Friday, October 15, 2010

“Watch for people messing with the rules, because that is the earliest sign of a significant change”, J.A. Barker

In the last year I can perceive a difference, seeing the passion in people; in feeling the intensity that, around the world, minds are connecting with; in the search for answers to so many fundamental questions. I see sincere initiatives provoking and inviting people to act; to have personal opinions; to create and innovate; to manifest organizational innovation; and social ones too. Technology can no longer solve the real challenges of our civilization. It is time to change the game. This is a story of such initiative. About the vision and sincere beliefs that can make a real difference. A story about the man behind it. Allow it to open up your perceptions and sense yet another vibration of something new. Enjoy the reading.

VB: Who is Stefan?
SB: That is a tricky question. First of all I am a father and a family man, living in the lovely town of Salzburg in Austria. Secondly, I am an entrepreneur. I have my own company and I am involved with a number of other entrepreneurial designs working in Europe and China. Thirdly, I am also a part time university lecturer teaching 9 subjects at 3 universities in Austria.
Don't miss the event at the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia on 18 October, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where we will exchange best practices of creating an innovation ecosystem and the preconditions for sustainable development. We will host guests from Austria and hold an electronic conference with speakers from India, Israel and Hungary. Together, we will correlate the key experiences of civil initiatives for promotion and development of an open space.Meet the "InCo Movement", "ChangeTheGame Initiative", "Stanford after Stanford" and other Slovenian initiatives that co-create an open society. Join us and participate in its creation!
VB: What is your passion?
SB: I am really into connecting people, in the sense of enabling vision, ideas and projects to emerge. Initially you need the right people, at best from different businesses, science, design, arts or social environments. I also love to work in emerging projects. The diverse teams and projects are usually full of energy and enthusiasm, and they take a holistic view of the problems and solutions.
Stefan Blachfellner (, the key projects: Cooperation with the center for knowledge management at the University of Linz in Austria, a great learning opportunity; »Learning Area Almtal«, where we connected people from three different communities covering a whole valley in Austria; personal intercultural learning in China working with one of the largest technical colleges in Shanghai, where we aim to establish a learning organization focusing on quality enhancements in education; the global Change the Game Initiative, an international innovation network and hub.
VB: »Change The Game«. What is it all about?
SB: About 3 years ago a small group of business intelligence, and information ethics experts introduced a round table on a very specific topic, entitled »business intelligence meets moral intelligence«. The attendees concluded , that there was something deeply wrong in the way we conduct business today and the impact of our practice have on society. These very personal statements were given before the economic crises really struck. We decided to start a small community and I was asked to be their host. While traveling home by train, somehow reflecting unconsciously upon the event, and the deep reflections we all had been part of, a quote by an American futurist, Joel A. Barker, flashed into my mind: “"Don´t wait for the trends to develop. Instead, watch for people messing with the rules, because that is the earliest sign of significant change. And, when the rules change, the whole world can change." And instantly I decided the name of the community should be »Change the Game Initiative« and that we need to connect people who mess with the rules.

Photo: Stefan Blachfellner in Violeta Bulc

VB: Who are the members?

SB: Dedicated entrepreneurs, leaders, executives, managers, civil servants, researchers, journalists, consultants, free agents, and artists meet today within the initiative. Some own businesses. Some work for companies, governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, universities, research labs, media, and local & world communities. Some have studied business, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, communication, informatics, mathematics, biology, or arts. Some simply learn lifelong, students of living!

VB: How does it work? What is the content?
SB: It evolved because of the coincidence people create when they start relationships. Of course, these relations need to stay alive, and I mean not only on a simple friendly level. Therefore, we are currently working on the next steps towards our vision of an innovation network and a hub. We want to discover the interdependence between ethics and innovation and its impact on the social, ecological and economic sustainability of business models, organizations and societies at large.
At the same time we imagined the "Change the Game Initiative" I met Alexander and Kathia Laszlo at the biannual International Federation for Systems Research Dialogues in Austria, where I have been invited the first time in 2008. They are both very inspirational. They not only encouraged me to bring the idea of this community to life, but also donated a wonderful quote: “Innovation without ethics is blind. Ethics without innovation is blind.” Our leading principles, and members of the »Change The Game Initiative« are certainly neither boring nor blind.

VB: Why now?
SB: I guess, because it was, and is the right time. By providing solutions that lead to prosperity we as humans created also a bundle of problems that lead to regression. The question remains, will we have the capabilities to solve these, for instance, environmental, social, and cultural problems? I think so.
I have spoken with many scientist and ordinary people who are already working towards possible solutions, "messing with the common rules". They might be the next paradigm changers. So we are dealing with a very serious consciousness, but also with a very playful mind, yet, with very serious topics. We are searching for life affirming paradigms in economic logic & value creation.

VB: How are such initiatives perceived in Austria? What is the public attitude towards innovation in Austria? Is there any grass-roots public (NGO) movement to support innovation?
SB: With our own public perception, well, that is a difficult question; we have no measurements (yet). Innovation is a public and established agenda in Austria, but this agenda is mainly driven by interest groups, like the chamber of commerce, or the federation of Austrian industries. Maybe because it is so well organized, there seems to be no need or space for grass-roots movements at the surface. Although we witnessed some exciting initiatives with the evolving trend of social entrepreneurship in Austria like the foundation of »The Hub« in Vienna, or the design and innovation community gathering at the Lift@Austria event »Enable! Profound Innovation in Society, Economy & Knowledge« co-organized by Thomas Fundneider and Markus Peschl, both members of our initiative, too. And our »Change The Game Initiative«, that too is a kind of paradigm shift itself.

Foto: Stefan Blachfellner in Violeta Bulc

VB: How are you organized?

SB: We have no legal body, declared ownerships, though we do have sponsorships, and no established business or political interest or pressure groups in our DNA. We are more a un-organization. I‘ve heard once, that our name is too aggressive or progressive for established industries or businesses. But a lot has changed since even the term »game changers« entered the terminology of innovation movements and the jargon of managers.
It is our intent to attract individuals more than organizations. Therefore, we decided to connect global minds rather than a region or a country. Today we connect people from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, India, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and USA.

VB: What are you aiming for in the future?
SB: Our next step is to strengthen the initiative. We have established an advisory board. Our first board members are also our most active members: Alexander and Kathia Laszlo, Thomas Fundneider, Stefan and Manfred Blachfellner, and you, Violeta Bulc. Although innovation and ethics will stay at the center of our activities we are experiencing a convergence with design as a new focus. But not only technological design, also social design. There is now a strong emphasis on co-creating an evolutionary system that serves not only our needs but also the needs of our environment and the needs of our next generations. It is about becoming meaningful, and to create value, leading to the questions, does it enrich my life, does it enrich other lives, does it enrich our community; these are the driving questions now.
Tangible and intangible results of the initiative: Intangible results are the connections between our members, which led to – you might call it – tangible results, published on our website, like many invitations to scientific and professional conferences in Europe and once even in Australia and several publications. We have established a research group that met within the initiative on »Controlling for Sustainability«, because we believe that we need to transform our measurement and steering systems in order to transform our perception and decision abilities. We are members of the International Federation for Systems Research on “Learning Systems for Sustainability”, were we are currently working on the further strengthening of an action research lab on the impact of innovative and ethical business practices. We have supported the establishment of a social entrepreneur cooperative called “ThinkCamp” together with the Coalition for the Global Commons and the Global Marshall Initiative. ThinkCamp supports innovators for sustainability to realize their projects. And much more…

VB: How do you and the initiative relate to InCo movement that has started in Slovenia?
SB: First of all, it is again a personal relationship, in this special coincidence between you and me. We met at the Salzburg Global Seminar in 2007 and since then we have continued connection. I have always been very curious about the advancements of the InCo movement in Slovenia. We share similar interests like the communication agenda, telling a new narrative to trigger change. Some InCo members or co-founders are already members of the »Change The Game Initiative«, like you or Madanmohan Rao from InCo India.
As the InCo movement goes global, we could serve as a partner network, offering our support to co-evolve with the InCo movement. I truly believe in the necessity of networking. Some people seem to be natural facilitators, not only with one network, but with several networks. We could create a wonderful mesh structure and thereby greater value, together.

VB: On the October 18th, you and some of your colleagues are coming to Ljubljana to meet with participants of the InCo movement. At the same time, InCo movement is also hosting the first session of the »ChangeTheGame« initiative in Slovenia. What do you expect from this meeting?
SB: I expect the first meeting to be the first of many enrichening, learning journeys, in the sense of enrichening new relations with dedicated people, enrichening new insights from other experiences in the field of innovation, regional and community development.

VB: Could movements like »Change The Game« and »InCo movement« be an important future arrangement? A new global platform for co-existence, co-creation, and a global village? Why?
SB: Ok, the last trickiest question. Of course I hope so, in the midst of our own experiment. I hope that we enable a paradigm change, that we enable committed individuals to change the world.
I also believe in the concepts of globalization. Localisation or regionalisation is a key concept in creating value chains and its revitalisation might be a key success factor in regional development. But simultaneously we can connect people, knowledge or even value networks globally to strengthen our abilities to innovate without ethical blindness. To strengthen individual commitment, to strengthen global civil societies, to strengthen a shared understanding of our cohabitation on the planet Earth.

Thank you Stefan. Your provocative thoughts, the results and your boldness are infectious. It challenges those that have not yet made a step, yet. It shares a dream and offers paths to manifestation. It is changing the game and allows learning along. I am sure new individuals will be inspired. More still, understood that only one small step is needed to start the journey. Feel it. Hear it. See it. Embrace it. Violeta

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From vision to measurable results – 10 years of growth of the Centre of Development of Litija

Organisations are living organisms that are born and develop; they enrich the world they live in and integrate into it. The Centre of Development of Litija (RCL) is a wonderful organism. Unique. With an impulse that inspires many around it. It connects the different, the similar and those who are searching for something. Those who want to go forward. In this disoriented age, when we are searching for new foundations, RCL provides the Litija Municipality and the entire development partnership of "Srce Slovenije (Heart of Slovenia)" with an unifying power, vision, boldness and professionalism. It interweaves the stories of various individuals, entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, young people and politicians, always for the benefit of the local community and the region. For the benefit of people and the entire ecosystem. For the benefit of future generations and for the joy and fulfilment of the present ones. The RCL team has been led by Aleksandra Gradišek since the beginning. Ten years. Thus, this is also her story.
Don't miss the event at the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia on 18 October, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where we will exchange best practices of creating an innovation ecosystem and the preconditions for sustainable development. We will host guests from Austria and hold an electronic conference with speakers from India, Israel and Hungary. Together, we will correlate the key experiences of civil initiatives for promotion and development of an open space.Meet the "InCo Movement", "ChangeTheGame Initiative", "Stanford after Stanford" and other Slovenian initiatives that co-create an open society. Join us and participate in its creation!
VB: Where are RCL's roots? What the impulse for its foundation?
AG: The groundwork was laid in 2000 in Litija, together with the then mayor, Mirko Kaplja. At the time, we were one of many support institutions for the development and acceleration of entrepreneurship that were established across Slovenia. Today we can only confirm that that was a very wise decision.
We are very pleased that the current mayor is also able to recognize the potential and the results of our work, so that we are able to continue developing our story boldly. We have become an established coordinator of development projects in the "Heart of Slovenia" region, which comprises ten municipalities from central Slovenia and stays open for additional new partners. Through our work, we are developing an environment that will be able to face the challenges of today’s societies.
Photo: Aleksandra Gradišek

VB: What are the key achievements of this ten-year long path?

AG: Our key achievement is the breakthrough from being a local development centre to becoming a regional support subject, which currently formally connects 10 municipalities from 3 geographical regions and also shares its wealth of experience abroad. We are proud of the "All in One Place" service point for entrepreneurs that we manage for 2 additional territories (Litija, Grosuplje and Domžale). Another important step in our development was the establishment of the “Srce Slovenije Local Action Group”, which is a public-private partnership that draws funds from the Leader Programme. We use these funds to help locals in development and implementation of business ideas. For example, the "Jarina" rural development cooperative is successfully implementing a local programme of self-sufficiency in food with our help. We are also proud of successful implementation of regional projects for integration of tourism with cultural and natural heritage and of the growing number of successful entrepreneurs in our region.
10 years of Development Centre Litija (RCL). The initial mission of the Centre was to support entrepreneurship, education and promotion and help secure subsidies for development projects of the local businesses. "Initially, we only organised training. But I've always been eager to learn more and thus I persuaded the mayor to support me in doing something more for Litija," says Aleksandra. Through systematic work and balanced promotion of development of the broader community, the initial idea grew into a regional partnership, now called "Srce Slovenije".

VB: How many people have been involved and have participated during this period?
AG: Our development centre successfully launches programmes that are co-funded with European, national and local funding. We have implemented over 50 reference projects, which involved several thousand individuals, including young people, various associations, businesses, primary schools, municipalities and other local institutions.

Photo: RCL team

VB: Which are the key factors of your success?

AG: I believe the most important thing is to enjoy your work, but you also have to have an ability to establish relationships and a desire for change. The focus has to be on benefiting the community. In my opinion, the key factors are persistence, courage, cooperation with the right people and being one step ahead of everyone. I am very pleased that during our initial steps I was bold enough to seek cooperation of top external experts who brought us their profound knowledge that at the time was not available in our region.

VB: Where is the source of your strength and vision?
AG: I've always welcomed the challenge of creating something new and proving that the seemingly impossible can be achieved. I continue to be successful with this approach for I believe that the good begets the good.

VB: You were the first Innovative Local Community in Slovenia and also the first development centre to have joined the InCo Movement. How did that contribute to your success story?
AG: Since our beginning, we have been introducing new programmes to the local community with the aim of presenting opportunities for all our residents. This is why we were bold enough to launch and promote, perhaps even too soon, the programme, called Innovative Local Community. Our participation in the InCo Movement in the broader sense is an opportunity to meet similarly oriented people and to get a confirmation that we are on the right path. Simultaneously, it was an opportunity for promotion and social innovation as the InCo Movement thought us about the innovation and innovative model and presented our story to the world.
Important results: 2740 directly or indirectly involved in projects; EUR 4 million of acquired development funds, 450 jobs, growing visibility of the tourist destination, 3800 units of promotional activity.

VB: Why did you decide for the "Srce Slovenije" development partnership? What does it bring and how does it influence your work?
AG: At a meeting at the geometric centre of Slovenia (GEOSS) in 2006, we signed an agreement on the Development Partnership of the geographical centre of Slovenia. This opened the door for a project that is unique in Slovenia and the broader region by being based on an actual need for creating a critical mass of people interested in development projects with the aim of improving our possibilities for acquiring public funds for their realisation. We could say that the "Srce Slovenije" development partnership is a true social innovation with very tangible results both for the residents and for the target publics.

VB: Where is your development path leading you next?
AG: In the future, we wish to improve the substance of the "Srce Slovenije" brand name and place our region on the map of Europe as a space that promotes creativity, self-realisation and a quality of living. "Srce Slovenije" serves as an example of the power of integration and cooperation and is unique from the aspect of branding since it includes the broadest variety of areas of activity and interest groups.

VB: The broadening scope of operations and influence of the RCL must have been a management challenge? How did you and your colleagues respond to it?
AG: The key challenge of this process was to secure well-timed recruiting and development of new personnel from various backgrounds and professional fields. In managing an organisation that is active in such a variety of fields the key importance lies in appropriate and timely organisation. As a manager I try to be as open as possible. I believe in my colleagues and I trust and encourage them to take responsibility and authority in their projects. Simultaneously, we've had to remain open to constant fluctuation and new comers.
The growth of our region and related activities increased the need for fresh knowledge and wisdom. To develop and strengthen this will be our primary focus for the next strategic cycle.

VB: What is the future role of development centres?
AG: Development centres have been set-up with various purposes and their current activities reflect that. Their future shape and content depend on their managers and on European, national and regional policies. In my opinion, development centres should create and support safe environment for generating, financing and implementing development initiatives. They should be responsible for motivating people, transferring knowledge and experience, development of regional competences and effective promotion of their regions. Development centres are possibly the key catalysts for enriching of social capital and sustainable development.

Photo: Aleksandra Gradišek, mayors of RPSS and
minister for
Local Self-Government and Regional Development

I hope more support structures are set up for better functioning of the society. To be so convincingly aware of their missions. To be implemented with such a clear long-term visions and with such a high level of sensibility for their environments. RCL's story proves that “where is a will there is a way”. With systematic work. With integration. With courage and strong heart connection I know there are more and more such stories. Help them to be heard.

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