In an office in Birmingham, in the grey light of a winters afternoon, a miracle was performed.
A meeting with the Third Sector, that not only had a purpose, but actually proved one of the most productive meetings of my life.
No agendas, no minutes, no tick-boxes.
I've worked in the Private Sector most of my life and in the last 10 years have attempted to be supportive to numerous Third Sector organisations all to no avail (fund-raising events let down by the Charity to whom funds were going, donations refused by charities who claimed to desperately need them (http://ping.fm/2dNPg) and donations of my time, wasted by pointless meetings and inadequate action).
So, it was with serious trepidation, that I returned to the grounds of my worst enemy, a group of Third sector people and travelled the 3 hour journey from London to Birmingham to meet the core members of a consortium called Contented Limited
Contented is the exact opposite of everything I despise about the Third Sector. Firstly, it doesn't exist in anyway comprehensible to most who work in it. A group of people from all walks of life, from the Private, Public and Third Sectors who up until now, have organised meetings at their own expense both in terms of travel and time, to, well... just chat.
I met it's Managing Director, Gerard Davies, some years ago, when the idea was just a spark, but when he explained it, it was underpinned by an incredibly strong ethos. And it is that ethos that gives Contented its strength. Every member believes in the same values wherever they come from or whatever they do (myself included):
That bureaucracy and regulation gets in the way of delivering quality training and opportunities whilst draining scarce resources.
That generations of children have been cheated out of a real education by being duped into the belief that a useless University degree is the only way to progress in British society.
That knowledge in itself has a huge intrinsic value to society as a whole.
The active members include A professional business coach, a TV & Film Producer, a fundraiser, an outdoor pursuits manager, a professor, an ex Journalist, an animation teacher and training providers, who all sat around a table discussing how they could add to the betterment of society.
So what? you may ask.
Well, to start with, this is “The Big Society” in action. A group of people whose primary reason for getting together is to help others, even at great expense to themselves.
But more than that, this is changing how things can be achieved. Private companies who would normally run away from the ludicrous paper filling and lead times to get funding or clearances that plagues the Third Sector, will in the environment of Contented, seriously look at participating in it.
Third Sector organisations who have become reliant on Government funding now looking at totally different ways of raising money and delivering their services with Private Sector thinking.
This was truly exciting for all concerned but the real magic lay in the way the meeting was handled.
It starts with each individual in the group having a two-minute opportunity to explain why they were there, what they brought to the table and what assistance they would like from the other members (a standard networking approach).
And it was through that sharing that I met Harvinder Olikh a Training Provider (Train2success) and Nouman Prevez an Animation Course Provider.
Nouman was setting up a 3 month Animation Course for 16 – 21 year olds which would give them the specific qualifications to start working as Junior Animators in film, television or 3D modelling houses on starting salaries of £25,000 and was looking for where to get students from and work placements.
I'm currently making a Feature Film being written by Rhianna Prathcett which needs animation, Harvinder knows the head of schools at Dagenham & Barking and so all Noamin's need for students and placements were met in one fowl swoop.
From my perspective, I can offer placements to students who want to learn a craft as part of my industry, without all the paperwork worries and costly bureaucratic barriers that often prevent me from doing so.
Harvinder is able to offer his students an exciting course that will lead directly onto highly paid work.
Nouman saved hours of writing pointless and unanswered e-mails to Film Production Companies and struggling to think how to get the students on the course.
Swift instant decisions that benefited everyone involved.
And that's truly the power of Contented – Diversity & Instant Action.
As Harvinder said:
“I've spent too long around people in the same sector, we all think in the same way and speak in the same language. I would have never had the opportunity to speak to the likes of Paul Atherton (Film Producer) or Noamin Prevez (Animation), there would just never been a point in my life where we would have ever crossed paths. With so many differing view points and life experiences presented today, I've learnt more in the past few hours than I have in the past year. It's a Masterclass in understanding”
And if you're next question is “understanding what?” you've missed the point of Contented entirely.