The Moment has arrived!

I am excited to announce that I’m beginning a new stage in my changemaking journey: together with my amazing and talented partners Daniel Rose and Greg Judelman, we are launching a new enterprise focused on collaborative innovation and systems change work called The Moment. We just launched publicly for the first time June 8th, as co-sponsors and facilitators of GovCamp.

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A Wish List for Wicked Projects

In April, my friend Peter Macleod inspired me with his MASSLBP Wish List, which he sent out in a newsletter to MASSLBP’s network. Peter was in turn inspired by a Christmas card message: “work for what you wish for”. Expressing the intention, out loud, for all to see, of the kind of work that you want made a lot of sense to me.

Fired up by the success of our recent collaboration at the Collingwood Conference, my frequent collaborator Daniel Rose started a conversation about our dream projects. These are projects that can take full advantage of our capabilities and that also really push us in our practice while making a big difference in the world. We referred to this cheekily as “Project Mongoose”, but really what we’re talking about are Wicked Projects.

Addressing Wicked Problems

What is a wicked project? A wicked project first of all aims to address a wicked problem.  Wicked problems are all around us: climate change, economic transformation, poverty, healthcare, urban transportation and human migration to name just a few. Solving wicked problems is meaningful, purposeful work. They’re complex, intertwined, ambiguous, messy and frustrating. Wicked problems fight back as you try to solve them.

The projects that would make our wish list would be centered on one of these problems. Our role is not to be the content expert in the chosen field. Our role is to bring both proven and novel processes and tools to these projects while working with and learning from some of the smartest people we can find.

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Am I a fascist of optimism?

CBC commentator, new media personality and consultant Jesse Hirsh responded to a TorCamp email list posting I left about an upcoming event I’m facilitating. In his reply, he claimed that I exclude, discourage, edit or otherwise censor critical dis…

CBC commentator, new media personality and consultant Jesse Hirsh responded to a TorCamp email list posting I left about an upcoming event I’m facilitating. In his reply, he claimed that I exclude, discourage, edit or otherwise censor critical discourse at events that I facilitate.

Actually Mark, it means I know that you’ll exclude any critical discourse as
not being constructive or solutions-oriented.

On Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 3:35 PM, Mark Kuznicki <mark.kuzni@gmail.com>wrote:

> This event may be of interest to TorCampers. It’s about the digital media
> industry and community in Toronto and how to propel it into the future.> Disclosure: I’ve been hired by CDMN to facilitate. So you know it’ll be
> good. 😉

Is Jesse alone? I don’t think he is. I take Jesse’s statement seriously. Not that I can’t handle criticism of my work, or imagining that somebody out there might just not like me. I’m ok with both of those.

My concern is that the success of my work depends on dialogue, and dialogue requires critical insight and reflection as an ingredient. People like Jesse are great additions to these kinds of dialogues. But are they put off by the friendly, positive and solutions-oriented language that I use? Is my approach too touchy feely for them?

I often go back to the mantra I coined for TransitCamp in my work today: “This is not a complaints department, it is a solutions playground.”  Is this mantra of playful seriousness off-putting for people who are serious, intellectual and are looking for a good debate?

What is the right balance between, roles of and relationship between criticism and co-creation?

If you have some thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

New journeys down familiar roads

29km north of Owen Sound, along Grey Road 1 that snakes along Georgian Bay, I stopped for a break in my bike ride. No more 3G data here. No service at all. Perfectly alone with my thoughts. On my way to this idyllic place of rocks and gentle lappi…

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29km north of Owen Sound, along Grey Road 1 that snakes along Georgian Bay, I stopped for a break in my bike ride. No more 3G data here. No service at all. Perfectly alone with my thoughts.

Continue reading “New journeys down familiar roads”

2008: Back to work….there’s lots to do!

Happy New Year! It’s been an overly long holiday vacation from the blog. I thought I would start the year with a declaration of intent and an ask for your help and insight.

It’s a busy time for Remarkk! at the moment. I’m moving into the final strategy and writing phase for the Creative Convergence Project, completing the engagement strategy and web site launch for Municipal Cultural Planning Partnership and exciting TransitCamp-related developments are coming including the pending publication of an article in the February Harvard Business Review with co-authors Eli Singer and Jay Goldman. Every week, exciting new prospects, ideas, community projects and startup opportunities pop up. I am looking forward to chatting with the folks at the Founders & Funders dinner as well as the inspiring Lift Conference in Geneva. It’s a great outlook for 2008.

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While we’re at it, maybe work-life balance should be on this list somewhere. The wonderful thing about this life I have is how work and life really make up a meaningful and integrated whole. Maybe this is my rationalization for not “having a life” in the traditional domestic bliss sense. It may be an integrated whole, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s not really that balanced and I need to work on that.

I’m wrestling with the question of how to scale my business while maintaining my focus on the things I find personally meaningful, my purpose and the strength that has come from my independence. My preferred mode of taking on more and larger projects is to collaborate with other independent or freelance creative pros whom I know and trust. People who, like me, want to innovate, make meaning and change the world while offering each other complementary skills and capabilities. Maybe you are one of those people.

So, what kinds of capabilities am I looking for in my soulmate-collaborators? Well, here’s a list of the things that tend to be asked of me by clients and prospects:

  • community research
  • community engagement strategy
  • branding and graphic design
  • web design & implementation (yes, social media/community sites!)
  • open space/unconference style events to support creative collaboration
  • community management and evangelism
  • policy, technology and industry research in entertainment, cultural & creative industries
  • innovation strategy development and writing
  • project management

My strength has always been my ability to cross these various domains with relative ease and to synthesize it all in a meaningful way. But I know I can’t keep DOING it all if I’m going to be effective and deliver all the value I have to offer. Meanwhile, I’ve got some work to do in focusing my service offering, positioning my brand and rationalizing my workflow and project portfolio.

I stubbornly resist well-established methods of growing a service-based business. I want to know:

How can a network of innovative professionals work in a way that effectively competes with a traditional integrated firm?

Because I talk the talk of open source, co-creation and community-driven innovation, I want to live it. I’m putting myself out to my community to ask for your insights as I develop Remarkk further in 2008. If you’re part of my community and have insights to share on these questions, or have some of these complimentary capabilities, I’d love to hear from you. Coffee is on me.

From the wilderness…a post

I just realized it has been 3 weeks since my last blog post and I apologize, dear reader, for letting you down. I will endeavour to be more consistent in the future. I have also fallen WAY behind on my RSS feeds. I HAVE been busy. I rarely blog about work, so here’s a bit of an update:

  • I facilitated a net neutrality townhall conversation at nextMEDIA (video forthcoming, I hope)
  • I finished writing a report on technology impacts on the new media sector and their implications on cultural policy for Department of Canadian Heritage and Ministére de la Culture et des Communications du Québec
  • I helped organize a successful first Open Cities unconference, which has begun a whole series of new conversations and activity
  • I successfully reframed the Creative Convergence Centres Project into the Creative Convergence Project, which the steering committee approved; the project is moving forward with a compelling scope that will focus on creative places at the building, district and city-wide scales
  • I developed a new service offering for community cultural engagement at the municipal level, including a great deal of online community practices and tools taken from our experiences with BarCamps and, particularly, from Toronto Transit Camp.

New business continues to come my way and the consulting pipeline is pretty much full through the fall. This has started me thinking about where I want to take Remarkk Consulting as a business.

Smoky Mountain Road
Smoky Mountain Road by pfly

Until now, Remarkk Consulting has been an umbrella for my own consulting work and personal passion projects. The positive feedback I get from this work tells me first of all that the combination of work and personal passion is key. It also tells me that my chosen domains at the intersection of Technology, Culture, Public Policy and/or Strategy are under-served and in need of fresh ideas and new energy at a time of profound change. So I’m in the right place, in what appears to be the right time.

As indie consultants know, we have choices to make as we grow:

  1. We can stay independent, charge more, and move up the strategic food chain.
  2. We can partner with other indies and enter into joint projects on an ad-hoc basis.
  3. We can hire staff and start building a “Practice” and a “Firm”, leverage past work through reusable knowledge that can be transferred to junior consultants.

Management is not something I necessarily want to return to, although I enjoyed the mentoring aspects of management. I am drawn to loose and agile agglomerations of talented peers – Jevon’s Manifesto for an Emerging Consultant Counter Culture – rather than more formal large organizational structures. I am also not interested in becoming one of those consultants that is so caught up in the strategic stratosphere as to lose my connection to the tangible reality of grassroots communities.

These are some of the factors I’m looking at as I consider the future directions of Remarkk Consulting. If you’ve been there before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. How do you evolve your practice in sync with your passions in a way that gives meaning to both?

1st Annual Best of Remarkk!

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I toil away in what is at times a lonely wonkosphere. At the end of my first year as a blogger (ok, 10 months, with an extended absence in July and August), I reflect on what I wrote.

Was I full of crap or did I come up with one or two remarkable ideas, something worthy of notice?

What follows is a list of what I feel are my most significant posts, either for content, style or the quality of the conversations they triggered.

Conclusions:

  • I doubt I’m going to be nominated for a blog award anytime soon
  • I like to pose a lot of questions and clearly don’t have all the answers
  • Finding one’s voice as a writer and as a blog persona takes time
  • I feel like I’m on a roll, but just getting warmed up

Upon reflection, these posts still resonate for me, in chronological order:

  1. [mesh]: The Economics of Ideas
  2. VC 2.0 & Social Microfinance
  3. Ontario Budget: Cities, Creativity & Innovation
  4. A Creative Renaissance?
  5. ICT Toronto: Getting It Yet?
  6. Future-Proofing Our Communities
  7. Gender Bias in Nerdville…er…DemoCamp?
  8. Open Source Innovation Models
  9. A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?
  10. Richard Florida on Public Intellectuals

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A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?

I’ve been wanting to develop a social mission statement for my consulting practice for some time now. It’s in development, and I’ve asked a few people to collaborate, via Google Docs of course. Not ready for prime-time yet, but on its way.

What has been driving this is my experience of the last year blogging and consulting. My work is not value-neutral. It is analytical, but my work is framed by my worldview, as is anyone’s. Blogging forces me to articulate myself more precisely, to hone my arguments in the face of criticism and respond to other very different worldviews. It exposes me to a fantastic collision of perspectives that inform my work.

I am inspired by the Cluetrain idea that markets are conversations, Shel and Scoble’s book Naked Conversations and by Chris and Tara’s work behind BarCamp and Citizen Agency. Making meaning is an important creative act in a market characterized by conversation. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do I want to know you? Do I want to do business with you?

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So why a social mission for a consultant? Aren’t consultants all guns for hire, who swear to objectivity? Isn’t a consultant supposed to be neutral? Doesn’t a social mission belong to the world of nonprofits? Isn’t the exercise dangerously and inherently political?

My point is that so-called consultant objectivity and neutrality is a myth. Consultants are motivated by many things that affect their work: worldviews, past experiences, the hope to get more work, to give the client what they want to hear not what they need to hear. I don’t like these aspects of my adopted profession. The problem with consulting in my opinion is that values are artificially removed when they should actually be central, articulated and transparent.

I can’t help but have a need to place myself in a larger, meaningful context. I am an independent. I am Citizen Wonk. I am an agent of my values. My values infuse my work and help me decide what work I wish to do.

I’m interested to know other consultants who have gone through this exercise themselves, whether in a formal or informal way. What’s your mission and how do you incorporate it into your work? How do you balance your desire to live your values with your need to make a living and get the next gig? Leave a comment or email me.

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In My Lifetime

Leila pinged me on this, and I’m taking a moment out to consider the big questions. Free license for idealism…

In my lifetime, I would like to see 3 things happen:

1. A successful transition from the Age of Oil to the Age of Sustainable Development
2. A social, political and economic culture that invests increasingly in community and the creative potential of every individual in society.
3. Technologies used to enable a truly participatory democracy that is both local and global.

My friend Andrew often claims that I am trying to solve the problem of globalization. Hubris? Maybe. But my answer to the skeptics is, “And why shouldn’t I?” My friend Kim often accuses me of being a dirty Malthusian. Not quite, but I see her argument.

We’ve got a few revolutionaries already in the mix: David, Sutha, Ryan, Rob, Tom,
What say you, Deb, Patrick, Brent, Joey and Bryce?

Jjacobs

P.S.: Rest in Peace, Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006). A boundary-crossing intellectual, a true revolutionary, a Torontonian and an inspiration to community-builders everywhere.

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