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Matthew Patten, CEO of the Mayor's Fund Speaks About Inspiration (Video)

Matthew Patten, the CEO of the Mayor's Fund for London speaks at Inspiration - The Life cycle of Ideas 2013.

Our next speaker is another one of our guests from outside the industry. It’s a great pleasure to introduce Matthew Patten, the CEO of the Mayor’s Fund for London.

 



Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

Thank you. I’ve taken the clicker in hand, feeling confident that I’m going to work out how it works. On the billing sheet, it actually says that what I’m going to speak about is finding inspiration in failure.

I’m not going to talk about that at all, actually. That was the comment that came to me when I was originally asked whether I’d think about doing this. Somebody in the office said, "Gosh, do you think they’re going to find anything inspirational out of your failure?" To that extent, I feel I’ve failed already because I’ve been built to talk about one thing, but I want to talk about something else.


What I ultimately want to talk about is I want to talk about time travel and inspiration. Hence, the rather dodgy slide that’s up there.

I want to start in a slightly different place. I work for an organization called the Mayor’s Fund for London. We’re a charity. We sit in the middle of GLA. What our focus is on young Londoners living in areas that have a disadvantage. We’re all about skills and opportunities to give those young people the opportunity to get a decent job as the best route out of living out of poverty.

                   
To that extent, it seems to me that whenever we - I don’t mean ’we’ everybody in this room, but more generally, and we’ve heard a lot of presentations from big organizations - talk about inspiration, we talk about big things. In the world that I work in and in the world that I live in, and in the charity world, more generally, I would argue that we see most inspiration in really small things.

                   
For us, inspiration is about a 10-year-old child who’s way behind in terms of their performance at primary school, in terms of reading. If that persists, all the evidence says that child will never catch up. That will have a profound impact in terms of their life chances.

                   
For us, a small thing is watching a child volunteer slowly but surely raised by two subsets in terms of their reading standards, so that when they go to secondary school, they’ve got a chance.

                   
For us, a small thing in terms of inspiration is we do a lot of work around aspiration. Lots of kids coming from certain families, certain backgrounds, and certain parts of London come into the world with very little aspiration. They might live in tower hamlets. You’ve got the city there. You can’t miss it. You can’t avoid but see the Gherkin. You’ve got Canary Wharf there. You can see that, but for these kids and their families, they never see those things. They never really go beyond their boundaries.

                   
For one of those children to begin to think about, "Actually, I could be working in that environment," or "I could come up to Exhibition Road and go to see an exhibition at the Science Museum," or whatever, that’s a small thing, that’s an inspirational thing, and that’s the world that we live in.

                   
I really want to make that point really clearly, because this is a very big number. I don’t know how big this number is. I tried to get my children to explain to me what this number is, but I think this is as close an estimation as you can get to the number of ideas that have ever been had by humans on the planet.

                   
Thanks to the power of Google, WikiLeaks, and all that kind of stuff, we worked out how many people had ever been born. We assume that they had an average life of 20 years. We reckon that they have 20,000 to 30,000 ideas a day in those 20 years. It gets you to, whatever that number is, billion. A huge, huge number of ideas every day.

                   
Here is somebody who is always identified with not just in terms of potential time travel being one of the most inspirational, but he famously said he only ever had one great idea.

                   
For us, when I think about all of this, I think this idea of expansive inspiration, actually it’s really cheap; it’s not what we should be talking about at all. I think there are 3 laws we should be talking about, and that’s what I want to talk about very briefly this morning.

                   
The first law is that ideas are not what is inspirational. What is inspirational is people. There are lots of different kinds of people that we’re inspired by and lots of things that they do, but it’s people that really get us going, who make us do things, who make us think about things in different ways.

                   
Even as simple as watching the different presentations on this stage today, there are people you’ll identify with, people you won’t identify with. There will be lots of things talked about, but it will be the people that you remember more than individual ideas.

                   
I want to tell you a story about one person. The guy on the left is a guy called Iqbal Wahhab. Iqbal Wahhab is one of our trustees. He would like me to be standing out here talking about him. He’s that kind of guy. He’d certainly like me to be saying he’s an inspirational kind of guy, but, in fact, he’s a restaurateur.

                   
As one of our trustees, one of the things he does for us, as a charity, is he allows us to use his restaurant Roast in Borough Market in terms of taking people and having lunch. The deal is that every time we talk about him, I have to mention the restaurant Roast, which is a very fine restaurant, so I’ve done that.

                   
Iqbal very recently went to Togo with Terry Waite. One of the things that they did there was they went to one of the worst slums in the world, a slum called Katanga - 6,000 people living in the most appalling conditions. Anybody who’s traveled around the world and been to places where these things are, you’ll know exactly what I mean, sort of beyond description.

Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

                   
Iqbal met a 7-year-old girl. As he told the story, we were having lunch in Roast and he was telling me this story with Terry. He said the girl was doing something really extraordinary with no support, but it actually made him think again.

                   
What the girl was doing was she was running her own school - 4 children. A very small group of children, no support, no equipment or anything like that, but every day, for a couple of hours, she would sweep up a load of kids in the immediate environment of the slum, sit them down, and they would spend 2 hours reading, writing, counting, whatever. It was all about her.

                   
Terry Waite was so inspired by this girl that they came back and they talked about it. They had an idea which was this: we are going to set up a fund and we are going to fund 2 of the children every year, who are going to that little school, to go to college on one condition, that those people, when they qualify, have to go back into the slum and genuinely spend time trying to improve the lives of children living there.

                   
Because of that moment of inspiration and because Iqbal, who I think you’re all getting a drift now, runs a really great restaurant in South London, because he is a very successful businessman and all those sorts of things and well-connected, he’s able to go and find some money. He’s setting up a trust fund to allow that happen.

                   
For me, him telling me this story, I’m interested in London and young kids in London, but, as a classic example for me of how a really small thing, a really small person, a single person is incredibly inspirational and motivational, and has made somebody who comes from a completely different background and all sorts of things act. That’s the first law.

                   
This bit’s a bit of a law, but it’s actually a bit of a rant. It’s this thing that really pisses me off when it comes to inspiration and these thoughts. This is a general comment. I don’t know.

                   
Anybody in this room, how many people in this room would say that they work for small organizations? It doesn’t matter what you determine as small. Okay. How many would say big organizations? Yeah. I would say more small than big.

                   
I’ve only ever worked for small organizations. My charity, we’ve turned over about 2.5 million. We’ve got big dreams, but we’re small - 14 people. I’ve only worked for small groups of organizations and things like that.

                   
This is what really annoys me when we talk about inspiration. The first of which is we all really prize great ideas. We just heard Tom talking about great ideas, all those sorts of things. Yet, banks, financiers are incredibly risk-averse when it comes to investing in our ideas, I believe.

                   
They all talk about, "We’re looking for the next big thing," all those kind of things, but when it actually comes to it, it’s full of caveats, "I’m not sure," "It sounds a bit risky," "Can you hedge your bets?" and all those sorts of things. I think that really has to change. We’re serious about becoming more of an inspiration-generated economy.

                   
Second thing is government. The government’s always talking about ideas. Tech City. If we’re going to do this, we want Britain to be at the heart of the global economy, we’ve got to fight back against the nasty, horrible Chinese who are stealing all our ideas, and all those sorts of things, but all the money they’re putting into is skills. There is a really big skills gap, it’s true, but they will not invest in risky ideas. It’s just a matter of fact.

                   
We’re trying to persuade the government in our world to invest in something called social impact bonds. The most complex thing in the world, which is about getting government money, expecting real, real change on social issues. It is like drawing blood and it’s their idea.

                   
The third thing is what it makes us all do in small company land, small business land, startup land, and all those things, is we end up in the world of, actually, I was going to say angels, dragons, and date-rape, which is we have to go through these contortions to try and find funding and support and money and things like that.

                   
All sorts of games get played in this world, a lot of which are successful, and thank goodness for that, but they are not the answer to proper investment behind serious people who are trying to drive their businesses.

                   
I can absolutely say, hand-on-heart, that so many small businesses I know, particularly in the tech and digital development area, seem to spend most of their lives concerned about where their next bit of investments or whatever else it is coming in, rather than how can they take their brilliant idea forward and make a difference.

                   
I feel and I feel it’s true of charities as well are passionate about the idea that we have changed banks. We have to get people to invest in our ideas. There needs to be some serious part of the infrastructure in terms of sporting what we do. That’s my please kill me rank. I apologize for that, but I feel much better for having said it this morning.

                   
I want to talk about the second thing, which is the most boring law, which is about implementation. It’s about an idea that we’re working on at the moment. It comes from the smallest thing. It comes from a penny.

                   
In charity land, we spend huge amounts of time trying to persuade individuals and organizations to give us large amounts of money. It’s the holy grail. If I could get Pepsi or Evian or any of those brilliant brands we just heard to do a really sensible investment in the Mayor’s Fund for London, that would be fantastic. We work very hard on that.

                   
We’re also really interested in micro-financing, micro-donations. We’re really interested in areas where people just couldn’t even ... You wouldn’t even notice the difference if somebody said, "Can I have a penny?" If there was a penny sitting down there next to Graham, I know that he wouldn’t even bother to bend down and pick it up. Would you, Graham? No.

                   
We have this idea around micro-donations. It’s inspired by a thought at the Mayor’s Fund for London, the London Underground System, and the Bus System. It’s a very interesting fact. You may not know that the whole of the London underground and the tube network and the bus network, London Transport, TFL, is Europe’s largest, biggest, single payment system by some distance. 8 million journeys happen on it every day.

                   
We had an idea, which was would it be possible, is there a way that we can encourage everybody who travels on that network to donate one penny every time they use the network. If we were able to do that, all those one pennies, it would slowly but surely add up to a really very significant amount, not just for us but for the whole of the third sector in London working with this disadvantaged kids.

                   
We thought about travelling public. As we started to think about it, we started to think, "Okay. That’s a penny, but what else? Who else might be interested in donating pennies?" We had this idea about matching donations. Would companies be prepared to match? Because it’s hardly anything.

                   
In city hall, there are 800 people who work there. If 100 of them took part in this program, that’s a pound. There’ll be no problem about the employer matching a pound. Any employer wouldn’t even notice that, but, of course, it has geometrical impact in terms of the amount of money that’s raised.


Then we had an idea which is, okay, but wouldn’t that be interesting if each of us, as individuals, are taking part in this scheme might be able to nominate a partner, a brand? On my way to work, I stopped at Costa and I buy a cup of coffee. If I’m part of the scheme and I buy a cup of coffee, Costa will donate 5p. It’s like a little discount on the cup of coffee to this game.

                   
Again, it’s a very small amount of money. Costa wouldn’t even notice it. But, from a promotional point of view, from a brand benefit point of view, it terms of for London, it’s a really interesting idea.

                   

Then the final bit is the government gives gift aid to incentivize charitable giving. Every penny that’s given would be eligible. From a private individual who’s a taxpayer in the UK would be eligible for gift aid, which is 20%. 20% of a penny is hardly anything, but when you add up 8 million journeys, that becomes a really significant amount.

                   
We’ve started thinking about this game. We called it A Penny for London. That’s what it was. We’d like people to do more than a penny every trip - 2p, 3p. It doesn’t really matter.

                   
There’s one really interesting thing that’s happened as we started talking about it, which, for me, has moved it from being a new, bright idea to something potentially really inspirational, which is about joining gaps.

                   
As we started talking about it, at the same time, transport for London is changing its technology. Does everybody here go on tubes and buses? Is everybody here from London? Do we have Oyster cards? Everybody have their Oyster card, prepaid card?

                   
You will all know then that any second - if you travel on buses, it’s been true for a little while - we’re about switched the land of contactless. Basically, you won’t need an Oyster card anymore. You just need to wave your contactless credit or debit card at the machine and it will automatically do it. You don’t need to pre-pay or anything like that. It just changes.

                   
That little switch in technology allows Penny for London to happen. It allows micro-donations to happen for systems like London Underground for the first time ever. This is the idea that we’re toying with, and we’re really inspired by it. We think it’s absolutely fantastic.

                   
The second law, which is where we’re going to, is the law about implementation, which is, I believe, in a land of X billion ideas, no inspirational idea is possible without being really boring and having inspirations. We’ve had this great idea, we think. We’re talking to lots of people about it, we’re excited about it, but we’re not shoulder-deep in what we were hearing earlier in terms of the process about bringing an idea to life.

                   
This are non-functionals. I have no idea what non-functionals are, but I can tell you there are at least 45 closely tied A4 pages of a list of things that we have to do to try and make this program happen. If we don’t do that, the program won’t happen.

                   
The second law of inspiration is about implementation. It is the most dullest thing in the world for me.

                   
The third thing is the point about time travel. Ahead of this presentation, I went on to Google and I Google’d 3 things. I Google’d the world’s greatest 10, list of 10 ideas, inventions, and patents.

                   
There they are. I’m sure they’re being properly researched and assessed by whoever was owning that particular site that I landed on when I got to those lists, but these are, I would say, as close to the most inspirational things according to the list makers that have ever been done - the computer, the wheel, the cotton gun. There are things we might agree with and we might disagree with.

                   
I have to say, from a personal point of view, the most brilliant and inspirational device that has been invented is this, which is mine. I didn’t invent it, but it’s mine. It’s been really well used. It’s my diabetic pen.

                   
Five or six years ago, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, which means I’m insulin-dependent. A hundred years ago, I’d be dead. I would have been dead some years ago. Because of this little pen, I can inject myself 4 times a day with almost no fuss in public. You’d never even notice. It saved my life. It is phenomenal and easy and brilliant.

                   
Everybody has their own view. Oh, okay. You’ve got one as well. You see?

                   
Anyway, the point is we all have views about this list, but what I would argue is they’re only inspirational because of hindsight. When the people set out ... When Edison said, "Oh, light bulb," I don’t think he thought, "I’m going to have an inspirational idea. I’m going to call it a light bulb, and it’s going to be fantastic," and everybody went, "Brilliant." It’s only looking back that we class ideas of being inspirational.

                   
I think that’s a really important kind of thought somehow in terms of what we do in the world of small. I don’t know who had the inspirational idea of the transportable record player just at the time the Sony Walkman was coming out, but I’ve got a feeling they probably didn’t make as much money out of it as they would have liked to.

                   
I absolutely know that Apple are doing a lot better now from when they first designed whatever that is there. I think the key point is about apps, though, just in terms of the world we’re living in at the moment. This is a little outdated chart because I know, because I read it recently in one of the newspapers, that from an Apple point of view, there are now over a million apps on the iOS system. The point is that is a list in March of apps available.

                   
Somebody earlier made a really good point about the number we actually have on our smart phones. We all know that all that huge number, only a very, very small number, in terms of the digital world that we live in, all those sorts of things are genuinely inspirational. I’m not sure, but usable and popular and all those sorts of things.

                   
I think we all live in a world where there are billions of ideas, but where only one or two ever make it. Thinking about them being inspirational when we start is the wrong way to think about it. It’s only with the benefit of time travel do we know and have that.

                   
In summary, 3 things. People are more important than ideas. No matter how brilliant your idea is and all those sorts of things, it’s the person ... Whether it’s the person presenting the idea, whether it’s the person representing the idea, whatever it is, it’s people who sell and people who make the difference.

                   
Implementation is the most boring bit, beginning from A to Zed. Planning is the only way in the world that we live in to ensure funding and support and credibility and all those things because we live in a very risk-averse society, despite the rhetoric.

                   
Hindsight is really what inspiration is. Inspiration is a fantasy concept. It’s only with hindsight we’re able to look back and say, "You know what? That really, really changed my life."

                   
If you’re ever near the Southern Cathedral, I strongly recommend you go to Roast Restaurant. Thank you very much.

Buy tickets for this year’s ’Inpiration-Think Again’ on October 23rd, 2014 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

 

 

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