“The word ‘Shift’ implies a willingness to think radically different – to see the abundance of possibilities that come with change. We need to tap the collective good for the good of everyone.” —Julie Ristau, Co-Director, On the Commons
This Make > Shift Guide offers a no-cost group process for exploring possibilities for meaningful work that will generate both income and community benefits. Based on the experience of a pilot group in the Twin Cities, the guide goes step-by-step through an orientation and seven meeting, four month process that can be adapted by any community group or adult education/workforce development program.
Participants brainstorm ideas for products and services stemming from current demographic and market trends . Members form teams to research the feasibility of business concepts based on the ideas. Some go on to develop business plans. Others say simply that they have garnered some useful ideas and professional relationships while having fun and connecting with interesting people.
The guide was written by Jan Hively, who convened and coordinated the pilot group in 2010, with assistance from Kirin Loomis, one of the Make > Shift pilot group entrepreneurs. Kirsten Wedes created the diagrams that are included in the Resource file.
PART 1: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
Why Make > Shift?
Most of us in “midlife and beyond” grew up with the expectation that a good education and a record of quality work would result in a long term career and employer-supported pension. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the erosion of employer pensions and job stability. Since the recession began in November 2007, employees in the 45+ age category have been those hardest hit by layoffs.
The number of job listings is down while the number of applications for every job is up. The traditional process of submitting an online application and resume in response to a job listing is not working. Older workers are less likely than younger workers to be called for an interview, regardless of their qualifications. Too many of us have hit the wall created by ageism as we seek new employment comparable to what we have held to date. We may never find a job that both matches our skills and interests and generates adequate income.
A lot of us are patching jobs together to generate enough money to get by. “Patchwork” describes this way of working and doing – patching jobs together to earn some income and create a life. Driving a bus, waiting on tables, taking seasonal sales jobs – all part-time, mostly project-based. That’s one route to making a livelihood.
Make > Shift takes a different route —- shifting attention from job scarcity to the abundance of possibilities for meaningful work that produces both income and community benefits. Current trends such as greening and rapid aging are generating needs for new services, projects, and products. Make > Shift focuses attention on business ideas to address those needs.
The usual route to entrepreneurship is narrow. Every day, we read about innovative individuals who have taken a big risk, worked 20 hours a day, found investors, and turned their good ideas into new products or services that are successful in the marketplace. Let’s think about business innovation as a team sport rather than a lonely endeavor. Rather than a narrow path, Make > Shift creates a commons for innovation.
What is Make > Shift?
Make > Shift is a process for encouraging collaborative entrepreneurship focused on generating products/services to meet needs stemming from current trends. Make > Shift engages the creativity and follow-through of people with diverse strengths who are willing to commit skills, time and trust to a team effort. The process is designed for people in midlife transition who are seeking meaningful work that both generates income and benefits the community.
Here’s an important question raised by a prospective participant:
“Is the Make > Shift process worth the effort?”
Here’s the answer, based on the first pilot: The 16 people who participated in the Make > Shift pilot:
— researched and discussed four trends
— generated over 100 ideas for new products and services
— generated a dozen business concepts, tapping the list of ideas
— followed through and planned three business startups
But the most important outcome is NOT the number of business concepts. What is important is the shift in participant perspective – away from finding a job that someone else has created to crafting a livelihood based on personal interest and market need. The current economy demands this shift – from being dependent to being proactive – seeing opportunities — building on strengths – sharing strengths.
The Story of Make > Shift
During the first half of 2010, a group of experienced professionals piloted the seven-session “Make > Shift” process. They were members of SHiFT, a Twin Cities non-profit community network that supports vocational transitions with forums, life planning circles, a Time Bank for exchanging services, and a powerful website, www.shiftonline.com .
In 2006, when the co-founders of SHiFT began to help people “move to meaning in their life and work,” most of the participants were currently employed but seeking a midlife career change that would better match their interests. After the recession took hold in 2008, however, the majority of new SHiFT participants had been laid off and were either unemployed or underemployed with part-time or temporary jobs.
In January 2010, Julie Ristau, co-director of On the Commons, www.onthecommons.org , stimulated an exciting discussion at a SHiFT forum titled, “Seeing the Abundance: Finding a Livelihood in the Shift from ‘Me’ to ‘We.’” Julie commented:
People talk about the loss of stability in neighborhoods and the workplace. I’m working with a growing movement of people who are yearning for a commons-based society. We seek to claim and protect those things that belong to all of us and to none of us – clean air, clean water, good work, public space, for example. The task is to shift the balance from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ perspective.
We can re-imagine how things could be different if we focus on abundance rather than scarcity. We can open up new opportunities for leadership, foster more small-scale settings for people to interact, and instill a new sense that our dependency on one another is a point of strength rather than a problem.
The emerging movement involves people networking,, spreading ideas, co-creating solutions to the problems we face together. It affects how people see themselves, how they recognize the future, and how they work together to shape a life-sustaining future for all of us.
The co-founder of SHiFT who was moderating the forum, Jan Hively, suggested that SHiFT might be seen as a commons where members could develop a circle of trust and a platform for collaborative entrepreneurship. Jan said:
I’d like to see us contributing our diverse and unique individual skills in a collaborative way to address the needs of the community – and earn needed income. Perhaps we need to create a ‘Make > Shift.’
In the energetic discussion that followed, the audience talked about what “Make > Shift” might look like. Twenty SHiFT members signed up at the end of the meeting to become involved in follow-up planning. From the discussion notes, the following sequence of Make > Shift activities was proposed:
• Create a group and get to know and trust one another
• Assess the unique mix of individual strengths and skills and interests
• Brainstorm unfulfilled community needs for services, projects or products that are being generated by demographic and market trends. Examples include Greening, Frugality, Aging of Boomers, etc.
• Select a couple of services or products that members of the group might want to develop through a team effort — to make some money and/or create some “livelihood” for the participants
• Encourage follow through on business development
The SHiFT members who signed up said they were interested in applying their diverse and unique skills in a collaborative way to address the needs of the community…. and earn needed income. They were interested in working together to shape the process.
The rest of the story of the Make > Shift pilot, from program planning to business development, will be told throughout the Starter Guide.
Overview of the Starter Guide
The goal for this Starter Guide is to provide enough information to replicate the Make > Shift teaching/learning process, but not so much guidance that it will inhibit creative adaptation. “Leaders” are all those interested in facilitating the Make > Shift process, plus all those interested in participating in the process. The point is that everybody connected with Make > Shift is a both a teacher and a learner, leading and following as needed for the success of the collaborative process.
The Guide is divided into four Parts:
I. Introduction and Overview
A. Why Make > Shift?
B. What is Make > Shift?
C. The Story of Make > Shift
D. Overview of the Guide
E. Overview of the Process (Who,What, When, Where, Cost, Communications)
II. Getting Started
A. Gathering a Group
B. Hosting an Orientation/Planning Session
C. Preparing for Group Meeting 1
III. Make > SHIFT Group Meetings
A. Meeting 1. Selecting Trends and Teams
B. Meetings 2 through 5. Presenting Trends and Brainstorming
C. Meeting 6. Bringing It Together
D. Meeting 7. Closure for Some, Next Steps for Others, Celebration for All
A. Working on the Commons
B. Evaluation: Responses from Pilot Group Interviews
C. What’s Next? What’s Important?
Additional information and opportunities to request and share information can be found in an accompanying sidebar and at the common security clubs website .
Overview of the Make > Shift Process
THE PARTICIPANTS. Make > Shift participants are people with diverse strengths who are willing to commit time and trust to a team effort. The teaching/learning process is designed for people in vocational transition who are seeking meaningful work that both generates income and benefits the community. Participants may be unemployed, underemployed, making a transition into a semi-retirement, coming out of retirement, changing homemaker/caregiving roles – or simply moving on to try out a new vocational opportunity.
The ideal size of the group is 20 – large enough to assure an adequate number for developing teams, but small enough to encourage trust and cohesion.
Convenors of the process may be community development groups, self-help workforce development groups, community colleges, professional associations, alumni associations, or clubs. The process could be offered as an ungraded adult education course, but only if there were a commitment to going outside the boundaries of classroom protocol to assure social networking and adapt the curriculum so that the group “owns” the process.
THE COORDINATOR. Although one goal of the effort is to disseminate leadership throughout the group, it is important to have a reliable and experienced group facilitator/coordinator as the consistent go-to person. This person must be a competent communicator who is both an empowering coach and a taskmaster.
The coordinator is responsible for explaining the process, finding hosts and making meeting arrangements, sending out meeting notices, assuring evaluation, assuring note-taking, assuring access to resources, and overall guidance and coordination. He/she may need access to some administrative support, particularly for website management.
THE WEBSITE MANAGER. Make > Shift’s collaborative process involves both face-to-face and on-line peer networking. It’s important for each group to have a “Members Only” website to post ideas, meeting notes, and resource links. Some convenors may be able to create space on their organization’s website. For independent groups, it’s convenient to set up a free Group Spaces Group or Yahoo Group. Ideally, a group participant will volunteer to set up and maintain the group site. The space must be secure for members and those they invite to review materials on the site.
RESOURCE TEAMS. There is a Resource Team for each of the seven group meetings. Teams are self-selected but every participant is on one or more teams. Every team has a leader selected by the team. The team is responsible for:
• Collecting background material and posting it on the website
• Developing the agenda with the coordinator
• Meeting facilitation
• Presenting a summary at the beginning of the meeting
• Taking meeting notes and posting them on the website
• Facilitating an evaluation with feedback from every participant at the end of the session
This Guide describes a meeting process to develop a cohesive group, generate ideas for new products and services stemming from current trends, and develop feasible business concepts using some of those ideas, with some plans for follow through:
The first get-together is an orientation/ planning session hosted by the Make > Shift convenor for those who have expressed interest or are being recruited. Prospective participants are invited to post on the website: a) information about their interests and skills , and b) suggestions for current trends that are generating needs for new products and services. A planning team is formed to prepare the agenda for the first meeting.
A seven meeting sequence encompasses the work of those who have expressed commitment to maintain participation throughout the process. As shown in the Overview of the Guide:
• Meeting 1 of the sequence is for selecting four trends and organizing
• Meetings 2 , 3, 4, and 5 are each devoted to presenting information about a trend, followed by brainstorming ideas for new products and services stemming from the trend.
• At Meeting 6, having reviewed all of the ideas and submitted concepts for business ventures that fit with their personal interests, the participants decide which concepts they want to explore and divide into teams to assess feasibility.
• At Meeting 7, the teams present feasibility reports and proponents of business ventures that appear feasible solicit partners. Each member of the group offers a personal response to the question, “What’s next?” The sequence of scheduled meetings ends with a celebration of the work that has been accomplished.
Evaluation is incorporated in the schedule for every meeting. Evaluation interviews with all participants are held after the sequence has been completed.
Some of the participants will continue to meet and work on business start-ups. The convenor/coordinator has no direct responsibility for supporting this follow-up but the communications plan should include a process for keeping track of outcomes.
The process is designed to run for four months. Meetings are scheduled two weeks apart, always on the same day/evening of the week, to maximize cohesive energy.
Some participants have complained about the tight schedule, given the fact that Resource Teams need to meet once or twice between scheduled group meetings. Alternatives might include lengthening the interval between the Planning Session and the first group session, or between group sessions 5 and 6 to allow more time for developing business concepts, or between group sessions 6 and 7 to allow more time for feasibility studies of business concepts.
The meetings for the pilot program were held in the evening, following a pot luck supper where participants had an opportunity to socialize prior to the session. The group disbanded no later than 9:00 p.m. The typical schedule would be:
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Potluck Supper
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Introductions, reports, presentations
7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participative activity: brainstorming, discussion
8:30 to 8:45 p.m. Meeting evaluation
A few members offered feedback that they would prefer not to have potluck suppers before the meeting. Those who offered this opinion were either not able to prepare food, detained at work, or had special dietary needs. They tended to deal with their concern by coming later to the meetings. If there is no potluck, another option would be for the participants to take turns bringing snacks.
What works best for meeting space is a community room with:
• Easy access and free parking
• Flexible meeting space – room for a big circle and/or a cluster of tables
• Kitchen facilities – with a microwave, sink, and a counter to lay out the buffet
• Projection screen (digital monitor) with a hook-up for computer projection
The pilot program used five meeting spaces – all connected with the residences of participants. For future consideration, some participants said that they would have preferred meeting in one location every time.
The process is designed to require no expenditures beyond participant contributions of food, printing, and meeting space. If there is a charge for the meeting space or for printing or for food, participants are asked to contribute to cover the cost.
Assuring confidentiality is important to developing trust and group cohesion. Everything that is posted on the secure website belongs to the members of the group. The group is likely to come up with 100+ ideas for new products and services and a dozen proposals for business ventures. Each group should decide for itself when to release the material for use by other Make > Shift participants or other selected individuals/groups.
At the first group session, participants will receive full contact information for members of the group. Name tags are used for the first few sessions. It’s assumed that all participants will make use of e-mail and access to the group website to set up team meetings, etc.
It’s important to adopt a style of open communication so that everyone is heard while staying on track with the agenda. For example, the meeting facilitator should allow time at the end of each portion of the agenda to check in with those who haven’t contributed.
The goal is to create a safe space on fertile ground for a group to cultivate collaborative entrepreneurship. The communications plan simply reinforces that commitment.
PART II: GETTING STARTED
Gathering a Group – Recruitment
It’s easy to recruit prospective participants for Make > Shift if you have access to a diverse group of experienced professionals who are seeking meaningful work that generates both income and community benefits. Just tell them about the benefits of participating, in addition to handing out an overview of the process:
• “It’s an upbeat process – focused on seeing abundance rather than scarcity.”
• “You’ll learn how to think like an entrepreneur.”
• “You’ll expand your network of interesting friends and colleagues.”
• “You’ll get supportive feedback as you explore ”
• “It’s a team effort where you’ll get together with people with complementary skills and similar interests.”
• “With or without partners, you can use the ideas to create a startup business.”
• “There are no grades and there is no cost for an incredible learning experience.”
• “You will learn about the impact of current trends on your interests and your community.”
• “We have good food, good discussion, and good fun during the course of the program.”
The key step to effective recruitment is to invite prospects to an orientation. The convenor/coordinator hosts an orientation for a few dozen likely candidates. The goal is to attract 24 people who are likely to participate after they have met the others and heard details about the program. If 20 of them show up at Meeting 1 of the group sessions, then at least 16 are likely to complete the process — a number large enough to get the work done and small enough to be cohesive. A group with fewer members could still be effective if the scope of work in reduced to addressing two or three trends rather than four.
Hosting an Orientation/Planning Session
Ideally, the orientation session will be held in a home where people can circulate before and after the meeting and get to know each other. The trust that is essential for doing away with the barriers of self-consciousness and freeing up creativity should take root in this first gathering.
The convenor/coordinator will compile e-mail addresses and phone numbers for likely candidates and e-mail a brief invitation to the preliminary get-together, with an attached agenda. “Here is the agenda for our time together (date, time, location). Please read it through and consider what might be your responses to the introductory questions.”
The sample agenda that follows describes the program for an orientation session. As needed, the coordinator should ask confirmed participants for help with tasks such as facilitating parts of the program, hosting, organizing food, taking notes, facilitating the meeting evaluation, etc.
Agenda for Make > Shift Orientation, date, 5:45 to 8:30 p.m.
See the attached directions (Including parking)
When you come in the door, take off your shoes and leave your coat in the bedroom
Pick up your name tag on the bureau
5:45: Food and drink.. (Supplied by the host except for solicited items. No alcohol.)
Black bean and corn salad
Couple of lettuce salads — Need to have a couple of people bring these salads
Fruit and cheese – Need to have a couple of people bring fruit, cheese, crackers
Cookies – Need to have a couple of people bring cookies
Coffee/tea Milk Cranberry juice Water and lemon slices
6:30 pm: Introductions
Go-round to hear brief personal introductions – one or two word responses to these ?s:
a) What’s your name?
b) What’s one of your personal strengths that you and others can count on?
c) What’s one of your personal skills that may be useful in this collaboration?
d) What’s one thing that you hope to get out of participating in Make> Shift?
Review of who and what we’ve collected here..
7:00 pm: Review of the Process
Overview: Meeting Plans
Getting to know each other better
Vision and values
Prep for the four brainstorming sessions
Meetings #2 through #5:
Four brainstorming sessions led by Trend Teams. For each:
Understanding of the trend
Brainstorming ideas for products/services
(Followed by submission of concepts for business ventures based on compilation of ideas)
Consideration of business concepts
Forming Feasibility Teams
Suggestions? (Following list generated in pilot session)
Simple Life (Frugality)
Schedule for collecting suggestions, followed by online survey, will generate ranked list for choice of four at Meeting 1
7:45 pm: Who will do what? (Specific & definite assignments for Meeting 1; tentative plans for later meetings)
Develop secure website for background material and meeting notes
Host and location for each meeting
Resource team for each session, with the following tasks:
Collect background material and post on website
Summary to present at beginning of the session
Starter list of products/services for each session
8:15 pm. Checking out… (Conducted by participant/observer)
Feedback around the circle on highs/lows, expectations/advice for next time
Next Steps: Confirmation of commitment to participate, submission of trends
8:30 pm. Adjournment
For the evaluation feedback process, shown as “Checking Out” on the agenda, a trained observer followed the outline: “What? So what? Now what?” She saw her task as creating a platform for non-judgmental feedback, full participation, and two-sided talking. Her slogan was: “Say it. Deal with it. Move on.”
Walking the Talk: Living our Values. At the end of the orientation session, the observer gave a brief summary of the meeting and the way in which it had reflected the Values of Make > Shift:
• Taps participant strengths rather than calling on outside “experts’
• Builds trust as an affinity group
• Organized: creates and follows an agenda
• Talks about trends. They connect the present with the future.
• Emphasizes the importance of keeping your antenna up to see opportunities for entrepreneurship
• Creates a cache of ideas
• Fosters intrapreneurship
What was missing? What should be done better next time? Go-round with each participant contributing:
• Need to make sure that people are heard after the intros
• Heard less focus on the end result of entrepreneurship than I had expected
• Question about how I can connect with this effort
• Liked the creative chaos
• Make sure that everyone is contributing
• Lack of good listening – perhaps use a talking stick?
• “Products and services” need more discussion
• Need BIGGER names on the name tags
• Show pictures on the website along with names so we can get each other matched up
• Need to share the work
What gem(s) do you take home from the meeting? Sample from go-round with each participant contributing:
• Everyone’s equal
• Collaboration creates hope
• Critical mass of thoughtful people
• Concept of open enterprise
• Thinking about trends
• New forms of business
• Thought provoking
• The people here “get it”
• I have found a connection. I could design a couple of the items
• Appreciated the careful organization of the meeting, with all the details
As is true for all evaluations, the coordinator should respond promptly with visible changes that acknowledge suggestions.
Preparing for Group Meeting #1
Confirming Participation: Ideally, the group website will be set up by the time of the orientation session. At the end of the orientation, attendees will be asked to confirm commitment to participation by registering at the group website within the next few days. The coordinator will check with any attendees who have not registered by the deadline to confirm in or out status. The goal is to assure 20 participants at the first meeting.
Identifying Trends: For Make > Shift, a social/economic trend is a pattern of activities/events/understandings that affects the behaviors/needs/ attitudes of people in the community. When Make > Shift participants confirm their status by registering at the website, they will be asked to add ideas for trends to the list that was generated at the orientation session. Each trend should have a title and a couple of sentences describing its impact.
Planning Team: The Planning Team for Meeting 1 is made up of 3 to 5 volunteers who meet with the coordinator within a few days after the orientation session. It’s useful to include the meeting location host as a member of the team. At their meeting, the team will confirm: 1) a process for selecting trends, and 2) a comprehensive agenda for Meeting 1.
1. Selecting trends. For the pilot group, the Planning Team sent out a survey to the participants a week before Meeting 1. They used Survey Monkey, a free service at www.surveymonkey.com , and asked two questions.
a. The first question listed the trends submitted to date and asked: “Which four of the following trends would provide the greatest opportunity for collaborative entrepreneurship? Please select them by checking ‘Yes’. Please check ‘No’ for the ones that would not be a useful starting point.”
b. The second question asked: “If you think other trends would be more useful in our effort to find collaborative entrepreneurship opportunities, please list one or more.”
Results were reported at Meeting 1, as a starting point for discussion and voting.
2. Meeting agenda. The Planning Team for the pilot group developed a “Getting to Know You” exercise to generate focused networking during the dining period prior to opening the meeting. The team spent a couple of hours developing a meeting agenda that would include: a) discussion and decisions about trends, plus b) organizing the teams and the calendar for following meetings, plus c) a sample format for the team presentations that would be offered in the next four meetings. Most important, the team members divided up responsibilities for facilitating the different parts of a complex agenda.
3. Mailout. The Coordinator mailed out:
a. the Meeting 1 agenda
b. meeting notes from the orientation session
c. list of participants with contact information
d. brief description of Make > Shift
e. request for food contributions to the pot luck supper (See Potluck Menu Form in the Resource Folder)
PART III: MAKE > SHIFT GROUP MEETINGS
Meeting #1. Selecting Trends and Teams
In spite of excellent front-end communication from the planning team, only 16 of the 21 sign-ups appeared at Meeting 1 of the pilot group. This illustrates the importance of recruiting more than enough participants and planning for attrition.
5:45. Hopes for the Future
The group picked up name tags and shared a potluck supper. They sat in groups of four around bridge tables. Two questions and a talking stick were placed on each table. While they were eating, the participants took turns responding briefly to the questions:
When you look around you at the world five years from now, what is one thing that you hope to see? Most of the responses (see the complete list in the Resource Folder) described people working together with the will, the health, and the education to solve common problems.
When you think about yourself five years from now, what’s one special wish that you hope will come true? Most of the responses described being in good health and earning a livable income while doing good, meaningful work.
The participants moved to a circle and introduced themselves, with one person from each table offering a highlight from the “Hopes for the Future” discussion. The convenor reiterated the purpose for Make > Shift and
emphasized that program success requires participant commitment to engage fully during the six session process and help develop group trust. What goes on in the group stays in the group. Ideas that are generated belong to the members of the group. “We will not share them with others without prior group discussion.”
7:00. Work Plan
The Planning Team facilitated discussion, briefly mentioning the full list of suggested trends and focusing on the four trends that the MakeSHiFT participants had rated highest in the preliminary survey. The group agreed to focus on those four trends and talked about a title, core issues and opportunities for each trend.
The participants signed up to form four teams with approximately equal membership. The teams met briefly, selected convenors, signed up to take responsibility for one of the four following meetings, and decided on times for planning meetings.
Here are the results of this effort:
Meeting #2. Greening
(Green products and services are expanding.)
Core Issues & Opportunities:
Products are changing and increasing
Moving closer to a natural cycle of life model
Legacy of this (7th?) generation
Sustainability, small footprint
Clean tech equals Money savied (Greenwash)
Steps toward decreasing footsteps
Help industries that are trying to meet this issue/need and making attempts to go green
Find ways to make green enjoyable
Green = health
Recognizing strength (positives) of vested interests
#Meeting #3. Boomers Aging
(Baby Boomers are nearing retirement.)
Core Issues & Opportunities:
Society is aging world wide
72 Million boomers among them
End of retirement
Recent reports indicate people over 60 are wiser
Mentoring the Echo Boom coming along
Many can’t/won’t retire
Corporations will need more employees than younger generations can provide
It’s not just boomers, this is an older generation
How can we sell wisdom to those who are ready to use it?
Push as consumers
Understand other generations
Workplace/ participation flexibility
Need new models for positive aging
Meeting #4. Work Innovations
(We are changing the way we work.)
Core Issues & Opportunities:
Our identity is no longer where we work, it’s the way we work and what we do
Our colleagues and friends are more diverse
Geographic communities more global
Flexibility – individual, schedules, organizations
Intranet & community social media
Definition of “work” is changing
Meaningful work may be either paid or unpaid
Work is not a place — it’s an outcome/product
More consultants, less staff
Tasks rather than positions
Experienced apprenticeships needed
Bringing people together
Meeting #5. Wellness
(Wellness programs are growing in popularity)
Core Issues & Opportunities:
More than health
Mind, body, spirit/money, medicine, meaning
Six dimensions: physical, mental, social, emotional, financial security, relational
Three primary factors: Exercise, nutrition, relationships
Gallup & Healthways research on whole being
Younger generation will not be as healthy as previous generations
State of well being is individual and community of friends – strengths- based approach
Start measuring things differently
Locally grown – wellness topics and green
Lifestyle coaching for all
Rebranding physical education in school – rebranding what it means to be well in general
Format for Trend Presentations
8:30 The Planning Team reviewed the calendar for the next four sessions and presented questions for the Trend Teams to consider as they researched and developed their presentations:
• What the title for your trend? Name it!
• What are the key aspects of the trend?
• What markets are affected by this trend and how?
• What does the market need?
• Is data available on the trend and market needs?
• Do we know the current state of the art/best practices in this area?
• What are some products and services currently addressed the trend?
• What is our plan for carrying out a products and services brainstorm with the larger group?
o Meeting agenda
o Material to be presented by which group members
o Identification and preparation for a facilitator and recorder
The website developer reviewed what had been placed on the group site to date and solicited requests for help in posting trend presentations and meeting notes, etc.
The Planning Team asked every participant to respond to the question, “What could have been done better?” Each participant was asked to write down a response and to briefly report on in a circle go-round. The primary response was there was too much packed into the evening, resulting in too much pressure to move quickly and not enough time for everyone to be heard. The group is diverse and there is much to be learned from each other.
The agenda was overloaded, but the discussion was stimulating, the networking effective, and the results on target.
Meetings 2 through 5. Presenting Trends and Brainstorming
Same Agenda for Four Trend Meetings
Trend presentations and brainstorming meetings were held every other week on a regular evening over the next two months. One week before the meeting, the convenor sent out directions to the location of the meeting and a blank menu for pot luck signups (see a sample in the Resource Folder). At the beginning of each meeting, the convenor restated the purpose of Make > Shift, mentioned the importance of confidentiality, and urged inclusive participation.
The schedule for each brainstorming session looked like this:
5.30. Pot luck and networking
6:30. Trend Team presentation about the trend and some of its implications for products and/or services
7:00. Group brainstorming of products and services generated by the trend
8:00. Discussion about results and next steps
8:20 Evaluation of the session/process
Different formats were used by the four Trend Teams to stimulate thinking. Every team used a powerpoint projection to organize the presentation and emphasize high points. One team showed a video. Another did a role play. Another used a quick survey to illustrate participant attitudes. Varied props were used to stimulate discussion, e.g., a hardhat, a flower power outfit, and a wellness wheel. Some invited discussion of each segment while others delayed discussion until after the presentation. Some brought handouts in addition to posting resources on the group site.
The task for brainstorming is to assure warm support for people to engage their left brain and come up with multiple ideas, including crazy ideas. Efforts to focus or criticize or in other ways restrict the free flow of ideas will suffocate creativity, so “the sky’s the limit.” However, it’s also important to keep on task – which means generating ideas for goods and services appropriate for market development.
Several approaches were used to encourage inclusive participation:
• Use of technology connecting a laptop computer to a TV monitor or screen so that ideas can be seen and grouped as soon as they are suggested.
• Focus on segments or whole. Participants were invited to brainstorm following each segment of the Boomers Aging presentation (e.g., services for disabled elders related to increase of boomers remaining in their homes, equipment related to increase in older adults continuing to work as consultants from their homes)
• Use of talking stick or taking time to check in with those who haven’t contributed during the initial surge of ideas
• Asking every participant to write and post ideas, followed by group sharing and categorizing the posted notes
The Green Team used a Blue Sky exercise to warm up the group for brainstorming, and then used a two step process to solicit marketable solutions in response to problem statements. For example:
Problem statement: Grow useful plants in the city on apartment/condo balconies
Solution: Design a ladder framework for pots of herbs and vegetables that would be ready for the customer to lean against a balcony wall, water and grow
The Boomers Aging Team called itself “ReGeneration.” After fielding 44 “business concepts” in the brainstorming session, the group reviewed the list and prioritized ten based on participant interest in follow-up.
The Work Innovations Team focused its brainstorming session on the question: “As you craft you livelihood, what would you be willing to pay for that would help you get to where you want to be?” The facilitator went around the circle soliciting responses, and then opened the floor to all. Later, the results were grouped into five business categories.
The Wellness Team invited participants to:
1. Rate themselves on each of the seven dimensions of wellness (see the Wellness Wheel in the section on Resources), and next
2. State three personal goals for Wellness to work on, and next
3. State three things that the world needs for Wellness, and then
4. Suggest three ideas for turning the world needs and personal goals into business opportunities
Although the process varied, each team presentation generated from 30 to 55 ideas for products and services (see the list of ideas in the Resource Folder).
Every brainstorming session was energetic — bursting with creativity and possibility. After the Wellness session , the question was asked, “What’s one word that describes the dynamics for today’s process?” The first word was “energized”, followed by “overstuffed with possibilities,” “productive,” and “stimulating.” For all of the sessions, “It was exciting to hear the laughter and the kooky ideas that produced brilliant solutions and more ideas.” “We are determined to incorporate FUN into whatever we decide to do!” “We discovered that ideas that unfold in a viable way come from more than one person.” “We motivate each other.” “We found the genius within – of collective intelligence.”
When asked “What didn’t work? What could we improve upon?”, a few participants were bothered by the fluid free-for-all of the brainstorming session. Some commented that the questions designed to stimulate discussion were too complex or abstract.
Beginning with the second trend presentation, participants commented on relationships among the topics. By Meeting 6, business concepts frequently integrated ideas and values from all four trends. Looking at the big picture, several participants suggested that the group should get a grant to institutionalize the Make > Shift process. (This guide was produced by volunteers like everything else about the process….without a grant.)
Results from Meetings 2 to 5 were posted on the group site. The big question was “What’s next?”
Meeting 6. Bringing it Together
Teamwork to Develop and Organize Business Concepts
Every Make > Shift participant was involved in the process of developing one-page proposals for business ventures from the overall list of ideas. The two weeks prior to Meeting 6 were packed with activity.
Role of the Trend Teams (Week 1). Each of the four Trend Teams met independently shortly after Meeting 5 and selected for further development up to five of the ideas that were relevant to the team’s topic. Team volunteers completed a business concept proposal form for each of the ideas that had been selected.
Make > Shift Concept Proposal for a Business Venture
Title: (Name to identiy the concept)
Mission: (Brief summary of project or business)
Goals/Methodology: (Process for accomplishing the mission)
Considerations/Concerns: (Barriers or special needs that should be noted . This served as an agenda for discussion.)
Submitted by: (Team or individual)
Following review and revision via e-mail exchange, each Trend Team sent its business concept proposals along with a team representative to a Planning/Review Group. Team members were also invited to submit additional, personal business concepts (for any topic).
Role of the Planning/Review Group (Week 2). The four Trend Team representatives and the Make > Shift Convenor comprised the Planning/ Review Group responsible for Meeting 6. The group met and both: a) reviewed and grouped the business proposals; and b) developed the agenda and responsibilities for facilitation of Meeting 6. The group e-mailed the agenda and list of grouped business concepts to the participants. For the pilot group, the list of business concept proposals included:
MatchMaker Business Services
Health Care Advocacy Services
Trusted Concierge Services
WisdomWays Support Services
Wii – Be at the Top of Your Game
Neighbor to Neighbor Ride
Wellness smart phone apps for 55+
The Make > Shift participants were asked to go to the group website, read the concepts carefully, and submit responses to the following questions for each one:
1. What skills/knowledge might you contribute to develop this concept?
2. On a scale of 1 (little interest) to 5 (great interest): To what degree does this concept appeal to your passions and interests?
3. On a scale of 1 (little positive impact) to 5 (great positive impact): How much would this business create benefits for you, for Make > Shift, or for the community? (separate response for each of the three)
Negotiating Selection and Collaboration – the Meeting 6 Agenda
6:30 to 8:00. Clarification and Voting
The first task for Meeting 6 was to gain clarity about the proposed business concepts so that participants could vote for what they wanted to take to the next phase of consideration.
• The convenor set the tone by making it clear that the purpose of the evening was to reduce the number of business concepts to agree on a few and form feasibility study teams.
• The Planning Group reviewed the grouped list of concepts and reported on the feedback from members that was offered on the group website.
• Each author provided a brief description of the concept.
• The meeting facilitator led a discussion about what participants still needed to know about the proposal prior to a vote on which proposals should go forward for feasibility studies.
At 7:45, each person was given five dots to place on the posted list of business proposals to show which ones they want to work on. Participants voted for their top five business concepts.
7:50 to 8:20. Feasibility Teams
All of the participants saw the results of the voting process on the board.
But the number of votes did not automatically determine “winners.” The next step was negotiation to gather a Business Study Team of participants around each of two to four business concept proposals. Some participants may not be interested in the concepts with the highest number of votes. Someone may be so committed to another concept that he/she will work on it independently. Another participant may want to integrate two concepts to gain more votes.
The negotiation started with a circle go-round to hear each participant describe in a few words: a) “This is what I’m interested in”; and b) “This is what I’d bring to it.” It’s important for the full group to hear from everyone about commitment to the next stage of the process. “Who wants to provide leadership to test the feasibility of one of the business concepts?” “ Who is willing to work with a Business Feasibility Study Team that will report back at Meeting 7?”
After the go-round, the participants moved around, negotiated, and gathered into two to four teams, each focused on a business venture concept. The task for each Business Feasibility Study Team was to decide on a name for the team, a convenor, and a team meeting time and place. Those who were not interested in thinking further about a business startup were asked to work on plans for the Make > Shift Celebration at the end of Meeting 7.
8:20 to 8:30. Work Plan for Feasibility Study Teams
Each Business Feasibility Study Team identified itself with a name, convenor, and meeting time. For the pilot group, three teams developed, focused on:
Flower Power: Smart Apps for Wellness
Wisdom Ways Business Cooperative
Health Care Advocacy Services
The task for the teams was to develop the minimum information required before making commitments to work on implementation of specific business concepts. Before Meeting 7, each study team posted a two page business concept feasibility paper on the group website, describing:
Need (included evidence via test marketing)
Description of product/service
Plan to bring it to market
Organization of company (who we are)
The teams understood that this preparation just touched the tip of the iceberg of feasibility study requirements. A member of the pilot Planning Group listed a dozen questions for Make > Shift feasibility studies (See the list in the Resource Folder). Those who pursued a business startup would be required to conduct a market analysis of consumer needs and interests, think about proprietary protection, choice of organizational structure, skills needed for leadership, etc.
Meeting 7. Closure for Some, Next Steps for Others, and Celebration
6:30 to 8:00. Building a Platform for Entrepreneurship
The Business Venture Study Teams were given 20 minutes each for their feasibility reports, followed by 10 minutes each for discussion about next steps and resources needed. For the pilot group, two of the three Business Study Teams presented reports and established an ongoing commitment to pursue a business start-up:
The Wisdom by Design Cooperative has been designed to provide professional services to non-profits and small business entrepreneurs for an affordable, flat-rate price. The services would be provided by self-employed professionals working on contract as members of the Wisdom by Design Cooperative. Many mature workers in midlife/retirement transition are seeking meaningful work that both generates supplementary income and gives back to the community. Many non-profits with shrinking budgets need help with specific tasks or short-term projects. Most individual entrepreneurs lack the full range of skills required to be successful, and need help filling in the gaps for successful start-up. For each contract, Wisdom by Design would bring together experienced professionals with the skills and knowledge appropriate to accomplish the employer’s goals.
MyPersonalPhone.net has been designed to help older adults select and use smart phone applications that fit individual needs and interests. Key links to family, personal security, and wellness would be assured. One-on-one service would be provided by a team of professionals experienced in working both with information technology and with older adults. The marketing plan would schedule an overview presentation in a senior center or library or retirement community center and then set up appointments for one-on-one service with MyPhone helpers. The helpers would be experienced and patient in working with information technology and with older adults. The cost to older adults would be $25 an hour. The cost for the overview would be paid by the center. The advantage to the retirement community is that one of the smart phone apps would be an emergency alert.
Five Make > Shift participants made commitments to be co-founders of Wisdom by Design. Three signed up to work on the smart phones project.
Two or three others remained interested in Health Care Advocacy Services but did not pursue a study or plan.
8:00 to 8:30. Wrap-up for Make > Shift
For the pilot group, the convenor reviewed the program to date and congratulated the participants – soon to be “graduates” — for fulfilling high expectations for the program. Participants were asked to write responses to three evaluation questions:
1. What worked well for you tonight?
2. What changes would you suggest (for tonight)?
3. What would you suggest to another group starting this process?
Rather than discussing their responses for the written evaluation (which are considered in the next section on Final Evaluation), the participants responded individually, in a go-round, to the question:
What’s your position on what you think might be the next step, either for you or for the process?
The participants expressed interest in continuing involvement with the group even if they didn’t plan to work on a specific business project.
Suggestions for ongoing involvement included:
• Find a way to create a cooperative effort with all the groups and ideas
• Come together to cross check each other. Have a monthly check in.
• We should be able to grow our own business but still participate in the group
• The group as a whole would be a good beta testing vehicle
• We could get together with a presenter to talk about a specific idea or aspect of entrepreneurship
• We have come up with a couple of ideas that are money making and contribute to the community. That was our goal.
• And we’ve discovered that people can work together for the benefit of the whole and still benefit the individual as an individual. That’s a radical idea!
The Make > Shift program should end with a celebration. Decorated cakes, champagne, picnic… Whatever it takes to celebrate each other and have fun!
PART IV: OUTCOMES
Working on the Commons
Positive changes in the traditional economy are being blocked by hierarchical institutions and bureaucratic regulations. But we can go around the barriers if we focus on abundance rather than scarcity and craft our livelihood in the shift from “me” to “we.”
New ideas are abundant. But people are hungry to go further and find tangible ways of practicing and living out bright possibilities. Old habits about how we organize and pay for work maintain sharp divisions between rich and poor and tie us to the consumer values of the market-based society. At this time when so many are unemployed, we need to try out some new ways to define work, share work, and spread wealth. The emerging Commons movement involves people networking, spreading ideas, and co-creating solutions to the problems we face together. It places teaching and learning at the heart of meaningful work – focused on developing human and environmental assets.
The idea behind Make > Shift is to develop a circle of trust and a platform for collaborative entrepreneurship. We bring Make > Shift to life by sharing our diverse and unique individual skills in a collaborative way to address the needs of the community – and earn needed income.
Can we turn Make > Shift into a model for sharing work and spreading wealth? The big question for convenors of Make > Shift is whether each of the users of this guide will feel a personal, vested interest in using Make > Shift as a vehicle for entrepreneurship. If the guide doesn’t generate that sense of personal interest, please consider what’s needed to stimulate that feeling, make the changes, and try it out!
Evaluation Responses from the Pilot Group
Make > Shift participants from the pilot group were sent the following evaluation questions two months after Meeting 7 and asked to schedule a half hour phone call or face-to-face meeting. Here is a summary of responses:
1. Can you recall what benefits you thought might result from your participation in MakeSHiFT? Did the process generate those benefits?
a. Networking and teamwork were the first benefits mentioned. “Mainly I wanted to connect with interesting people and accomplish something together that would be beneficial to others.” “Finding others who can contribute in ways I cannot.” “I found multiple people with multiple attributes.””The crucial piece was to move from ‘talking about it’ to ‘doing it’—with other people.” “We generated some great thought and energy.” “I found different perspectives and personal support.” “I wanted to try out an idea or two, meet some different people, and expand my horizons.”
b. A secondary interest was in “offering some of the skills I have accumulated to someone who could use them in a venture.”
c. A third interest was in generating income. “It hasn’t come yet, but I believe that it still will come as a result of this process.”
2. Did the process generate any other unexpected benefits for you?
a. Again, most of the benefits were related to networking: “professional relationships,” “friendships,” “network of fellow passengers on the same ship,” “interesting people.”
b. The process provided opportunities for leadership. “”I stepped into a leadership capacity that I had not experienced since moving to the Twin Cities. It feels great.” “Now I’m feeling some responsibility and watching for opportunities for others.”
c. The discussions helped clarify “good work.” “It clarified what I wanted in my work.. and what didn’t interest me.” “I enjoyed talking about business ideas, which surprised me.”
3. What changes would you make in the process?
a. Membership: None “Good combination of soft and hard skills,” “Good mix”
b. Size: “Need to start with more because there is a substantial drop-off.” “The final size of 12 to 15 is ideal.” “Not enough room or discussion time for many more.”
c. Frequency of the meetings: “It was important to keep up the momentum, but we were gasping for breath sometimes.” “There is a major commitment of time and this has to be emphasized.”
d. Length of the overall process: “When you’re in the middle of it, it moves almost too quickly. In reflection, however, it came close to what it should be, about a 4 month process. Certainly don’t go faster.”
e. Responsibilities: “As long as everyone understands that we are worker/participants – not ever “observers” – it will be fine.” “Attrition in my presentation group left only two of us to do all the work.
f. Conduct of the meeting: “Repeat rules for brainstorming before every session.” “The process needs clear facilitators/managers.” “Too often, people jumped in and others didn’t get a chance to speak.” “Too much socializing?”
g. Expertise: “Perhaps a neutral moderator would have been useful, but the role should be limited.” “Should have been a prep session on entrepreneurship with a small business expert.”
h. Support for follow through: “It would be great if a consulting service like SCORE would pick up the business concept groups and work with them.””The process needs a continuous point of contact or definition of who will do what, with clear sharing of responsibilities.”
i. Other: “It would have been better to be in one place the whole time.” “At the end, I felt as if there were insiders (those working on a business concept) and outsiders (those who were not working on a concept.)” “The process of signing up for groups at Meeting 6 was too rushed.” “Evaluation at the end of every meeting is essential.” “I loved thinking about new things that refocused my energy.”
4. If there were another round of Make > Shift, would you recommend participation to a friend? Everyone said “yes,” but with conditions: “For people who are ready to make the investment, jump in, take responsibility, carry your load and expect productivity from yourself and others.” “It certainly offers a lot of insight and feedback. I might even try it again.” “Yes, because of the fun of collaborating and the potential for improving at least one little corner of the world.” “For those who expect to start or enter a business, a LOT of follow-up is required.”
5. Any other comments? “Starting a business was probably foreign to half the participants. Some were sitting back because they were out of their comfort zone. We should have talked about that discomfort.”
What’s next? What’s important?
This guide describes a tested group process for stimulating collaborative thinking, identifying marketable concepts, and supporting individual and team efforts for planning business start-ups. The “business” may be a personal service for neighbors, or a web-based back-office service serving the nation. Whatever works!
Three business start-ups are soon to appear from the first test of the Make > Shift process. But the most important result is NOT the number of business concepts created. What IS most important is shifting an individual’s expectations away from finding a job that someone else has created to crafting a livelihood for oneself – in collaboration with others.
The future of the economy depends on shifting our attitudes from being dependent on employers to being proactive in creating products and services that address changing needs. Make > Shift builds on individual strengths and encourages the sharing of strengths. It teaches participants to see the opportunities that changing conditions are creating constantly.
When someone asks you, “What’s Make > Shift?” Here’s your answer:
MakeSHiFT is a process for encouraging collaborative entrepreneurship focused on generating goods/services to meet needs stemming from current trends. MakeSHiFT engages the creativity and follow-through of people with diverse strengths who are willing to commit skills, time, and trust to a team effort. It is designed for people in midlife transition who are seeking meaningful work that both generates income and benefits the community. The collaborative process involves both face-to-face and on-line peer-to-peer networking.
Try it! It works!
PART 5: RESOURCES
Make > Shift Resources Folder
The following documents referred to in the text can be downloaded from the “Make > Shift Resources” folder on this website that complements this “Make > Shift Starter Guide.”
• Potluck Menu Form
• “Hopes for the Future”
• Ideas Generated in Four Brainstorming Sessions
• Questions for Business Venture Feasibility Studies
• Full color and black and grey versions of the two diagrams: “Creating Meaningful work/Income,” and “Collaborative Process for Entrepreneurship”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Janet M Hively, PhD is an expert in the field of Productive Aging. She has published research findings illustrating the productivity of older adults (employment, volunteering, caregiving) and showing how that productivity contributes to the community, the economy, and to healthy aging.
What does Jan do with this wisdom? She helps develop policies and practices to maximize the productivity of older adults. She helps older adults identify and apply and share their strengths to expand their self-determination, community participation, and personal enrichment. As a social entrepreneur, Jan has cofounded the Vital Aging Network, the MN Creative Arts and Aging Network, and the SHiFT network. Email her
Kirin Loomis demonstrates wisdom by accepting people and situations, and finding ways to be OK and feel OK, regardless of what is going on around her. Feeling good does not make us passive; it gives us a foundation from which to launch our intentions. She knows that Boomers could benefit from this knowledge, as plenty of people have beliefs that create unhappiness about aging.
Kirin is a teacher and coach and self-employed consultant, currently a leader for the Make > Shift business concept of “Bunch of Grapes.” “Email her”:email@example.com