On the importance of being open

I’m really happy with this blogpost by @C4CJ – chuffed, in fact, would I guess be a hyperlocal way of communicating it!



In case you didn’t know, @chestertweet and @zebrared are the same person. The person who writes these blogs, in fact.

I’ve always been interested in openness. Interestingly, however, it’s been easier for me to show my attachment to it at national level than local.

I started @chestertweet the Twitter account in 2009: this blog of mainly sunny photos is still online as a remnant of those times.

It was anonymous because at the time I really wasn’t sure how antisocial this very new social media might be perceived as – at least at a very local level. I guess, in hindsight, I was being hyperlocal before I stumbled across the term quite a few years later – and seriously began to investigate it, now very late at the tail end of January 2015.

The blog in question continued to be anonymous when I became a co-opted parish councillor for a short period of time – there, I have to say, I really felt myself unable to do much more at all critical than complain about local cinema seating policies (though that particular post may have been before I became a councillor; but you get my drift).

Since then, people like @chestertweetsuk and @shitchester have showed much more imagination, courage and competence at this thing we call social – and in particular Twitter – than I could ever have shown.

In the past few months, then, as I’ve begun to discover Chester the community – a community I’ve lived in for over thirty years; years in which I still believe I’m kinda judged to be an outsider – I’ve seen a good part of Chester’s best: in particular, as far as both modern and traditional business and philanthropy is concerned.

From local networking organisations to charitable concerns, co-working hubs, academic ingenuity, culturally incredible projects of amazing renewal … as well as innovation centres with absolutely brilliant world-class companies and ideas … well, it’s utterly clear to me so many things are beginning to happen in this city and its surroundings that perhaps no one can be entirely sure about the reach of any it … where, that is, it will ultimately end up.

Now. That’s my journey, and it’s true it may interest no one else. Nor must it; we’re all individuals with greater or lesser interesting lives.

But I would like to say the following; beg of you a minute or so more – mainly because I’m off on my hols soon; will be away for a while. Since late January 2015, I’ve probably spent around a thousand quid I don’t really have, researching this hugely quixotic project I’ve focussed on: to make of Chester an open city of ideas – and by so doing, and in the process, at least as far as things have turned out, at least for the moment, help create a model of a new kind of civic behaviour: a new way of doing democracy; a new way of doing journalism and community description … a model, that is to say, which uses hyperlocal practice as it currently stands – tech, ways of cooperating, the fusing of volunteer activity with professional knowhow – to re-engineer a traditional business and industry of content, currently suffering and closing down everywhere.

So. The collective goal I’d love to share with others who can understand what I often communicate so poorly is a new set of community, societal and industrial relationships where organisations choose to collaborate assertively, healthily and openly rather than compete aggressively, jealously and destructively … where synergy, essentially, is the touchstone of everything we do.

This is why I’ve been moving the setting up of a Community Interest Company (CIC) to coordinate and promote such local collaboration in key manifestations of hyperlocal – as indeed I’ve already commented in a previous post – with the aim of encouraging this open collaboration I mention over what is often a closed and limiting competition:

So if we do – one day – do what I have been suggesting since late January 2015 we should do, which is to create a community media org – a CIC essentially – aimed at benefiting the whole of our community, why can’t part of its goal – part of its constitutional benefit – be to find some ingenious way of sustaining and working with existing journalistic DNA, good practice – and, even, organisational structures?

And why do I suggest and prefer openness over closed ways of doing things? Not out of dogma. Not out of prejudice. Not out of wanting to deactivate existing business models.


All biz, whether micro- or medium-sized/large, needs the certainties of branding, copyright, intellectual property and everything a closed and competitive economy has led us to understand is the only way.

But if we are looking to make of Chester a world-class, world-beating, head-turning place of astonishing creativity – the sort of place businesses of the future will want to reference; the sort of place our children will want to stay in – then we need to let in the genuine airs and real graces of openness I talk of.

We need to let ideas-making hit its stride.

Something, in fact, like this:

GFN Food DisAssembly gig from GFN Chester on Vimeo

The importance of being open isn’t a dogma of the unrealistic. The importance of being open – at least as far as ideas generation and development is concerned – is that technically, objectively, economically even, it’s simply more efficient.

When you think openness, don’t think gratis; instead, think the opposite. Think rich. And then you’ll see how, suddenly, Chester’ll change for the better for everyone.


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