Yesterday I published an article on Harmonising Conditions for Innovation. As often happens, getting something published enables a sort of integration that gives way to further insights. Overnight this got me reflecting on the organisations and activities that enable ‘harmony’ and evolution within communities.
By harmony, I mean something equivalent to in music: the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing effect. In the context of innovation ecosystems, the simultaneity may be ‘in a year’ and the ‘notes’ are really the frequency (per year, rather than Hz!) of different organisation’s activities.
For example, in Western Australia’s innovation ecosystem:
- weekly lunchtime learning sessions, like at Pollinators
- fortnightly meetups for founders, like Morning Startup,
- monthly calls for regional facilitators, as hosted by Meshpoints,
- monthly event calendars, like those from StartupNews,
- annual West Tech Fest conference, powered by Curtin University
- annual summits reporting and reflecting on changes in the ecosystem, like that being hosted by StartupWA.
There is a combined ‘harmony’ that some organisations like StartupWA, StartupNews and Meshpoints enable in their respective systems.
They often don't or can't:
- deliver services directly to startups, or even to incubators or other stakeholders.
- force harmony through funding or any other source of power, or
- change the nature of any of the other entities in the ecosystem,
- speak on behalf of others with 'one voice'.
What they can do is
- create relationships, connections and affiliate structures that mean it’s easy and expected to be considerate and learn from others,
- allow entities to see each other and their activities in relation, so it's easy to adjust position,
- create the situation in which all voices can be heard.
This ‘community harmony’ role is distinct from both:
- mapping an ecosystem abstractly without specific intention, and
- strongly intentional models of Collective Impact and ‘backbone’ organisations.
I think there’s something there that this role or function enables, that is critical to the evolution of an ecosystem. And, yet it is (currently) hard to define or measure, undervalued and not well-documented nor necessarily deliberately (or well) practiced.
While the image that easily comes to mind is of a conductor, it feels more appropriate to think of it as a function: conduction. This could be distributed within the ecosystem, but essential to it's overall healthy function and evolution.