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Outlandish Review of 2021

By Abigail Handley, 19 Jan 2022

So 2021 has been and gone, and its certainly been a different year to most. As we have, for the best part of the year, been working from home, gathering together all the things we worked on and delivered was more heartening and enlightening than it has been in previous years. Obviously, because the organic and natural sharing across the office of work done isn’t quite replaced by Zoom calls.  So I think everyone was surprised at how much we have collectively accomplished.

So here we go… this is what we in Outlandish worked on last year

New tech & digital projects

  • Greenpeace 50th Birthday photo wall. It was technologically really hard, and in such a small timeframe, and it ended up being a great success!
  • Sanger Institute, developing sample tracking software for Covid and malaria samples
  • Three projects through the Catalyst programme, working with The Stroke Association, Equal Care Co-op and a cohort of charities building their digital skills
  • PossAbilities ideas and solution development for their in house learning and support portal
  • Power to Change & Catalyst collaboration, developing a pilot for supporting community businesses to develop their digital skills effectively
  • Home Debate Club (now Big Debate Club) for Smart Schools Council. An answer to how children working from home could carry on developing their debating skills
  • Julie’s Bicycle and Live Nation touring solutions development

All our lovely long term clients

We did plenty more work with the likes of:

So many collaborations

  • CoTech isn’t just a bunch of like-minded people trying to run great businesses; we worked with so many co-ops this year, and hope to beat that in the future. Below are the co-ops we worked with:
    • Agile Collective on WHO JMP data tool, Localgov Drupal, Building OUT clients and Catalyst development programme
    • We Are Open on Building OUT work and Julie’s Bicycle
    • Small Axe on something I can’t quite remember!
    • InFact and Practical Governance on Building OUT, sociocracy training and team coaching
    • Working with one of our collaborators Michael on a ‘Internet shutdown’ project through his company Sublime Software where people were asked to run around Finsbury Park without phones and the internet. It was random, it was fun and it got us out of the office!
    • DOT Project have been a part of lots of collaborations – whether through Catalyst or Power to Change as well as us partnering on business development opportunities and are always there for a shoulder and an ear.

The things we invested in

  • Skin Deep website build (invested £5k of CoBudget money in building the site for them)
  • Act Build Change invested £20k of CoBudget money to develop their tool further
  • Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging workshop with Collaborative Future in October
  • Kickstarter Apprentice scheme (also in riskiest bits below) with the fantastic Aydarus & Ella who have now launched 3 websites including the co-op development hub site launched yesterday
  • York Away stay – we went up to where one of our members moved to so that we could have some much needed face to face time, reconnect and learn who was the best at the cereal box game

Summer Party 2019 - Staff Party Game Ideas - Let's Go Punting

Not us but taken from the random internet 🙂

The riskiest bits

We aren’t an organisation that sits back on its laurels. We are always trying to do things better and improving how we work and what we deliver. This means taking some risks, and we took a few in 2021:

  • Kickstarter 6 month Apprentice scheme – took on the lovely Aydarus & Ella to build simple websites for local clients
  • Co-op Development Hub – we were successful in a bid to set up and fund this hub – changing Space4’s role
  • Integrating Building OUT work with our clients more – bringing the way we try to work internally and with each other more explicitly to our clients. Building trust, openness and understanding takes time and investment, and we have found it really helps build trusting and long term relationships with our clients as well as our partners and colleagues.
  • Parting ways openly and honestly with some clients and projects and a founding member – we are 11 years old and as we mature we are learning what sort of work and clients work for and with us the best. It’s just as important to stop doing things that aren’t working or benefitting the business or people (inside and outside the organisation) as starting to do new or different things to try and make improvements.

Outlandish behind the scenes

  • We moved offices to be close to our lovely co-working space Space4. Now we have bigger offices when most have down-sized (so possibly this should also be in the section above). Although we are working from home right now, lots of us are looking forward to getting back in the office as soon as is safe to do so
  • We’ve become an organisation far more comfortable with hybrid working. Mateus moved to York to be closer to his family, Richard moved to Athens to start a new life with his, Matt is in Brighton and Koyan is in Kalamata, Greece, and so we have a truly hybrid working team.
  • Amil got married 4 times. As you do!
  • Working hard on our pay process, and not just the process but genuinely trying to understand where each of us are coming from when it comes to fairness around pay. These were some of the most difficult conversations we have had, and over the last 12 months the members have stuck with it and made progress in one of the biggest challenges that co-operatives (and any business) experience.
  • We introduced the idea of an internal work week – as members we have multiple hats and do lots of the internal operational elements of running the business alongside the delivery work. Sometimes we need to prioritise the admin and ops over the client work so that we can keep delivering the client work well. This will be happening again in 2021.

Joiners & Leavers

  • Aydarus & Ella on the kickstarter team
  • Ant as a new developer
  • Harry left as a member and started his own consultancy Surprisingly Ltd. He is now contracting with Equal Experts and we have his belated and much needed leaving drinks coming up at the end of this month (with Covid you can delay these things, but at Outlandish will always find a way to have a party). Harry has been an intrinsic part of Outlandish since day 1 so life without him in 2022 will a change, a transition and something new.

So what is coming up in 2022?

  • More CoBudget rounds rather than us investing into projects as member proposals
  • More awareness internally and externally on what everyone is up to – we have so many projects and we just don’t tell people about them enough!
  • Building our longer term client relationships even more. Investing in relationships is hard work and worth it as long as we are able to keep working together. Having trusting relationships with clients makes the work so much more impactful, successful and enjoyable
  • More people! More developers and more producers to be able to deliver all the work we are asked to
  • More investment in our support work – having a dedicated person or team to oversee this to ensure stable and consistent support for all our clients
  • More transparency (internally and externally) on our finances and our margins. We are definitely open about this, but not consistent with how we share it (and how up to date we are)

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our year!