“… 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

Breaking things better at Young Rewired State

It is year six for Young Rewired State (YRS), and it is growing into a great, international community of young people who have taught themselves how to code. We remain relentlessly focused on fostering the peer to peer nature of learning, and solving real world problems through code and community. We like to call this “Breaking things better”.

Earlier this year YRS separated completely from Rewired State, enabling it to focus on community projects and the the local/everywhere programmes. I also announced my intention to step aside as CEO of YRS/RS.

Excitingly, things have moved very fast since then and Young Rewired State has moved naturally into being its own entity, we have hired some great people to manage the YRS community and projects, and soon we will be able to announce the new Head of YRS. I shall share all of this staffing news when everything is all in place. This is us in Buckingham Palace…

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But the headline news is that I have invited an extremely select and active group of people to join me on the Board, and am going to move to Chair of YRS at the beginning of July. The Board members are as follows:

Annika Small:

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Annika is the CEO of Nominet Trust, but I have asked her to join the Board in a personal capacity, as she has been great at monitoring the growth of Young Rewired State, and gently steering us in the right direction and keeping me focused on the right things – in a completely positive way of course! I trust her judgment and know that she understands this space completely, and is far more knowledgeable than I in growing global communities and projects. Annika is the absolute rock YRS needs.

Bill Liao:

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Bill is a successful entrepreneur, VC and is the founder of CoderDojo. He has been invaluable in guiding us through the restructuring of YRS and RS and it is hugely important to me that there is someone on each of our Boards who is experienced in taking social organisations to global communities, and who has serious creds in the Venture market. Not for YRS (that will remain a non-profit organisation) but for the members of the community. We want them to have the aerial cover from Bill. Needless to say, CoderDojo and YRS have much in common.

Ian Livingstone:

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The Legend, as he is known in my house! Ian has long been a great shoulder for me to collapse on over the years of growing YRS. He has either made me laugh, got me drunk, or told me off but he has always got me through whenever I have yelped for help. He is also a towering inspiration for young programmers and has fought a long battle to bring gaming into many peoples’ lives, and took on government in a very serious capacity – fighting for changes in education (and winning). Being a success himself, and also slightly baffled by some of the things that have happened to him, the board is complete by having him shoulder to shoulder with Annika and Bill.

And finally… we have our very own Angelina Jolie, our Ambassador and friend to the Board: Kathryn Parsons.

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Kathryn has been a pal of mine for a while, and she has been hugely successful with her own Decoded adventure. We kind of fell forward in this space together and she and I have learned a lot from each other. So Kathryn is our Ambassador, a very important female role model for the girl entrepreneurs in YRS – but also a successful entrepreneur and actively scaling, a great example for all YRSers. Kathryn is ace.

And that is it.

This is not a passive Board/Ambassador. I will be meeting with them all every month individually, and then we will have quarterly board meetings to make sure we are doing the best we can by this rapidly growing community.

It is exciting.

D-Day and Edward Snowden – Democracy, Freedom and Banishment

Today this happened:

  • I watched Edward Snowden speak on stage at the Personal Democracy Forum 2014 conference (via Google+)
  • I saw the standing ovation he received (twice) but could not see – if you are my Facebook friend you will see the video I made of his last seven brilliant minutes
  • I heard him pause the applause time and time again to add *just one more thing*
  • I had to look up from my phone this evening (google maps helping me navigate new bits of NYC) to wait for a New York fire truck reverse back into the station, as it did (and the firemen got out and took their clothes off) I saw this

IMG_8794 IMG_8795

  • I read this http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-27700479 and remembered being on Omaha beach with my O/H last week, and seeing the beaches, wheat fields, cafes and farms involved in that heroic Allied determination to right injustice
  • I saw Parliamentary people photographed during the Queen’s speech with whom I had spoken at length about digital democracy
  • I also saw many people, working, living, sharing, eating, drinking, dating – first dating even! (I overheard a very awkward drawn out convo about where to have a drink before supper – but to be fair it is a challenge in New York to make such decisions)

But today was not an unusual day really. I go to conferences or speak at them fairly regularly, in cities across the world. My bag is democracy – so I get to hear a lot about it. But today I felt like New York had shown me something new.

Agreed it was just the host city for the Personal Democracy Forum conference, but that (amazing though the speakers were) was not it.

There is passion and healing, and a determination that is in so many ways similar to the French Resistance during the second world war. But not against the terrorism attacks it has faced and potentially still faces; to be honest they just say: “Life goes on” and flaunt their breathtaking buildings…

IMG_8797 IMG_8722No, this is a city hosting a conference that is about resisting surveillance, surveillance undertaken in the name of security and protection and only the most pretendy asleep person could ever really believe (I forgot to tell you the thing I learned today from John Perry Barlow, one time lyricist for the Grateful Dead, today interviewing Snowden)

There is passion about freedom of speech in America that is possibly unrivalled anywhere else in the world, granted; but with that passion there is responsibility, and what I heard today many times over, was that this is important, even if you think you do not have any worries yourself about someone reading your emails or metadata – you have a responsibility to everyone else you interact with. That is the deal-maker here.

Edward Snowden is banished from the Obama-dom of the US, and with typical aplomb, people are funding his gargantuan legal fees with their $10s and $20s, and auctioning his lanyard to raise funds for when he is attending in person on stage (God help the dude), standing to cheer him on …

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 00.37.05{Douglas Rushkoff is also a flipping legend, by the way}

… this man who sat at his desk and just could not morally carry on knowing what he knew and facing his fellow citizens day after day. His response to the crowd-funding announced today? Not everyone can afford to give money, so please help each other, finish the conversation he started, take the time to look up the Reset the Net campaign – encrypt encrypt encrypt

It is not for us. It is for those we know and have yet to meet, the next generations and to take away the temptation from future governments.

This brings me back to the present day, with my own role as a Commissioner on the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy.

The last meeting I had was with those people in Parliament paraded out for the Queen’s Speech. They too were passionate, and they too had concerns – albeit in a very British way, the common cry was something along the lines of: It cannot be a democracy if we give all of the data we could gather on every citizen to an MP. Because if we do so, when they are next campaigning, they will take that information and target *say* Cynthia at number 23 who likes cycling and sheep with a special leaflet, covered in sheep, about cycle lanes. That is not democracy, that way the same person or party gets elected time after time, and this is unfair and terrifying.

It may well be that our elected representatives need to know what we really give a toss about, and that we are able to engage in game-changing Parliamentary decisions about those things without having to flick out of Facebook; but if this is done by data, by digital information mining, it cannot be undone.

Democracy is hard. Democracy in a digital and socially digital world is harder.

I want a conference in the UK, like PDF – that relentlessly addresses these challenges. Not just highlighting them, not just giving them air and sunshine, how do we actually do this? It is going to change, what are we going to do? Every single year, putting our democratic toes to the flames. Our Democracy-Day…

Democracy is my passion. Banishment is archaic. Freedom has a price.

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy is important (UK people) and we have this year to set good things in motion, here is how to engage (please do join in, everyone around the world).

Calling all bedroom programmers – everywhere!

It is that time again, the beginning of the build up to the 6th Festival of Code!!

MainIt is an unbelievably exciting time for us, and we have really stepped up our game this year – just wait and see. But I can tell you that as well as code and community there will be poetry, art, skateboarding, laser graffiti and list of speakers so fine you will feel dizzy sharing the same space as them. On Saturday we will have heats, semi-finals and then an entire evening of music curated by Pixelh8 before the Grand Finale on Sunday – where the finalists will show and tell to a panel of judges I am just ITCHING to reveal, but we need a few more weeks before they will be completely nailed. You will be delighted, I promise.

For those of you who have never heard of the Festival of Code before, go and check out the site http://festivalofco.de It is a week of coding that takes place across the country where people aged 18 and under, at all levels of digital skill, work with open data and mentors to build websites, apps, games or write algorithms. On Friday 1st August they all come together in Plymouth for a weekend of talks, show and tells, music and festivities, celebrating their skills and encouraging them to learn more.

Here is the story from one of our centres from last year in Manchester Digital Laboratory

This year we have young people taking part from around the world: the US, Singapore and Europe and we are really looking forward to bringing you all together and seeing what you are up to.

As ever, we run this all through sponsorship and it is all totally free, thank you sponsors!! But I have one ask left…

It is notoriously difficult to reach some of the young people who would benefit most from coming along to this. Many of whom are teaching themselves how to code in their bedrooms, who might not know that this exists. So we have this wish:

Please could every reader of this blog post download this poster from the Festival of Code website and print at least ten copies out. Then put them up in your work, your school, your local library or community centre, anywhere really. Parents, friends and family members may see the poster and pass it on to their bedroom programmer and completely change their lives. Tell everyone, and they can change the world.

 

Hashtag Scrutiny

This is the third blog post in a series I have been writing in my role on the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. It may help to quickly scan the previous two (as with the legislation post, I will scatter kittens and nice things throughout, as I write loads):

Hashtag Democracy

Hashtag legislation

We are currently calling for evidence on scrutiny’s role in democracy, I shall remind you of how to do this at the end of this post. Earlier this month the commission met to hear from people (witnesses) who gave us more detailed background based on their knowledge. Specifically we were supposed to be talking about:

  • Select Committees
  • Examples from other countries
  • Open data
  • Information from government
  • Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs)
  • KPIs for MPs

But actually the conversation we ended up having was much more fundamental than that, and this I thought would be useful to share with you.

Parliament’s role and government’s role

Very few people, in fact it is probably so few it may as well be none except those who work in it, know the difference between the role of Parliament and the role of Government (indeed the difference between Government and government). Knowing that Parliament’s role is to scrutinise the work of the Government, and that we (citizens in a democracy) can in turn scrutinise the work of Parliament is a fact lost on most of the population of this country.

{kitten break}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when you start to look at the vital part scrutiny must play in democracy – and the enhanced opportunities offered through digital tools, communities and reach – it is immediately confused by having to assume that no one will really know where to start, nor do many of them want to.

Research conducted by the Hansard Society paints a gloomy view of engagement and enthusiasm for politics. On the 30th April 2014 they will publish their 11th Audit of Political Engagement, should you wish to interrogate some findings for yourself, but it pretty much rides out what you would expect:

  • few people want to be involved in decision-making
  • parliament should take responsibility for enabling those who do, as well as reaching those who can’t be bothered, (but would if they knew there was something being decided on that they actually care about)
  • the language of Parliament is alienating: whips, select committees etc
  • the older people get the more interested they are in politics and law; conversely the older they are right now, the less digitally engaged they are

So really this is going to be much more about outreach than making channels available to those battering the doors down to find a way in.

Conundrums

The social media led communities of the digital world are once again the game-changers – and what we are hearing over and again is that when online communities are actively sought out for engagement with a specific topic, the response and engagement is immediate, relevant and useful to everyone involved. Bit of a No S**t S******k moment, right? Seems obvious…

Parliament is already doing some of this, we have seen small scale projects having great success, but with very limited resource applied to them, they have a digital outreach team and all sorts of disparate stuff the Speaker detailed last year when he announced this Commission in a speech to the Hansard Society:

Digital democracy should thus be seen as the complementary counterpart of the outreach efforts which I have spent much of my four years as Speaker seeking to promote. It is a form of in-reach, encouraging and enabling the public to become more involved in the work of Parliament and Parliament responding as a result. Historically, in-reach has largely consisted of voting once every four or five years. For representative democracy to thrive it has to evolve and there has to be a step change improvement in its responsiveness to the electorate and the country at large.

{flowers from the Eden Project break}

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In a sort of earnest, and perhaps wishful, fashion he later went on to state:

If we get this right, then the Speaker’s Commission would provide a blueprint for action covering, among other topics, ways to bring to the heart of our democracy the things that really matter to our citizens – how to put right grievances, how to turn law-making into something that really involves the people who will be affected – and not just a conversation between interest groups and political parties – and much more that we have yet to discover.

So far so “Yes”, obviously, yet it seems the more we dig, the more basic it is – digital is not the solution to a broken process, a cry screeched far too many times into the echo chamber, but never more apt here. The challenges are mighty, resources are few and the real action needs to be around sharing in the world where people are communing around topics (on and offline). Then in turn ensuring that this engagement, once won, has the opportunity to add value.

Engagement, digital or otherwise, that turns out to be pointless to the person dedicating their time and energy is not only an expensive waste of time, it will also actively damage any further attempts to garner feedback or opinion. Worse, it will create an environment of suspicion and distrust, further damaging the vestige of democracy.

Red Pill/Blue Pill

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Morpheus, The Matrix

I seem to be using this quote a lot recently, so apologies to those who may read more than one thing I write (although I know this post has been LABORIOUS… sorry! But it is so important to share this cogitating with you all)…

For the Digital Democracy Commission I see the Red pill/Blue pill choice to be:

Blue: Use the opportunity to shine a big fat mirror at the issues and walk away – wake up next year and carry on. No further damage done, nothing broken, also nothing fixed.

Red: Be bloody brave, lay out that blue print to citizen re-engagement in democratic process, but ensure that it is written in stone that this goes hand in hand with revision of process through Parliament and Government – so that engaged people really can change the world.

{Chief Librarian break}

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(This is John Pullinger, the legend photo accreditation at the end of my post on democracy)

How can you get involved?

I promised I would let you know how to get involved with all this, should you fancy. Here is a very lazy copy paste of the information on the Commission web pages:

These are the issues we would like to hear your views on:

  • The role of technology in helping Parliament and other agencies to scrutinise the work of government
  • The role of technology in helping citizens to scrutinise the Government and the work of Parliament
  • The nature and format of information and data about Parliament and government that is published online

It’s not necessary to respond to all of these. Feel free to concentrate on the issues you think are most important, or which you have most to say on.

We will publish evidence submitted on this site: please let us know if there is a reason you would prefer to submit evidence privately.

How to have your say

Contributions by email from everyone and in any format is welcome: videos, blog posts as well as more formal notes.

Deadline

Whilst it would help us to have received evidence on digital scrutiny by the end of May, we recognise that the themes overlap and you may prefer to cover two or more themes in a single response at any point over the next few months. We will shortly be publishing a single call for evidence covering our last three themes.

Further information

Until next time… bai :)

 

97ers and work

This is the 5th post in a series I am writing about 97ers: social natives. It may help to read the previous ones:

Introducing the 1997 Digital Natives, 97ers, and their networked communities of learning

The 97ers and Identity

The 97ers and social activism

The difference between the 97er and Gen Y

If you think about the 97er and the environment in which they have grown up there has been a heartbeat of disruption:

  • worldwide recession
  • worldwide terrorism

And their security, possibly unbeknownst to them, has come from their community, their peers – the ultimate sharing of knowledge has acted as lifelong reassurance of themselves, their validity, safety and inevitably shaped their attitudes and expectations.

Luckily the natural reaction to restore the balance of the universe is the rise of the collaborative community, the prosumers and an almost zealous belief in Openness and Transparency.

What lies beyond school?

These children are now looking at their life beyond education. Summer 2014 will see some choose apprenticeships, some choose further education and some head for the job market – the march into becoming part of the working community has begun and by 2015 they will be officially “grown-up” – well, 18 years old.

I believe that the most obvious effect we will see first is the reaction to the recession. They know no different than jobs with banks, or in the public sector or in monolithic and historical organisations that have been going for hundreds of years being the most unsafe choices a person can make in a career. They have witnessed mass redundancies, seen story after story of brands that even they know: Blockbusters, Woolworths, going bust with thousands of jobs vanishing. There are very few who have not been personally affected by this either directly through family or friends.

At the same time they have also seen a rise in entrepreneurship, parents and their friends choosing to run their own businesses, their peers creating start-ups, crowd-funding platforms; their social media streams are full of this relentless birth of “new”. It is all they know.

Safety and security

To my mind the perception of what is a secure job choice has been completely thrown into chaos. Nothing really makes sense any more if they try to think of a job for life, a job they want to “do”, as some parents, teachers and careers advisers are still encouraging them to focus on.

For the 97ers security and reassurance has come from community knowledge, but in this instance there is no prior knowledge of how to tackle this jump from their networked communities into a linear working world; with choices to be made with 2d information, crafted and marketed directly to them – the kind of information they have learned to distrust and deride.

And so I am beginning to see these young people attempt to squeeze themselves into the kind of person their predecessors were, looking to the entry level jobs of large organisations, and trying to understand why formal careers in traditional roles (those waved in front of them as a “good idea”) can possibly be a good idea – when they are the most insecure choice, based on what they have seen growing up.

Lazy, layabout teens

As a result they are less enthusiastic about going and getting “starter” jobs or part-time work, more keen to either stay in education until the world makes sense again, or become apprentices in skills they know they can fall back on when the world falls out of the bottom of the financial markets again (yes I intentionally skewed that phrase).

I fear that the draconian, booming voice of Whitehall threatening benefits and the ‘benefit society’ is creating even more insecurity and confusion. As they recall any bits from their past that might help them make decisions on the future they will remember job losses, failing economies, fewer work opportunities for greater numbers of people – and they will begin to worry.

Worried 97ers will depend ever more heavily on their networks for reassurance and to find the answer. I believe that there will be a period of introspection amongst this community, and society will blame technology because they will all seem to be descending more heavily into being glued to their phones, tablets and computers – apparently wasting away their lives instead of  focusing on the next stage of life: their careers.

People will bemoan the lazy, layabout teen culture.

We need them

I would implore you, should you find yourself doing this, to try to resist! We need them to be introspective, to make it better and easier for the ones that are coming year on year after them. We need them to be supporting each other through their digital networks and we need their leaders to emerge organically from this – they will discover who they want to follow in the way they have always done so: through social channels.

And we need them in our organisations. We need them to help all businesses and sectors understand the new nature of their audience/consumers/prosumers.

What can we do?

Look to those economists predicting the slow death of capitalism and the social theorists looking at the complicated lives of the consumer society. You can rest assured that the 97ers are really not going to be doing that – but we can.

  • Let’s look at the emerging economy that is starting to take shape, and allow these young people time to get themselves ready, and empowered
  • Encourage entrepreneurship
  • Encourage digital skills
  • Share stuff you find that talks about economies and markets
  • Give them information and knowledge
  • Find the the thought leaders online
  • Become the translators of the dull stuff that will help shape the 97er community conversation

 

I have two years to let go

Many of you have become my friends and kept up with me throughout my journey in Rewired and Young Rewired State. Through me doing it in my spare time in 2009, through running it from The Guardian part-time to taking the leap into it being my full time job in 2011. Since then it has grown and we have slowly managed to hire staff members and find the right space for both Young and Rewired State.

This is our sixth year, and I have been blessed with the guidance and advice from Toby Moores and Derek Gannon as we look to the next few years, and how we might grow.

So I have three pieces of news for you all:

1. We have separated Rewired State and Young Rewired State structurally and financially.

2. Rewired State will grow commercially as a social enterprise, still with the same ethos and retaining regular open and social hacks, but also delivering more of the modding series: taking ideas and prototypes through to products that solve given challenges. We will also be developing and delivering a few products of our own.

Young Rewired State will continue is its mission to find and foster every child driven to teach themselves how to code, introduce them to each other and open data. It will extend the projects it works on, for example the Peer to Peer challenge, the Duke of York awards and YRS Google assemblies; as well as YRS Hyperlocal and Everywhere. It remains a not for profit.

3. In two years time I will step down as CEO. Founder CEOs can be lethal to an organisation as it grows up, and I am not so stupid to think that I alone can take RS and YRS forward and manage the direction they go in. I feel so passionately about what we do that if I can see that I will become the blocker to its growth and cause it to wither – I will remove myself. And this is what I will be doing by the end of 2016.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed  and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Morpheus, The Matrix

I will still have a role to play from the Board, but what this is will be decided as we roll out the next stage and see how everything starts to shape around the revised split structure.

It will be hard, very hard indeed – but I have two years to talk myself down!

So, please do continue your wonderful support – this has helped so much over the last few years! I mean look how well it is doing now, largely thanks to all the community love and action from you lot. Please help me continue to take it through the next two years so that I can hand my babies over in robust health and ready for whatever a new CEO might choose to bring.

We will be advertising a few new roles over the next few weeks, starting with a Marketing Manager role and a Head of YRS Community position. If you think you might be interested in taking a look at either of these, dm me on twitter/FB or message me here (don’t bother with email) – we will be publishing the job descriptions soon. And of course, a CEO role in 2016 :)

Onwards

*Update July 2014 – since I wrote this blog post, it started a domino effect I could not and would not stop. The upshot is on this blog post here http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/three-reasons-for-founding-ceos-to-go-earlier-than-you-think/

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