Friday, November 22, 2013

Manchester - time to stop bitching. Time to embrace REAL collaboration.

At our SmartCity event last week there were loads of great ideas to lift our city. Plenty of passion and a real burst of energy. This wasn’t just on the things you’d expect from a business network, but on subjects like food production, waste disposal, street lighting and money.
We also talked about London quite a lot. Manchester’s relationship with the capital is always a slightly thorny one. To be honest, I’m always happier not to. I’d rather talk about Manchester.
As the Tory magazine editor Fraser Nelson said in the Daily Telegraph last week – “Manchester does not behave like it wants to be Britain’s second city: it behaves like it wants to be the first.”
I like it that he says that and I like it because it’s at least partly true. But I actually wish it I wish it were really true.
Since June last year and my life changing visit to Silicon Valley in March, I have been determined to embrace the spirit of partnership and collaboration and help to join up the dots.
There is so much to co-operate on, so many opportunities in the city to do things for the betterment of the city. To simply focus on a narrow short term interest does no-one any favours. It just reinforces the image of the great cities of the North as parochial fiefdoms.
We have introduced businesses to new opportunities, opened the door to politicians of all colours and recommended companies to one another. It’s what we do and is all part of a wider mission to be a more grown-up city.
Yet I have been properly depressed at times to find myself on the other side of a fault line, drifting away from people I genuinely want to work with and share ideas with, but who have fallen back on supposed enmities and rivalries to the exclusion of, well, me. I genuinely thought I’d left that all behind in 1983 when I left school.
I’ve also been caught in the crossfire on some nasty personal battles that really should be beneath those involved.
We all have a duty to our businesses to succeed in a competitive environment. I get that. But what I don’t get is the nastiness. It’s just not necessary and it narrows your horizons.
So, here are the questions I’d like you to ponder.
Do the media do justice to the conversations that take place around the city – the initiatives that require backing, not just the ones they are media partners on?
Do the Universities really want to open their doors to the people of Manchester and share knowledge and expertise – and even to work with one another?
And is there a willingness amongst technology businesses of what they might require from an active financial and professional community, rather than just a slightly grumpy complaint they don’t understand the sector?
I’d like to think the answers to all of the above are “yes”. But I suspect, if we’re honest, they are “no”. I’d like to change all of that. Do you want to work with me?

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