Mon 25 Sept – Sun 1 Oct 2017
Another fucking busy week with paid work being stretched across 4 days. Don’t forget I am only paid to work 2.5 days. But I paced myself well and kept it together. Big pat on the back for me 🙂
Tech for Good
Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa
Chris Csikszentmihalyi is a professor at M-ITI Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute who has been researching Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Whilst he was in London for a couple of days I acted as his minder at the three events we had arranged for him to talk at:
- To other NGOs and funders dealing with international development on Mon morning
- To our own staff on Tues morning. This was followed by lunch with me and a colleague to pick Chris’ brain more about specific things like our upcoming (hopefully) Tech for Good (TfG) Africa grants programme.
- The London ICT4D meet-up on Tues evening where Chris was one of 5 speakers including some African tech entrepreneurs who empathised with much of his research
All went really well and the research was well received even though dealing with some difficult topics such as the issue of colonial legacy and racism as well as poor awareness of what social tech is on the ground as well as poor or indifferent feelings about funders and Telcos. There is also the big issue around slavish copying of Silicon Valley methodologies and assumptions even when not really appropriate.
25 features of the ‘Silicon Valley model’ of tech / social tech development
This research has made me think how in awe we are of the Silicon Valley Model. I’m not dissing it completely as it has achieved some great things. And it is inspirational to others plus it can work in the right place at the right time. But to simply assume everything linked to this model is the right way forward cannot be right. I’ve written a short and dirty blog on the features of this model not least so we can see where we are following these without thinking rather than going with what may be more right or innovative for the time and place we are developing in. The short blog is here. Please feel free to leave additions and criticisms.
The UK Social Tech Eco-System
Clearly everywhere has its own specific social tech eco-system. This is certainly true of the UK and that can perhaps be broken down further to local systems in nations, regions, and cities. In many ways it would be impossible to map such eco-systems as they ebb and flow, changing constantly as key players come and go.
Cassie’s and Josh’s meetings
I attended two mini-meet up events last week. Both have been set up by key social tech individuals as a means to allow other people in the eco-system to exchange ideas and information. I attended Cassie Robinson’s Community Squad on Mon afternoon. Basically a meeting of social tech people particularly coming from a community angle. We were particularly considering the shared messages we should be getting out about TfG. Then on Wed morning it was Josh Russell’s Impact Breakfast up at Kings Cross. A fascinating random selection of social tech / tech people who meet up monthly for breakfast and networking. I love these sort of meetings.
Presenting to funders of projects helping asylum seekers, refugees, & migrants
More nurturing of the social tech eco-system on Thurs when me and Dan from CAST presented on TfG to the ARM (Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants) Funders’ group. Dan was talking about the general march of tech and the role of CAST in developing the not-for-profit sector around digital. I spoke about what we had learnt from funding TfG. And Min from Techfugees spoke about the work they are doing in specifically using tech to help refugees around the world. Some good discussion including on where projects have gone wrong and what we can learn from that.
Also last week, my usual selection of speculative meetings and conversations. People who want to meet (primarily to talk about funding). No idea where such conversations will go but it could be a real step forward for all involved. Unfortunately one was cancelled as the person we were due to meet had got her dates mixed up. Most interesting was with Julian Blake at Digital Agenda. This is a site that promotes TfG and tech generally with a good weekly e-bulletin. He also runs the Digital Agenda Impact Awards which happen annually.
Nissa, Sam and Freddie
Thurs afternoon I went off to see my job share, Nissa. Met her other half Sam for the first time. He had been baby-sitting as Nis had been at a meeting in the morning regarding a conference she is presenting at. Me, Nis and baby Freddie went for a walk to a local park and had coffee with cake. Great to catch up with her and tell her about all the stuff coming up including the new Tech for Good programme. She is back at work in early in Nov. And then we discussed what will happen when I go on sabbatical Jan – May. Nis will probably be working full-time then. Lovely to see her and family. I am lucky to work with such a nice and talented person.
Health and Efficiency
Slight gym disaster last week. I only managed to get there twice simply because of so much else going on. Mon lunch-time was an unusual time for me but it had to be then to fit in between Chris’ presentation and Cassie’s meeting. All went well, focused on weights but also did some cardio on the treadmill. Then to the gym again on Sun. Weights only as my legs were still recovering from the jog-run the day before.
Did this on Sat morning. Much better than the previous week. Key thing was that I completed the 10k course without needing to stop. Quite a slow time at an hour and four & a half minutes. But the key thing was that it was my first complete 10k for about 6 weeks. I can work on the time over the weeks to come. You can see my video about it here. I think I benefited from having a do-nothing day on the Fri (see below). And unusually I listened to the radio as I jogged. Normally I do it in silence. But it was the Radio 1 birthday breakfast show with various DJs who had done the breakfast show. Fun reminiscences.
Great news, I did sessions on DuoLingo each day! And a small bit of progress on coding practice via Code Academy. And even a measure of progress on keeping my emails under control.
WordPress London meet-up
Some disappointment in that I didn’t get to the WordPress London meet-up on Thurs evening. I was simply too knacked after an intense week. Indeed that day I had already travelled across London to see Nis and I just didn’t want to do another cross-London journey. There was an interesting talk on blogging on the agenda but I think they put all the presentations online. So hopefully all will be well and I will see that talk after all.
My do nothing day
Previous weekly blog, I had written about the pleasure of having a ‘do nothing’ day. And last week I had that on Fri. Do nothing means primarily that I wasn’t doing any work meetings (don’t ask about emails, they are ubiquitous) nor any exercise. Fri morning I pottered up to the Notting Hill Exchange doing an exchange of books I had read and some CDs. Swapped for vouchers and used them to buy some new books. Then in the afternoon with mum to see the Housing Association about the long-awaited move to a new flat following the re-development of our estate. A cafe meal in the evening followed by the soaps on TV.
Books and Reading
‘East West Street. On the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity’ by Philippe Sands 2016
This is a different type of book for me as it is non-fiction and I love novels. But it has many plaudits which are totally correct. It is a beautifully researched and written book. A very sad real-life story about the holocaust around the city of Lviv in Ukraine and the Nuremberg trials. The author had family that died in this. He writes about one member of the family who survived. He then also focuses on two legal theorists who also came from this area. They both worked on the prosecution teams at Nuremberg, one introducing the concept of ‘crimes versus humanity’ and the other ‘genocide’. Amazing to think that both concepts so well-known to us are both very recent creations.
The other person who is written about in the book is Hans Frank. He was a long-term colleague of Hitler becoming his personal lawyer. Someone who mutated the law to give Nazism a semblance of legality. He became the ruler of Poland and was one of the top Nazis tried at Nuremberg. He denied it all like the whole group did but, thankfully, he was hung for his crimes. The fifth ‘character’ in this study really is the city itself that has had a tumultuous time in the 20th century. But there are also a couple of great small studies. One of an English woman who was a Christian evangelist and smuggled Jews to safety during the war – incredible bravery. And the other a Jewish man who managed to hide and survive in Vienna during the war.
Dr Who audio-adventures
I’ve actually spent a lot of time last week listening to the radio rather than my audio books. My favourite radio station is Radio 1. I like the music and the sense of fun and optimism. Most people say I’m too old for it but I still enjoy it. I think a lot of my friends listen to Radio 2 or Radio 6. TBH, they both feel like old people’s radio in terms of the music played and the DJs. Though I will be honest and say I do like Jo Wiley on Radio 2 weekday evenings – a nice mix of new and old. Radio 1’s 50th birthday this week – we have aged together.
‘The Angel of Scutari’ (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy + companions Ace & Hex)
This is the Dr Who audio adventure I did listen to last week. Well, I actually re-listened to it. I had heard it before and it made no sense. So I listened to it again and it fell into place. Interestingly it is regarded as a bit of a modern classic. What is interesting is that it is an old-fashioned time travel adventure with no space monsters. There is a bit of jumping about in the story-line spread across several times and places. This needs the listener’s focus. And we get the appearance of two classic historical characters (Florence Nightingale and Tolstoy). It actually reminds me of the Dr Who history stories from the period of William Hartnell on TV. Don’t forget Dr Who was originally intended to be educational as well as just for entertainment.
The coming week:
- Dave is back so we will spend time catching up (though it feels like nothing has changed whilst he’s been away)
- Ongoing prep for the launch of our next Tech for Good programme in November
- Speculative Tech for Good conversations plus a couple of evening events. First, Future of Mental Health Tech at NESTA on Thurs is a definite. Second, Open Charity meet-up on Tues is something I would like to go to but I think there is too much else happening.
- Catch up with Good Tech Lab and the work they are doing. A French-based agency looking at Tech for Good and social investment in an international context.
- Also check-in with Loren from Indigo Trust before maternity leave to discuss how to support TfG in Africa.
- My mate Brian is in London on Thurs afternoon. We will catch up on life and the prep for his upcoming wedding.
- Aim is to do DuoLingo every day plus some coding practice. And keep on top of emails.
- Gym three times at least, jog-run once, and hopefully a yoga session. Might also have a massage – it’s been ages.
- Finish my current reading book and start at least one more.
- Velvet Page book club on Thurs but I’ve got the NESTA event and it’s discussing a book I read in the past. I remember I wasn’t over impressed with it though I can’t recall much more about it (The Farm by Tom Rob Smith)
- Listen to a couple more Dr Who audio adventures (as well as listening to the radio)
- Need to think about having a ‘do nothing’ day somewhere (if there’s time for it…)