Young Rewired State – it happened

Young Rewired State is now over. The good news: 16 applications/websites were developed enough for presentation (within a weekend, with roughly 12 real time hours of dedicated work) <- that is pretty impressive. The projects will be uploaded here: (and most are, the apps developed by the 15 to 18 year olds are from ‘how’s my train‘ onwards, no need to separate them on the site yet).

We diverged the Rewired State *thing* into a second event for young people, simply because we were curious, what would a different age group do? This curiosity built into something else when we found, through talking about the concept, that there were a few useful things that could happen:

  1. government wants to bridge the gap with young people, (by ‘government’ I mean both civil service and politicians)
  2. there are some scarily good coders, scientists and statisticians out there – and they are aged 15 – 18
  3. someone needs to boot someone else in order to make the connection

We’re quite good at that.

The event happened – and you can follow #youngrewiredstate on twitter or !yrs on to catch the tweets over the weekend (and prob after) or google *young rewired state* for the blog/tech press coverage.

Lessons learned

  1. the society that we live in does not start at 18
  2. we had a grand aim to *get young people to engage each other*, simply meaning give the tools and information and see what happens – in fact, the frustrations addressed the basic frustrations of life that government could solve (*for example* by giving up the data and letting the talented/passionate make it less horrendous to *for example* wait for a bus)

Interesting things and the most important things to note

  • our message is harsh but the reality is that government departments, ministers and civil servants took time (Sunday afternoon) out to come and see what young people were taking their own weekends doing to try to help/make better things
  • this event happened, as in we could afford to do it, because we were sponsored <- and a greater percentage of our sponsors were government (costs were food, travel, accommodation <- for the 15 to 18 yr olds outside London, server, printing)
  • there were three girls (out of 50) this was not for lack of trying, Dan Morris and I spent a painful three weeks on the hunt for more girl geeks aged 15 to 18 (something needs to be looked at there, but…)
  • Directgov are brave – we got funding from Directgov, and they sent a judge: Mike Hoban, and their directgov Innovate man: Brian Hoadley, proving their support and proving that they are listening <- this is good. We dedicated our one donated prize (an X-Box) to a recasting of the Directgov homepage, just to see what young people did with it. The reality was that they had little exposure and we have a raft of free feedback plus a few redesigns (here’s the winning one
  • the catalyst effect of #youngrewiredstate means that all we do is chuck a rock in the pool; but we do it with friends, colleagues, communities, Ministers and civil servants and see what happens
  • we can inspire, Julia Chander from DFID (who already is doing awesome stuff in the social innovation space but really struggling with data, as in ‘what do you need?’) blogged her first post <- super chuffed about that

We can all see the 15-18 yr olds did what they signed up to do <- so much so that they were up and working, ahead of their mentors, on day #2 and perhaps ahead of the RS and Google people.

Government and the industry signed up also and has to be applauded for stepping wholly up to the plate.

It’s super hard to make these practical connections. Everyone is there for differing reasons, but the same goal: let’s make stuff better (we can worry about the *how* afterwards). A fact that is pondered in the Public Strategy blog.

Update: two blog posts that really round the weekend up for me are: from one of our *rather clever* mentors: Christian Heilmann’s and one of the 15-18 year olds who was involved in the dev: TFHell Jordan Hatch.

10 responses

  1. Interesting, although sadly not surprising that we’re still short on recruiting young female attendees. I’m sure there are plenty of girls out there who would be more than willing to get involved – the problem is finding them.

    What I love about this event that it achieves a lot from the simple premise that the society that we live in does not start at 18. How true!

    Well done to all involved (particularly DirectGov) and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t make it along.

    Great work, Emma!

  2. Thanks for the mention Emma – it was great to have such inspiring material to write about. I hope there can be more of this sort of events (I echo the call at the end for the participants to go off and organise their own sessions at universities or among friends) – and then feed back the results to us. As you and others have said, we are certainly listening – and if people ask, sometimes great leaps forward can be made.

  3. Hi, I was one of the mentors helping out and I noticed that the ratio of girls to boys was pretty similar to the male/female ratio in engineering when I worked at Yahoo!

    So I think this underlines the fact that girls have lost interest in technology before the age of 15 or never got interested in the first place. I think if we want to get more of them into the industry then we’ve got to capture their interest before 15. I wonder how?

    One of the other female mentors and I were discussing the lack of gender diversity both at the event and in the industry itself. We realised that the only reason that we had both ended up in the computing industry is because we came from incredibly geeky families, so I wonder if girls with no parental guidance just don’t think this is something they can do.

    Perhaps we should look at how the three girls that attended get in touch and how they got interested in tech in the first place?

  4. Hi,

    I’m the “other female mentor” weatherpixie mentioned above (one of three in attendance of the 17 or so of us).

    I’d really be interested to see what would happen if you ran an event like this in some earlier educational year groups (simplified, of course, but as far back as 10-11 y/os).

    As weatherpixie suggests – it appears that if this is a representative group of 15 year olds who are interested in techy things, then we’ve already lost a vast number of could-be girly nerds. I’d like to see how far back you’d have to go to see where the stereotyping becomes too strong to engage them anymore.

    I’m not the least bit interested in equalising the numbers, but I am keen to see that anyone with a spark of interest doesn’t get side-lined because it’s being deemed a gender-appropriate interest, and why this happens.

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  7. Hi Emma,

    I think it’s the way forward, there is a lot of government or public service data to be released, and one important data set would be to free postcode-related data. This would include the administrative entities searchable by postcode, such as constituencies, all types of councils, or even wards!
    This would help a number of companies provide better local services online.

    Again, thanks Emma for this event, which has been helpful not only for the participants but also the spectators like us, a uk-based young startup.


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