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Robert Ashton, consultantI solve what academics call ‘wicked’ problems. These are never clear cut challenges that will respond to formulaic interventions. More they are complicated conundrums that are themselves hard to understand. An organisation or community finds itself in a difficult place with no easy way out. Treat one symptom and something else goes wrong.

Here are some characteristics of wicked problems:
  1. The information needed to understand the problem depends upon one's idea for solving it;
  2. The problem constantly evolves so you only know you’ve fixed it when it stops hurting;
  3. There are no right or wrong answers, just better or worse;
  4. Trial and error won’t work, you have to intuitively feel your way along the right path;
  5. Each wicked problem is unique and therefore proven solutions won’t exist.

Ask Robert

StethoscopeThe current convergence of growing social need, reduced Government spending, growing energy costs and limited prospects of economic growth create a fertile seedbed for wicked problems.

I am currently helping:
  • A much needed hospice project overcome donor resistance and commissioner inertia prompted by uncertainty and collective fears about long term sustainability;
  • MazeA special needs school get the new campus it urgently needs by building innovative new partnerships and doing the things only someone outside the organisations can do;
  • A town re-start a stalled regeneration project by creating a new development trust and brokering new tax efficient developer/landowner deals to create affordable housing;
  • A disability charity swap lost Council grants for commercial income without losing its heart.
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I use recognised strategies for solving wicked problems. First I encourage competition, polarising stakeholder stance and making the gap between them easier to see. Then I encourage collaboration to bridge the gap, often introducing new stakeholders able to meet previously unidentified needs.

 

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ROBERT THE CONSULTANT IN:

> Charity & Social Enterprise      > Health & Social Care

> Education     > Housing & Regeneration     > Business

He who spares the wicked injures the good.

Seneca 5BC – 65AD, Roman philosopher

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Robert Ashton is a one-off. When Norfolk Library and Information Service was awarded some funding to support enterprise in Norfolk we knew that Robert would offer something unique and inspiring. We commissioned Robert as the opening speaker at two events supporting business start-up and social enterprise and he delivered exactly what we wanted - upfront, challenging and thought provoking talks that inspire people to think differently about themselves, their ideas and their businesses.

Robert's talks make you realise what is possible when you think differently and while being completely honest and open about the scale of the work and the challenges that will lie ahead. Robert invites us to see those challenges as inviting and exciting opportunities we cannot afford to miss. Robert represents the philosophy and practices of future businesses: a world where profit and social value are inextricably linked and of equal value and where ideas that can make money and change the world are at the heart of the global economy.
Nick Little - Norfolk Library

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We Since meeting Robert in 2013 I have been constantly amazed and by his endless energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the cause of improving both business and social enterprise within the regional and wider economy. Author, speaker, entrepreneur, motivator and consultant - Robert is a force of nature and someone I am proud to be associated with in my role as Manager for the Governments GrowthAccelerator grant funding for business programme in Norfolk. In a world where the term "business guru" is used far too lightly and often, Robert is the real deal and delivers a positive impact to every project he participates in.
Gary Parker - Manger, GrowthAccelerator Norfolk


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We really appreciate everything you are planning to do on our behalf. We are under no illusion as to the challenge which faces us here but I feel very encouraged in the knowledge that we have someone with your experience and talents prepared to fight our cause.
Philip Talbot - Norwich Christian Resource Centre

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Just to say thank you so much for your time today, it has really helped me clear some questions I had and also presented me with some ideas to follow up.
I'll let you know how we get on and hopefully meet you in person one day!
Tania Tirraoro - Special Needs Jungle

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"Robert Ashton has been an integral part of the team that worked on producing an initial feasibility study to determine whether or not Thetford Town Council should take on the former Charles Burrell High School site in the town. Robert brought to the table a wealth of knowledge and experience that broadened the horizons of the project team and streamlined our decision making processes. Of particular use was Robert’s knowledge and experience of similar projects and the connections that he was able to call upon. Robert suggested visit opportunities and used his networking skills to bring people to the table quickly. All of this support was invaluable and assisted the Council in eventually making the decision to sign the lease and take on the challenge. If Robert undertakes work for you, insist that he incorporates an orang-utan picture in any presentation he does!"
Councillor Terry Jermy, Norfolk County Councillor & Leader of Breckland Council Labour Group

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"With four new books out in 2012 you could describe him as prolific. He is certainly energetic, with the curiosity of a three year old and an amazing ability to solve the most daunting enterprise conundrums. I can honestly say that if you're running a business, school, charity or campaign and everyone's telling you you'll fail; Robert's the man who'll help you prove them wrong."
Tony Quinn, IQ Marketing
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"I like Robert - he's a human-scale entrepreneur on a talk-circuit dominated by supposedly super-human entrepreneurs who most of us find it hard to relate to. He talks a lot of sense."

Rob Greenland, Social Business Consulting

 

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