Why ‘More Like People Action Week’ is a no-brainer for the voluntary sector

23 Aug 2012 Voices

A new movement has crept into the Twittersphere. More Like People Action Week hopes to influence people to make businesses more like people. Liam Barrington-Bush explains why it "makes sense" for the voluntary sector too.

A new movement has crept into the Twittersphere. More Like People Action Week hopes to influence people to make businesses more like people. Liam Barrington-Bush explains why it "makes sense" for the voluntary sector too.

On Sunday afternoon, my friend Paul Barasi Tweeted me an idea. The message read:

“Mon-Fri is #MoreLikePeople #ActionWeek. Individuals do 1 small thing 2 make their org more human.”

So we agreed a hashtag (#MoreLikePeopleWeek) and told some folks on Twitter that this week (August 20-24, 2012) was to be the first ever ‘More Like People Action Week.’

The simple premise was this: whoever you are, wherever you are, do something this week to make your organisation a bit more human. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but make a conscious effort to do something differently, whether it be how you hold a meeting, how you make a decision, or how you relate to someone else at the office. It really is up to you!

Oh! And share it on Twitter, or blog about it yourself!
Paul and I have been tossing this idea of ‘helping organisations to be more like people’ for two-plus years. I’m writing a book on the subject right now, in fact.

In brief, ‘more like people’ is about remembering ways of working and organising ourselves, from before we had 'professionalism', bureaucracy, or so many 'best practices' we are expected to take on if we wanted to accomplish anything with more than one other person. Behaving more like people creates commitment, it's why people continue to do things so often when we aren’t being paid for them, when we get together with our neighbours to address a local issue, or when we get involved in a social movement like #Occupy, #UKuncut, #IamSpartacus, #Casseroles, or #YoSoy132, to name a few...

It’s not about people telling other people what to do, it’s about finding enough of a shared sense of purpose with others, and each discovering the best ways we can contribute to it.

The structures our organisations across all sectors have been built on since the Industrial Revolution have been antithetical to this approach, emphasising control over trust, autonomy, and democracy at every stage.

But these latter values – trust, autonomy and democracy – are at the heart of the voluntary sector, charities, and NGOs, the world-over.

Yet too often they get buried in the processes we’ve long told ourselves are necessary for the scale of organising we are involved in. "Hierarchy might not sit well with autonomous, democratic systems," we tell ourselves, "but it is a necessary evil if we want to achieve change."

I’m not buying it.

‘More like people’ is about aligning our methods with our values. The long-term disconnect that is found in various degrees in most of our social change organisations has gradually made it harder-and-harder for us to form meaningful relationships, inside or outside our walls, distancing us from the people and causes we exist for.

But even in the most hierarchical of organisations, change can come from anywhere. Culture cannot be created by dictate. Instead, it comes from everywhere within an organisation, giving all of us the possibility, and responsibility, to help make it what we want it to be. It is the result of so many individual relationships, behaviours, and actions. We are co-creating our workplace cultures each day, consciously or not, for better or for worse.

For those of us who work in organisations conceived to create a fairer, just, and more transparent world, ‘more like people’ is a catalyst to help us can live those values in our day-to-day practices.

So what can you do to ‘operationalize’ this admittedly vague idea? Some examples of what we can do are:

  • Next time we’re chairing a meeting, why not scrap the agenda, and let the conversation happen, as the individuals involved want it to?
  • Next time we’re making a decision, why not ask a wider range of staff what they think? Or Tweet about it and involve an even wider layer of contributors?
  • Next time we have an insight about how we send campaign emails, how we promote events, how we share information around the office, or how we evaluate our programmes, why not blog about it and make our tools public, so other organisations can benefit from what we’ve learned?

When have you felt most yourself, working towards a cause you believe in, and what can you do to make your current role a bit more like that?

It really is up to each of us – there is no ‘how to guide’ for a ‘more like people’ organisation, but we can all start taking steps to create organisations that reflect the values that led us to work at them.


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