Launching ‘The Community Builder Guidebook’

As you may have noticed, i’ve not been writing for the last month, as i’m off on paternity leave, but today i am returning to the keyboard to share my newest Social Age book, ‘The Community Builder Guidebook’. This is the latest in a series of free Guidebooks (‘The Social Learning Guidebook’, ‘The Trust Guidebook’, and coming up in June, ‘The Social Age Guidebook’): all of them are under 10,000 words, with a strongly practical focus, including ‘what you need to know’, and ‘what you need to do about it’.

The Community Builder Guidebook

The Community Builder Guidebook explores nine aspects of community building, both within formal contexts, and fully social ones. The full eBook is available as a free download, or as a paid version in paperback on Amazon, globally.

These Social Age Guidebooks draw together my research, work, and practical development approaches, to share my latest work and thinking, but they are not complete, nor perfect: they represent an evolving body of work, and will iterate rapidly as i experiment and explore further.

Please download it, or share it, if you know anyone else who would be interested.

For now, it’s back to the family for me: i’m relishing these few months with no travel, and nothing to focus on except for my new family. But i hope you enjoy this new work, and most of all, i hope you find value in it.

You can download the Community Builder Guidebook for free, here.

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My Son

I write this with my son in my arms: just a few days old, pressed to my chest, a new life, carried into this world by his incredible mother, and through the expertise, dedication, and kindness of our midwives and consultant. He is perfect, helpless, and i am utterly in love.

It has been a steep learning curve: before he was born, i found myself in the strange situation of feeling generally ‘ready’, without any actual specific knowledge or capability. I was ready ‘in principle’, but am now immersed in the practice.

Alongside learning about diapers, wind, and how to survive without sleep, i’m learning about his smiles, chirps, and the way i get lost in his eyes for hours upon end.

Also: how to type with one hand as he is cradled in my arms, playing with my beard as he snuffles in his sleep, his breathing synchronised with mine, and just the occasional snort to indicate that my tranquil time may soon be disrupted by the eternal quest for food.

I’ve never been around babies much before: the odd cuddle with nieces and nephews, and the children of dear friends. But i’ve never had this responsibility before. A new life, totally dependent upon us.

It has been the strangest thing: in utero, we ascribed an identity and personality to this dream, and now he has become a person. A small one, admittedly, but a real one, who threatens to turn out even more stubborn than me.

The worries that i carried into birth were, i guess, common ones, ranging from hoping he was healthy, to worrying about whether i could ‘do it’, as if something would flip like a switch when he arrived. As if the starting gun would fire, my old life would fall away, and a new one start.

Except strangely it has not been like that: my old life is still here, but there is a new one within it. In some ways, the last week has felt entirely normal. With more pooh, i will admit.

As a father, one feels a certain pressure to ‘fall in love at first sight’: people say this, that you will look at your new baby, and be instantly smitten, but i would not describe it like that. In the first instance, as he was born, i knew that i was expected to catch him. Before the event, i held crazy concerns: how would i feel about any blood, how would i feel if he was not ‘clean’. Would i know what to do, would i even know how to hold a slippery baby? But come the time, there was no thinking: my hands simply reached out and caught him.

In that moment, i could not describe ‘feeling’ at all. It was almost as though something deeper was acting, indeed, much of our time together feels like that: i do not ‘think’ about whether to comfort him, to clean him, to talk to him. It’s just how things are. It has taken me time to know him though: to learn how to stroke his cheek, to cradle his foot in my hand, to pull him close. To come to know him as a person, not the idea of a person.

There is a deep comfort in this new life: a sense not of maturity, but of completeness.

His face, as i look at him, prototypes the expressions that will create his emotional world, but for now, they simply create a pastiche of feelings, tumbled one upon the other: fear, anger, comfort, exhaustion, love. He has the grammar but, as yet, no verse.

I hope he will grow to be kind and compassionate, but most of all, i hope he changes the lives of those that he touches, and is changed by them too. I hope that he is a fearsome defender of others. I hope that, through his mistakes, he will always grow. I hope, as i think it natural, that he will be a better man than me.

I had to wait a week before i could write this, simply overwhelmed by it all. But now i feel i must write it, as it’s through this story that i can find my new self: partner, father, family. He is my son, and i love him absolutely.

This story is written with deepest gratitude, respect, and thanks, to our incredible National Health Service, and especially for Abi, Amy, and Suen, who guided him into our lives.

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The thing about creating opportunity is that you must seize it when it lands, and with that in mind, i’m taking the next couple of months away from writing to focus on becoming a father. It’s a new adventure, and one to which i have not yet found the definitive guidebook. So i figure we will have to make it up as we go.


As we prepare to welcome a new life into the world, i’m driven by two fears: one, to try to be the best father i can be, and the other, the fear of missing a moment of the experience. It’s so easy, in the bustle and business of work, to convince oneself that to take time out is to lose momentum or relevance, but it’s a hollow fear.

Our lives from a journey with many different sights along the way, many strands that intertwine, and i cannot wait to weave this new experience into that tapestry.

So i’m taking a break from regular writing on the blog until July 1st. I may share an occasional reflection in the interim, but be warned that it may be more baby related than usual.

It’s funny that when i first started to write the blog every day, i was worried about how i would find time or inspiration to write, but now i find myself worried how i will cope without writing every day.

So i look forward to this next chapter, and to picking up the blog when i return in the summer. How fatherhood will change me, i do not know, but am beyond excited to find out. Thanks for your support!

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#WorkingOutLoud on the Community Builder’s Guidebook

Today i am sharing a sketch of a cover idea for my next Social Age Guidebook, which is aimed at Community Builders. So far i have published ‘The Trust Guidebook’, and ‘The Social Learning Guidebook’, with ‘The Social Age Guidebook’ ready to go in May. These all follow a similar format: under 10,000 words, with a strong practical focus.

The Community Builder’s Guidebook

For the Community Builder’s Guidebook, i wanted to use some imagery of a ‘space’, a town, and was originally thinking of a lino print of a medieval city.

Cornish Lino Print © Julian Stodd

For this image though, i was reminded of an old lino print i did years ago, with a flattened perspective, of a fishing port down in Cornwall. Originally i had show the port, but for this illustration, i’ve sketched the skyline of the town. Perhaps it’s like Central Park, spread outwards. I’m not sure if this will remain as the final published version (it will be released in April), but choosing the imagery to accompany the work is a fun, final, step.

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Reframing Brexit

The UK is fractured by Brexit. The arguments, both for, and against, are largely tribal and intractable. And of one thing i am sure: whichever side ‘wins’, it will also lose. Unity is not something that can be imposed. And without unity, we simply remain divided.

The Humble Leader

A nation acts as a beacon: it can be a beacon of fairness, inclusion, and hope, or it can be a shadow for war, dissent, and oppression. Perhaps it is time that we reframed the debate to be about what type of beacon we wish to be. What do we stand for?

Much of our divisions sit upon a foundation of inequality: wealth, opportunity, and the rewards of the post industrial revolution, are not evenly distributed, and nor does power sit equally across the system. We are a country where opportunity is increasingly tied to wealth, and generational power, and you can be disenfranchised by birth, by geography, by status.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the solution to these issues lies in our underlying models of representation and democracy itself: as pioneers of the art, we should also lead in evolving it. The Social Age is a time of radical connectivity, currently held in starkly opposing visions, but we may choose to engage in debate instead.

Disenfranchisement is best countered not by dogma or vision, but rather by engagement and opportunity. And unity is achieved not by colonisation, but often by listening.

We will not find a common space to agree, but we may be better able to understand our differences and, it’s quite possible, find the space to live with them. Even thrive by embracing them.

Perhaps part of our challenge is that so much of our experience of the UK is held in the currency of money, and yet the fabric of our culture is built out of so much more than that. Perhaps the fabric of our future will be woven from fairness, inclusion, and equal opportunity.

If we crash out of Europe, we will lose. But possibly if we remain within it, but divided, we also lose. When nether option A, nor option B, can bring us together, perhaps we should dispute the validity of the frame itself.

What kind of beacon do we want to be?

Brexit is not the end of a journey, it is the beginning of a new one. How will we evolve our politics, what kind of politicians do we need, to exist beyond partisan?

What kind of society do we want: to address the challenges of poverty, of division, of mistrust, of fear.

There is space in a nation for difference, but we have to find the edges of our dissent, and that will only come through engagement.

We are trapped in a battle that nobody can win, and it feels like time to reframe the narrative. By now it must be clear that no hero will emerge, because there simply is no unifying vision. There is no hill to climb, no flag to claim, that can give unity.

Instead, it is the process of debate itself, in the better understanding of our division, that can drive us. And part of the solution must be to address the underlying architecture of inequality.

A lack of fairness drives division, and it is only through finding fairness that we can unity: but we do not need to give much away.

Everyone can retain their views, their identity, and their pride and purpose. But on top of those things we must create spaces, and conditions, to welcome difference, and respect dissent.

A beacon throws light in every direction: it is not one focussed beam. We can be different, and yet still united. We can be a United Kingdom even in dissent. If we can reframe our cultural fragmentation as simply the start of a new journey.

Whichever side of the Brexit debate you sit on, perhaps now is the time to negate the division, and focus beyond. In victory, or in loss, how will you reach out, with humility, to find out what type of beacon we will be?

If we remain in opposition, we will be rich and comfortable, but disunited. If we can connect across our differences, we may find hope.

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The Wrong Currency

I used to have an elderly neighbour, when i was a student, in a shared house. I’m not sure quite how old she was, but in my memory she was about 170. One of my friends would often check in on her, on one occasion, finding her poorly, and looking after her after a fall.

Social Leadership - Reward

A few days later, her son came to visit: he worked in the city, drove a big car, and was an infrequent visitor to his elderly mother. Maybe his job precluded it.

When he learned what my friend had done, he tried to tip him, and my friend refused. Quite vocally. It was the wrong currency, being spent within the wrong exchange system.

My friend was operating on values: the way he acted as a neighbour was neither a duty, nor a job. It was part of his values and ethos. The way the son treated it was as a service. So he tipped, which may have been wrong on two fronts: firstly, it was not a service, so the tip was wrong, but even if it had been a service, he did not offer thanks.

If he had led by saying ‘thank you’, perhaps the outcome would have been different, but he led with money. He deployed financial currency in a gratitude economy. And he diminished his standing in the reputation economy (my friend, concurrently, increasing his).

Formal systems may operate on financial currency, but social ones do not: in my own research, when people help an Organisation build a culture that is ‘better’, only seven percent want more money for their efforts. Most want further opportunities to help.

As we evolve our Organisations, beyond domains, beyond utility, we will need to learn how to hold, and deploy the right currencies. And make no mistake, this is not a way of doing things cheaply: the currencies of gratitude, respect, trust, and fairness may be beyond value.

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The Social Learning Guidebook: A Free Resource

You can download my new Guidebook on Social Learning here. It’s intended to form a concise, practical, guide for practitioners who are trying to transform learning, through more social and collaborative approaches. It builds upon work i’ve shared previously, both in long form books (‘Julian Stodd’s Learning Methodology’, ‘Welcome to the world of Social Learning’, ‘Learning Technology’, and so on), as well as numerous articles on the blog (including this is key ‘Introduction to Scaffolded Social Learning‘).

The Social Learning Guidebook

For some time i have been considering writing a full book on Learning Transformation, but two factors have prevented me: firstly, time, and secondly, uncertainty. My time is currently taken up with half a dozen writing projects that are progressing well (‘The Change Handbook’, ‘The Social Age Guidebook’, and ‘Apollo: Leadership Lessons from the Space Race’ among others…), and uncertainty, because my work around Learning Transformation, and the core emergent skills, is still evolving rapidly.

But there are plenty of ideas that i wan to get ‘out there’, without waiting to write a full book, so i’ve been playing with these ‘Guidebooks’ as a way of bridging the gap between the blog, and a full manuscript. Taken together, they form my exploration notes for various aspects of the Social Age: a diverse, and evolving, body of work, growing directly out of my primary writing and research, as well as my applied work with Sea Salt Learning.

I will build the series out beyond this in due course, but all of these Guidebooks will iterate over time, to form cumulative bodies of work, but freeing me up from the time needed to try to rationalise them into one coherent book.

The ‘Guidebooks’ are all written to be under 10,000 words, allowing them to be read fast, and include sections for ‘What you need to know’, and ‘What you need to do about it’, after each short chapter. In that sense, these are aimed more directly at practitioners than some of my longer form books, but there is a lot of cross over: there are a lot of big ideas in here, but i hope also a lot of things that you can action this afternoon!

These Guidebooks are not complete work, nor are they definitive ‘answers’. i cannot stress that enough: i am holding comfort in the fact that they are not perfect, but they are shared openly. But i hope they will inspire you to find your own answers: they will iterate over time, so do go back and check your version number to access the latest thinking.

I adhere to a methodology of #WorkingOutLoud, whereby all my work is shared openly, and as it takes shape. Where possible, i try to identify which bits of this work are stronger than others, and i share my mistakes and evolving understanding as well.

The Guidebooks are grounded in my professional work through Sea Salt Learning: a global partner through change. Sea Salt Learning lets me engage in some of the key strategic challenges our time, with some of our most incredible global Organisations. I am lucky to be immersed in a community of people who want to drive change. This holds my thinking, and work, to account, in a very direct way. It is to that community that i am directly responsible.

If you enjoy my work, please consider sharing it: the work in these Guidebooks is shared openly and freely to provide one perspective on a complex challenge.

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