Mon 18 – Sun 24 Sept 2017
What it is like to be alone
My first proper week of being alone as my boyf was in Australia for work. I have definitely missed him. It’s strange because in many ways I am quite a loner. I enjoy my own company and time on my own doing introverted things like reading or watching a film. But I’ve realised without Dave around I’ve lost a sort of stabilising force. I don’t like talking about work with him. But I miss simply knowing that he is there. We can annoy each other, take the piss, and have a laugh. I wouldn’t want to be with him 24 hours a day (it’s reciprocated) but it’s weird not to have him around at all.
Busyness and counting down to my sabbatical
So the key thing to report about last week was lots done but with a sense that it is all so tiring and hard to relax. It’s been a busy week and I don’t feel like I have really switched off. I am so looking forward to my four month sabbatical. There’s something dangerous in career terms in disappearing for a few months. And I might not do anything life changing with my time. But I feel like I need some time away from work stress and creating some sort of new focus for my life albeit temporary. It will be very interesting to see how far I can actually switch off from work.
Tech for Good
Tech for Good Africa
Some very important conversations took place with my colleagues Matt and Malc around taking this programme forward. We are all really keen to have an initiative that incentivises and supports Tech for Good in sub-Saharan Africa. However there are several issues to be addressed:
What types of organisations should we fund?
Many TfG enterprises in Africa are set up as private companies (following the Silicon Valley model). This causes us problems as we don’t normally fund private companies nor individuals. Should we focus on supporting civil society organisations doing TfG at the risk of not funding some of the most successful TfG work.
What stage of development should we fund?
Should we focus on sustaining and scaling things that have been shown to have potential (perhaps from one country to another). Or should we support some sort of incubation / acceleration of new ideas? There is a lot of the latter and this leaves the problem of where they go after. But it does allow innovation to happen and new projects to develop.
Where should we fund?
Inviting applications from anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to an avalanche and raise issues around how we manage and support a very widespread portfolio. There could be real advantage in geographical targeting. However how to decide which geographical areas to focus on. And there is the whole issue of whether we should go with a specific theme – health, young people, etc.
How should we fund?
Ideally we want to fund African TfG projects rather than outposts of Western NGOs. But what if they are the best thing to fund? There is a danger with us being in London overseeing it all that we are funders who seem remote and unknowing of local situations. Thus should we have a more ‘on the ground’ funding model.
How should we provide support as well as cash?
We know in the UK that TfG is about cash and support / connection to networks. So how to do similar in Africa when we are not on the ground and don’t know the locality / potential partners. Should we push support via a local partner. Could this be a tech hub. But we know there are lots of pressures on hubs and the danger of pulling them away from creating sustainable local business models. We could bring in support from the UK (via video conferencing, etc) but isn’t that a bit imperialistic. We could use big tech companies but then would they be pushing their agenda.
Bond Tech Development Group
Sort of linked to the discussion above, on Wed I went to the Mozilla office in Southwark for this meeting. It’s for reps from different NGOs and agencies working around development issues in the Global South. Really great to catch up with some old faces and make some new friends. The actual discussion was focused on internet connectivity. Still a big issue in parts of the developing world. Primarily due to telephone companies (Telcos) not providing because it is not cost effective. Though also governments arbitrarily denying internet access due to security issues. So alternative ways of providing access to the internet. But then that raises the question is only limited access better than nothing?
Research on phases of a tech for good project’s development
Meeting on Fri about research Shift have been doing for a group of funders. It started off about identifying phases of development for social tech / tech for good projects and appropriate milestones for each phase to assist projects and funders. Research has suggested many of the factors making a ‘good’ tech for good project are the same as for any project. So things such as following a proper social design model and planning ahead. Such also that many non-tech projects may not be as successful and sustainable as they are perceived to be.
The key issue is whether to present the research as a tool for any social project or emphasise the social tech angle? Main risk being that by going for the latter then this downplays the relevance to social tech. Whilst at the same time putting it into a field where lots of projects and funders already have their own means to decide if a project is a ‘good’ one. We agreed for it to be presented as useful for any project or funder but focus on the social tech angle. Not least as at the moment there is a real appetite generally for people to know how to deliver strong tech for good projects.
Regular blog readers will know my love of having meetings with people to talk and see where things go without having a set agenda. This sort of thing is time-consuming but vital to creating networks and project development
- Met someone from a charity that has a current platform that is not as good as it should be. They want to create a new one. They have actually done all the right things in terms of taking the project forward which they cost at around £80,000. So they need funding. Part of their problem is the different parts of the project that are involved in delivering and the need to explain the value of a new platform beyond making life easier for them as system controller. In particular, how and why do the beneficiaries gain?
- Conversation with another grant maker discussing issues around doing tech for good. But also to hear their ideas around creating a diagnostic tool to identify what assistance projects need. This could then be shared between funders. It does have possibilities though I do wonder how many not-for-profits will use it? I suppose the key things will be how easily it can be completed as well as what potential there is for support once it is done.
- Coffee with Alex of Beam. Met at House of St Barnabas in Soho. A members’ club but also helping homeless people. Beam is crowdfunding to support individuals in need. It is currently focused on supporting homeless people who need to get funding to do vocational training. Supported by NESTA at moment but needing funding to develop. A good conversation around revenue-creating business models and possible push-back factors from the wider third sector. But a great new platform and it could be real game changer.
- Meeting on Wed to discuss the workshop we are running at the ACF conference in Nov. A nice example of partnership working I am so fond of. Several funders / agencies are involved in giving this workshop. Also good to catch up with other people running workshops. I think I slightly upset some when I said I couldn’t think of any conf workshop that has ever really wowed me. But it is true. I still need to decide whether to attend the whole conf or just come in to do my workshop.
Started the week in Brighton to see my old chaps. First off to see Bob in his nursing home. A pleasant day so we were able to get out in his wheelchair to the coffee shop. We sat outside and watched the world go by. Conversation is limited because of his speech problem and the fact that he has no news. But we enjoy just sitting watching the world go by. I also took him round Tesco’s which is one of the highlights of my visit. I must admit, I found him a bit more distant than at other times.
Then on to see Brian at the cafe we always meet at. His dog has died and clearly he is still affected. He had some photos to show. Thankfully he has acknowledged he is too old and physically weak for another dog. On a positive note, he has booked himself a week away in York where he used to live. It will be interesting getting around trains, etc but good on him. This is something he could not do if he had the dog.
Health and Efficiency
Part of my problem last week was that work dominated and blocked out my time to take exercise. I only managed two gym sessions and on consecutive days – Thurs and Fri. I really pushed heavy weights on upper body and legs both days without doing too much cardio.
My weekly jog-run took place on Sat. It all started so well but then went bad after the 5K point. And just after 7.5 km I had to give up due to my legs simply not being able to take me forward any more. No idea why it went bad. No cold as at other times. Perhaps I was over-doing it with the gym the two days before? Or perhaps the general busyness of the week had impacted? You can see my video about it here.
Taking a day out
My plan had been to go to the gym or a jog-run on Sun. But as I recovered from my jog-run on Sat, I had an idea. Dave was away and I had had a busy week so perhaps I deserved a do-nothing day. That is what I did and it was great. Indeed, perhaps I need to think about at least one of these each week. Bed around 11 on Sat night and I didn’t set the alarm so up around 9. A day spent reading, pootering, and tidying up. I didn’t do exercise or go anywhere. And I also spent much of the day watching Michael Woods’ 1980s documentary about the search for Troy. Bliss.
I’m reluctant to weigh myself as I am pretty sure I am well over 14 stone with no sign of any of it disappearing. Some good news in that my INR was tested on Fri and was just in range at 2.1. So I shouldn’t die of a clot or internal bleeding. The very good news is that I don’t need to be checked again for another six weeks – hooray!
So guess what, due to the busyness of last week (Brighton, work, etc) I didn’t make the progress on this that I wanted to. That is so unusual NOT. I did manage to get sessions on DuoLingo each day but then did nothing on it at all Thurs or Fri – doh! No progress in any way on coding practice – another doh! And bloody emails went out of control again until I took them to task over the weekend. Indeed dealing with emails was a large part of ‘relaxing Sunday’. Felt more on top of them by Sun evening but do I want to spend my life dealing with emails?
It’s not really personal development but a nice thing happened on Thurs after the gym when I met up with my mate Jamie. We discussed his last play and told each other about the places we had visited. For him, San Francisco and Los Angeles. For me, Madeira and Berlin. You can read about my visits to these places in the blogs I wrote here.
Books and Reading
‘What Belongs to You’ by Garth Greenwell
This is a gay novel published in 2016 that has had lots of plaudits. I have been meaning to read it for a while and finally got round to doing so. What a disappointment. I was expecting something that lived up to the hype: ‘In Greenwell’s poetic sentences, emotional fearlessness is mated with extraordinary sensitivity to the tremors of regret.’ (Ron Charles in The Washington Post). What I found was a self-indulgent memoir by an American tourist in Bulgaria.
It reeked of the American sense of being somewhere uncivilised (i.e. not the USA) and you could hear the ‘oh my God!’ of it all. Poor American plays poverty, falls for (uses?) a rent-boy, catches Syphilis, but it’s alright in the end for him. God knows what happened to the rent-boy, he’s just the means to write a story. Or is it just a story. The author spent time in Bulgaria so how much is memoir? I genuinely look forward to seeing what his next book is. Me thinks this is a one trick pony that has shot its load.
Dr Who audio-adventures
‘1963: The Assassination Games’ (seventh Doctor + companion Ace)
The final part of the trilogy celebrating the Doctor being 50 years on the TV. It reeks of the time being based around missiles (very soon after the Cuban crisis), the Cold War, and a Profumo like scandal. But I don’t think it’s a great episode with too much going on. There’s something about these Big Finish adventures being successful when they have a good story. script, and characters rather than just loads of gimmicks. We’re introduced to a new galactic super-species that even frightens the Doctor (The Light) – yawn. And this is the birthpoint of Big Finish’s Counter-Measures adventures. The best bit for me is the Doctor getting elected as an MP and the ease with which once could keep a low profile in the 60s compared to now. Not like the cult of celebrity we currently exist in.
‘Cobwebs’ (sixth Doctor + companions Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough)
An adventure someway back in the chronology of Big Finish adventures that I have been listening to. Quite simply I managed to pick up the CD cheap on ebay which is why I am hearing it out of sequence. An intriguing little adventure though one of those complex time-hopping ones. The Doctor and co find the place where they think they will die. They travel backwards and get involved in the events leading up to their ‘deaths’. It is confusing and hard work (taking two listens) but I think it’s a good story. The key elements are centred on a dysfunctional computer who is trying to make things right – ‘pity poor Edgar’.
Stuff for this week:
- It’s going to be another busy week. Very much linked to the wonderfully named Chris Csíkszentmihályi from the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) being in town to discuss his research on Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m sort of like his minder and will be accompanying him to three different presentation events including the ICT4D meet-up on Tues night.
- Bits of Tech for Good (paid) work everyday apart from Fri. I must keep that day free to ensure I have a break.
- Cassie’s TfG Community Squad on Mon and Josh’s Impact breakfast on Wed
- Speculative meetings with Innovation Unboxed, Digital Agenda, and Indigo Trust as well as some interesting internal work meetings
- Me and Dan from CAST presenting on TfG to the ARM (Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants) Funders’ group on Thurs
- Possibly attend the WordPress London meet-up on Thurs evening
- Squeezing in a couple of gym sessions though likely to be at times of the day I don’t normally use
- At the weekend, a jog-run and a return to yoga?
- Current planning is for Fri to be my ‘do nothing day’
- Finish my current reading book and start at least one more
- Listen to a couple more Dr Who audio adventures
- Make progress around Duolingo, coding practice, and emails
- Get ready for Dave’s return on Mon 2nd!
Life may be scary and dark at the moment but this cheered me up