It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write anything here, all for good reasons – we’ve been working away pretty intensely at some exciting projects, the first of which is now coming to fruition. At the end of February, we won our way through to the final of a Nesta-funded challenge prize, with an idea we call Rabble. We’re on Nesta’s blog here, but we’ve now also set up a holding page website where you can find out more about the project and sign up to be part of the development.
Rabble is the first of our Citizen Ventures – new business ideas and initiatives that we’re hatching and aiming to spin out into the world. The spirit behind this way of working is the Buckminster Fuller quote, “If you want people to think differently, give them a tool the use of which changes the way they think.” With Rabble, instead of preaching about children-as-Consumers and the widely recognised childhood wellbeing problems that result, we’re solving that problem – by creating an easy way for families to do stuff together that is both fun and useful.
Our big dream? That the definition of ‘rabble’ in the dictionary changes to become a verb that means exactly that – to do something that is both fun and useful.
We’re going to follow the development of Rabble here on the New Citizenship blog, keeping you posted on the work we’re doing.
Last week, Rabble hit the road for the first time. Irenie and I headed up to Liverpool to sound out various key players in the city for our intended pilot, Rabble Week Liverpool, this coming October half term.
Day 1 would see us meet with 11 mothers and one father of young families from south Liverpool, the people for whom the idea of Rabble was conceived, and to find out for real whether what seems like a great idea on paper actually had value for the people who matter most. Happily, it does. We had a universally positive response, and great endorsement of the insight behind our idea – every parent wants to do good stuff with their kids, and struggles for options that are both low cost and allow for quality family time – but first and foremost it has to be fun (not least so the kids want to do it again). The ideas we put in front of them seem to hit this right on the nose – one even said “I’ve just been waiting for something like this! When can we do it?!”
Boosted by the knowledge that people want what we’re trying to build, we headed back into the city centre on Thursday morning for our first meeting with the sure-to-be-legendary Gerry Proctor. Gerry, a consummate networker and community organiser, runs a social network in the city called Engage Liverpool, working to make the city fit for its citizens. We were introduced last year, and Gerry had very kindly offered to make some introductions for us were we ever in Liverpool.
First, we met the charismatic Phil Stewart, headmaster at St Vincent de Paul Primary in the city centre, and three families of whom we were in instant awe. The energy that Tracy, Jim, Meera, Thomas, and Diana brought to the meeting was just great (not to mention Phil’s generous hosting), and we came away with the understanding that if we can get the Rabble provision right, parents and extended families are likely to get involved not just as participants, but also in creating and hosting their own activities. The prize here is huge.
Then onto meetings with Anglican and Catholic faith leaders, and with Tate Liverpool, all of whom expressed support and willingness to help in any way they can. Tate in particular have come on as a potential partner for the October trial if we can put it together, which was exactly the endorsement we had been hoping for.
The theme continued on Friday, as we met more influential formal and informal players in Liverpool’s vibrant civic sector, including the inspiring David Lloyd of Seven Streets, and then onto a meeting in the amazing Cunard building with councillors Frank Hont and Patrick Hurley. All were generous with their time, and with their offers of support, clearly excited by the idea.
The trip finished with us passing from the kind and expert guidance of Gerry Proctor to that of the equally brilliant John Sebastianelli, the National Trust’s volunteering lead in the North West region. John took us to meet the teams on the ground – Alex and Rachel at Speke Hall and Kate, NT ranger on the Formby Coast – both of whom we hope will be helping us to deliver our October Rabble Week.
And so we head home, with Rabble starting to feel very real indeed…and with plenty to do to make it happen.
Roll on October!