Friday, January 23, 2015

On Friendship, Villainy, and the Social Contract

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Last weekend I piled into a car with my best buddy and drove down to Richmond Virginia to surprise a friend for his 30th birthday party. We left on Friday, drove all day, surprised him on Saturday night and drove back on Sunday. All in all it's about a 2,150 kilometre round trip (1,335 miles). It's not the first time I've made the trip and it sure as hell won't be the last time either.

Now there's a whole lot of back story here about what brought me to Richmond that weekend, but rather than share that, I'd rather speak to what I took with me when I left.

The morning after the party, Kevin (the birthday boy) came downstairs to where I was sleeping and made time to talk with me. It was important to him that we spend some time together before he had to work (and we had to drive home) he asked me why it was so important for us to come down and celebrate with him.

The answer was simple: friendships and stories.

He smiled and shared that his favourite moment of our friendship was when we just sat on the front porch last summer and did nothing but talk. Family, history, religion, politics, aspirations, successes and failures; we discussed it all.

What crystallized for me when I was in Richmond was that stories truly are at the heart of friendships, that friendships drive engagement and engagement leads people to co-create new stories together. It's a virtuous feedback loop that helps us frame how we see the world, how we understand others, and how we present ourselves to others.

I've written at length in the past about the importance of stories, argued that we ought to be more purposeful story tellers and lamented the fact that somewhere along the way the story arc of the public service skewed towards the ignoble (See: Purposeful Story Telling and When did the Public Service Become and Ignoble Profession?). What I'd like to do now is double down on Kent's claim that 2015 will be the year of the social contract (See: The Social Contract). To take a moment to remind you that you have an active role in shaping the continuing evolution of that social contract by cultivating relationships, engaging others and creating the narratives you want to work in, live in and play in.

Talk is important (See: The Villainy of Talk).

Co-creating a shared narrative is essential.

And sometimes, pausing to re-frame when necessary, even more so.


I've invested a lot of professional energy lately in a research project on digital governance; we're holding our first large forum next week in Ottawa. The agenda is off the hook and the speakers are top shelf, and there's still room. If you are interested in attending the forum drop me a line.


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