We don’t acknowledge it but as a group we are dealing in ideas. Shared ideas such as ‘place’, ‘scale’, and ‘systems’. Ideas that capture the imagination of individual members of the group. Gentle commerce and the social sector. The difference between top down and bottom up thinking. The 21st Century Settlement. Self-reliance. Eternal ideas such as truth, community and trust.
Empirical learning -facts and figures- don’t generally endure, spread or seed innovation as much as ideas. We forget that preventable deaths of children across the world have halved in the last 15 years. The idea that innovation is contagious -fundamental to efforts to improve global child health- has everlasting utility.
Of course some ideas quickly perish. Choice protects -an idea underpinning government policy on children in need at the turn of the century- was practically still born. What kinds of idea shape the world?
It can be helpful to think in terms of weight. Some ideas are heavy. Poverty. Fundamental to human health and development but often too much for public systems, social sector organisations or foundations to pick up. Some ideas are feather light. Choice protects fits this description. It kept floating away, jumping from hand to hand, becoming all things to all people, never settling.
Ideas like place, scale, systems, gentle commerce, self-reliance and 21st Century settlement are the right weight. They are held by network members. They retain utility when they are passed on to others. They start as rough hewn stones. Over time they are polished into something beautiful. Something that others will want. (The polishing is hard work, and there is constant temptation to give up, to fudge).
Earlier network discussions showed how decisions were fundamental to the learning process. Being wrong (and learning from the error) depends on being decisive, setting out with some precision exactly what we intend to do next. We cannot set out to be wrong. But we can set out to decide.
Decisions are like ideas. Some are too light, floating away before their consequences can be assessed. Some, like deciding to end world poverty, are too heavy and impervious to change.