Work With Source: Realise Big Ideas, Organise for Emergence and Work Artfully with Money
••8 min read
“Brilliantly readable and very timely. The guide you need to build a purposeful business or social movement, see it grow, and keep the creative spark alive.”
– Caroline Lucas MP
Work with Source is Tom Nixon’s new book aimed squarely at the courageous, creative and vulnerable souls who start social movements and purpose-driven businesses.
These founders know they have to get out of the way and decentralise the effort if they are to scale a collaboration, yet at the same time they sense there is an important role for them to play as the person who first breathed life into the endeavour: What Peter Koenig called the role of source.
The book is a guide for founders to understand their unique role in every step of the creative process they are stewarding.
Here are the opening sections of the book.
Preface to Work with Source
I am writing these words while the Covid-19 pandemic rages around the globe. It’s an event that’s finally shaking the whole world by the shoulders, making it undeniable that we are living in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times (VUCA, as complexity geeks call it). Ask just about anyone how their 2020 annual plan worked out and you may be met with laughter at the absurdity of the question.
This is the reality that many less fortunate parts of the world have been living with for far longer than those of us in the West have. The pandemic is not merely a large bump in the “normal” road. The world is so deeply interconnected and fast-moving that VUCA is normal, so we better act accordingly.
The future sometimes feels bleak, and even terrifying, to me, yet I just can’t help being an optimist by nature. I don’t have the kind of blind, naive optimism which denies the reality of the challenges we face but that kind of hope I learned from the activist and author Rebecca Solnit, which is grounded in the reality that the future is so complex and ultimately unpredictable that there is always the possibility of things turning out far better than we fear.
Whether it is a massive global youth movement being sparked by a schoolgirl sitting alone on strike outside her school or effective vaccines being developed merely months — not the usual years — after the emergence of a deadly new virus, there are reasons to be hopeful, and this kind of hope can give us the energy to engage with the world and do the necessary work.
I began writing this book over five years ago, in what now feels like a simpler, almost quaint period of history: Obama in the White House, the UK a full member of the European Union, and hugging friends was perfectly normal behaviour. My original plan for the book was simply to help founders like me navigate the rollercoaster ride of developing their initiatives.
Yet there were huge issues in the world, bubbling away as if in a pressure cooker, and in the year that followed, 2016, it felt as though things were finally exploding: President Trump, Brexit, the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement. It was also the year I became a father and my perspective on the world as the home of future generations transformed immeasurably. Writing this book took on an urgent purpose.
As 2020 drew to a close and I finished writing, Trump lost the US presidential race to Joe Biden, yet democratic institutions are still being stress-tested like never before. It’s clear that we cannot rely on political leaders to get us to a better future. It’s down to the vision, ingenuity, and collaboration of all of us.
My intention and hope for this book is that it finds its way into the hands of many people working on ideas for things the world needs, at just the right moment to give them some helpful nudges that ripple out and create a better chance of success. Perhaps this is you, and you stand on the brink of surpassing your wildest hopes for bringing change to the world.
The Hopi Elder’s prophecy famously said: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” It’s down to us to take the initiative and bring our visions for a better world to reality.
Brighton, England. January 2021.
How to use the book
You can read this book cover to cover or just dip into the chapters you need. I recommend beginning by reading all of Part One, where I’ll unpack the key concepts you’ll need to navigate the rest of the book. Each chapter in Part One has a summary at the end to recap the key points, which you can skim for a quick overview.
Part Two is full of advice for working with the Source Principles to realise purposeful ideas. You’ll learn how to clarify and steward a creative vision, team up with co-founders and other collaborators, share authorship with many people, and make it through the critical moments of transition for founders and their endeavours: mergers, takeovers, and successions.
It also has chapters with very practical advice for organising around a vision in a complex world that requires high levels of participation. We’ll use the Source Principles to show you how to build bureaucracy-free organisation structures, make participatory decisions and resolve conflict, recruit well, and reimagine finance.
We’ll take inspiration from some of the most radical, participatory initiatives on the planet, and you’ll learn a powerful approach to organisation development that can help you to develop your own unique way of organising.
Part Three explores the nature of money and the inner journey of being a source. You’ll learn how to understand and transform your relationship to money and how this is the basis for deep personal transformation, with love as its foundation.