A few years ago I moved to 25 km outside Copenhagen to the fresh air and green forrest (back to my hometown where I grew up) and in the spring of 2015 I was elected to the board of the local business community (Furesø Erhvervsforening).
I soon found out that 2015 was the 125 year anniversary for the founding of this business community, which I found quite amazing for any community in this day and age.
I suggested the board to dig a little in the local archives to see if any interesting came up that we could use for our anniversary dinner 6 months later and I soon found out that the local archive had 4 big boxes in the basement with protocols and pictures that I was allowed to look into. So I dug……
Wauuuww – this was really cool. Instead of spending one
or two afternoons looking for a few anecdotes I ended up spending more like 4 weeks at the archive over the next 6 months trying to de-cipher thousands of lines of slanted old school handwriting which, by the way, beats Sudoku any day regarding brain exercise…
One of the first things I found out the very first day was that the community was not founded in 1890 to do business, but on the idea to help each other economically if one of the members got sick or died. This ‘sick-care’/’life insurance’ concept was funded not only by member’s fees but by revenue from 10-15 annual entertainment events in the local village community with several fair, balls, lotteries, music and theater performances. The experience economy at it’s finest before anybody knew the word.
The next big thing I found out was that the community had established, funded and managed a technical school for carpenters and other traits with up to 85 students for almost 40 years! (1922-1961). They did this in order to secure the quality of their own apprentices and recruiting base. And nobody in the current board or community knew about this anymore.
As the months went by, I discovered more and more stories. Along the way I had the opportunity to tease for few of these findings at network sessions with other local business owners and local politicians. I experienced what amazingly positive effect these stories had on people and on the conversations they started to have with me and with each other about our new discovered ‘common past’ in the community.
Everything from pride and connectedness to curiousity and demands for more stories and pictures were typical reactions. The board, the members and the local politicians started immediately to relate the current agendas, business challenges and urban development projects with the long tail of stories, events, places and streets back to 1890. It was like ‘connecting the dots’ back in time made so much sense to everybody.
This was when the idea of writing ‘the whole story’ and turning it into a book was suggested to me.
With help from a few other good people from the business community with skills in proof reading, graphical concept, layout and printing we managed to turn my 50 pages manuscript with research into a nice little book of 88 pages in just 2 weeks. At the 125 anniversary dinner November 3 each participant received a book and was encouraged to read and contribute with comments even more input for a 2nd edition which is in the pipeline next year.
The making of this book has personally also been a very joyful ride down another memory lane back to many of the points made about Storying professional identity in my previous book Narrative management from 2013 and again experiencing the power of history and the huge impact on the understanding of the active business community today and it’s role in the broader local community – and maybe even more important – inspire us all to rethink the roles we could have in the local community based on the history we are now aware of and part of.
Take a look at the digital version of the book here (free):