- Matt’s views from conversation on groups.io https://bipnetwork.groups.io/g/CoreTeam/topic/the_importance_of/100123647
Over the course of the last two years, this issue has been on my mind, albeit without being fully defined. We deliberately avoided formalising our approach too early, finding it beneficial to adapt as we progressed. However, since January, we have encountered some growing pains that prompted reflection. While we hired additional resources, we also experienced a few shortcomings (refer to the above). These failures have led me to deeply contemplate our work, and the following content reflects my thoughts. Could you please find the time to read and reflect upon it.
As I wrote this, I realised that instead of rigid structures, we are discovering ways to describe the organic flow of our work.
The safety net (and the minimum start point)
If someone is unsure about: who to include, what to communicate, when to communicate, how to communicate. To reassure ourselves, this is exactly where we started, but what we haven’t done it make this a mandatory requirement of working - or clarified the purpose of the weekly meetings. However, the importance of the weekly meetings has proven to be critical.
- Core Team groups.io & share early
- Weekly ops meetings - Thursday 9am
When you think you’re sure, but you should be unsure :-) How do you know?
- I’d suggest if you are working in isolation or working with a relatively fixed small group AND haven’t had a wider core group alignment conversation for, say, over 1 month?
When action has to happen quicker than this safety net can cope with then a manual fix has to be created. This might be due to needing to talk about something, but not managing to attend a meeting, or post on groups.io, or it having to be developed before the next meeting can happen and/or quicker than people can respond via groups.io. The manual fix will normally be to have individual conversations with people within the core team as well as posting onto groups.io as a record.
Do you think this would be a failsafe mechanism to catch any actions that might be diverting too far off?
A core way of working in Belong in Plymouth is to be emergent. So we are often working where the development of new relationships and exploring new possibilities feels like the right thing to be doing but nothing and no defined benefit or action has yet been developed. In this situation it is unlikely that there is a defined subgroup to be developing the work with and it could be that there’s a lot of quite disparate relationships that are being tied together. It might also require various tests or ‘probes’ just to run small scale experiments to ‘feel’ the way through.
I think this stage, more than most, is characterised by a lot of uncertainty - as is the stage that the whole Belong in Plymouth programme is probably still in - as a majority state.
Neighbourhood work. Initiated through the as-one conversation and the first Social Isolation Conference, since then a number of small scale conversations have been held. First Joseph Rathiman, the People’s Assembly held in Stonehouse and training in Stoke. There is still no clear path through what this work could look like, but there is a strong sense it is important (and supported by much of the insight from the community conversations).
Capacity building work. We have a strong sense the skill base and experience of the VCSE would benefit from additional development, but as above we’re not sure how.
Who to involve: anyone that could be interested. Try to be random! How: Exploratory questions that open up possibility. What if, How might we. Exploration of the motivation and problem trying to be resolved. Small group conversations to get a sense of what it means to other people. Through very short term, one off experiments. It’s probably important to note that coming with an answer, or needing an answer is not the best place to be at this stage.
When: This is normally quite slow and conversations develop at the natural pace of organically listening and developing ideas. This work may not need to give major updates, but perhaps summaries on groups.io would be helpful?How to define the resource requirement: Everyone’s time needs to be covered. This will normally be through people giving their time in kind to explore a mutually beneficial subject. If any Belong in Plymouth resource is needed, this should be relatively small scale and should be agreed by the Core Team.
How do you know when a piece of exploratory work is going to turn into a longer running peace of specific action? How do you know when steady state work needs some exploratory work?
As conversations develop through exploring possibilities, it will hopefully catalyse a ‘coming together’ where a number of motivations are aligned. Or where a steady state piece of work experiences disruption through feedback or changes in the operating environment, it might prompt the need for re-entering the ‘we don’t know’, exploratory state.As a piece of exploratory work starts to turn into something more tangible and actionable then this is the point at which to start setting up a subgroup. The aim along the way during the exploratory phase is to bring along a group of people who might well form the first small group to start the subgroup.
Community Research - review. Through the delivery of community research which had been relatively steady state, there was a significant sense coming from listening to the recorded conversations that something needed to change. There seemed to be two broad options that needed to be explored.
Young peoples work. This has been an exploratory conversation for a while and now it is turning into a more tangible piece of work.
Who to involve: the people so far involved in the conversation. Anyone else impacted by the work in the Core Team. There needs to be a clear lead person for the work. How: This will require a number of conversations to shape the work into something achieveable.
When: Initially at the weekly meetings then at the next bi-monthly meeting? OR at a specific meeting called to discuss?How to define the resource requirement:
- Main contact: there will need to be a regular connection into the existing meetings structure - weekly operational meetings, bimonthly get togethers and quarterly sprint reviews. This is to help the programme keep coherence and to ensure good communication.
- Link to the mission: How will the work help Plymouth become a city where no one feels forgotten?
- Link to the values: How does this work acknowledge power, collaboration and working in a system i.e. how does it go beyond individual organisations?
- Start point & plan: What is the start point? And what is the next step? If you had a plan, what would it be?
- What has to stop: Is there any work that has to stop as a result of the resources required by this work.
- Longevity: What is the length of committed funding needed and why?
When work is relatively well established then it becomes more systematised and steady state. The resource requirements are more predictable. So far not much in the programme has reached this state!
Community research. For a reasonable length of time the scheduling and delivery of community research was quite regular.
Who to involve: the subgroup attached to the piece of work. The Core Team for regular updates.How: Regular updates.
When: Probably not needed until the bi-monthlys or sprint reviews. How to define the resource requirement: Should be in the fully committed element of the budget - if it requires anything at all.
Merging & weaving
I’m not sure this is a ‘thing’ or whether this fits into Transitions, but sometimes there might be a need to bring two different conversations together. This has come from observing the path the ED work has taken. Reflecting on the challenge of this stage it’s likely to be the different pace of work between an established group and the much slower exploratory stage.
Initially the ED work started with a group of people (back in August 2022) looking at first gathering conversations with people directly through the GPs, in order to then run a process of co-design. Through learning and adaptation, the focus shifted into a neighbourhood - Barne Barton & St Budeaux. Via a helpful opportunity to sit in on another meeting, we realised another process of relationship building was needed. This in effect pushed the work back into an exploratory phase, but at the same time there is an established group that also needs to be honoured. It feels like a weaving, merging, bridging is needed to bring the two conversations together.
Who to involve: Feels like a combination of steady state and exploring possibilities, probably managing these two conversations separately for a while. Finding ways to gradually introduce the separate groups together. How: Regular updates to each group and the Core Team.
When: Weekly ops meetings. How to define the resource requirement: This will be a combination of exploring possibilities and steady state?
Creating good endings - adding work to the compost heap
As we get further into the program we will have an ever-increasing cost associated with the work. This is because as we explore these emerging pathways of work they tend to cost the program additional money. I don’t know we’ll need to think about this, but I suspect we will.
Is this what we are discovering?
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Our working rhythm
- Weekly meetings
- Primarily to align work that is progressing in the present - alignment around past, present and future.
- It can be a developmental conversation, redirecting attention and efforts to where the conversation takes us.
- For subgroup/project leads.
- Programme updates & alignment
- An opportunity for those in the exploratory phases to share emerging conversations
- An opportunity for those in the subgroups to connect into the programme.
- Exploring ‘Fact’, ‘Feelings’, ‘Findings’ and ‘Future’ focused questions to bring reflections on the previous 3 months of working.
The budget is our joint budget. It happens to sit in the POP bank account and POP is taking responsibility for managing the funds, but the funds are there to deliver our shared goal to build Plymouth into a city where no one feels forgotten.
- Throughout everything you do, you should be roughly aware of how much funding it is taking to do it.
- Some basic information:
- Up to £250 - anyone can incur a cost up to £250 without asking permission.
- Up to £500 - needs to be checked via Matt
- Over £500 - needs to go through a conversation with those impacted by any decision & Matt.
- Pay rates - £21/£42/£60 per hour. We can’t really afford £60, so I’m tempted to remove.
- Depending on the amount of funding needed, any decision will directly impact everyone involved in the programme - because when funding is allocated to one activity, it cannot then cover another activity.
Posting to groups.io (starter for ten)
Formatting & language
- Use https://chat.openai.com/ to make it easier to read.
- If it’s a long post, use headings to break up the text
Prefaces to any subject in the message heading
- URGENT - whatever this is, it cannot wait until the next weekly meeting.
- INFORMATION - for information, please note this for future reference and discussion.
- DISCUSSION/CONSULT - input and views are required. It is an exploratory conversation that is trying to define the issue.
- ADVICE NEEDED - seeking opinion and advice on a specific question.
- DECISION - as a result of discussions and advice, a decision is now needed.
- INVITATION - you are inviting people to be part of something.
Content - must have:
- Who does this affect - I suggest that if you unsure about this, you slow the work and find out.
- 2 sentence summary of what you are asking, inviting, discussing about.
- What has gone before, links to previous groups.io post or a summary of historic conversations.
Content - choose from below.
- Links to other work - links or summary to other work.
- Link to the mission. - how is the topic connected to the mission?
- Link to the values - how is the way of working reflecting our values and overall ways of working - need to continue to develop this: CoreTeam@BiPNetwork.groups.io | Onboarding into BiP - Conversation Starter
- What has to stop - if you are asking for resources, or requesting to shift your own focus, what has to stop or not happen?
- Longevity - if it is a decision, how long will the decision last?
- Finances - Belong in Plymouth finances
- Projects & subgroups - https://airtable.com/shrLUqW13JRcEleiK
- Current tasks underway - https://airtable.com/shr0jyYMH79RjQC7K
- Check groups.io for any up to date discussions - use the free text search to find what you are looking for.
Who to be involving and speaking to
- I think we need to be using https://airtable.com/shrtGlZQvarlzM3qp to identify who should be being involved.