Chocolate cake and digital democracy

As a part of my role as a Commissioner on the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy, I have been running a series of informal chats at my dining room table with tea and cake. Some of these I have recorded (see here for the first ever one) and some I have not, because they have accidentally happened! This post captures the latest and final one I will host before the Commission retires to start putting all the evidence and knowledge gleaned into some robust recommendations. (If you want to do the same thing with tea cake and democracy then feel free:  please contact the team on 0207 219 2606 just so we know).

We always start from a general chat around the main themes of the Commission (detailed here on the Parliament website alongside key dates) and then disappear down a few rabbit holes before the conversation really kicks off. I have two recordings of the latest one (because I tried to take a photo *and* record on my phone – mistake!).

and

There is also the rather wonderful mind map of notes taken by Lucy Knight, to give you an overview:

imageThe discussions usually fall back into the merits and failures of a representative democracy in a digital world. And I am not going to attempt to write a blog post covering all of that – but if it interests you, please do explore this topic more, it is worthy of some mulling.

What I would like to leave you considering, though, is the question about responsibility:

In a representative democracy, experiencing change as we are, is it the responsibility of Parliament to actively engage and empower citizens, re-invigorating and reminding us of our role ? Or is it the responsibility of the already engaged and enthused citizens to ensure that the majority of peoples’ voices are heard?

This question sits behind a lot of the conflict and confusion, I think, and I would be interested in your thoughts. Here’s a poll (for fun)

And whilst we are on the topic of polls, I have another one running (albeit statistically pointless as I am not gathering any data about those taking part, but interesting nonetheless for those who like this kind of stuff). The results are publicly available here – and occasionally surprising: https://www.surveymonkey.net/results/SM-MNQG6PS8/

Should you wish to engage with the Commission formally and have your voice heard – please do – the ways to do it are:

TwitterTwitter – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on Twitter

FacebookFacebook – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on Facebook

LinkedIn – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on LinkedIn

Post a comment – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy Web Forum

Email – digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk

 

Three reasons for Founding CEOs to go earlier than you think

I wrote earlier this year about how it was time to let go of Rewired and Young Rewired State, that I had reached the limits of my abilities as founding CEO, and that after five years it was time to look ahead, move to the board and let some people better than me come in and take us forward. That was at the end of April 2014, and I gave myself two years to let go.

Well… it’s done! I peaked early and my God it was so the right thing to do. I will tell you why in a minute, but for those who want the detail, here is who is doing what (skip the italics if you couldn’t care about that and just want the reasons why it is so great):

As of next week Dan Bowyer joins us to take over and head up as CEO of Rewired State, I will move to the Board alongside Derek Gannon, with Toby Moores as Chair. The central team in RS is lean with Julia Higginbottom, Kevin Lewis and Gideon Brett taking up the core roles, supported by a bevvy of freelance pools of technical people, hackers, events people, product people and project management. (And a new pa *whoop* inbox management huzzaaaaa….)

Young Rewired State is currently still being managed by me and a new exciting Board made up of Bill Liao, Annika Small and Ian Livingstone – and our brilliant Ambassador: Kathryn Parsons. We also now have project teams made up of Kait Dunning, Kate McDonald and Tanya Leary, with Ruth Nicholls leading on funding/partnership and Jessica Rose leading the community and all supported by two ex-YRSers who have been interning with us this year: Shad Jahingir  and Ben Hayman (both of whom want to work for us full time which I take to be a great endorsement of the stuff they are doing – so this makes me very happy!). In September, after the craziness of the Festival of Code has died down, I will move to YRS chair and the Board will announce the head of Young Rewired State.

Three reasons why it is absolutely right to do this now not in two years:

1. Once I had recognised that I was not the person to take either organisation any further forward, I had already subconsciously allowed myself to let go. From that moment on, nothing I could do was good enough for the business by my own measure(!) this is not good for anyone. I could see where I wanted it to be, I just couldn’t clearly see the steps to get there, so stumbling around became frustrating.

ONCE YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO LEAVE, IT’S TIME TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL FRUSTRATE YOURSELF AND BRING DOWN YOUR TEAM

2. It was only once I had made the decision, and written it down and told everyone, that I really started at looking at what the two organisations needed. It then became so apparent that nothing less than this person was right and I started to look to see if I could see this person, and other people started to look to see if they could find this person. Until I had stepped away mentally, and made it something I was going to do publicly, only then could people become free to look at “my” organisation as if it was theirs.

GOOD PEOPLE WILL ONLY COME KNOCKING WHEN YOU STEP AWAY – AND YOU WILL ONLY BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE THAT PERSON AS YOUR IDEAL REPLACEMENT WHEN YOU HAVE GIVEN UP YOUR FOUNDER/CEO GRIP

3. It is amazing how much it frees up your team! I just did not see how my founder/CEO ethos of: MY WAY and MY WAY and MY WAY only (or if you can do a damn good persuasion job), was stifling the skills, ideas and brilliance of the people I had hired for their skills, ideas and brilliance. As soon as I told them that I was going to go and get someone better than me and that I would move to a more strategic role rather than ops, they were a bit stunned but then over the last few months each and every one has stepped forward and shone. (We have lost a few sadly, but this was less to do with their sadness at me moving away from their daily lives, and more about better offers more quickly <- there’s a lesson). The Rewired State organisation is barely recognisable now, and I am so excited and inspired by it once again, it is like rediscovering its potential all over again. Young Rewired State has developed its own character, shaped by the young (all female except for the interns) team – who in my newly-stepped-away role have taken their pieces of YRS and are loving and whipping them into shapes I had never imagined. Everyone gets what the idea is, I have spent the last six years ramming it down their ever-loving throats. Just now they get to break that better.

YOU NEED TO FREE YOUR TEAM OR YOU WILL LOSE YOUR TEAM

Final word of caution, you cannot do this without a small, engaged board of people who support your move and will help you. If you don’t have a board, choose the people you would most like to be involved to help shape, guide and steer your organisation, with skills that you do not have, and invite them. They too will surprise you with the ways they will help. I am so hugely grateful to the YRS and RS boards, and to the advice and guidance each of them give me.

I gave myself two years, it took three months.

(Thank you realitytvgifs.tumblr for Mariah)

Edit 27th July 2014

Quite a few of you are asking what I am going to be doing next; well: 1. spend more time with my family! (I sound like a politician caught with my pants down and my willy in someone else – not the case here) 2. The boards will also be very active and engaged, so I will still be involved with RS and YRS and 3. I am a Commissioner for the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and we publish our report in January 2015; I am so unbelievably passionate about this that I am going to give most of the rest of this year up to focus on this. It is not a paid role, so I will have to work too, but yes – these are the three things I will be doing. xox0

Interactive film to be made by the attendees of the Festival of Code

Those people leading a centre at the Festival of Code this year are about to receive the following message:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 15.12.59This excellent idea was born by Nat and Julia Higginbottom of Rebel Uncut, who have both been very closely involved with the Festival over the years, and are filming most of it this year. Last year we had Rewired Art in Birmingham, where art students in Birmingham Uni joined the Birmingham Uni centre for the week, to create digital art projects. This was great but we felt too focused on one centre. We wanted to find a way to break this Festival better by including the arts for everyone.

One of our VIP judges and speakers is Yoni Bloch and I am *so excited* that he is coming. (I asked him by scribbling on a napkin and slipping it to him just after he came off the stage in Cannes – he appreciated the analogue approach I believe!)

He has created this insanely brilliant platform called Interlude which is what we will be using. To give you an idea of how it works, here is Yoni’s own song video, put together using the Interlude technology: Pretend to be happy

I am really looking forward to this year’s Arts project, to how the film will turn out, also – inevitably – how the YRSers choose to use the Interlude platform themselves, outside of the scripted film!!

This Festival is just going to be huge amounts of fun, I am sure it will be technically challenged, but it wouldn’t be a Festival of Code if the wifi didn’t fall over and someone rewiring the AV so it doesn’t work on the day of the finale.

If this inspires you or your child to join in on the Festival week, then I know there are a few spaces left in a couple of centres, you can register here. And if you want to mentor, we always need people to swing by and help – all across the UK. Sign up as a mentor here.

Thank you everyone! AM so excited, do watch the action on the Eventifier machine

 

 

 

“Basically a lot of people have to die…”

The final words of Marketa Mach on Digital Democracy, spoken at an informal tea and cake chat I held at my house one muggy Sunday morning. The recording of the whole thing can be heard here:

Why was I having tea and cake and talking Digital Democracy at 11am on a Sunday in Guildford?

Because I am a Commissioner on the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy and I wanted my social media friends, who share my passion and value democracy, to have their say, and to be heard by everyone as well as the Commission. Cake seemed a great enabler! And the informality of my house on a Sunday I hope encourages relaxed chat, where the truth will out.

What was discussed?

Well, I seeded the conversation by putting up these two things on the wall, one is a list of bullet points the Commission is officially focusing on, the other is the list of topics we seem to return to time after time as a Commission:

photo(4)photo(3)I would recommend listening to the SoundCloud if you are keen to know what was discussed, as everyone will hear different things, and there was a LOT in there.

Why does anyone have to die?

Well, there was a topic that ran throughout the chat that was whether MPs should be trained in use of social media, or empowered, or whether there should be a job description with competencies for those who represent us, or whether there should be mentoring of MPs by social media literati, or whether there should be champions etc etc. But at the same time we know that this really is a temporary issue, and by the time the 97ers (my own coined phrase referring to those born in 1997 or after who have grown up with social media) are in office, eg the Prime Minister, and their 97er peers are engaging as citizens, that much of this will become a non-conversation. So we are looking at an interim issue that has to be addressed… and Marketa just stated: “basically a lot of people have to die” … so, yes, they don’t really, we don’t make politicians represent us until they die, so more a political death – their death as our representative. Still, a great soundbite to finish this discussion on!

If you too are mad about this stuff, here’s how you can formally engage with the Commission

This website https://www.citizenspace.com/app/parliament/speakers-commission-on-digital-democracy is your route directly to the Commission, Commissioners and the Speaker. PLEASE USE IT!

Am I having any more tea and cake sessions at my house? Can you come? Can you host one?

I am having one more in August on the 19th, but I already have a full house, so no to anyone else joining us, and we have people skyping in too, but as today proved, more than three and one person at least gets to see nothing – which is bad.

But!! Anyone can have a tea and cake session, invite friends and what have you. All that I would ask, is that you please use the website to let the Commission know the outcomes. Also, please record it and share it on the hashtag #DDCEngage on social media platforms. It is so important that this is something as many people as possible take part in. And it is equally important that the Commission hears your voices.

I am all for democracy tea parties with cake. (My recipes for todays ones are here: Chocolate and Ginger cake with Orange icing and here Victoria Sponge)

Who was at this one, and how did I choose them?

They are listed below and just responded to my invitation that was open to all on Twitter and Facebook. It was an open invitation and the dates were agreed by Doodle as to who attended which session

Mar Dixon

Dr Sue Black

Marketa Mach

Jonathan Elmer

Jon Harman

Nik Butler

Are there any further outputs?

Not from me, from the Commission yes there is a report due to be published in January 2015. But I have asked all of those who attended today to write up their own thoughts and publish their thoughts on the hashtag #DDCEngage – so look out for that, and if you too do a tea party, please ask your attendees to do the same.

As they write, I will link them to the bottom of this post in the comments section.

What’s that hashtag again?

#DDCEngage

Five ways to support the Festival of Code

The 6th annual Festival of Code kicks off on the 28th July, with over 1000 young programmers, mostly self taught, building apps, games, websites and writing algorithms using open data and solving real world problems. It is always an insanely high standard of output and the winning entries can be relied upon to really blow the minds of the audience watching.(See the winners from last year here and watch the video of you programmers from 2012).

But that is just the coding activity.

After a week of programming in centres across the UK, these kids (some of whom are flying in from Europe and the US) all gather for a weekend of show and tell, culminating in the Finale on Sunday morning. At this weekend we will also have Bubble Football, a Skate Park, digital graffiti wall, a Photo booth and a night of chiptune artists playing live music – plus acres of food and ice cream.

There are challenges in putting something so fabulous on, not least of which is ensuring that every kid who would really benefit from taking part knows about it and can come. So we make it free to attend but rely on the social networks and physical posters to let every child know about it.]

If you would like to help out there are five practical ways you can do so:

1. Mentor in your local centre (sign up here): if you can do any of the following, you will be handy: code, assist with presentation preparation, ideation, design, research, open data, agile projects, hardware hacking

2. Download and print this poster(1), then put it up (legally!) in all communal areas near your home and work, if you have a notice board at work, please put it up there – parents are the key, if they have a child (aged 18 or under) who they know is glued to their computer and coding, they will love the Festival. (This blog post details where we still have spaces available.)

3. Share the existence of the Festival on your social media, with the hashtag #YRSFoC (Stephen Fry is going to be doing this on twitter tomorrow morning, so we are all set and prepared for the website to stand up to lots of attention – also… Stephen Fry! He is such a great supporter and does this every year – it’s great but we still need your networks too!)

4. We are currently running at a £25k deficit, but have raised enough to make sure we can put it on, we just need a final push and either one big sponsor or several little ones. If you work for an organisation, or own an organisation even(!) that you believe would be completely up for supporting this with cash, then please point them to ruth@rewiredstate.org, our Head of Partnerships and Sponsorships. There are many ways we can deliver ROI for our partners and sponsors and most of the times these are bespoke, so Ruth’s the girl. (see our list of sponsors already on board here)

5. Come and watch the finale on the Sunday. We have secured Plymouth Pavilions for the show and tell this year, so there is masses of room. You will meet the Young Rewired Staters, see the magic and just experience the next generation of creating/making/inventing – something we are so good at in this country. Bring hankies, you will laugh and cry, I guarantee.

That’s it! So exciting

 

How to have edgy creds in five minutes, no money required

The Festival of Code is happening for the 6th year running on the beautiful, sunny UK coast this Summer. We are pretty much all ready and this year (in addition to over 1000 young coders creating insanely excellent digital stuff out of open data) we have bubble football, photobooth, skate park, graffiti wall, robotics, chiptune artists, 3d printing, wearable tech, George the Poet, Avid Larizadeh and Yoni Bloch.

So how does this give you edgy creds? I hear you cry. Well, we need help, so you can get to be a part of it too, and trust me – it’s amazing.

If you are not familiar with the Festival, the way it works is that we have 60 centres and centre leads across the UK who volunteer their time and space for the week to host their local coding kids. Kids sign up from the UK and overseas and we assign them to these centres. Mentors then also volunteer spots of time during the week to help shape, craft and prepare for the weekend of show and tell.

Inevitably, there is imbalance in a few of our centres and we have devised a poster campaign to fill those spots. (These young people tend to be super-hard to find, it depends on someone realising that this is going on and letting them, their mates or their parents know about it).

So! Here goes, this is how you get your edgy creds, and become an active member of the Festival of Code…

1. Check the list below for spaces available for kids and where we need mentors (mentors in public speaking, products, marketing, open data)

2. Identify the areas where you know you can put posters up in local shops, libraries, offices, schools

3. Use your social media profile to raise awareness of the Festival, using the hashtag #YRSFoC and link http://festivalofco.de

The following centres have spaces for kids and need mentors:

Comic Relief London can take 6 more kids (Comic Relief is based in Vauxhall)
Red, Yellow, Green Dorking needs 2 more mentors
Firstsite Colchester still has space for 15 kids and 1 more mentor
AIR Falmouth Uni Cornwall has room for 8 more kids and needs 3 more mentors
A Fund, West Midlands has room for 9 more kids and needs 1 more mentor
Social Breakfast Birmingham has room for 9 more kids and needs 2 more mentors
Instil Belfast has room for 6 more kids
Metaswitch, Enfield  has room for 8 more kids and needs 1 more mentor
Queen Mary Uni London has room for 5 more kids
Raspberry Pi Cambridge has room for 12 more kids and needs 3 more mentors
Think Big Hub London has room for 10 more kids and needs 2 more mentors
Aberystwyth Wales centre has room for 5 more kids and needs 1 more mentor
Solent Cathedral Southampton has room for 10 more kids and needs 3 more mentors
Met Office Exeter has room for 10 more kids
Superthinkers Romford needs 1 more mentor
STFC Daresbury Warrington has room for 10 more kids and needs 2 more mentors
Dundee Uni has room for 10 kids and needs 2 more mentors
Birmingham City Uni needs 2 more mentors
KWMC Bristol needs 2 more mentors
Freerange Carlisle has room for 5 more kids

Information for kids and for mentors can be found here for kids and here for mentors.

Here is the poster for you to download, print and put up, put in your car, put anywhere – these young people are insanely hard to find, and the mentors are also. We know from previous years that the poster campaign works. Stephen Fry will also be tweeting out about us when he feels the timing is right. So./.. all hands on deck! If you can help out with any of the above, email kait@rewiredstate.org and let her know, and point every child and mentor at the registration points on the Festival website. All of you can officially name check yourself as a volunteer for the Festival of Code, so long as Kait has logged you as helping out! And we will verify your assistance, and thank you whilst lying prostrate on the ground, usually. Also, it is just cool…

 

 

“… for a girl”

I had a sickening realisation recently about an ex. When I first met him (in an iphone queue for the next amazing iteration) we did the “What do you do” convo and I was working in gov then, at the Home Office in *quite a senior* role and he said: “oh a real job”… I fell in love with him on the spot because I thought he meant compared to his – in banking. But time would teach me he meant: for a girl

June 2014

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