Heading off to Manchester for a couple of days to meet with members of the national Social Responsibility Network. SRN is a peer support network for Christian social responsibility practitioners, and many of them work as diocesan officers as I do. They will be passionate about the communities they serve and the positive contribution churches can make.
Conferences are great places to meet with people who share a common interest. Conversations over dinner or at the bar can be genuine turning points – an idea shared or a new partnership formed. Great ideas and initiatives are rarely formed out of the heads of a single person or organisation. It is the juxtaposition of diverse insights, analysis and creative thought that provides the space for ideas to germinate.
A problem in many commercial organisations led by ambitious individuals is that the ownership of ideas is critical to business and personal success. The act of forming partnerships becomes not a social engagement, or organic in any way, but a business contract requiring the protection of any intellectual property! Any idea pursued will be tested against the unique brand positioning of the host organisation. This is not necessarily a recipe for transformational ideas, though it may serve novelty very well.
The Church of England, like it or loathe it, is a diverse organisation where division and conflict are inevitable. The range of world views and practical experience is astonishing and the freedom individuals to say want they think is notable if not scary.
As the church becomes more connected and engines for social and intellectual engagement are tuned, there will be the potential for some amazing and transformational relationships. What it will require of us is to suspend our personal viewpoints, ambitions and schemes and open ourselves up to the thinking of others.
My hope for this conferences is not necessarily to find new ideas I can take home in a conference goody bag, but to find new relationships and connections. It is the generous sharing of ideas, dynamic partnerships and intelligent configuration of resources that will lead to success.