Thanks - but no thanks

The Office of the Third Sector (OTS) are still to announce their preferred partner for the delivery of the Innovation Exchange. But unfortunately it's not going to be us . .

John Craig has indicated to me that they were looking for a partner that already knew what needed to be done and had specific actions to make it happen. It could be argued that this reflects more traditional thinking ie "we know how innovation works, this is what needs to be done and this is how we are going to do it."

I also think that they had problems with our approach to the web presence for the Innovation Exchange and would have preferred more complete designs to be presented. This was exactly what Ben Whitnall of Delib thought would happen. In the video after the interview he said “We weren’t about trying to build a proprietary, monolithic new system to bring everyone to us, we just wanted to leverage what was out there already. Unfortunately, I don’t think that makes for a very sexy pitch . . .”

Obviously, I am really disappointed with this decision but have to say that I am not surprised. There was a ‘lack of chemistry’ during our interview. Jane Berry said afterwards “I don’t think they want innovation [in the delivery of the Innovation Exchange], they just want somewhere to put it”.

At the end of the day we didn't want to do what they wanted and the customer is always right!

Personally, I'll stick by our belief that the network approach is the right one and with Web 2.0, we have the tools to do it properly for the first time.

Anyway, we wish the winning consortium the very best in the delivery of the IE and will help in anyway we can to make it a success. And in any case, we will be keeping an eye on progress. I understand there will be an announcement at the end of the week.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Open Innovation Exchange. I am very proud to have been part of the team that made it happen. I'd also like to thank John Craig who has been very positive about the process we used.

Watch out for the New Statesman Awards, we are still in with a chance there. The NS tell me that the shortlist will be announced on 3 July. The details of our nomination is here.

John Craig's email follows:

From: <John.Craig> Monday, June 18, 2007 15:07:19
Subject: Innovation Exchange - response to your bid
To: Simon Berry


I am writing to say that we will not be awarding you the contract to run the Innovation Exchange. I am very sorry to disappoint you in this way, particularly given the trouble you and your many colleagues have gone to in putting together such a high quality and imaginative bid. All members of the panel were extremely impressed by the quality of all of the 21 bids we received, and particularly by the four groups of people we met at interview.

On behalf of the Office of the Third Sector, I want to thank you for taking the time to bid and for putting so much thought and creativity into your tender. We were genuinely impressed by the open approach you took to putting the bid together, by the expertise of the broad coalition you were able to build and the enthusiasm you showed for this work. I have been fascinated to see how your open source approach to this tender has developed – I have certainly learnt a great deal from your contribution to this process and I believe that the Office of the Third Sector has too. I hope that you will stay in touch with the progress of the Innovation Exchange and with the broader development of OTS’s work on innovation.

Allow me also to thank you, David and the rest of the team for the charm and generosity with which you have conducted yourselves during this process. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you better.

Best wishes,

John Craig

Head of Innovation
Office of the Third Sector | Cabinet Office2nd Floor, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ
Cabinet Office switchboard: 020 7276 1234


Oh, we wanted something like the old one...

We all know that government and innovative thinking are mutually exclusive. Lets face it, this collaboration has broken new ground and is taking Web2 concepts to the next level. We now have a model to work from for the next project...

Five things I've found through this

Well, chin up all, there you go, etc.

Here are five things that I have found by participating in this experimental collaboration:

1. Contrary to popular business thinking, Knowledge doesn't exist only in one organisation defined by corporate and financial creations; it can be found and harnessed through a distributed bunch. I know this isn't a new statement and the pioneers of 'Knowledge' have been referring to this for ages, but...

All of the people who took part here brought their interests and expertise to the party, making it a very strong case study of how to source people based on their expertise. I last experienced something like this working with the Knowledgeboard content and events teams; we *shared* the onus of work transparently between a distributed team, and produced great events, free books, free journal papers and more. This happened on this project, but more amazingly - most of us hadn't met.

2. Working with friends, and their friends is a growing experience. You have to trust the network, in the present (work sharing) and the future (job and money sharing). There is no organisation map to fall back on, no sales team, no management, none of your standard rationale. As well as trust, it is being part of something exceptionally positve - you know that everyone onboard is sharing this experience and working together to create something that doesn't have a defined corporate goal.

3. I can only imagine that our fellow bidders (whoever they are) have taken the opportunity (if they knew about us) to read our work, share our learnings (albeit with themselves) and benefit from it.

This is kind of weird, because we didn't get the gig, but we shared our brains on instinct. Therefore their bids will be stronger. It's like giving people something openly with no expectation of return. You can be bitter about this or take it on the chin, and understand that in a competitive environment, your impulse to share may not be shared, indeed, it may be taken for others' benefit. Well, there you go. Maybe more people will share in the future. Maybe we showed that you can share and still compete. Now this may sound like some tree-hugging sandal wearing hippy nonsense, but please keep me in that camp every day: Be The Change, I say.

Ooh; a thought - why don't we analyse our web statistics and see who has been looking at the site? We have referrer logs. Maybe we will recognise some of our co-competitors' domain names?

4. I have found others who agree that you can't prescribe fixed technical platforms in emergent community environments. I have shared other people's papers with them and our knowledge of this has grown. Even though this idea looks like it made the decision-makers a little queasy, I think that we are all one step further on the path of making web communities a better place. You can't genuinely say that what you think is a good platform now will be just as good in two year's time; there are too many unknowns; you are only saying it if you can't say any different. Prescribing fixed platforms will only continue to need to have a facilitator to chivvy and motivate among other things.

5. I have found others who agree in the whole 'multi-domain' knowledge development through community building built on trust in both physical and virtual domains thing. Last December, Dan and I presented this idea based on experiences with KnowledgeBoard and, apart from a few notable others, felt a little alone in this theory. Now I know others feel this way too and think we're onto something.

Here's an obvious lesson: surround yourself with positivity, constructive criticism, open-ness and people who inspire you and help you to think that you can achieve things. Happiness is the path and not the destination.

OK so we don't have a big government contract to handle, but take it, handle it, move on, learn, grow, etc.

6. And there was one more thing. I'm going to join Simon and others on a stage or two of his ridiculously tough bicycle ride.

7. And another thing - I am already working on other projects with some of my fellow innovation exchangers...

8. And another thing... (not really!)

Too innovative for words


I hope that those who have been heavily involved got something useful out of the experience. It certainly seems worthwhile to have raised this way of working in voluntary sector support.

I've been playing with something which may connect but as its still too unformed to be let loose here I'll contact by email first.

Moral victories...

not as good as winning, are they?

What's next

Ask Richard Branson to suggest how we might develop this idea outside of the box.

I am currently bidding for innovation funding for a small project designed to get local organisations, authorities working together in Information Service delivery.  You started all this - we can't stop now.


Bid news


What a disappointment after all the superb innovation that went into the bid. One suspects that ( as always in these instances with government ) they will likely play safe. 

Did I hear the Young Foundation were part of the last 4 and was Geoff Mulgan anything there ? There will probably be a web of contacts that can sort you out the eventual winner.....and it may be connected to previous Cabinet Office experience

However the joy is in the taking part and now we have the means to build on the idea, onwards and upwards....

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