I have been giving talks all year about 97ers, most recently at Wikimania and TEDxBrum. For ease, I have linked to all the posts I wrote earlier this year that form the basis of my thinking for the talks I give. I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on this very new concept!
There I was being all quiet on my social media channels *cough* with occasional worky updates, then on one day – I saturate my feed with all things Rewired and Young Rewired State – “What the hell”, you may well ask, “are you thinking?”
So, I have been removing myself as CEO for the last three months, Dan Bowyer came in and did some brilliant work getting the ship in order and ready to be run as two officially separate organisations, no longer tied to each others (or my) apron strings. There was a *lot* of tidying to do! And now he has moved on to new pastures that need his genius sorting and winning skillage.
So now we are ready to come out as it were. I am officially on the boards of both organisations, and Ruth Nicholls is the Managing Director of Young Rewired State and Julia Higginbottom the CEO of Rewired State. Today sees the launch of three exciting things:
- The crowdfunding campaign for the Festival of Code 2015 (please give generously)
- The new brand for Young Rewired State and Ruby (our bug)
- The new websites for both Rewired and Young Rewired State. (albeit they are resting places for now before the final POW launch of both in December)
All of these things mark a very big second step for both organisations, and I am really excited for both of them, hugely proud of the team and count myself extremely lucky to have two such competent, passionate and dedicated women running them.
Please can you share the crowdfunding site as widely as you can with your networks, and please if you can afford to donate, do so! It really is a mammoth effort to raise £50,000 this way!!
The funny thing about bringing digital to play in any organisation, process or structure is that it will inevitably cast a massive spotlight on all the broken processes, lazy practices and how unfit for purpose many institutions have become. It is an ugly magnification mirror held up to the very institutions it is being asked to open up to the vast digital communities of opinionated, but potentially hugely engaged and loyal, consumers.
This is not news. I am just setting the scene.
And so it is to be expected that much of the work of the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy has cast a relentless light on Parliament.
I have spent this year so far on the Commission, speaking to lots and lots of people about digital engagement, representation, legislation and so on. No matter where we start, we always come back to the role of MPs, and representative democracy. Give anyone ten minutes to really think about how it all works and they quickly start talking about ‘broken’ things and not feeling like anyone listens to them. All age groups, all walks of life. Everyone feels disengaged, and the MPs and Parliamentarians feel frustration, almost cornered – caught between overwhelmed and slightly rudderless. Everyone wants to kick stuff out of the way so that we can stop grinding to a halt and just crack on. (If you want to hear a few of these discussions I have recorded and published a couple here and here).
Unicorn to keep you happy whilst you read
I know a *lot* about digital…
… strategy, engagement, communities, influence, communication blah blah etc I just have spent so long immersed in this stuff it is more a case of applying common sense.
Increasingly I have been fighting to stop the digital divide, no not between the on and offline people, but between digital and real life. It is real life. Online bullying is bullying. Stealing identity online is a the same as stealing identity offline. Online is a good way to expedite and communicate in some instances, it is not a replacement for everything in the world.
Like radio and TV, analogue (offline) engagement between Parliament and the people is not replaced by digital. They need to sit alongside each other… obvious right? You would be surprised how many people box digital up, and are then irrationally terrified of the perceived monster. But this current work the Commission is doing was really hard, and I could not work out why it was so flipping hard, it went beyond the usual irrational fear of the replacement of everything with robots. I knew to expect that it would throw up messy organisation structures and broken aged processes, but it wasn’t that… it was more important and tangible than that. It took me nine months to realise…
… I do not know enough about democracy.
This is the greatest challenge, democracy in a digital age. Communication; influence; representation; expectation of voice and of the individual; conversing on a global, national as well as hyperlocal scale; exposure to direct audience as well as being able to drum up your own in a few cleverly worded social media pronouncements completely borks the democratic society we sort of know and love.
It is not about putting the digital in democracy, it is about re-settling representative democracy in the digital renaissance.
It is waaaay beyond the remit of the Commission to address the Constitution of this country, and I am not suggesting that representative democracy can’t work – but what I am saying, is that it is fundamental that we all understand exactly how it all fits back together again. Because it will when the digital people know enough about political philosophy and democracy, and the political people know enough about digital communities and the multi-faceted audience.
We get that right and we can all get on with our lives feeling like we have put our family back together again. In my recent cramming on all things democratic, I started my journey on Wikipedia and Plato (the only person I automatically associated with being the go-to guy for political philosophy quotes when I was writing essays at school). I found this statement on the Wikipedia page describing Plato’s five regimes of government:
Democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline and society exists in chaos. Democracy is taken over by the longing for freedom. Power must be seized to maintain order. A champion will come along and experience power, which will cause him to become a tyrant. The people will start to hate him and eventually try to remove him but will realize they are not able.
It is the one phrase that has haunted me this week (*cough* Scotland…) I wonder where we are in this swing between democracy and tyranny? Anyway, I shall leave you with that thought, and carry on. I have a tonne of stuff now in my Kindle notes, I will pull out the things that seem to resonate for those who fancy learning a bit with me.
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!).
There is also the rather wonderful mind map of notes taken by Lucy Knight, to give you an overview:
The 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:
Twitter – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on Twitter
Facebook – 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Those people leading a centre at the Festival of Code this year are about to receive the following message:
This 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
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:
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.
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
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?