Sunday, November 06, 2005


This weekend I again found myself wrting in to the media, and with little prospect of my thoughts being covered it is nice to be able to at least commit my thought to print, albeit online, via my trusty blog.

It was prompted by the following question/opinion in a waste industry magazine:

Every day in the news there are more and more stories about the impact global of climate change. As businesses we are constantly reminded that we need to embrace new environmental legislation - but the information is confusing and difficult to access - even for those of us in the waste management and recycling industry! 

Why isn't the UK government taking the lead and offering conferences and events free of charge to encourage businesses to act now on measures that can help? Because - if we do manage to retard climate change it will be the best investment in the future that the government has made in a long time!

To which I replied:

"Although I could not agree with [this] more,  and to be fair there are some worthy freebies about, the answer I fear may be that the money such support would require is unlikely to appear, possibly by not easily being put against a ticked tonnage box. And as a lot of other chaps seem to have it all in hand, why get in the way?

It would be great if such backing came to pass. Recently I was flattered to be approached, I thought, to be a speaker at a major event in an area we are involved in. But somehow it moved pretty quickly to me not speaking so much as attending...  to the tune of a grand. Most of which was the fee. Even our editorial function was deemed insufficient for us to attend as a medium and share it with our public... unless we paid.

I'll spare the time. I'll sleep on a mate's floor. I'll try and get an advance super-saver train ticket. But my little organisation just can't afford several hundred quid for such an affair, no matter how much we'd benefit from being there, and others may possibly also gain by our opinions being shared.

Maybe that's why a lot of these events end up being dominated by the views and actions of major corporates, government departments, councils and all others who can afford to 'invest' their shareholders' and tax/ratepayers' money to keep meeting only with those who can afford to interact with or lobby them. And such financially-secured exclusivity does keep things in the peer group comfort zone.

Being even more fair, there is no doubt these things do cost a lot to put on (but one imagines the number of them springing up also indicate that they are a nice little earner, and it would be interesting to see just how cheap they could be brought if it was all at cost -  which is a lot different to not-for-profit), and the question still remains as to who should foot the bill. And if it is subsidised such that it is free, then with the consequent upsurge in those now able to attend, who conducts the vetting process? There will be space limits, so who gets to come? Money at least avoids any hint of agenda bias in the selection process. So it does get argued that a charge ensures only those most committed attend, but that has certain... flaws in the world of the jolly.

I would have suggested sponsorship as a route, but many conferences do seem to have a fair amount already, and having also been 'invited' to have a stand in reception, those shell scheme/goody bag packages do add up to a lot. Which makes you wonder just how much the cost of the hall, A/V, coffee and speakers' expenses (and a lot don't get any) is not actually covered, and how affordable these things could be made to encourage/allow attendance by those who care enough to spare the time, but may not have the cash.

I'm dreaming up a way to do this. And here's a draft (daft?) notion: RE:idol!

All interested potential attendees could submit a paragraph with their application about who they are, what they'd like to learn, who they'd like to meet, why, and... most importantly, what they feel they could contribute. 

Then once we've all signed up to attend, we get to tick those we think would be worth listening to and/or meeting. Those with the most ticks get invited to speak. Or better yet moderate at topic tables (I usually find sitting and listening to a speech, or worse pitch, the least useful, most time consuming part of such events). Networking and idea-sharing is where the real value of getting together lies, so maximise this aspect. The rest of the list get to come, with a cut-off based on the hall space limit. 

How democratic would that be? The people coming decide who they'd like most to listen to and interact with. And maybe some poor guy with two bob to their name is the one deemed most worth meeting, and the bankrolled lobbyist or consultant deemed not worth it. Less movers and shakers and more doers vs. talkers. 

Maybe then our elected representatives would see merit in funding the hopefully modest costs of staging? 

I'm holding my breath."

You know, having slept on it that's not such a daft idea at all. In fact it would be a good model for conferences for all industries (and public service departments) that seem to place protective layers between themselves and the those, including the genral public, who do deserve access to and a voice in the discussions that get held supposedly in our interest.

Maybe I'll have a stab! It's not like I have got much on at the moment.

Shell Game

Well, we're at it again. Friday night (at about 11.30pm for a
midnight cut-off - let no one say we do not plan well ahead for
comfort) I fired off our application to the Shell Springboard fund.
At up to £40k, it was worth going for, and hopefully will prove worth
the effort.

I've said it before, and been disappointed just as often, but we're
hopeful this may stand a good chance.

For a start, the stated objectives include innovative ideas to reduce
greenhouses gasses, and pretty much every aspect of is
dedicated to that aim, embracing reuse, repair and, of course,
recycling, which still seems to be grabbing the lion's share of
attention and funding of late.

But we are rather hoping our efforts to make merit out of the less
'target-measureable' of the 're's' may stand us in good stead in
innovation terms, with of course our 'reduction contribution'
including information and support for alternative fuels, etc, which
may score some brownie points for relevance to the sponsors!

Unlike many other such efforts, there was also an encouraging
acknowledgment that worthwhile contributions need not come form a
'thing', and we've seen so many previous efforts fall in favour of
the latest gizmo that tech-head judges can play with. So again we are
hoping our online initiative will get a good hearing in this framework.

Finally, it was quite a surprise (a pleasant one I might add) to see
that not-for-profits, charities, universities, etc were not eligible.
The competition was looking for stand alone ideas which had a
rational business footing, and did not see trying to make money in
this manner as a bad thing. This again was a refreshing change, which
we do hope will further work to our advantage.

Last (bonfire) night as I watched a bunch of stuff go up in smoke and/
or disappear into thin air or a black hole, I overheard two guys in
the crowd talking about a certain waste quango's 'not for profit'
status. Looking at their funding, one couldn't figure out how they
managed to avoid making money, to which the other replied 'I know
their Finance Director; if he's any measure, with the wedge he's on,
the building they've bought and the size of the department he's
building, they have NO problem ensuring the money gets spent.'

Once awarded, the Shell get applied directly to the task at hand.
More our style. Fingers crossed we'll find we get picked!