Be More Pirate – Alexa Stop Ep12 ft. Sam Conniff

Be More Pirate

This episode of Alexa Stop welcomes Sam Conniff, Co-Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of Award winning agency Livity, Chair of Generation Change, and author of a new book which looks to history for ideas on how to build a better future: Be More Pirate.

Shaking things up with Livity

Having attended the BIMA Awards last year, I had a feeling Livity were shaking things up a bit. They won the Grand Prix Award, which was the first time this had been given to an organisation, rather than a product or campaign.

Livity are an international youth-led creative network, empowering young people to change the world around them. They believe in business objectives being paired with social objectives. Sam says that they see two stages in life – education and career, and deciding if you fall in the bracket of child or adult largely sits in which of those stages you see yourself.

Bearing this in mind, “Be more Pirate” begins to make sense. Initially (and I understand why now) I did not link being a Pirate with changing the rules. I thought Captain Jack Sparrow, or worse, “you wouldn’t steal a car”…

Pirates: delinquents or disruptors?

What I did not think of was the Golden Age of Pirates, which happened exactly 300 years ago. Whilst Sam admits that there were scallywags, and justified negative press around pirates, pirates also made decent leaders and created a way of life that was ahead of their time. These people were frustrated with the rules, the way they were treated, and the favouring of the few to the detriment of the many. They rejected this society, and rewrote their own rules. Sam wants to reposition the idea of pirates, from rogues to role models.

Here are just a few insights as to how far ahead of the times pirates were:

  • Gave women the vote (100 years before the suffragette movement)
  • Dual governance (to keep the power of the captain in check)
  • Global branding (150 years before Coca-Cola)
  • Social insurance
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Cocktails

Over 40 years they remained remarkably consistent because their manifestoes were built on profound values and measures.

The book ‘Be more Pirate. Or how to take on the world and win’, started as a metaphor for change, inspired by the years of working with young people. Sam has seen a real shift there, largely down to technology. There’s a sense of self manufacturing and self branding thanks to phones that has enabled self confidence. What he finds interesting is not just that sense of ‘I can’, but, ‘I want to do something that makes a difference’. And this is across the board: class, city, country.

How do you be more pirate?

A couple of things to consider for now:

1. Find a stupid rule and break it – not all rules should be followed blindly, think about why you are doing something before you do it. If you don’t agree with something then see what it feels like to do the opposite.

2. So you’ve broken a rule, now create a new one. How does that change things?

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Be More Pirate:

“Today, if we want to improve this picture, of our future, we have to do it ourselves. The only way out of this mess is a little less Instagram and a lot more action.”

You can download chapter one of the book in exchange for your email address.

Where do we go from here?

Sam’s interview concludes that we should be taking this pirate mindset and pairing it with the opportunities that technology provides. Technology should facilitate change but is not necessarily the starting point. Perhaps there is a different way to the one we have been sold, the rule we have been given. Maybe there are more opportunities to share our voice than just the ones the status quo allow us.

I can understand the frustration that Sam is alluding to and the change that is required. But in a society where I can afford a mortgage but can’t afford a house any time soon, orchestrating the scale of change I would like is a daunting prospect. Maybe pirates are braver than me. But, I can understand that it’s about taking those small steps that lead to the big change, and it’s about taking those together.

Be More Pirate is out May 3rd.

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