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Transcript - Exploring Open Working & the Benefits for Non-Profits with Libby & Sharen (Episode 7)


Libby: You’re listening to constellations - the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the unitararies of Thurrock and Southend.

Today we're talking about working in the open. We'll delve into exactly what open working is. Give examples of it being used and then chat about the benefits of us all working in the open. Let's get stuck in.

So cards on the table - I sprung this episode on Sharon. I wanted to give the ability for you guys to learn alongside us on this topic. It's one that I've been researching a lot since I had the idea of starting Constellations. And I just love the idea of it.

So, Sharon, have you got any ideas? What open working actually is?

Sharen: You've put me on the spot here... I can tell you what springs to mind.

Libby: Yeah. Go for it!

Sharen: It's me sitting in the field. Working.

Libby: That sounds amazing. So it's not quite that.

Sharen: Didn't think so.

Libby: Open working essentially is transparency and collaboration, its putting resources and helping each other out, building each other up and connecting different ideas together. I genuinely feel like open working is sort of the embodiment of what I was searching for and trying to grapple with when I was thinking about constellations. So non profits, communities causes charities. I feel like we all need to band together to be the best that we can be. And thriving communities need the connection of services organizations and just everybody working together alongside each other. If we share what's working and what's not working, what we're learning, and then we can avoid mistakes and make change not just quicker, but better. Does that make sense?

Sharen: Yeah, So it's about collaboration. Really?

Libby: Yeah, sharing everything that's going on. So instead of sort of keeping a new project under your hat, sort of telling people about it whilst you were working on it. So if, for instance, you're working on the community, our group, you tell people and they go, Oh, we've got someone who's really interesting doing community are they could get involved from the beginning rather than when you've already launched it.

Sharen: Yes.

Libby: Yeah, that's sort of the simple way of putting it.

Sharen: I guess the biggest fear would be for people thinking that somebody else would take the idea and run with it. I guess that's what stops people doing it.

Libby: So I know a lot of the time. They're worried that if you are open and you share your work with others, you might get copied or people would sneak off with your fabulous learnings and ideas. But I think open working is about making sure that work isn't duplicated.

So even on an organisational level. If you have different teams of people in one building who are working on different things but might not be working openly with each other, it means that they can't even tell the people that they're working with their audiences about what else is going on in that building, which is just ridiculous really. So yes, such a shame. So open working within the organisation can help organisations probably come together and just the energy and knowledge of everyone. Everyone knows what everybody else is working on. It keeps the mind of communication open, and there's no Oh, I have no idea You were working on this thing to like, we've been working on this for a five months to, and if we've known, we could have done all of this work within three months instead of what we've been doing separately. But doing the same thing so. Yeah, two different organisations can partner together and work in unison. Or they can refer to each other and change the goalposts a little to accommodate the different ideas that they might have. So again going back to having an art group. You could have someone is working on our mental health and somebody that's going at it in terms of a career change for somebody or something. Just slightly different, but working in unison.

Sharen: Mmm. So it's - how do you connect those people?

Libby: Yes. Well, I think I think social media would be probably the best way to connect different people. But there is an organisation that I'll talk about in a minute.


Libby: Yeah. So I researched a couple of different examples of open working. Have you heard of the charity “Just like us”?

Sharen: No.

Libby: No. So they are an amazing national charity that works with schools to improve the lives of LGBT+ young people. They support inclusivity in schools, and they've got a voluntary ambassadors who go into different schools and just talk about their own personal journeys growing up LGBT+ and through open working, they provided the prototype for their online resource database, including training solutions for educators who are delivering that curriculum. So they have shared all of these resources there freely available on their website. But they've also shown how they went about producing resources, which is really cool. So nerdy.


Libby: So the resources that are available are really awesome. I'll be here for ages if I just all of them. But some of the ones that I can see being really useful in the sector in Southend and in Thurrock are the prototyping, worksheet and educator research synthesis both of those things sound really complicated, but I promise they're not. They're really clearly laid out, and they've got lots of concise evidence, and they're just really awesome.

There's lots of other brilliant charities who are working in the open. So there's one called Music Musica, and they've got an learning platform for disadvantaged families with Early Years Children and London Arts in Health Forum, who've got space structured forum by members to support one another's digital practice called the Digital Sandpit, which is just a fabulous name, um, Children music therapy, who prototype a digital solution supporting digital music therapy profession to find your people. And there's so many more.

If you're interested in finding out more of them, then check out the Assets and Resources page on Catalysts website and we will, of course, all of those in the show notes for the episode.

Reading all of those out. I'm thinking every single one of these things is digital, really. Or at least we have, like a digital feel to it. So I suppose part of the open working is having a website that's accessible to people or social media presence so that people can come to you and see what you're doing. But I think it's also putting out there on things like social media and saying, This is the thing that we're working on. We'd love to collaborate.

Sharen: Yeah, anyone

Libby: That wants to join in - please do! But yeah, I think it's just such a fantastic idea.

So I feel like I've already touched on some of the benefits, but I'm gonna go in a little bit more open working builds trust. So the people that you work with, whether that's businesses, are the non profits, governmental organisation, staffs, volunteers, anyone, they know exactly what you're doing, what you're doing it and how you're doing it people who feel like they've got something to give and support. You will be able to approach you in a more timely manner because it's super frustrating. Like I said earlier, to make the right contacts when the best time for making those contracts has already been gone, future staff and supporters can be attracted by learning more about what you've got going on and think I'd really love to get involved with that again before it starts to happen. So you might already have a fabulous team of people lined up for that project and you'll be able to attract others who might want to collaborate with you as well.

As I'm sure you all know we're big connecting and building a stronger network and south. And so this is all a big plus for us.

Sharen: You almost need, like a symbol, isn't there? Yes, that would be for companies. And then you just know where they're up with it.

Libby: Yeah, that would be really if you could get that going into That would be amazing. I think it's one of those things. Like you said, lots of people are gonna think, Yeah, it sounds good if people aren't going to steal my ideas but trying to persuade people like, you know, we're in the nonprofit sector. We want to help people. That's not that's not what we do,

Sharen: But yeah, just making that clear, isn't it? And making people like you say, I understand.

Libby: Yeah, One of the things when I've been doing the research has been like, instead of worrying about you know, how to make a start or getting other people involved to just do it to start working on it. So that's what I've been working on.

Sharen: And just let it involves. You go out there and say, I'm open to collaboration or anyone getting involved, you'll get that expertise

Libby: almost sure. And all of the people that we worked with and collaborated that the guests that we've had so far on the podcast. So you just know that if we put ourselves out there, for instance, that they would have floods of people being like, yeah, we'll support you with this project that links in with this thing that I do on this thing that my friend does

Sharen: Yeah I think you’re right.

Libby: and I think we just have to embrace that a little bit more than we currently do as a sector. Uh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Mm.


Libby: Another awesome thing is Open Working isn't just about getting your own work out there. It's about collaborating with others who are working openly to and the sharing benefits, all of us. And as soon as we start to open the door to invite others into our world, others will soon be opening the door to invite us into their worlds.

Sharen: And actually, as soon as you put it out there and if you did work with someone else, you could almost get bigger funding pots because I guess your numbers and your outreach would be higher.

Libby: All funding opportunities that I've looked at, they were always like collaboration. Partnership is so important because you can deliver better services. If you've got a different team of people, it's like the whole to have is better than one. Yeah. Yeah. Is better than one.

Sharen: Yeah, you can get. Diversity is

Libby: Yeah, definitely. And the conversation of open working might be a little bit intimidating. We started the ball rolling for ourselves very recently, and I really admit that it's definitely on the daunting side, but it feels good and I can't wait to see if anybody learns from what we've been learning, has got any ideas to help us out along the way.

I think the open working is community spirit in action, and it feels really good to be able to put something out there and think that it might be able to support others. And just by making a few simple changes being transparent and putting a work out, they could actually make a big difference. I also think that open working really supports the development of work because supports the reflection about the processes you've created. And you can help to pay the way for sort of a better future processes you can use. Open working to build your knowledge and train up other individuals that you work with. Like if you are explaining something to somebody else, it's sort of lights on in your brain and just click a tiny bit more. So you did understand it before, just by sort of talking it through with somebody. It's just a little bit clearer.

Yeah, um, and it means that you don't repeat the mistakes and people have gone before you for duplicate an existing project or idea So again, you know you're not working on the same thing that somebody a couple of roads over is also doing because that's not going to benefit the community in the same way as if you collaborated just really won't.

Sharen: And actually, we have found that haven't we since during the podcast because we've had somebody who we interviewed come to us and say, Can I help you with the Yes, because they've got that knowledge expertise and they're willing to willing to help out pass.

Libby: Um, so I think if you're a stumbling blocks and wishing you got some kind of magical worksheet to base, a new policy on chances are that there's something out there waiting for you already. You can make a little recipe from other people's open working and put a brand new piece of work together by using previous work knowledge and ideas to get momentum, propel your work forward and making your own.

As previously mentioned, Catalyst is a brilliant collective brought to the world by CAST. It’s a growing network which unites charities to support the communities through digital means. They have an amazing resource all about open working alongside the rest of the resources on the site is well worth visiting.

I think one of the best ways that you're going to open working is checking out the fabulous things that other people have already shared. Alongside the examples we've already mentioned the service recipes on Catalyst Fantastic, well worth checking out.

Sharen: That's all really interesting and quite like my idea of open working in the field. I think that would be a great addition. I was worried about wi-fi access, but yeah, I think this is great and, like we discussed to think that it's kind of happened fluidly for us anyway, as we've been doing the podcast with people sharing their knowledge and expertise for sure. And actually, I think it's probably the kind of thing that once it starts, it will just spiral and that will get the ball rolling. And I think it's more people get involved. People will start to trust the idea that it just takes people beginning to do it to get the momentum going. It's just making that initial shift and thinking. Actually, that's a good way to work.

Libby: Yeah, I think the benefits far outweigh Yeah, for sure, because I genuinely feel like if we put some work out there. You know, if somebody else wants to start community podcast, they can't do it Exactly how we're doing it, you know, work. You have to have a different spin on it. But it would be fantastic if they if somebody wanted to start community out there with a different spin. You know, we can all uplift each other and build on things.

Sharen: And I think, actually looking reflecting back on what we've done, if we do have had a platform to put out there what we what idea? We had what we were doing. We would have got probably next from the beginning. Exactly as we've kind of learn as we've been. It's been great fun

Libby: But yeah, we could have saved us a little bit of time. Yeah, so I I think it's just such a brilliant.

So what do you think? We go away from this episode and start open working with you, share with others and try to encourage them to start open working too? Or maybe you're already working openly. Please let us know as we would love to hear!

Hopefully you enjoyed learning about working openly today and hearing about some of the organisations who are paying the way. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to hear more about topics like this, please let us know. Or if you have a specific topic in mind that you'd like to hear us discuss, Just email us at hello constellations hyphen podcast dot org. Or send us a message on our website. Or just send us a DM, or comment on your social media platform choice.

Sharen: As always we would really appreciate you sharing this episode with anybody. You think I would enjoy listening. And if you have the time to review us on your preferred podcast platform, that would be marvelous.

Libby: Thank you again for tuning in.

Sharen & Libby: Bye!


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