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POPse! A Pop-up Social Enterprise Think Tank

Author: Konstantin Lazutin
Published Date: 6 October 2011

POPse! was the world’s first pop-up social enterprise think-tank.

POPse! was launched on Monday 9 May and disbanded on Friday 13 May 2011. It provided a burst of critical energy and robust analysis of social enterprise policy and practice through the publication of think pieces, pamphlets and other web-based material.

POPse! drew together some of the UK’s leading social enterprise thinkers and practitioners to spend a week together to share and develop ideas and thinking. POPse! did not provide all the answers but had at its core a belief that the time was ripe for challenge, scrutiny and analysis of

social enterprise policy and practice.

POPse! aimed to explode some of the treasured myths and policy bubbles in social enterprise thinking. It offered constructive critique and opportunities to collaborate on new solutions.

So, as quickly as it arrived POPse! went away or, perhaps more excitingly, has “gone dark”. During the week, hundreds of people came to events and roundtable discussions, contributed time and thinking, and engaged with the debates. Supportive organisations provided chairs, tables, stationery, refreshments and more. Posts were read, commented on and tweeted around.

The outward-facing aspect of the temporary offices, hosted by Meanwhile Space CIC, worked well, if unpredictably. Whether it was chatting to the pharmacist next door about microfinance, giving impromptu start-up advice to a local social entrepreneur, or just letting those in the area

know what the participants were up to (and what social enterprise was), it changed the dynamics of the work and made it fresh.

The social enterprise world also seemed to relish the chance to discuss something in a different environment with a different feel; organisations through the doors during the week included National Trust, Deutsche Bank, Big Lottery Fund, UnLtd, Social Enterprise Coalition, On Purpose, Society Media, Clore Leadership Programme, Learning Disability Coalition, Big Society Network, Charity Bank, Middlesex Uni, London Youth, Young Foundation, Fair Finance, OPM, NESTA, NCVO, CDF, DCLG, DoH and many more (acronyms). While there are many of the “usual suspects” among those names, the tone and vigour of the debate, and the mix of participants, certainly felt different to the norm.

That mix of participants is also key to something tangible from the week: new networks, connections and relationships being made. That was true both for those working as part of POPse! itself and also for those who contributed at events and online, and will, we hope, be one of the week’s lasting outcomes. It showed that fresh debates and fresh thinking is possible on the stalest of debates if new mixes of people, organisations, expertise and experience are brought together.

Beyond the impact of the reports and papers, one small sign of success was that people kept asking the organisers “Where are you doing it next?” or “When’s the next one?” To which the answer was, Batman-like (or King Arthur depending on your taste in cultural reference points) if the social enterprise sector needs them, POPse! will appear.

To read more about the popup think tank, have a look at the latest POPse! report which brings together a sample of material produced throughout the week.