Digital democracy, online voting and divorce

Yesterday heralded the publishing of the report by the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy, I was part of the team that worked on it for the last year – and loved every moment. The report is here should you fancy a quick read, there is a lot in there, but it is all pretty sane – although I am biased (and proud!).

In my last post on this topic, written the evening before the report publication, I mentioned how the work we did became far more about how you re-settle democracy in a digital age, rather than just chucking digital at the democratic system and processes we have in place at the moment. Systems and processes that are not really engaging anyone and have not embraced the digital communities in any immediately obvious fashion.

This has led to people not feeling particularly well-represented, despondent and completely disengaged from what actually happens in Parliament, other than shouting at each other and roaring old fashioned expletives at each other across the floor of the House of Commons. This is an issue that cannot be wholly addressed by a Commission charged with “investigating the opportunities digital technology can bring for parliamentary democracy in the UK”, but one that is pretty easy to recognise.

Heading for the divorce courts

Throughout the last year, conversations have run rife around Commissioners’ kitchen tables, official round tables, formal meetings in Parliament and sports stadiums (stadia for the insistent) around the UK about what is driving everyone nuts. And most of the time this came down to a mismatch in what people were saying in their digital communities and online social spaces, and what they were hearing in Parliament. There was a breakdown in communication and this was really divorcing the people from their elected representatives.

It often felt like we were the marriage counsellors in the initial grumpy meetings of two very unhappy souls: Mr People and Mrs Parliament. Both really want the marriage to work – but neither party were really hearing each other. One had a whole digital life that was being completely ignored, or inappropriately engaged with, by the other. And we had to just sit back and listen for a year before we sketched out a route to resolving the digital element of this.

I know: online voting!!

I will write about a few of the recommendations as I have time over the coming weeks, but I would like to really refocus one conversation thread that has been the almost sole focus of the press reporting recently: online voting.

It was not something that people really complained about, it was just an assumption that one day they would be able to and that this ability would be there. We spoke to a *lot* of experts around the world about this, and it is a focus for many democratic countries but has great challenges for security and anonymity online; as anyone who knows anything about cyber-security will tell you. (Yes we spoke to Estonia!). Nevertheless, it is something that people just expect, and so it is in the report as something that needs to be given priority and attention, under the heading: by the 2020 election people should have the option to vote digitally.

Being able to digitally approve or disapprove of annual marriage check-ins is not the answer to the current crisis in democracy. A change in the way we communicate with our representatives, and the way they communicate back to us is what will make the biggest difference. And digital means can go a huge way to addressing this breakdown, mainly through communication and community, openness and transparency.

The trust has left the marriage. Only vigilance, truth, openness and honesty will bring back the democratic dream.

If there is democracy, there has to be digital…

… and voting is a key element of representative democracy. Therefore digital voting must be incorporated into representative democracy in a digital age. It is not by any means a top story solution, but it is an easy headline, and an easy topic to chew the fat over with digital types – please can we not let it derail or skew the rest of the recommendations?

 

At 00:01 26th January 2015 the first UK report on Digital Democracy will be live

Tomorrow morning sees the launch of the report: Open Up! by the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. I have been lucky enough to be a commissioner on this alongside the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MPRobert Halfon MP, Meg Hillier MP, Paul Kane, Helen Milner, Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Femi Oyeniran and Toni Pearce. It has been quite a journey to here, so tomorrow is hugely exciting. In the coming weeks I will write about some of the recommendations we have made and why, but for now I just wanted to remind you what it was we were charged with.

What was the Commission actually doing?

Set up by the Speaker, the Commission was “investigating the opportunities digital technology can bring for parliamentary democracy in the UK”. We were to focus on specific areas:

Electronic voting

Engagement and facilitating dialogue

Representation

Digital scrutiny

Making laws in a digital age

We spent a year hearing from experts from around the world with results of research, pilots and live activities in each of these areas – to help us learn and make recommendations for what Parliament, specifically the House of Commons, could do to maintain representative democracy in a digital age. All of the contributions and evidence gathered over the year can be read here.

What happens next?

We have made a number of recommendations that will be available for you to read from the links at the end of this page from 00:01 26th January 2015. Those recommendations have dates against many of them, that we feel are reasonable for delivery of the most important activities. Some are easy, some are hard – most are building on work already happening in Parliament, but perhaps not identified as so critical to democracy, and/or could do with renewed vigour and attention.

But it has also become really apparent that this is just the very beginning, and the coming years will see a great change in the way people learn, share and influence, as digital communities become a greater representative voice of the people. If nothing else the breadth of the work covered by the commission and in the report will serve as a heads up that there is a lot to consider once you embrace digital. And the digital communities deserve as much of a voice as those who engage with Parliament through traditional channels.

This is the first time a Commission has been set up in this country to look specifically at democracy in a digital age, indeed anywhere, and I hope that the output tomorrow will lead to a wider conversation with other democratic countries. I am totally up for that and keen to do more.

Repesentative democracy in a borderless age

One of the greatest opportunities and challenges afforded by the digital renaissance is the removal of geographical boundaries and limitations. Borders are physical, the web transcends these. In representative democracies this is a fundamental shift.

It changes and challenges the modus operandi for everything we have become comfortable with. There has been no evidence that I have seen that a representative democracy cannot work in a digital age, but there are challenges that were thrown up during the course of the last year, that went way beyond the remit of the commission – but I think cannot remain unaddressed.

I am passionate about living in a democracy, and being a part of the work of this Commission has been one of the most important things I have ever done. I know a lot about digital, but until last year I did not know enough about democracy and the journey of the last 12 months of learning, listening and finding workable solutions has been what can only be described as passionately challenging! I have read lots of books, watched many online lectures and spoken to many people who know everything that can be known about democracy and have way too many bits and pieces saved on my computer, but I have copied some quote here for you here that I think need to be thought about in relation to digital communities and their voice (these are all from Political Philosophy – A Complete Introduction: Teach Yourself by Phil Parvin, Clare Chambers):

The representative model retains the idea of popular sovereignty (that sovereignty should lie with the citizen body) without requiring every individual citizen to engage in the affairs of state. The business of government is handled by representatives who are charged with the responsibility of legislating in accordance with the will of the people. On such a model citizen participation is limited to certain key activities, such as voting, by which political power is transferred to the representatives…

…. Democracy is a method for making decisions when people disagree. Given the diversity of modern liberal democratic states, it is unrealistic to expect consensus on most political issues. Indeed, populations of democratic states like Britain or the USA rarely, if ever, reach unanimous consensus. People disagree about almost everything: state provision of healthcare, immigration, state funding of the arts, sentencing of criminals, religion and so on. Consequently, the best that democratic states can do is enact the will of the majority of the people. But this means that there will be winners and losers: some people get the leaders and the laws that they want, and others do not. The losers must accede to laws and leaders with which they may profoundly disagree….

In democratic societies we think that everyone should have an equal right to influence decisions about state action. Why? It is not as if political matters are straightforward or easy. On the contrary, states require incredibly complicated and difficult decisions on a range of complex topics which have national and international implications. Democracy seems to hold that there is no role for expertise in the realm of politics, but this seems implausible…

the representative model puts decision-making power in the hands of people who are charged with thinking about these issues on a full-time basis, without abandoning the idea that ultimate power lies in the hands of the citizen body at large. But still, politicians in a representative system are broadly required to act in accordance with the will of their constituents, even if only out of a desire to get re-elected.

This is democracy’s next ‘printing press’ moment, it is not about putting the digital in democracy, it is about re-settling representative democracy in the digital renaissance.

Every single person who strode or stumbled into conversation with me or with the other Commissioners on the topic of Digital Democracy was worked up about some or many aspects of it. I saw no apathy anywhere. Dismay and disillusion, yes – but apathy no.

And so I am really looking forward to everyone seeing our real recommendations, against challenges they will recognise in their every day lives. And more so, I am looking forward to everyone feeling more and more engaged and represented over the coming five years; feeling that their voice has a place to be heard and that they can easily find out what is happening on topics they care about.

Important links for tomorrow:

The launch is live-streamed from 08:45 tomorrow here

The report will be available live from 00:01 Monday 26 January at http://www.digitaldemocracy.parliament.uk and http://digitaldemocracy.parliament.uk

Digital voting and democracy: a Q&A with myself

Yesterday I was on a panel as part of the BBC Democracy day, discussing all things digital and democratic. I was there partly because I like to hack government and have set up a business based on doing just that, and because I also sit on the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy.

(For those who did not click on the link explaining what I mean by hacking government, I suggest you do before freaking out!)

Much was discussed of course, but I was not able to process fully or comment thoughtfully on the extended discussion about online voting. (Stuart Dredge has written this conversation up very well on the Guardian site here but I would like to continue the discussion after having slept on it.)

Those who have read my blog posts over the years will know that I tend to write when I am in the process of noodling stuff, rather than after I have fully formed an opinion. It helps my brain but also your input really helps me understand what it is I am not considering – so please do pile in.

This topic is very clearly divided into:

1. Should it happen? and

2. How will it happen?

The how is the technical conversation, and quickly becomes a topic that few can follow with full understanding of the words people are using; it starts with encryption and gets worse from there. I cannot add to this, nor can I hand on heart take part in this discussion with full knowledge of the facts, examples and technology required, so I would rather leave that to those who do. And I do hear your impassioned pleas to understand more, I am doing my best (the Commission has had a *lot* of input from experts on this).

So let’s stick to the should question… I am going to write this in the form of a Q&A just because it makes the most logical sense in my head right now, feel free to write it up more thoughtfully!

Should people be allowed to vote online, with their phones, tablets or laptops?

I believe that the answer to this is definitely yes

Is this just to increase voter participation?

No. Not at all.

Why then?

This is to ensure that those who prefer to use digital tools are able to, and that the feel-good factor of sharing participation in a representative democracy is extended to the community tools we use in all other aspects of our digital lives. I am passionate about bridging the digital divide: not the one between those who do digital and those who don’t. I mean the perceived separation between online life and offline life. Community interaction, influence, learning and celebration is as valid online as it is offline – and the needs of the multiple digital communities must be met in their own space. This includes being able to vote digitally.

The analogue process of voting is not perfect, indeed as Bill Thompson said on the panel yesterday: “… paper ballots are broken in ways that we understand”, but it does the job and we are familiar with it. But there needs to be a digital way to participate in voting for a representative, because otherwise the most important part people play who live in a democracy is totally absent from where many of us choose to interact, learn, share, influence: in online community spaces.

Will being able to click-vote cheapen the whole process of democracy?

No more so than some of the behaviour we are familiar with in Parliament!! I would hasten to add that (especially young people) voting would be far more rigorously researched in an online environment. I would suggest that actually being able to vote online would do the opposite of cheapening the whole process, I think it would (or could), make people take it more seriously.

How do you stop undue influence being brought to bear with people standing behind others and forcing voting a certain way?

I mean, in the same way that someone could influence you walking into a booth and ticking a box, I see no difference because it is online. It is an illegal practice, and the person who was forced to vote online a certain way will have the same recourse to law as their offline persona has. It’s this old digital divide again – why does digital suddenly make illegal practice OK? It doesn’t.

In conclusion

It is up to those who are a part of a democracy to take their role seriously, both the representatives and the represented – and that has nothing to do with technology. But technology and digital information, communication and tools can greatly enhance and amplify active participation, and it is unthinkable that this could be ignored because it is a technical challenge.

Do we really have such little faith in the behaviour and morals of those in the democracy that they cannot be trusted to play their part unless forced to walk somewhere and be watched over by GUARDIANS OF THE VOTING PROCESS with their flip board and pens? If so, I think we have a greater challenge on our hands than representative democracy in a digital age.

The podcast of the BBC panel is available here for you to listen to the whole debate, should you fancy.

PostScript and disclaimer

I am writing this just purely from riffing the thoughts in my head, I am not writing this as Commissioner for Digital Democracy, although obviously my thoughts on this have fed into the Commission’s discussions. The report on Digital Democracy is being published next Monday, and covers many topics – I shall write more after it is launched about all of the other many ways that a representative democracy can work in a digital age.

5 questions to ask before you ask people to do stuff for no money

Doing stuff for no money is something many of us choose to do in our spare time for our friends, family or causes that we care about. When you start a social enterprise you usually do a fair bit of this in your working day too! But it is not sustainable. It’s obvious, I know – but in spite of the logical conclusion everyone will agree with, people keep expecting it to be different. One definition of madness is to repeat the same action and expect a different outcome.

(If tl:dr scroll to end for the five questions, you’re welcome)

The early days of choice

Several years ago I started getting involved with and running events in my spare time (for free). These were mainly BarCamps, unconferences and in 2008, hack days. The latter grew and through a lot of 24 hour days, the loss of one marriage, many friends (and possibly 100% health of my liver and nervous system) has has now become a successful and flourishing social enterprise: Rewired State (RS), alongside an extremely powerful NfP: Young Rewired State (YRS).

Until the beginning of last year, I managed to build and run this alone, hiring people as we became able to, choosing when to do stuff for free (still a great percentage of the time) and when to not, when to sacrifice the holidays for a greater cause and what to throw everything at.

There came a point when I looked at what the organisation had grown into, what clients were wanting and needing, how we were providing a service that was still ahead of the game. In a rapidly changing world we were suddenly more and more mainstream, organisations were facing very real challenges that we are uniquely able to resolve, and fast. It was time to get serious, scale up fast, or stop. Meanwhile Young Rewired State had a community of young self-taught programmers that was doubling every year, from tens of kids, to 100s, now 1000s of them across the world, and we are changing their lives.

Now I am not a CEO. I am a founder, an entrepreneur, an ideas person with a will as strong as an ox, and two children to support single-handedly – so I am not allowed to fail; that would mean three people up the swanny (not to mention those employed by the organisations). So at the beginning of last year I realised the limits of my own skill in running a business, I had taken this as far as I could on my will and best guess, now it was time for those who know how scale and grow a commercial and social enterprise to take over and make sure we did the right thing: continuing to meet the needs of clients whilst shoring up a well-supported and honoured network of developers. I had to go (well, to the Board at least, and get a job again doing what I do best!).

It took a year to find this person, with some hiccups, missteps and ill-judgments (they are very, very hard to find), and in fact it took a year and some external skill to ready the organisation to be taken forward – I will be brutally honest, we nearly lost it, we nearly lost both of them. All pro bono projects had to go, people had to go, we had to scale right back to super lean, in order to get into the racing blocks.

To Pro Bono or not to Pro Bono – no longer my right

I *had* to step right back to allow those who knew what needed to be done to get it done – this was hard, brutally hard, but necessary and I know it was the right thing to do. The only hangover from last year in this regard, is the shift of the right to do stuff for free.

When I was running the organisations I could choose to do stuff for free. I could donate my own time, and shift profits from one project to cover costs for other pro bono projects, and I was comfortable in that space. It meant we stayed pretty small, but small and stable was fine. This was not about being hugely wealthy, this was about having a sustainable income, providing one for others as and when we could, and finding new ways to solve very real challenges faced by business and government.

I can no longer make decisions on pro bono work, except with my own time, but for a very good reason. In order for us to increase our impact, to scale up to meet the demands of clients, and to scale up YRS in order to include *all* the young people who need to be a part of this community – we have to get very real about money, about skills, about ability and about roles.

I am still asked, as I am sure everyone is who runs a social enterprise, to do stuff for free. I always say if I am happy to give away some of my own time; but if it involves more than me, I say that people are welcome to ask the CEO of Rewired State: Julia Higginbottom, and the MD of Young Rewired State: Ruth Nicholls, if they are wanting Rewired or Young Rewired to do stuff for them for nothing. I warn the asker that it is highly unlikely to pass the test of ‘Is it worth it?’ (bearing in mind both of those people lived through us nearly losing the lot last year), and I do feel a pang of guilt, no not guilt, obligation, that I am letting them down – these people doing the asking. But that is madness…

The consequences of your request

If we don’t do what we do, then right now, no one else does what we do – this is why both RS and YRS are successful social enterprises. We have a responsibility to stay, to grow, to do the very best we can for ourselves and for the communities and organisations we work with.

So, I think there are some questions everyone should ask themselves before they ask anyone, or any organisation to do something for free:

  • Can you do this yourself in your spare time?
  • Is the person you are asking to do this thing for you for free, in a financial or personal position to give this to you for free?
  • Can you trade something that translates into something that saves or makes that other person or organisation actual real cash?
  • Are you a bigger organisation than the organisation you are asking to do stuff for free? (If so, are you being fair?)
  • Why do you need this to be done pro bono? (All part of the same 5th question: Can you find funding? Can you make your procurement processes less impossible to navigate? Can you get a sponsor?)

Asking people to do stuff for free always has consequences for the person you are asking or the organisation they represent. Be mindful of the consequences – whether personal, financial or commercial. It is your responsibility to ask after very careful consideration, not theirs to refuse only if they have a damn good excuse. Even if the whole enterprise has been built on personal sacrifice and doing stuff for free in the early days.

2015 project list: Want to play too?

Last night I wrote a listicle of 14 things that I have learned this year that I need to remember (and some of those may help you so go scan read!). Now, here are two projects for 2015 that are exciting, and will need more than just me and Immy.

Spoken Word Festival

One of the many, many experiences that have brought me to tears, or defo having to bite my lip very hard not to cry – was listening to young spoken word artists. It struck me that one way of really hearing a lot more of this, learning more about it and championing these young geniuses who craft and deliver this poetry would be a festival. Yep, the Festival of Code but for words. If you don’t know what I mean by spoken word then here is George the Poet, doing it:

I spoke to Immy Kaur about it and she is *in* which is great. It has got as far as what, where and when, not much else has been thought through, but it will!

This is the current plan, (timing may change, location and format will not):

  • 100 young people (top age 25 is the current thought, this can be influenced!)
  • One week of working in groups or alone to write and rehearse a new poem, based on four themes (yet to be decided). This is not done in one place, you would do this in your own homes or your friends’, (this may change!)
  • The Saturday is performance day, with everyone coming together (hopefully at Immy’s Impact Hub in Birmingham – Kickstarter here :)) and to perform and listen
  • There will be heats in the morning and final in the afternoon: a judging panel of suitably good people will filter X Factor style the winners for each of the four themes – plus an overall winner
  • There will be prizes, food, music, fun stuff
  • There will be an after party

If this works then we may well look at doing it again and following the Festival of Code format grow it to multi-centres and a whole weekend – but we are starting with this.

Register to take part or attend on Saturday

Operation Rebrand ‘Wimmin in tech’

This year I have spoken at many schools and on many platforms, supposedly inspiring girls into technology. One day I accidentally did it in heels and a GORGEOUS skirt from Ted Baker, because I was headed somewhere amazing afterwards. This time it was to a room full of 600 girls in a school in Streatham. I was amazed to discover how much more interested and engaged they were. So I have a plan.

In 2015 I am going to gather a group of women in technology fields, covering everything from coding to media tech. Then every month hire four incredible cars and buy four incredible outfits and pairs of shoes for four of these ladies. Then visit a school, or a group of school children gathered in one place – sweeping up one lady geek per car, deliver an assembly followed by a careers workshop.

I hope that after 12 months of doing this (one per month but not starting until at least February! so this will have to bleed into 2016) we will have significantly rebranded the image of geekery, technology, women and science in the minds of young people, inspired them to look at technical careers and opened their minds to what technology, or indeed all STEM subjects, could actually deliver for them.

If you want to be one of the women to take part, or if you are a school and want this to come to you, or you want to help us find a good supplier of glamorous cars for hire, or you have an idea for who might want to back this project email me: emma@rewiredstate.org

That’s it, those are my two projects for 2015 – that and I will be working full time in suitable paid employ, more news on that when I have finished interviews and (hopefully) actually have a job to tell you about!!

Happy New Year, everyone, please do share your own projects and ideas and link to them in the comments – it is exciting to see what everyone is going to be doing!

Hugs

xx

’14 things I learned: family, 97ers, crowd funding and hiring people… p.s.Democracy

As we kiss goodbye to 2014, here are my top 14 things I learned this year that may be handy for me to remember and for you too, maybe! (In no order):

1. Understanding kids born in 1997 or after is hugely important

97ers (kids born in ’97 or later) left school this year with GCSEs and headed for college or apprenticeships or work. They are a significant year and I have written and spoken about them here https://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/all-about-the-97ers/ I know they are significant because every time I speak about them publicly, parents of much younger children thank me for giving them some reassurance that these 97ers exist, and parents of 97ers, like myself, are relieved that their children are doing *good* things – that we will never understand.

2. Reconsider the parenting role in a digital world

My two daughters, dort 1 and dort 2 (not their real names), are now 12 and 17 – “in-between” ages where they are not babies, or toddlers, or doing GCSEs or A Levels – but they are doing great things. This year I learned to trust that they know a lot more about social digital things than I did, and I am a born and bred geek. Now I know to ask my eldest to regularly check my youngest’s activity on social sites. Also, that there is a balance of trust and knowledge that I have developed with age, and how I can use discrimination and empathy to know when I need to learn from them and when I need to guide and teach.

3. Blue-balling emotions is rubbish

The future, with children grown and gone, hovers relentlessly on the horizon and I am looking at the next stage of my life. I can literally do anything, as well as actively choose whether I want to continue this journey alone (as I ended up parenting alone, but not in a sad way), or with someone. I choose with someone – and I must value that and respect the work that takes, and give it equal value (even though it feels egotistical and unnatural for me to do this, ultimately I am allowing my children freedom and I am not blue-balling my emotions).

4. Isms

Isms in all forms have featured this year, much racism as ever with too many young people slaughtered because of race and lots of people because of belief. I find that Buddhism and a Buddhist attitude proves ever more important in its logic (for a geek girl) provides some peace. I wrote about ‘isms here – but more recently I have been struck (and educated) by these three very real conversations: (this article is a very great resource for those who need to explain to children why their music contains words they can never use) and these videos are important to watch:

and also this (but not for the swearing sensitive)

finally these words

5. Ithms

… (as in algorithms) are important – mega important. And Facebook used theirs to give everyone a snapshot of their year this Christmas, which created challenges for those who did not want to remember their year, and for the rest of us it reminded us that algorithms are powerful. I have worked hard all year for free on the digital democracy commission – and I know how we all need to take notice of the power of algorithms, and we need to own them, and understand their power and take them back from those who we have inadvertently bestowed the ultimate influence over our every day decisions. Algorithms help people make better decisions – through knowledge not PR. Democracy worldwide will be affected by this <— that is a prediction

6. Crowdfunding is hard.

Last year (’13) I raised money through crowdfunding, it absorbed my every waking hour during the process of raising the funds, mainly because if I did not reach my target I would not get any of the money people had pledged. This year I have raised again, but also encouraged others to try it, for smaller increments, but equally as hard to raise, as their fundraiser may not be as socially compelling, but still as viable. I can give you three fundraising tips:

  • save the best for last – play hard to get, give out increments but KNOW that the final push is going to be the greatest, pretend you are dating the love of your life and apply all dating theory
  • don’t just shout louder and louder into the same echo chamber of social media – they heard you, they were not interested when it was interesting, they are definitely not interested now you are desperate
  • social media strategy has to include target markets and timing (time of day, work/play/weekend/weekday/US/UK) to ignore this is foolish

Also, make sure the crowdfunding vehicle you choose has a good reach, and ideally gives you the money you raised regardless of you reaching target or not in the time limit you set. Only fair.

7. Hiring people – unless you are good at hiring people, do not hire people. Ever. Ever ever.

Even when you think you grew up. Do not hire people. It is a talent, you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t, get very brilliant at writing the job description of the person you need, and pay someone to hire people for you. (You can pay a friend in beer or chocolate, that’s fine, just don’t do it yourself). Ever. Like an alcoholic. You can never hire. You never could. You never will be able to.

8. Founder CEOs that are successful can be numbered on one hand.

If you are a CEO then you are awesome and probably hugely well paid and if you are reading this, looking to start a business (or my mate). I say – find a founder and start a business and read the Beermat entrepreneur (never irrelevant over God knows how many years). If you are a Founder, find a CEO and bow out early (also read Beermat entrepreneur). I wrote about this throughout the year, but have not yet concluded my story, but I am very happy with people whom I trust; it has taken a while to find those I trust totally to run the businesses I founded and poured my soul and mortgage into. Now I need to walk away for a few years and get a job.

9. BOARDS! Get one

Oh my goodness, I always shied away from boards before when I set up businesses because I was/am a control freak and thought they would take away my very clear vision of what I wanted or needed to do (in spite of the odds). In fact, a well-selected small board frees and empowers you. This is so important.

10. Balance.

This year I have been to Buckingham Palace so many times it is actually becoming a bit of a chore. I know that sounds vain but it is not. It is a huge privilege, but so is getting my 12 year old from school on time. I worried more about being at the agreed place for my youngest daughter on an Autumnully dark evening than I did screeching in to BP to shake hands and chat with people I know and love hugely, but can see anywhere any time, but felt compelled to do so more vigorously because it was BP. I would rather be with my own family, but I also see the amazing opportunity here for everyone to be able to experience this now that geeks are cool.

If only I could have gifted any one of my invitations to people who would have loved to have been at BP. This year we got some Young Rewired Staters and their families in for a tea and chat with Prince Andrew – I am sure they will remember it forever, I will too – mainly because I could get this photo for everyone (here is what it looks like from the other side – and the Palace is very lovely, but super hot, wear layers)

P.S. I did manage to meet the Queen and forget to curtsey (is spite of my life spent curtseying to people who did not actually require curtseying to, physically or otherwise) but being reassured that I was not alone (by Prince William) basically made up for it – that and flirting with Will.I.AM in BP has to be a highlight of this ridiculous year.

11. The Arts

Music is so important! I have been very focused for many years, on work and children, but I valued silence when alone. This is a massive mistake I now realise. Whilst yes peace is good – music is revolutionary for the mood. And actually, as much as you put time into your family and work, unless you are an artist or work in a museum – music is available to everyone and is an art form that affects us all. Music is important.

12. Being stony broke on a weekend…

Having no money at all is OK, so long as you can plan your way out of it.  A few times this year, because of being a business owner and founder, and wholly reliant on it AND moving on, there has inevitably been times in the handover where I am not in control of pipeline (necessarily) and it has all gone a bit awry in the handover. And I have been actually penniless. Yes I have a mortgage and was not in fear of losing that at the time, but actually I had no access to any cash at all just when a wasp decided that the eaves under dort 1 and 2’s room was PERFECT for a nest. That weekend I could not even rustle up twenty quid for the local dude to come clear it for me, I had to wait for a large corp to pay an invoice, and then I could be paid and could bring in a wasp person to clear the 2000 wasps who ended up rooming with the girls. But it was fine. We had tins and pasta to live on and my room is at the back of the house… and middle class problems.. seriously – it was fine. But also it was a lesson! You can appaz have it all, but have nothing, and having nothing in this instance was OK. So I am less fearful.

13. If you can do nothing about the thing you are worrying about, fret not. If you can. Fret not. (paraphrasing the Dalai Lama)

Living in the moment is a challenge to myself from me for 2015. My sig oth is amazing at this, as is my Mum and my Dad. I would like to experience what it is like to live in the moment and accept it and move on *more* than I did in 2014. Every time I did manage to live in the moment, practising extreme Buddhism in time of extreme stress – was hugely powerful, I would like to practise this extreme Buddhism in times of peace and sod all going on, just to see if I can and to see what happens.

14. Finally: Climb a mountain.

We spend all of our lives climbing never-ending imaginary mountains. Climb a real one. I recommend Sugar Loaf in South Wales as a great starter. Take the hard road up, drink pure mountain water in the stream running through the damn valley between you and the top, meander up it with tea and cake breaks, follow the streams or the sheep paths, but take the hard road up. Then enjoy the peak. And take the easy road down. I cannot tell you how powerful it is to actually climb a real mountain, even a little one. I would love to leave you with a powerful mountain image taken from the top, but the problem is they never do justice to the climb, and you have to do it yourself.

Wishing you all a very wonderful 2015, from my family to yours xoxo

PS Democracy

PPS Here are my two projects for 2015, based on the above lessons – pretty much!

2014: Pistorious and Wilson: fear and firearms: where *ism equals death and triumph

The world went a little bit more wrong this year. Logic and reason were cast aside. Never were we ever presented with two stories so bound up in data and facts to justify actions and emotion. The result? Chaos. Nothing makes sense. We are all a little bit more scared – of the law, and logic.

Scenario 1: a beautiful South African model was walking along the middle of the road with her friend in the US. A US policeman asked her to move onto the sidewalk. Shortly after this, an altercation ensues and the South African model is shot 12 times for not walking on the sidewalk and being scary in her argument with the police officer. She dies. The policeman was scared.

Scenario 2. a teenager from Missouri is with his paralympic friend in South Africa. After a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings about who was sleeping when and where, the teenage boy is shot multiple times through a toilet door by his friend. He dies. The paralympian was scared.

Two people died: a white girl and a black boy

Two people shot them

Of course I know I muddled the stories here, on purpose. Here’s why.

In one scenario – let’s just accept that neither Reeva nor Michael should have died – there is a court case with a non-televised judgment by a jury on whether there is a case to try. It is found that there is no case to answer and the killer can walk free. In the other scenario there is a prolonged televised court case that the world watches transfixed, where the killer is grilled from here to hereafter on the public stage – and is handed five years for culpable homicide.

But in the rule of morals and ethics, neither of these results are justified – they cannot be excused; no logic or reason can make either of these deaths OK – even when I swop them back between the white girl and the black boy.

What is pivotal for me about these two cases is that they come in the year the 97er, the kids who grew up with social media and know nothing else, ‘come of age’. They are pretty much ready for the working world now, and this is everywhere: developed and developing markets, these kids are now a universal, unified, socially digitally savvy crew who are insanely mature in communication, identity and influence, and normally immature with regards to work and societal norms. (I write about them a lot here).

Because of these two cases, I really believe that the future of law and crime/punishment will be fundamentally upended by these 97ers. When they become politicians, law-makers, jurors and media story-tellers. Pretty much starting now…

But what does need to happen, as I said in the post I wrote last night, (accidentally on theme), is that we need to become more clever about how we use data, and reason. And for that to happen we need to accept the digital renaissance goes beyond the smartphone and 3D printing – it affects our very base of reason and understanding.

We have access to so much more information, we cannot and must not ignore these data points just because they were not statistically valid for Socrates or the Victorians.

I wrote the following post on my private Facebook account about the Ferguson shooting, and the 97ers I know asked me to post it more publicly so that they could share it. It is my own view of course…

I have to say that when I looked at the articles themed: Darren Wilson shows injuries sustained (…at the hands of an unarmed teenager) I was genuinely expecting to see quite shocking injuries, that would test the patience of a well-meaning public servant. Really they were like when one of the dorts shows me the thing that is totally really hurting and needs a massive plaster – there was barely a scratch. (And the mark on the back of his head I am pretty sure is the birth mark most of us carry from being pressed against our mother’s spine in the womb).

I believe in democracy and the jury service, heartily. So I thought there must have been pictures too graphic to show, seen only by the jury, we are only seeing the sanitised ones. But they really were not – I found this article in my FB feed http://www.rawstory.com/…/fanciful-and-not-credible-cnn-le…/

When I read the facts as stated in the case about why he even was in contact with these two teenagers, I was like… right… and then… waiting for the *wince* moment when I would find it hard to sympathise with the child who was shot. It never came.

I was not on the jury, I believe in the system enough to know that I cannot heap blame on those who found nothing wrong with this child’s death in the eyes of the law.

But when I told my children about why ‪#‎Ferguson‬ was blowing up their social media stream, and the facts of the case (because you should try to do this if there is a big case that will invade their social world), the car journey home settled into an uneasy feeling and conversation that the world became a little less sane and therefore a little less safe.

Teachers worldwide know how to deal with teenage rages and teenage angst. Also how and when to remonstrate and insist with someone, especially someone young. They also know that when they do choose to do so, that there will potentially be some mad rage – either totally justified or for no reason whatsoever. Teachers talk these kids down every day, every day – and face the fear that policeman felt. They are trained to know how to deal with it, and it all starts with the decision to enter into the conflict.

Michael Brown was walking in the road. Darren Wilson wanted him to walk on the sidewalk. It was immaterial really, in the grand scheme of things; but I accept that there were tensions in the community that we will never know who do not live in Ferguson. A bit like in school with uniforms and conformity, there does need to be some rule of law that young people learn – but teachers know how to do this better.

No teacher I know would ever shoot a kid 12 times.

Maybe teachers need to be police officers, or train police officers.

If it were me and I picked a fight with a teenager who became scary as the argument escalated, I would not end the discussion by whipping out a gun and shooting him 12 times.

It is an end. But it is not OK just because he is a teenage boy (can be scary) and most definitely not OK because he is a black teenage boy (moronic use of the frontal lobe).

I wrote about sexism last night, finally, not knowing that the verdict was out on Ferguson, but it does mean I was already in the *ism zone – and I realised as I wrote that I was far more naturally enraged by racial discrimination than gender, because race transcends gender: obviously we have all colours of boys and girls, and the judging starts with colour and gets worse from there.

Then I awoke this morning to this Ferguson decision, and I just had to know more about the facts. Here is a great article about what you can do to learn and know more http://qz.com/…/12-things-white-people-can-do-now-because-…/

To which one of my greatest FB mates Jon Harman replied with a link to data on the teenage brain: http://www.edinformatics.com/news/teenage_brains.htm

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