Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Right Royal Jelly

I had the good fortune to be invited to the first ‘Suffolk Jelly’ this week. It was organised by Suffolk Digital and hosted at the Eastern Enterprise Hub. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, so I thought that I would go along to find out. I am very glad that I did because I found it to be a very worthwhile event. In trying to describe the event, I think that it was set in two halves. In one half was an office space which those attending could use for the day. I think that was the idea covered in the report in the local press. However, for me, I didn’t find that format at all helpful – I have a number of offices already.
My interest was aroused and inspired by the second half of the offering – the soap box section. This was a room dedicated to the attendees who were encouraged to present on any subject they liked. Most presentations were made by people telling the audience what they did. It was a bit hit and miss as to whether the subject was of interest, but it was important for allowing the presenters a bit of live practice at making a pitch. Some presentations were a bit more speculative, told the audience what the presenter hoped to do and asked for comment and feedback. This worked really well and provided the sort of feedback that one rarely obtains. My offering for the day was a short piece on why futures matter (or, more correctly, why ‘business as usual’ is not an option). The Q&A turned into a conversation about business model flexibility and adaptability. The whole ethos of the day felt a bit like those ‘Skunk Works’ sessions that some of us attended in previous lives.
What I found most interesting about the day was the opportunity that it afforded to build creative capacity within Suffolk. There are currently a large number of creative agents based in the county, but without a node around which to coalesce. The Jelly format seems ideal for delivering this. For example, I saw presentations by Jamie Riddell (basically a trend spotter/ cool hunter), Andrew Walker (whose line is data analytics), and Steve Butterworth (whose cause of citizen journalism is all about picking the story out of masses of raw data). To my mind, there is scope for these three individual agents to work collaboratively to bring to market a combined offering that would be larger than what they could achieve on their own.
And that is the challenge of building a creative community. There is more to it than simply joining the creative hotspots. Those connections need to amount to something larger than the individual parts. The first Suffolk Jelly may not have achieved that because there remains a great deal to be done. However, it was a very valuable first step in the right direction.
Click Here for details of the Jelly.
Click Here for press coverage of the event.
© The European Futures Observatory 2011

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