to be independent of Government but work closely with experts and advocates working hard in Government. It needed to avoid being dominated by any single model or existing body and views, it needed to break free of what we had heard so far and, finally, it must have the credibility of being an institute.
That was a killer – little did I know what it involved. Over the ensuing 10 months, I trudged down and then up Whitehall ending at No. 10 to lobby for our status. As I said to Nick Hurd, MP, who was an early adopter and very much in support of the idea, I felt like Tina Turner because when all about me were scrambling for access to funded programmes like hippos in a shrinking water hole, I was 'just' trying to set up the institute – I didn't want his money, just my name.
At the dinner we heard from people with plenty to add to the debate including Phillip Blond, Colin Noble, Nick Seddon, Peter Holbrook and Ben Lucas as well as my good friends Liam Black and Craig Dearden-Philips who ended the evening with some lovely launchy type sentiments.
I can't tell you what was discussed as it was conducted under Chatham House rules, but I will say this: it was fascinating.
The next morning, separated for me by five hours, we launched the TI to a packed house in Nesta. They did us proud with filming to enable a podcast that will be available any day now. The Guardian followed the whole thing live on its website through a Twitter feed, having featured an article by Jane Dudman on the TI the day before. I again opened by explaining what we were and what we hoped to do, thanking those who had helped this very co-operative affair and welcoming the input of any and all who would contribute along the way.
The panel included Andrew Burnell from City Health Care Partnership, Ali Parsa from Circle Patnership and Brendan O'Keefe from Kensington and Chelsea, who were all outstanding, which was reflected in the Twitter comments that linked what was going on inside the room to the world outside.
Thanks go to my fellow Twitterers like David Floyd of Social Spider, Nick Temple and Dan Gregory of this week's clever initiative the Popse (one to watch FYI) and so many others. In the end the conversation that extended round the globe attracted thousands of comments. In any event it is one hell of a start and if the level of interest is anything to go by, this might just be the game changer we had hoped for. Watch this space.