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Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Farc, Art, and Kafka

Today starts out with a morning gallop through the possibilities for Foyer accreditation with Dr Shelley Mallett, who already feels like a kindred spirit - someone who  shares my ‘accreditation is the death of ideas’ philosophy with the determination to do something more radical.  I think we have the makings of an innovative plot. It’s a windy day in Melbourne, so our thoughts are blowing through the air along with the local's 'flat white'.  One thing I’ve learned is that not investing in writing things up in the UK has limited how learning has been transferred into contexts like Australia. We really must take care with Open Talent to get the record straight at the beginning.  Another job for the long flight home.

For some reason, we end up talking about crockery – as you do – and I suddenly see a vision of a Greek smashing plates party, with all the plates decorated with the language of ‘disadvantaged thinking’. Our next staff party?  I want to watch ‘NEETS’ splinter into pieces, followed by ‘homeless sector’, followed by Centrepoint adverts, followed by… I better stop there.

Then it was the Hanover AGM, where we were serenaded by a young person resident who is going to be a contestant on Australia’s Got Talent. It’s a shame he missed my speech – he gave a lovely description of the ‘talent’ inside us all, before a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace.  I did my best to follow.  I’m not a big fan of doing the same speech more than once, but it does have its luxuries, and third time round you can enjoy watching the audience react. A member of the board offers a thoughtful response on developing new approaches to the induction into adulthood, and someone asks me ‘which glass I’m drinking out of’ after the positive/negative water story.

However, it’s what follows which matters most to me today: the story of the incredible works of art hung in the space outside the conference room. These were painted by an artist who used to frequent one of the early Hanover projects, capturing the faces and personalities of its users with an honesty and dignity that is completely Open Talent. After a speech mocking the stereotyping of disadvantaged  thinking, this was the best illustration of what an advantaged approach is all about: putting the humanity of the people into the spotlight. I only wish I could take the pictures back with me, beyond the memory imprinted on my heart.

I love the values of Hanover housing: imagination, courage, fun. You can see all those things in the CEO Tony Keenan, and his bubbly staff team.  It feels like a family you want to belong to, just like YFoundations and the SYFS.  I have never enjoyed a report back from a finance, audit and risk committee so much after Tony’s witty intro to the acronym ‘farc’.

After the AGM lunch, I head off with Shelley for a meeting in the Kafkaesque building of the Department of Human Services, which, like the Starship Enterprise, has its own sickbay and a board room with a table big enough for a crazy golf course.   In this strange abode we meet up with architects and the housing and community building division to discuss the design concepts for the first of 3 new Foyers being built in Melbourne / Victoria. It’s a great opportunity to ensure that the key principles of innovative Foyer design are expressed, so I make sure that a focus on community, on flexibility, visibility, integration and interaction, are all emphasised.  It’s a good debate, and after a follow up session back at the architects, (if you are reading this Toby, they have a lovely round table), I’m impressed by everyone’s commitment to get it right – even if the timescale to do so is pressing.  I think it’s going to work.

My day is rounded up with a fascinating meal with the CEO of the Girl Guides and a trustee of a family trust, who kindly invited me out after the Open Talent speech.  It’s a conversation about changing the world through the right investments, connecting the passions of people who are trying to shift the story into a different paradigm. I end up with a guided tour round Melbourne, and begin to realise how much more there is to the city than the view from my hotel.  The horizon of the world opens up through other people’s insights.    Thank you Norman and Wendy.  Catherine Zeta Jones may not have turned up at the restaurant, but you were the biggest celebs in the backyard of your town.
I go to bed feeling a little like K. I wonder what I'll wake up as?  Hopefully, not Maslow...

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