swiss4

Team Swiss at Create on the Square

A guest blog by four language students from Switzerland, who ran a project at Create on the Square as a work experience opportunity

We are four students from Switzerland and stayed in Cheltenham for three weeks with our host families. The aim of this stay was to improve our English skills. We visited several places during our spare time. Here are some of our Top 5 places: London, Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, Bath.

We had the opportunity to work for Create on the Square. The Create on the Square team gave us the chance to lead our own project.

In the first week of our stay we did some surveys and a lot of speaking. We tried to find out what people would like to have on Coronation Square or what is missing. The goal is to revitalise Coronation Square.

We discovered there were many older people who live locally and there was a lot of interest in a Bingo event, so, in the second week, we started to organise a Bingo afternoon. We needed to create Flyers, write E-mails and order equipment. Afterwards, we distributed the Flyers and started to advertise our event.

In the final week, we delivered the Bingo afternoon, which was great fun. In addition, we helped the Create on the Square team to plan some future ‘Afternoon Tea’ events for people from local nursing homes.

Vivien says:
I came to England with the same aim as every other exchange student: to improve my English skills. To work for Create on the Square really helped me with my speaking skills, especially in the first week where we had to do the surveys and knock on doors. I felt my speaking skills start to improve.
I really liked to work for Create on the Square because it’s something completely different from my job in Switzerland. The contact with the people here was really nice and I’m happy that we had the chance to organise our own event.

Sophia says:
Me and three of my classmates have had the opportunity of doing an internship at Create on the Square in addition to going to classes in the morning. Working at Create on the Square was great. We had the chance to organise our own event which should take place in our third week here. We spent the first week doing surveys and talking to people in the area to find out what they would like to have on the Square. At first it was a bit hard for me because I was afraid of making mistakes but after a while it was just a daily routine and I actually enjoyed having a conversation with different people.
We started our second week by analysing the answers from the first week. The result was very clear: we decided to organise a Bingo afternoon. The next few days we spent planning, organising and advertising the event. To attract people’s attention we created a leaflet to distribute and hang up in public places such as the library or local shops.

Antonella says:
I had the opportunity to do an internship for three weeks here in Cheltenham with the main aim to improve my English skills. Besides the school, I could work at the marketing campaign for Create on the Square and be part of a project. The first week contained to do surveys with the objective to find out what people want to have. For that we had to knock on doors and ask people several questions. Afterwards the idea to organise a Bingo afternoon came up. So the second week included planning and organising that event. During the last week we had to advertise with own created leaflets. I think that my English skills improved during this three weeks, especially because of socialising with people around the area. Furthermore, the people here are really kind and helpful. I enjoyed working here. In addition, I’m thankful for this great opportunity I had.

Arik says:
I had the opportunity to visit the school and to work at the marketing campaign for “Create on the Square” in Cheltenham. In this three weeks we had the chance to organise our own event for the community. In the first week we were knocking on doors. In the 2nd week we were analysing our questionnaire, so we know what they wanted to have. At the end we knew what they wanted to have and so we started to organise a Bingo afternoon.
In our last week we had this Bingo afternoon and we fully succeeded in having a fun afternoon.
So I can say, this three weeks were awesome and we were glad to work for Create on the Square.

What is Create on the Square?

Because an empty space,

Will not be an empty space…

When we are learning together.

We can Create and inspire!

Jonny Fluffypunk, Opening of Create on the Square, 13 Aug 2016

 

“If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken…one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”[1]

The underlying notion behind the ‘Broken Window Theory’ is that when someone believes “no one else cares” they don’t care either. This is not about the window breakers having a particular propensity to be ‘bad’ or ‘uncaring’ people. It is just that we are affected by the environment we live in. “We are all creatures of the system we find ourselves embedded in”, as management expert Jeff Sutherland asserts.[2]

There may not even be anything intrinsically wrong with the physical environment, but the perception of lack of care leads to a ‘why bother to try to change it then?’ attitude.  This too easily leads to a downward spiral. If no one bothers to try to change it, it looks like no one cares, and therefore no one bothers…

A few years ago, the Coronation Square shopping centre in Cheltenham West was a sorry-looking site, with a large proportion of disused retail units and little signs of life. That has started to change, but the ‘no one cares’ perception still lingers on. That Coronation Square looks neglected, adds to the often held view that the surrounding Cheltenham West communities, by extension, have little to offer too.

We don’t believe that is true. We believe there is a huge amount of potential in the area and so we opened Create on the Square, to help people to realise that potential.

The decision to open a shop on Coronation Square was very deliberate. Before we moved in, the retail unit had been empty for over a decade. It was in poor repair and needed many months of work to convert it into the modern, comfortable venue it is now. By opening “Create on the Square”, we wanted to highlight our conviction that we do care and that our neighbourhood is worth bothering about.

So, what is Create on the Square?

In simple terms, Create on the Square is the name of a venue on Coronation Square, in Cheltenham, that predominantly operates as a café. But, it is really much more than that. “Create on the Square” is more of a mission statement than a venue. Our aim is to quite literally to inspire people to be creative in the Coronation Square area.

We want to encourage all kinds of creative enterprise. The Create on the Square café provides an accessible, sustainable and welcoming space to enable that.

The café provides free wifi and a variety of fresh food and drinks, giving local independent workers a casual space to cowork alongside others, as an alternative to working on their own at home.

It is also a friendly hub for the local community to meet in small groups to explore all kinds of talents, for example craft, writing and playing the ukulele.

A programme of workshops, business meetings and teaching events aims to inspire greater creativity and entrepreneurial activity, particularly socially beneficial activity.

Create on the Square provides an opportunity for local artists and other creative entrepreneurs to showcase their products to a wider audience. It also provides work experience and training for individuals to develop valuable workplace skills.

By creating a vibrant hub of community activity, Create on the Square is aiming to stir up life and energy in the Cheltenham West area.

Why is that important?

Well, firstly, we believe that is always a great thing for people to pursue their talents, whether that is in business or any other area. It is good for them, the local community, and also for society generally.

We believe it is especially important in the Cheltenham West area, because historically this has been an area of Cheltenham that has suffered from a variety of social issues, particularly lack of employment and training opportunities. There are many charitable organisations and community groups that have been working in the area to meet social needs, for many years, and they have seen a great deal of success. However, there is still more that can be achieved. Create on the Square is intended to complement this work. We want to inspire and enable local people to make the most of their talents, to help transform their own community.

We hope that turning a disused space into a new hub of creative energy activity will be paralleled by a similar regeneration of Coronation Square, and the wider Cheltenham West community.

We’re excited about seeing this vision come to reality and welcome anyone who would like to work with us.

 

[1] Kelling G. & Wilson, J., 1982, Broken Windows, in The Atlantic, March Issue

[2] Sutherland, J. 2016, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice The Work in Half Time

Youth Work Apprenticeship – The Beginning

Starting in March 2017, I will be doing an apprenticeship in youth work. It will be at Create on the Square, where I’ll be based mostly. I need to achieve a certain criteria to be able to get the qualification.

I am already helping out at Family Space on a Monday morning, looking after kids aged 0-5 years old, and I nanny for twins aged 1. I run the Code Club at Create every Tuesday, for 8-11yrs, and make sure that runs smoothly.

I am also working with the Aston Project, with a bunch of youths, aged 14+, who want to start a youth club. I will be helping them in order to make that work. I will not be telling them what to do, but I will be guiding them in order to keep it going.

We have had a few meetings already to get to know them and to see what it is that they want. They came up with things like Games Night and Funky Warehouse. Some of these things will be at Create. Others will cost a lot more and that means they will have to think of ways to fundraise to make it happen.

I will guide them in order to do these things. First I have made a plan for them for each month so they know roughly what they will be doing when. The next time I see them I will tell them the prices and what needs to be done before any of these events can go through. I have made sure that I have made a clear timescale, so they know when to do things, in order for things to run smoothly.

Once the meet is done, we will have agreed to the things that are needed. All that needs to be done now is to finalise everything and make sure any changes are made to the correct procedures.

I will be blogging more about my progress in youth work soon.

Managers, huh! What are they good for? …

Just completed another training course, preparing more Scrum Masters to be let loose on the world, and, as is often the case, their stated intention is to go back to their workplace and tell their management how “they are doing it all wrong”.

For those with any understanding of Scrum and agile management, that wont be a big surprise. Despite the Scrum management framework being around for over 20yrs in software engineering (and the underpinning ideas for a lot longer), there is still a huge amount of passive resistance. That is, many organisations ‘want’ (or, at least, see the need) to manage their businesses in a far more agile way, responding quickly to the fast-changing world we live in, but, at the same time, they also want to hold on to the comfortable management structures that they have been used to. As a result, they subvert the Scrum approach into a hybridised form that bears little resemblance to that envisaged in the Scrum Guide (www.ScrumGuides.org).

Over the last few years, I’ve delivered countless courses on agile management in a variety of business sectors, to all kinds of delegates, in places as diverse as Beirut to Milton Keynes. This recent course was attended by developers from a UK government department. Last week I delivered a course to senior directors in a large multi-national business. There are always particular issues of course, but if there is one consistent gripe, it is the difficulty of getting management buy-in.

I have pondered if the Scrum or agile ideal is simply a utopian dream that can never be achieved. I have seen it work reasonably well, and I’ve read the case studies of other successful deliveries, but there is always some variance from the Guide. Of course ‘Agile’ is not a state to achieve. The goal is to conduct our business more effectively, by becoming more agile. If Scrum is an impossible ideal, it is still worth pursuing it, in the pursuit of greater agility.  However, as plenty of folks in the ‘Agile World’ have argued, if it is so hard to adopt Scrum, maybe we shouldn’t try. Maybe we should work towards more effective delivery in ways that are less revolutionary for businesses.

The thing is that Scrum resonates with me, and also with plenty of the delegates I train (and the teams I work alongside, in consultancy). Delegates frequently go away frustrated that what they see in the classroom is the way they’d like to work, but knowing that it will be far from like that back in the workplace. The fact that so many see the potential encourages me to think that it is certainly worth pursuing.

But, if so many people want to make it work, why is it that it is so hard to adopt. Business is often complex of course, and there are all kinds of challenges to succeeding. However, I’d suggest there is a simple solution for most businesses seeking to be more effective: get rid of managers. That might sound nonsensical and naively simplistic, but I’d argue that is because we are simply used to a certain way of doing business that is based on traditional norms, which make it seem ridiculous. Many organisations are very ineffective, because the people who are doing the work, the people who actually know what needs to be done, are powerless to make decisions. While, the people with the power to make decisions, often have very little understanding of what really needs to be done.

It is a common gripe, that management are out of touch with reality, and the answer is often to try to adopt some new technique or management methodology to redress the balance. But that is only because most companies couldn’t imagine a world without managers. However, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t, or shouldn’t, be done – and, in case, many organisations in recent years have begun that revolution to more holocratic and team-based forms of management.

In 1986, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi published their influential article: The New New Product Development Game. The subtitle, Stop running the relay and take up rugby, is still as relevant, if not more so, to our present day and points us in the direction of a better metaphor for running effective businesses. Rather than base our structures on out-dated, hierarchical, command-and-control management structures, we should base them on team structures and build high-performing teams. We wouldn’t have managers running onto the pitch to tell a rugby player where to run with the ball, so why do we insist on managers telling knowledge workers how to solve complex development problems?

Let’s get rid of managers, share management between the people actually doing the work and train servant-leader Scrum Masters to support and coach delivery teams to help them become the best they can be. It may seem idealistic, but it has to be better than the alternative in many businesses.

cristian

My experience of working for George T&D – By Cristian

My internship experience

I’m an Italian boy, I live in a little city in northern Italy and I go to the High School.

This year me and my friends, Erika and Beatrice, decided to have an internship abroad and we asked for it at Inlingua School.

They suddenly found us a place: Create on the Square in Cheltenham.

I never heard about Cheltenham before and I really didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was very happy and excited for this new experience!

We arrived in Cheltenham the 4th December and began working on Monday.. I was a bit scared, but at the same time I was very enthusiastic.

I met lot of wonderful person in Create on the Square.. Tanya, Lizzie, Megan, Pete.. everybody has always been lovely and kind.. and it was all fantastic!

We are in charge of the development of the Pop up Shop Project.

Our first aim is to figured out what people of community really need and we began knocking on door and ask question to who lives there and in the market on Friday, to acquire more information as possible.

Then we started at looking for people who would like to run a pop up shop; we talked with lot of people and we took part a meeting of Gloucestershire Businessman and “Laptop Friday” at Smokey Joe’s.

Our intent is to let the Pop up Shop Project begin on Saturday in January.

I’m sure this experience has been very useful to me, and it will be important for my future; I learnt a lot about British people and their culture, and I will come back to England very soon.

I’m grateful to everybody that helped and supported me during this fantastic experience.

I will leave Cheltenham the 23th of December and I will come back here for just one week in January but I won’t forget all those wonderful people that I met during this journey.

beatrice

My experience of working for George T&D – By Beatrice

I am Beatrice and I am 16 years old. I am a italian girl and live in Como that is in northern of  Italy.

I go to the High School where I study international relationship of marketing.

I came in U.K. with two my friends Erika and Cristian that are my classmates in Italy.

We were here for to do an internship and thanks at Inlingua we found “create on the square”.

The first day we arrived at work and found our tutor Tanya that explained us what create on the square do. At the beginning I was very frightened of not be enough able. But with the time and thanks at the people that I met  I get used to stay here.

We took part of a project from the beginning. This consists in doing market researches between local community and find out what they want and need.

It is a very interesting and fascinating experience. In my country knocking on door wouldn’t be possible because people are not helpful and willing as they are here.

Then we created some persona profiles, where we described different people that were looking for new ways and new jobs, trying to achieve an aim.

This was very difficult and Beatrice and I worked hard.

I liked doing that because it helped me practising our written English.

We took part of the Christmas market and we helped Tanya, Megan and Lizzie during the day.

It was one of the best experience I have ever had. It was like we were in a movie. Incredible experience that will be in my heart forever.

A day we went to a meeting in a farm and it was nice, but for me that am shy was difficult talk with people more old than me.

On Friday we did the Laptop Friday, where we shared our project and met many people that do a lot different job.

The project consists in run a Pop Up Shop on Saturdays starting in January.

We worked a lot for this and I loved it. I think it is an amazing idea.

Cristian, Beatrice and I created a web site. It was the first time that we did that.

Then we shared it on social Networks.

So, this is my experience in U.K. specific at Create On The Square where I knew fantastic and generous people that I will remember forever. This period helped me with English particularly to listen it and understand.

erika

My experience of working for George T&D – By Erika

I am Erika and I come from northern Italy and I came in UK to do an internship.

I go to the High School where I study international relationship of marketing.

I am here with two friends and classmates, Beatrice and Cristian.

We found this place through Inlingua School and Create on the Square chose us to work.

On Monday 5th, my friends and I came there and met our tutor, Tanya.

We did some easy but important things.

We took part of a project from the beginning. This consists in doing market researches between local community and find out what they want and need.

It is a very captivating and fascinating experience. In my country knocking on door wouldn’t be possible because people are not helpful and willing as they are here.

Then we created some persona profiles, where we described different people that were looking for new ways and new jobs, trying to achieve an aim.

This was very difficult and Beatrice and I worked hard.

I liked doing that because it helped me practising our written English.

We took part of the Christmas market and we helped Tanya, Megan and Lizzie during the day. It was one of the best experience I have ever had. It was like we were in a movie. Incredible experience that will be in my heart forever.

A day we went to a meeting in a farm and it was very nice. We were in contact with the nature. Very nice!

On Friday we did the Laptop Friday, where we shared our project.

The project consists in run a Pop Up Shop on Saturdays starting in January.

We worked a lot for this and I loved it. I think it is an amazing idea.

Cristian, Beatrice and I created a web site. It was the first time that we did that.

Then we shared it on social Networks.

At the moment we have got very good results and I am happy of this.

So, this is my little experience her in the U.K. I think that will help me in the future and it is very important. Now I feel more confident with English, especially with the listening and the speaking.

I would like to thank all the people here, they are very special.

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Remote v Classroom teaching: some musings on training in Canada

7th December 2016 Pete George no responses Agile, training & development

I’ve been doing a fair amount of training with Canadian companies this last year, which sounds great, but mostly that has involved talking to delegates over Skype. It’s not a terrible way to deliver training and it obviously has the benefit of being cheaper for the client. It is also very cost-effective for me, only having to ‘travel’ up the stairs of my home to my office.

This week I had the opportunity to travel to Ottowa to deliver a course in person. The client had tried other courses remotely and didn’t feel it was as good. I had a good time and the delegates did seem to get a lot out of the two days. There was far more interaction than the remote courses, as you might expect, and I got to do a little sightseeing while I was there, so that’s a bonus.

I am musing though, in this day of advanced communication tools, whether the traditional classroom delivery is destined to become obsolete. I see the benefits, but I wonder whether sometimes we (the clients and myself) hold on to the classroom delivery because it’s simply what we’re used to.

I’m writing this post on the 8hr flight to the UK from Ottowa. 3,400 miles and over 2 days travelling to deliver a 2 day course is quite an overhead, albeit not one I’m complaining about.

Could the delegates have got as much out of a remote course? Not as much, I don’t believe, but possibly enough to make it a sensible option. I’ve had folks in the UK ask for remote courses to save the expense of me travelling the relatively short journey to London and I expect it will be a growing option for many.

A year ago I had some discussions with some folks in Nairobi about delivering training there. We are still working on it, but it has stalled due to the cost of flying me over there. That seems a shame, because Nairobi is going through a tremendous tech boom at the moment and there is a big market for good quality training. We may explore the remote option, but I have to be honest and say that part of my aim in developing training in Kenya is to give me the excuse to visit that country more often.

It does depend on the course type to a certain extent too. It seems slightly incongruous to teach about Agile development, which asserts that face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication, and then choose another medium. It is also more challenging to run exercises remotely and I’m not a big fan of lecture-only training courses.

I’m investing in better collaboration tools that will facilitate online training, which provides more choice for delegates. However, for the timebeing at least, classroom-based courses are still the predominant delivery approach and I hope to get plenty more opportunities to travel across the world for a good few years yet.

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Lean Problem Solving with Charities

A month or so ago I was asked if I could run a course for local charitable organisations, by BITC connector Chris Watts. Chris wanted to help managers working in this sector, where money for training is often tight, to get access to the kind of training managers in commercial businesses might get. We arranged a free workshop on problem solving using Lean ideas and tools, which I delivered last week.

BITC (https://bitcconnect.org/about) connectors are a great initiative. The basic idea is that connectors work with businesses in an area to connect them with people dealing with social issues. The focus is on the ‘win-win’ partnership between business and charities, which I’m very much in favour of. It’s a win-win situation, because the business provides resources and in response receives opportunity to promote its work, to develop staff and other add-on benefits. The charities provide diverse opportunities for businesses and benefit from the skills and resources the business can offer.

I spent a bit time thinking about the content of the course should be. There are lots of things you could do on problem solving, but for a 3hr session I wanted to make sure people went away with some practical tools as well as things to consider further. I decided to focus mostly on the PDCA cycle and also give a quick skim of the A3 problem solving tool, including 5 Whys.

PDCA or Plan-Do-Check-Act was popularised by W.Edwards Deming last century and forms a basis for the learning culture needed in Lean organisations. We quickly skimmed over the theory and applied the cycle to a practical exercise – moving 100 plastic balls from one end of the room to the other, making sure each delegate touched each ball with both hands. The delegates successfully went through a few test cycles using PDCA, ie they planned an improvement, eg to pass two balls at a time; did it within a 30s period; checked how many balls were moved; and then acted on that, eg trying a new plan.

The delegates successfully completed the exercise and we discussed the benefits of PDCA over a more ‘just-do-it’ approach, in particular the benefit of creating a learning/problem-solving culture in your organisation.

We went on to look at the A3 report and how it can be used to provide a structured move through the PDCA cycle. An A3 report is essentially a way of structuring a brainstorm exercise by recording the content on an A3 sheet of paper. To help structure the problem solving approach, you can run through steps, which follow the PDCA cycle. We worked through another exercise (putting dismantled electrical plugs together) using an A3 report.

We also discussed the 5 Whys technique, which is a great way to do root cause analysis, an important step on the A3 report. The idea is fairly simple. We start with a problem and then ask Why it is like that. Once we have an answer, we then ask Why again, and repeat. It doesn’t necessarily have to go to a depth of 5 Whys, but that udually is about the right depth to come up with the underlying issue – which can then be addressed.

The delegates enjoyed the course and indicated it had been beneficial. One commented that it was the first time (in many years of working in the voluntary sector) that she’d heard such ideas. Another wanted to borrow my A3 template to use to address an immediate problem he was dealing with. As much as there will be some Lean gurus out there who will be appalled at superficially teaching techniques without really looking at the underlying Lean ideas, the delegates did seem to benefit from the practical application and have a feel for Lean philosophy.

From my perspective, it was fun to try out material in a different way and I think I would definitely offer the workshop to other clients in future. There was some interest in future training work from the delegates, but even if there was no direct financial gain from this course, it promotes the George T&D brand further.

Of course, the delegates who attended are all doing great charitable work and hopefully we’ve contributed a bit to helping them solve any problems that hinder that, so that’s positive in its own right. I look forward to doing more sessions like this in future.