Edgeware is an education and support system for ethical entrepreneurs and managers. We think that business is fun, and believe that socially responsible entrepreneurship can change the world. We offer practical, highly flexible courses and workshops with successful entrepreneurs and business people, supported by specialist trainers. We also offer creative entrepreneurship and leadership coaching.
Coming from a bias towards the personal and commercial value of creativity, Edgeware animates ethical small business.
“The world will not be inherited by the strongest, it will be inherited by those most able to change” – Charles Darwin
Edgeware is a business built on the findings of action research, the influence of Denmark’s KaosPilots business education, and twenty years of experience in communities of all shapes, sizes and distances from the centre. Edgeware and the Edgies are brought together by a spirit of compassion, common sense, creative culture and commercial responsibility.
The Edgeware concept is true to brand: it assumes that, in a knowledge economy, innovation propagates from the edges to the centre, not the other way around. To be on the edge, or to find the edge, however this is defined, is to create a strategic advantage, to cultivate a valuable reality.
In a knowledge economy, creativity has a currency beyond the scope of creative arts and creative industries. Increasingly it is valued as a driver of the content-rich, socially poetic and intangible qualities valued in brand-building and in new, flexible relationships between producers and consumers – love marks taking the place of trade marks. Creativity shifts the gears of business competence into engines of capability, sustainability and responsibility. We want to meet the increasing demand for creative entrepreneurship – creative people, creative teams, creative companies.
Edgeware is a platform for creating new employment and new business as key elements of new ways of living, of livelihood. Many entrepreneurs stress the importance of personal values, relationships, self knowledge and self actualisation. Social and spiritual values are never far away from purely commercial ones. They are bundled in the person and the character of the creative entrepreneur, a whole person living an examined life.
What Makes Edgeware Different?
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage
The elements that define the Edgeware platform and Edgeware products as alternatives to conventional business education pathways are:
• Encouragement of peer support and peer learning, membership of a learning community, and critical friendship
• Authentic interactions with real-world entrepreneurs (including peers) working on their own, real-world businesses
• Strong emphasis on whole-person development
• Compassion, ethics, social values (the win-win-win business solution, where supplier wins, customer wins, and a third element, such as the community, also wins)
• Focus on working on (and with) real businesses and real business activity (no abstractions, generalisations, or simulations)
The Edgeware Story
How does such a hybrid come to be, and with the world the way it is, what’s with that grin on its face?
The Edgeware story started about twenty years ago. With my wife, Ludmila, I was working a lot with young people, especially young people many would call ‘disadvantaged’. For some time we had also been working with Indigenous Australian young people – which is to say, working with whole Indigenous communities because these folks typically don’t section-out young people in quite the same way that European Australians do. Back then the practice was called community arts, which became, broadening the theoretical and practice base, community cultural development. (And that point, incidentally, is pretty much when I stopped thinking about ‘art’ as a useful category.)
This was in our home city of Brisbane and also in regional Queensland, the Australian State of which our town is the capital.
It was hard and inspiring work, fruitful in many ways, but we were frustrated that, because it was usually paid for by the government, there was a danger that an entropy would set in, that the positives would wither, when the funding ran out and the ‘experts’ stepped back. So we were looking for ways to make the value of our interventions sustainable, honouring the values of our project and process partners, without compromising the joy of our collaborations and working relationships, and doing all this in a way that was grounded and personal, that created and sustained relationships with each other and our various physical, social and spiritual spaces.
Without putting it in these words, we were struggling with the troika of ‘make money, have fun, change the world.’
Then in 1990 we found ourselves at a conference in Stockholm, and like most conferences we found as much value in the dialogue that sprang up around the coffee tables and the bars as we found on the floor of the conference itself. And I noticed that among the people who were usually around to close the bar at the end of the day, and the people laughing the most, there was a disproportionate number of Australians and Danes. (I’m still a big fan of Denmark’s little neighbourhood beer bars – I wonder if someone from the Eiffel in Christianshavn is reading this …?)
And these Danes said, as they do: Well, you’re catching a train to Germany – why not come and visit us on the way through?’
So we did. And while we were in Copenhagen, and we were talking about our work back in Australia, they said, ‘Do you know about the Kaospilots? They’re doing stuff like that – you should go to Aarhus.’
So we did. I called, and they said: ‘Come on over – we have some nice bars here.’
The first time I walked into the Kaospilot ‘house’ (as they call such places in Europe), in fact at the foot of the narrow, winding stairs you see in KP promos, a student stopped me and said (as they do), ‘Hi! Who are you? Where do you come from?’ This is the way Aboriginal people start conversations, and I felt right at home. I found these people in Aarhus generous, outgoing, receptive, good fun (funny, as they say in Danglish), maybe a little bit white but just right for where I was at. Later I was to return, and return and return.
All of this we melted into a pot and Edgeware is what emerged. Practically speaking, this involved a pitch to our Queensland government, which first of all set up a Senior Research Fellowship to do action research at Queensland University of Technology and then paid for a pilot project at Creative Industries Precinct Ltd, a university company with an incubator attached. Action research, action learning, informal education, fourth sector, brokerage, platform, agency, synergy … and bricolage and animation socio-culturelle from the French,.
So there it is, a trajectory grounded in Australian community cultural development practice, which I still think is among the most sophisticated and effective in the world, to the creative industries, to social-cultural animation … to Edgeware. Make money, have fun, change the world.
And guess what?
As it happens, the business world needs this.
On the face of it, it’s an unlikely background for a claim to a differentiated space in the crowded world of entrepreneurship and business education. There’s hardly an MBA among us, the Edgeware circle of presenters and facilitators – just a group of people who get it, who have worked hard, fallen over, struggled in what we Aussies call the University of Hard Knocks, and eventually succeeded in building businesses that mean something. Who are intrinsically driven to communicate authentically with fellow-travellers about things that count – taking on all the calculating, estimating, measuring and monitoring for sure, but also the human qualities that finally make the difference. Look at any successful startup.
There’s so much talk now about innovation, about branding, about clusters and teams, about small giants, corporate responsibility, intrapreneurship, creative cultures, process design, competitive edges cutting this way and that. Problem is, how do you do it? How do you change all those nouns into verbs? How do you provide for commercial competencies, but build on that towards capability, the wherewithal to look over the horizon, work in a team, build a brand, develop the ‘untraded intangibles’, the qualities of resilience, mutuality and good will, the chemistry that makes for success?
You see, it gets results. If it seems a bit Out There at first, give it some thought.