*isms: racism, sexism, feminism… &c

{note: I wrote this the night before the Ferguson result. I shall leave it as it is. As for Ferguson these images say it all http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/11/ferguson_protest_photos_grand_jury_decides_not_to_indict_darren_wilson_in.html}

I tend to retreat from all gender based discussions, only ever tempted out occasionally in discussions on how to encourage more girls into technology. But my words are usually not heartfelt enough – because I am unsure how I feel about it all.

Ultimately the issue is this. Here is what I believe:

That we should all respect everyone we meet, regardless of race, gender, size, age, hair colour etc (I cannot believe that this is news)

It makes no sense to base any decision any person can reasonably make, based on whether you are a man or woman; it is not a sensible delineator. Whether that be who is good enough to apply for a job, or who should be paid what, or who should drive/cook/clean/cry/laugh/play/work/sleep/fly/invent/code/speak/manage/define/write/lead…

So news headlines that read like this in 2014 are vapid, not incendary Turkey president Erdogan: Women are not equal to men

On the topic of men vs women, and men or women being better than the other – well, what are we talking about? Breast feeding? Women will be better. Weeing standing up? Men will be better. There is not general *thing* that makes one or other gender better than the other. It is ridiculous and we *all* know it!

However

The decades of this ridiculous delineation, and all other *isms (including racism which really does get my wick up more than anything), means that our poor children/the next generations+ are victims of unthinking and historic educational/parental rhetoric.

We were all subjected to this, and it is annoying to me that little has changed with boy/girl toys, books, games, career advice – just pure laziness really on behalf of the people who should be doing this as a part of their job or life.

It means that people like me, who have a very little influence in this space, can only really add a lobbying voice in our spare time and in our actions as parents and entrepreneurs.

But we have to in the absence of proper activism in all those flogging stuff to kids, whether it be schools, apps, games or whatever – they reinforce the gaps, because it is an easy dollar/pound if you get the parent market. And let’s face it, the affluent parents are more likely to be looking for conformism and the *in* club, not the challengers.

It is so annoying!!! (Although Mattel got a bit of a bite in the bum with the recent Barbie book – so it is starting to bleed over, thank goodness).

I have to say that just as damaging is the rhetoric of charity songsters, pleading for everyone to pity and pay for “Africa”. This article puts it much better than I could.

The world is flat. No, the world is round.

We just must stop making these assumptions based on such a massive slicing judgment: gender, race, politics, religion.

I know it is geeky, and not everyone’s bag, but really everyone knows that we are all made up of a complex mixture of stuff, and our “data” that makes up who we are is rarely finally defined by gender/race/politics etc (religion aside, I accept that it will define all things in life for the devout).

We are too complex for sexism and racism and any flipping *ism you can throw at me.

Humanity realised a while ago, through learning and science and wondering, that the earth was not flat. We know it is round now. We also know a hell of a lot more than this and the earth being round, not flat, does not define the way we consider our multi-complex relationship with it.

Let’s just please do everything we can to minimise these divides, and at every opportunity look for the other data points that really are relevant.

All about the 97ers

I have been giving talks all year about 97ers, most recently at Wikimania and TEDxBrum. For ease, I have linked to all the posts I wrote earlier this year that form the basis of my thinking for the talks I give. I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on this very new concept!

Who are the 97ers and how do they learn?

97ers and identity

97ers and social activism

The difference between 97ers and GenY/Millenials

97ers and work

What the flip is going on?

There I was being all quiet on my social media channels *cough* with occasional worky updates, then on one day – I saturate my feed with all things Rewired and Young Rewired State – “What the hell”, you may well ask, “are you thinking?”

So, I have been removing myself as CEO for the last three months, Dan Bowyer came in and did some brilliant work getting the ship in order and ready to be run as two officially separate organisations, no longer tied to each others (or my) apron strings. There was a *lot* of tidying to do! And now he has moved on to new pastures that need his genius sorting and winning skillage.

So now we are ready to come out as it were. I am officially on the boards of both organisations, and Ruth Nicholls is the Managing Director of Young Rewired State and Julia Higginbottom the CEO of Rewired State. Today sees the launch of three exciting things:

  1. The crowdfunding campaign for the Festival of Code 2015 (please give generously)
  2. The new brand for Young Rewired State and Ruby (our bug)
  3. The new websites for both Rewired and Young Rewired State. (albeit they are resting places for now before the final POW launch of both in December)

All of these things mark a very big second step for both organisations, and I am really excited for both of them, hugely proud of the team and count myself extremely lucky to have two such competent, passionate and dedicated women running them.

Please can you share the crowdfunding site as widely as you can with your networks, and please if you can afford to donate, do so! It really is a mammoth effort to raise £50,000 this way!!

Digital unicorns and democratic rainbows

The funny thing about bringing digital to play in any organisation, process or structure is that it will inevitably cast a massive spotlight on all the broken processes, lazy practices and how unfit for purpose many institutions have become. It is an ugly magnification mirror held up to the very institutions it is being asked to open up to the vast digital communities of opinionated, but potentially hugely engaged and loyal, consumers.

This is not news. I am just setting the scene.

And so it is to be expected that much of the work of the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy has cast a relentless light on Parliament.

I have spent this year so far on the Commission, speaking to lots and lots of people about digital engagement, representation, legislation and so on. No matter where we start, we always come back to the role of MPs, and representative democracy. Give anyone ten minutes to really think about how it all works and they quickly start talking about ‘broken’ things and not feeling like anyone listens to them. All age groups, all walks of life. Everyone feels disengaged, and the MPs and Parliamentarians feel frustration, almost cornered – caught between overwhelmed and slightly rudderless. Everyone wants to kick stuff out of the way so that we can stop grinding to a halt and just crack on. (If you want to hear a few of these discussions I have recorded and published a couple here and here).

Unicorn to keep you happy whilst you read

I know a *lot* about digital

… strategy, engagement, communities, influence, communication blah blah etc I just have spent so long immersed in this stuff it is more a case of applying common sense.

Increasingly I have been fighting to stop the digital divide, no not between the on and offline people, but between digital and real life. It is real life. Online bullying is bullying. Stealing identity online is a the same as stealing identity offline. Online is a good way to expedite and communicate in some instances, it is not a replacement for everything in the world.

Like radio and TV, analogue (offline) engagement between Parliament and the people is not replaced by digital. They need to sit alongside each other… obvious right? You would be surprised how many people box digital up, and are then irrationally terrified of the perceived monster. But this current work the Commission is doing was really hard, and I could not work out why it was so flipping hard, it went beyond the usual irrational fear of the replacement of everything with robots. I knew to expect that it would throw up messy organisation structures and broken aged processes, but it wasn’t that… it was more important and tangible than that. It took me nine months to realise…

… I do not know enough about democracy.

This is the greatest challenge, democracy in a digital age. Communication; influence; representation; expectation of voice and of the individual; conversing on a global, national as well as hyperlocal scale; exposure to direct audience as well as being able to drum up your own in a few cleverly worded social media pronouncements completely borks the democratic society we sort of know and love.

It is not about putting the digital in democracy, it is about re-settling representative democracy in the digital renaissance.

It is waaaay beyond the remit of the Commission to address the Constitution of this country, and I am not suggesting that representative democracy can’t work – but what I am saying, is that it is fundamental that we all understand exactly how it all fits back together again. Because it will when the digital people know enough about political philosophy and democracy, and the political people know enough about digital communities and the multi-faceted audience.

We get that right and we can all get on with our lives feeling like we have put our family back together again. In my recent cramming on all things democratic, I started my journey on Wikipedia and Plato (the only person I automatically associated with being the go-to guy for political philosophy quotes when I was writing essays at school). I found this statement on the Wikipedia page describing Plato’s five regimes of government:

Democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline and society exists in chaos. Democracy is taken over by the longing for freedom. Power must be seized to maintain order. A champion will come along and experience power, which will cause him to become a tyrant. The people will start to hate him and eventually try to remove him but will realize they are not able.

It is the one phrase that has haunted me this week (*cough* Scotland…) I wonder where we are in this swing between democracy and tyranny? Anyway, I shall leave you with that thought, and carry on. I have a tonne of stuff now in my Kindle notes, I will pull out the things that seem to resonate for those who fancy learning a bit with me.

Chocolate cake and digital democracy

As a part of my role as a Commissioner on the Speaker’s Commission for Digital Democracy, I have been running a series of informal chats at my dining room table with tea and cake. Some of these I have recorded (see here for the first ever one) and some I have not, because they have accidentally happened! This post captures the latest and final one I will host before the Commission retires to start putting all the evidence and knowledge gleaned into some robust recommendations. (If you want to do the same thing with tea cake and democracy then feel free:  please contact the team on 0207 219 2606 just so we know).

We always start from a general chat around the main themes of the Commission (detailed here on the Parliament website alongside key dates) and then disappear down a few rabbit holes before the conversation really kicks off. I have two recordings of the latest one (because I tried to take a photo *and* record on my phone – mistake!).

and

There is also the rather wonderful mind map of notes taken by Lucy Knight, to give you an overview:

imageThe discussions usually fall back into the merits and failures of a representative democracy in a digital world. And I am not going to attempt to write a blog post covering all of that – but if it interests you, please do explore this topic more, it is worthy of some mulling.

What I would like to leave you considering, though, is the question about responsibility:

In a representative democracy, experiencing change as we are, is it the responsibility of Parliament to actively engage and empower citizens, re-invigorating and reminding us of our role ? Or is it the responsibility of the already engaged and enthused citizens to ensure that the majority of peoples’ voices are heard?

This question sits behind a lot of the conflict and confusion, I think, and I would be interested in your thoughts. Here’s a poll (for fun)

And whilst we are on the topic of polls, I have another one running (albeit statistically pointless as I am not gathering any data about those taking part, but interesting nonetheless for those who like this kind of stuff). The results are publicly available here – and occasionally surprising: https://www.surveymonkey.net/results/SM-MNQG6PS8/

Should you wish to engage with the Commission formally and have your voice heard – please do – the ways to do it are:

TwitterTwitter – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on Twitter

FacebookFacebook – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on Facebook

LinkedIn – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy on LinkedIn

Post a comment – Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy Web Forum

Email – digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk

 

Three reasons for Founding CEOs to go earlier than you think

I wrote earlier this year about how it was time to let go of Rewired and Young Rewired State, that I had reached the limits of my abilities as founding CEO, and that after five years it was time to look ahead, move to the board and let some people better than me come in and take us forward. That was at the end of April 2014, and I gave myself two years to let go.

Well… it’s done! I peaked early and my God it was so the right thing to do. I will tell you why in a minute, but for those who want the detail, here is who is doing what (skip the italics if you couldn’t care about that and just want the reasons why it is so great):

As of next week Dan Bowyer joins us to take over and head up as CEO of Rewired State, I will move to the Board alongside Derek Gannon, with Toby Moores as Chair. The central team in RS is lean with Julia Higginbottom, Kevin Lewis and Gideon Brett taking up the core roles, supported by a bevvy of freelance pools of technical people, hackers, events people, product people and project management. (And a new pa *whoop* inbox management huzzaaaaa….)

Young Rewired State is currently still being managed by me and a new exciting Board made up of Bill Liao, Annika Small and Ian Livingstone – and our brilliant Ambassador: Kathryn Parsons. We also now have project teams made up of Kait Dunning, Kate McDonald and Tanya Leary, with Ruth Nicholls leading on funding/partnership and Jessica Rose leading the community and all supported by two ex-YRSers who have been interning with us this year: Shad Jahingir  and Ben Hayman (both of whom want to work for us full time which I take to be a great endorsement of the stuff they are doing – so this makes me very happy!). In September, after the craziness of the Festival of Code has died down, I will move to YRS chair and the Board will announce the head of Young Rewired State.

Three reasons why it is absolutely right to do this now not in two years:

1. Once I had recognised that I was not the person to take either organisation any further forward, I had already subconsciously allowed myself to let go. From that moment on, nothing I could do was good enough for the business by my own measure(!) this is not good for anyone. I could see where I wanted it to be, I just couldn’t clearly see the steps to get there, so stumbling around became frustrating.

ONCE YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO LEAVE, IT’S TIME TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL FRUSTRATE YOURSELF AND BRING DOWN YOUR TEAM

2. It was only once I had made the decision, and written it down and told everyone, that I really started at looking at what the two organisations needed. It then became so apparent that nothing less than this person was right and I started to look to see if I could see this person, and other people started to look to see if they could find this person. Until I had stepped away mentally, and made it something I was going to do publicly, only then could people become free to look at “my” organisation as if it was theirs.

GOOD PEOPLE WILL ONLY COME KNOCKING WHEN YOU STEP AWAY – AND YOU WILL ONLY BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE THAT PERSON AS YOUR IDEAL REPLACEMENT WHEN YOU HAVE GIVEN UP YOUR FOUNDER/CEO GRIP

3. It is amazing how much it frees up your team! I just did not see how my founder/CEO ethos of: MY WAY and MY WAY and MY WAY only (or if you can do a damn good persuasion job), was stifling the skills, ideas and brilliance of the people I had hired for their skills, ideas and brilliance. As soon as I told them that I was going to go and get someone better than me and that I would move to a more strategic role rather than ops, they were a bit stunned but then over the last few months each and every one has stepped forward and shone. (We have lost a few sadly, but this was less to do with their sadness at me moving away from their daily lives, and more about better offers more quickly <- there’s a lesson). The Rewired State organisation is barely recognisable now, and I am so excited and inspired by it once again, it is like rediscovering its potential all over again. Young Rewired State has developed its own character, shaped by the young (all female except for the interns) team – who in my newly-stepped-away role have taken their pieces of YRS and are loving and whipping them into shapes I had never imagined. Everyone gets what the idea is, I have spent the last six years ramming it down their ever-loving throats. Just now they get to break that better.

YOU NEED TO FREE YOUR TEAM OR YOU WILL LOSE YOUR TEAM

Final word of caution, you cannot do this without a small, engaged board of people who support your move and will help you. If you don’t have a board, choose the people you would most like to be involved to help shape, guide and steer your organisation, with skills that you do not have, and invite them. They too will surprise you with the ways they will help. I am so hugely grateful to the YRS and RS boards, and to the advice and guidance each of them give me.

I gave myself two years, it took three months.

(Thank you realitytvgifs.tumblr for Mariah)

Edit 27th July 2014

Quite a few of you are asking what I am going to be doing next; well: 1. spend more time with my family! (I sound like a politician caught with my pants down and my willy in someone else – not the case here) 2. The boards will also be very active and engaged, so I will still be involved with RS and YRS and 3. I am a Commissioner for the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and we publish our report in January 2015; I am so unbelievably passionate about this that I am going to give most of the rest of this year up to focus on this. It is not a paid role, so I will have to work too, but yes – these are the three things I will be doing. xox0

Interactive film to be made by the attendees of the Festival of Code

Those people leading a centre at the Festival of Code this year are about to receive the following message:

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 15.12.59This excellent idea was born by Nat and Julia Higginbottom of Rebel Uncut, who have both been very closely involved with the Festival over the years, and are filming most of it this year. Last year we had Rewired Art in Birmingham, where art students in Birmingham Uni joined the Birmingham Uni centre for the week, to create digital art projects. This was great but we felt too focused on one centre. We wanted to find a way to break this Festival better by including the arts for everyone.

One of our VIP judges and speakers is Yoni Bloch and I am *so excited* that he is coming. (I asked him by scribbling on a napkin and slipping it to him just after he came off the stage in Cannes – he appreciated the analogue approach I believe!)

He has created this insanely brilliant platform called Interlude which is what we will be using. To give you an idea of how it works, here is Yoni’s own song video, put together using the Interlude technology: Pretend to be happy

I am really looking forward to this year’s Arts project, to how the film will turn out, also – inevitably – how the YRSers choose to use the Interlude platform themselves, outside of the scripted film!!

This Festival is just going to be huge amounts of fun, I am sure it will be technically challenged, but it wouldn’t be a Festival of Code if the wifi didn’t fall over and someone rewiring the AV so it doesn’t work on the day of the finale.

If this inspires you or your child to join in on the Festival week, then I know there are a few spaces left in a couple of centres, you can register here. And if you want to mentor, we always need people to swing by and help – all across the UK. Sign up as a mentor here.

Thank you everyone! AM so excited, do watch the action on the Eventifier machine

 

 

 

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