How good are you at making space for nothing – so you can change something?

Last week we took a few days out of the business to get together and spend some time thinking about who we are as a company, what’s important to us and the impact we want to have.

One of the big takeaways from the week is that however busy things get we need to make a commitment to retaining “blank space”. Moments, however small, where we can step out of the day-to-day and allow ideas to grow.

Innovation can’t happen if we don’t give it room. It’s so easy to get so distracted by business-as-usual that you don’t even have time for the conversations – let alone the actions – that will lead to change. You blink, a year has gone by, and everything is the same. You find yourself watching the same presentations at the same conferences, with the same people in the room. Meanwhile, outside, the world’s problems look exactly the same – or worse.

On the CHY journey it’s always been moments of “blank space” that have led to the big shifts – not just for us as a business, but for social value as a whole. It’s happened when people have put faith in us, when partners and the industry have worked together, and when everyone has stretched just a little bit further out of their comfort zone than they’re used to.

  • In 2006 we were told by the public sector that you can’t put contractual ‘social value’ KPIs into public procurement processes and contracts. In 2008 we worked with partners to do exactly that during the procurement of the Leeds Arena.
  • In 2008 we were told by public planning departments that you can’t put ‘social value’ obligations into planning requirements.  In 2009 we worked with partners to do exactly that during the planning of the Tower Works development in Leeds.
  • After we lost our public sector funding due to austerity in 2010, we were told that private companies would never pay for social value. Look at the sector now! In 2024, 100% of our income comes from private sources.
  • In 2015 it was said that we’d never see social value ROI principles in procurement. Now having metrics and financial proxies around social value is standard practice.

None of these shifts could have taken place without the time, space and confidence needed to grow in a slightly different direction.

Being a catalyst for change is central to what we do at CHY, and it has to be. It’s the foundation we built our business upon. It’s the reason we’re here. Being busy out there doing work for our clients is fantastic, but we won’t be who we truly are unless we keep pushing for a better world in a tangible way. And we won’t be able to have that impact unless we are intentional about finding places and spaces for those ideas and shifts to happen.

Pauses are important.

We all need to take a breath before jumping.

If your industry or organisation is stagnating on social value, what could you be doing differently? Can you create some blank space to solve that problem and create the change that’s needed?

And if CHY can help create that space for you, you know where we are. It would be great to hear from you.