I want to live long enough to…

  • eliminate suicide as an option for any person, but especially our young people
  • leave a world with better democracy
  • find a way to mainstream alternative education options

I started with Young Rewired State and Rewired State, that worked with young people and developers on projects and programmes for social and public good. I will continue with more.

Mental health dilemma of a snowflake

I was watching the beginning of the latest series of Big Little Lies. In it a young teen explains to her Mum why she doesn’t want to go to college: she wants to join a start up that is a for-profit organisation providing accommodation for the homeless.

Obviously this was an effort to create a scenario that showcases the millennial snowflake generation set of ideals against the traditional. I found my 47 year old self on the side of the teenager, and so the cognitive dissonance begins.

In my lifetime I have done two important things: 1. I had two daughters and raised them with awareness and 2. I set up a not-for-profit organisation: Young Rewired State in 2007, aimed at bringing together the naturally talented young programmers and engineers who were brilliant but failing at school and failing exams, with few work or learning options and no community. The second failed in 2016, a victim of its own success and lack of sustainable business model/scale which is a total personal failure as I should have listened and learned (in some instances) to those who had slightly different values to myself, but who could have kept this important work alive.

When my darling nephew died in 2017 at age 19 and broke the world, my passing interest in mental health became far more than that, it became my lifeline. Although he did take his own life, there is scant evidence that there were mental health problems in advance of this act, it is all too sadly likely that this was a rash drunken decision — but we will never know.

However, the groups in which I sought and found comfort opened my eyes to a world of crisis especially with our young people and their mental health. Too many young people, google the stats it will shock you, and changes for the worst on a month by month basis. A story that broke my heart even more was from a mother in a group I had been a part of for a few months after my nephew died, who joined us when her 16 year old son got up from the family sofa, made a cup of tea for his parents and siblings, went back into the kitchen to get his own cup, walked into the garden and hung himself. No sign, rhyme or reason.

For several years, even before my nephew took his life, I had been working on an idea for a ‘spa for teens’ based on my interest in the 97ers generation. This rapidly became an idea for a cool members club for kids aged 16–24 where every person they came in touch with in the club including baristas and security had mental health training, but we also ran fun stuff and events that helped address all of the challenges facing them. With parental sessions early in the day to help scared grown ups.

I have the business plan and the breakdown of what it will take but my one thing was: it cannot fail like Young Rewired State. This is even more important IT HAS TO HAVE a sustainable business model. I cannot swoon into my liberal snowflake brain and make this a not-for-profit that relies wholly on donations and has no (slightly unethical in my mind) business model. This has to speak to the rich kids and their money in order to meet some of the needs of those who cannot pay.

And so I have been paralysed, for years now. I want to do this, I know what is needed. I know there is a business model here that will make it self sustaining and bring rewards for investors. But I can’t take the first step as my cognitive dissonance is so massive I can’t even begin to take the necessary next steps… but I KNOW we need this and I know this will save lives.

What would you do?

Facebook/Cambridge Analytica — the meerkat moment for platforms and people

This has been a long time coming. Platforms have utilised the easiest business model they could and closed their eyes and crossed their fingers that it would be too annoying, too complicated or too late by the time people started wanting to take control of their own data. That business model being that platforms make money by selling your data to organisations public and private for marketing/advertising purposes.

In Facebook’s case they use what they know about you through your data to offer targeted marketing, whilst they retain the deep data knowledge, a pyramid of access, but it still the same model. It is old fashioned but it works. (I know that Cambridge Analytica take this data and do monstrous things with it, but I am talking specifically of the source: the platform).

The irony that such ‘disruptive and innovative’ social platforms that purport to drive the future of the digital revolution are actually just old stuff dressed up in fairly shouty and shiny new clothes is easily lost.

For years I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop with regards to people wanting ownership over their own data, so that they can *choose* when to share what information with whom and in exchange for what.

I thought this moment would come with health information. In the UK certainly, the NHS struggles with communication between surgery, hospital, clinic and other medical establishments, meaning that whoever is treating you never has the whole picture. It is a relatively simple solution, that I know doctors and surgeons across the land would love to happen, and that is for every patient to own their own records, keeping them under digital lock and key and sharing that information with the relevant medical practitioners at the right time. Much less frustrating all around.

Of course once this information is held and controlled by the individual, the smarter developers, researchers and platform owners would then have to come to you and ask for access, you can then choose to give access to all, some or none of your data — and for what in return. I believed this would be the tipping point and people would then start collecting their data from everywhere and so the tide would turn.

However it was not to be. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have managed to scare the bejesus out of everyone — leading to a mass exodus, kind of, and a lot of finger pointing and noise, but not very much substance.

Does this fundamentally break the trust between people and social platforms? It has certainly rocked it to the core and I am not sure that Mark Zuckerberg has gone far enough to reassure or to reboot that relationship. But neither does just leaving Facebook solve anything — unless of course you were just fed up of it anyway, but leaving in fear worries me.

It would be good if we could use this opportunity to persuade the social platforms to change their business model. To be grateful that they have got away with it for so long, they must have known this day would come.

Social platforms should give everyone their own data, they should not have it — it should be held in a digital account that a person would own and manage as they would their bank account, (or personal health records if we had got that far yet!).

New platform business models should be built around that premise, making it simple and unerringly transparent for people to share or trade their data.

We all know that there is a multi billion — if not trillion — dollar market in worldwide data trade, if you want to get geeky on this look up the Annual Revenue Per User (ARPU) figures. In 2017 this just tipped over the $5 mark for Facebook alone and it was growing at an increase of 26% in that year, with users in Canada and the US having an ARPU of $21.20. That’s fine, don’t cut it off, just be smarter about it: give people control over their own data, a fair price for use of it — and make the whole transaction simple and transparent.

Here are a couple of links to explore how you can request your medical health records https://digital.nhs.uk/article/6851/How-to-make-a-subject-access-request and here https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1309.aspx?categoryid=68

On death and change in mid-life

These last few years have been hard, I will not lie. Many of my friends have passed away and the sudden death of my adored nephew in 2017, age 19, almost broke what was left of my resilience to all life can throw at me. I am 46, I feel 103.

Much of my working life has been about innovation, revolution and breaking boundaries, and this has been good, tiring but good. And I have been rewarded not only with honours and a relatively stable income, but also the opportunity to meet some incredible people, travel far and really feel like I made a difference to peoples’ lives. But I would trade it all for the life of my nephew.

This recent slew of death has challenged my values, and energy levels. I find myself far more focused, perhaps more selfish and a little more determined, if possible, to use the years I have left to make life better for my family and for young people.

I have shut Rewired State and Young Rewired State, they had a great decade and did what they needed to do. I know that the legacy of both lives on in all of the young people who took part in our Festival of Code every year, and the opportunities afforded by the work Rewired State was doing with governments around the world.

My daughters and I will be working together to build up Mulqueenys, an organisation that with focus on finding new ways to practically support the challenges faced by young people, mentally and emotionally – we will take our time to get this right and make it sustainable without relying on donations, but have begun this work. Indeed we had already begun this before Ezra died, but now it is more important and personal.

It is an interesting time, a complete renewal, but I will be back – it will just take a little time to heal this broken soul.

 

Calling all young scientists and geeks for a free Summer hack in August #H2Hack

You may have heard of the first ever Hydrogen hack happening in the UK this summer, run by the uber cool Arcola Energy team, ahead of the launch of their education programme. The latest news is that we are ready to start filling up the centres. If you want to read all about the hack and apply, go here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk – but the basic idea is that 100 scientists and geeks aged 18 and under will come together in ten centres and use hydrogen fuel cells to make animate objects move faster and inanimate objects become mobile. Using a variety of fun technology, toys and fuel cells, this week promises to be challenging and completely new.

At the end of the week there will be a large competition between the projects at Ravensbourne College near the O2 in London, in front of a panel of distinguished judges.

If you look at the map on the website you will see where all the centres are, but we are just looking now at getting the right balance of young talent in each centre. By ‘scientist’ we mean that you have an interest in science and engineering, or of course are a flat out genius at science; by ‘geek’ we mean that you have coding/hacking skills; by ‘young’ we mean that you have to be aged 18 or under. Here is the list as of this week:

Nottingham University: we are looking for 8 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Techniquest, Glyndwr University, Wrexham: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Centre for Life, Newcastle: we are looking for 9 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

BOC, Guildford: we are looking for 7 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Tettenhall College, Wolverhampton: we are looking for 6 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Monmouth school, South Wales: we are looking for 4 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

University Technical College, Bolton: we are looking for 8 young scientists and 1 young geek

University of Sheffield: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

In London we have a wealth of young scientists and very few geeks so far! Which is very odd, so please do apply if you love hacking and are happy getting to a centre in London. We are in the process of signing up more London centres as we have so many young science applicants – so there will be a number of centres to choose from.

You can all apply on site here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

Right! That is it. It will be a GREAT week, and free – what more could you ask for.

{Mentors: we need you, so if you are too old for this hack but love the idea – register as a mentor, it will be as much fun – but we can’t pay you}

 

 

Summer hacking in the UK

As we are currently in the middle stages of scale and expansion for Young Rewired State, looking at sustainability and providing a bridge to more than just one off community events such as the much adored and missed Festival of Code.

In the mean time there are still some exciting opportunities for the young programming community, including the Hydrogen Hack I have been helping Arcola energy put together as they launch the expansion of their education programme.

The challenge is to take hydrogen fuel cells, code and hardware and make something newer, faster or inanimate objects animate.

Run the same way we run the Festival, with centres around the UK, mentors and then a finale in London, those of you in the Young Rewired State community will be familiar with it. This time we want to add those young people who are also crazy about engineering.

There is only space for 100 people in ten centres across the country so I would advise registering early.

Here is the link http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

We also need mentors and centres of course, so feel free to share and invite your friends

Getting an OBE (and how you can too)

On Saturday I officially received my OBE — not yet from the Queen but it was announced in HM 90th birthday honour’s list, I go get the actual thing at some point in the next six months, (unless my dreams are to be believed and I miss the ceremony due to unforeseen diversions).

Being me and documenting most of my working life in social media I felt compelled to write, but had no idea what to say.

Being a woman, I think it is a gender specific trait, I felt slightly ashamed, uncomfortable and guilty because so many others deserve acknowledgment for all the great things they do, and also those who helped this whole kids and coding movement.

But my forever-devil-conscience Cindy Gallop once more whipped me into stepping up for other women and girls, so that everyone feels that everything is slightly more possible, and my guilt was stuck in a vortex of unforgivable ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t…’

But then tonight I discovered who put me forward for this honour, and suddenly I feel it is OK to write something.

The lady who put me forward has been my mentor and friend for quite a few years. She has seen me through the tears, the despair, the highs and elation, the uncertainty and the bewilderment. She has also put me on public stages, given me tequila (or ribena, depending on the moment) and she has even involved me in work she is doing that is far more high fallutin’ than my endeavours.

By knowing who put me forward I can feel comfortable knowing that it is from someone who actually knows what it takes to really follow your heart and refuse to accept the status quo, or size of the mountain of success. And I know she meant it, she really meant it.

Another message that resonated was one that said the following…

Kudos to Alice Bentinck Mike Butcher Matt Clifford Saul Klein Emma Mulqueeny Wendy Tan White Sarah Wood for the kindness, talent, and hard work that led you to be in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list today!

And the word that has hit home the most with me this year has been kindness. (Talent (should read blag and attitude) and hard work — I am not ashamed or embarrassed by the hard work side of things, so that’s OK.)…

But kindness from my benefactor got me this OBE and kindness from the community brought Young Rewired State to reality. So kindness really is the quality that I hope drives most people to go above and beyond their day-to-day obligations to family and work.

I am not going to blah on about how hard it all was, or sad refrains of evenings lost to work (like this one!), we all know stuff takes work.


How can you get one? Or how can you nominate someone?

So the day before it was announced I got an email, that I obviously made everyone in the office read because it was suddenly getting real (you don’t know that it is actually going to happen until this point, you just get a guarded note that says you have been proposed and accepted to be put forward by the PM to the Queen, but say nothing and expect nothing).

A part of the email I will leave at the end of this post as my mic drop, they first congratulate you, the first official notification you get that you are in, then they warn you of press queries and finally — this is the important bit, they say this:

We have been very pleased to see an increase in the number of awards to women in recent years. If you felt able to help us to communicate this message, it would be very kind if you might signpost to www.gov.uk/honours to encourage more nominations. Everyone knows someone worthy of recognition. But they won’t receive an award unless someone nominates them!

#kindness Pass it on…

5 things every brand needs top know about millenials born ’97 & after

 

In the 20 minute video here I gave last week to researchers, here are the top five things people need to know about 97ers, those millenials born in 97 or after. They are a segmented group because they grew up with social media and know no different. I did a TEDx talk about them, you can watch that here.

If you are not keen on watching videos, here are the top five things you need to know: they are:

  • Relentless researchers – they are driven by the *hit* they get by debunking internet theories, or discovering secrets
  • Tribal – they are natural born community builders
  • Momentarily focused – apps like SnapChat have taught them ruthless focus in seconds not minutes, this is very different to being forever distracted
  • Multi-cultural global citizens – in the social digital world, geography and borders do not matter
  • Data traders – they totally understand the trade with corporations, they get access to free apps in return for their data, and know no different

If you are a smart brand, you need to know these five things.