Tech, mental health, massage, and demons

Mon 2 – Sun 8 Oct 2017

Dave is backBig news for last week was that Dave arrived back Mon morning from Australia – hooray! Great to have him back though it does feel now like he’s never been away.

Tech for Good

Another busy week with 2.5 paid days spread over 5 days. Boy, am I looking forward to my sabbatical.

Tech and mental health

depressed personAn interesting event at NESTA on Thurs evening. A discussion on ‘the future of mental health tech’. Four main speakers and an audience of about 150. I knew two of the speakers – Victoria Betton from mhabitat and Mark Brown who is an individual very worth following on twitter with incisive commentary on mental health issues @MarkOneinFour Must meet up with them both very soon for a coffee.

The discussion took saw some intriguing themes coming through:

  • A recognition that the value of tech around mental health has not been realised. My passion for Tech for Good came via an awareness over 5 years ago that there may be some connection between young people’s mental health projects I was funding and tech (we called it ‘ICT’ then – how cringe-making) that young people so loved, especially social media.
  • The lack of hard proof that tech works regarding mental health. Though noting this was in comparison to the level of ‘proof’ that surrounds pharmaceuticals with RCTs – Randomised Control Trials. But are such tests that take years realistic with tech that changes and develops so fast?
  • A worrying old-fashioned perception that tech has ‘failed’ and that nothing is better than human, face to face therapy
  • Another worrying trend that claims tech is inherently ‘bad’ rather than it being about the way it is used

Head with lots of questionsVictoria pointed out that tech can really work in an offline-online model. For instance with people getting medical support but also using social media for peer support. So wrong to think of tech as a magic bullet, a cure-all. And Mark pointed out how tech had enabled him to change his life, move away from where he was born, and have conversations with thousands of people. His life would have been far worse without tech.

I really had hoped to go to another meet-up on Tues night, the Open Charity one which promotes charities to use open source. But there was just too much going on last week and I needed some time to catch-up with Dave.

Speculative conversations and catch-ups

Chris from Spacehive

Nice catch-up on Mon afternoon with Chris Gourlay who runs Spacehive. This is a successful crowdfunding site with an emphasis on projects to improve people’s environments. Very good to pick his brain and learn what works in terms of crowdfunding. Our own programme is happening at the moment with projects raising money to equal the grant on offer to them and, thereby, enable release of that grant. Interesting model that Chris wants to develop whereby people start crowdfunding for a project then various funders who are signed up to this process can come into add to that project to give the fundraising a boost. I am also interested in this idea of creating digital marketplaces where projects can pitch to funders and so circumvent traditional application processes.

Simon from Word of Mouth

Good skype catch-up with Simon Barson who has set up a platform in South Africa enabling people working in the informal economy to be hired to do work (Word of Mouth). He used to work at the brilliant project mothers2mothers (using ‘the power of mothers to end paediatric AIDS’) before moving to WOM. Great that he is trying to use tech specifically to help and support poor people in the townships rather than targeting his platform at the growing middle class.

Loren from Indigo

Had a great check-in with Loren from Indigo Trust before her maternity leave. Me and my colleague Malcolm bounced around various ideas how we might combine to support TfG in Africa. Nothing definite though Indigo are going to be working with us on an initiative funded by Vodaphone Foundation. Working through two hubs we plan to help people in Africa, particularly in CSOs (Civil Society Organisations), develop mobile tech responses to problems they face. We will take on many of the brilliant lessons from the M-ITI research done by Chris Csikszentmihalyi.

No shows

Shame that three catch-ups had to be postponed. One due to the individual having to work on an unexpected bid with the deadline looming (we’ve all been there). Another because the person was stuck at an airport. The final one was because the person I was meeting had got his days mixed up. He was genuinely apologetic. No point in getting upset, we’ve all done this before as well.

Theory of Change for the next UK Tech for Good programme

progress being madeOngoing prep for the launch of our next UK Tech for Good programme in November. Particularly sorting out a Theory of Change workshop to be very clear what we want to achieve via the programme. I have a lot of scepticism of things such as this. Charities have done loads of work on Theories of Change with no practical value. There clearly is a research industry and it is far better to do something even if it is wrong than do nothing at all.

But I do believe in the importance of active review i.e. doing something and learning from it. The evaluation on the just-completed Tech for Good programme has suggested the ToC workshop. We have a good facilitator who appreciates the need for the work to be practical and fast so we can launch the next TfG programme. I am very hopeful we can get this workshop done quickly and create something with real practical value.

Another plug for my mini-blog on ’25 features of the ‘Silicon Valley model’ of tech / social tech development’

San Francisco skyscrapersWhy not have a read of this mini-blog ? I’m not dissing completely the Silicon Valley Model as it has led to some great achievements. But as Tech for Good (and tech development generally) matures so we need to consider if it is always appropriate. I’ve outlined the features of this model not least so we can see where we are following without thinking rather than going with what may be more right or innovative for the time, place and purpose. Feel free to leave additions and criticisms.

Health and Efficiency


Good result – 4 times last week: mornings of Mon, Tues, Thurs and Sun. For the first three sessions, I managed to do weights and some time on the treadmill. Didn’t do for the latter to let my legs recover after Sat’s successful jog-run.


Real progress from the previous week when I did the full 10K but with a poor time. One hour, 2 mins, 45 secs which was about a minute and three-quarters faster than the previous week. Made me feel very good. Video about it here I think I benefited from a do-nothing day on the Fri again – no exercise that day – and sessions on the treadmill. Plus I listened to the radio again as I jogged.


MassageFinally treated myself to this on Mon afternoon. I managed to stay awake through the whole thing which I think is better than drifting off and not remembering it. The masseur was surly but that was fine. And heavy which is what I prefer over a gentle rub with oil and smells whilst listening to ching, ching, ching music.


Must start back on this soon. Simple reason not to is the cost of buying more sessions. I need to wait for the point after which my next credit card bill is due so that it isn’t too big for this month. Ah the practicalities of life.

Personal Development

Duolingo, sleep, and It

I nearly did language sessions on Duolingo each day. The big let-down was Sat which is unusual as that is supposed to be my non-busy day. But the main thing on Sat was that I slept! After doing my successful jog-run and having lunch, I crashed out in a very refreshing 2 hour snooze. The rest of the day was focused on doing personal emails and watching the original TV movie of Stephen King’s ‘It’. So much better than the current cinema movie. But an abrupt ending with a lot of the story in the book still to be told.

No real coding practice via Code Academy.  Think that is going to have to wait until my sabbatical starts.

Email breakthrough

One of the big successes of last week was really getting my my emails under control. On both personal and work emails, I’ve got my emails to be dealt with or simply stored ‘just in case’ down to under 100! One of the key reasons for making this breakthrough is taking my phone into the gym with me so I can deal with emails whilst I rest in-between sets. It’s a gay gym so nearly everyone is on their phone though most people are looking up shags on Grindr.

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.


Cup of coffeeMy old friend Brian was in London on Thurs afternoon. Good to have a catch-up whilst we went on a long walk to the South Bank. He is fine though much of his focus, quite rightly, is on his upcoming wedding in Denmark. I warned him not to fall into the same trap as I did on my day. It was wonderful but I was so worried about ensuring everybody else was OK that I didn’t actually take time to ensure I enjoyed it. Indeed, once it was all over I really wanted it to happen again just so I could enjoy it personally.

Books and Reading

Velvet Page book club on Thurs but I went to the NESTA event instead. Also the group was discussing a book I had 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)

‘Scenes from an early life’ by Philip Hensher

This is a curious book. Philip Hensher is one of my favourite author. And this is clearly stated to be a novel. But it is also clearly a memoir of the early life of his partner when he grew up in Bangladesh at the point when it fought a civil war and became independent from Pakistan. It doesn’t feel like a novel. And there are bits of repetition. Overall, it’s an interesting story about a bad period in history. But then is civil war every good? But not as well written as the other real novels that Hensher has created.

There is an interesting reference to the lives of two men who are almost certainly a gay couple though perhaps they didn’t think of it as such. That may well be fictional rather than real with embellishments on the facts that the author and his partner knew. One of the things I have decided to do with my reading is to try and read less western (or just American/British) fiction. Not least so I can have my thinking models challenged by the way people live different lives in different places including South America, Africa and Asia.

Dr Who audio-adventures

‘The Demons of Red Lodge’ (fifth Doctor + Nyssa)

red demon head with hornsOne of those collections of several short stories rather than one long adventure split into 4 episodes. Perfectly OK though not brilliant. An adventure set in an English village in 1665 where aliens are identified as demons. Then a sound archive where the Doctor confronts evil. Followed by the Doctor spending a year in an alien prison. I do like adventures which acknowledge him being hundreds of years old and things happening over long periods of time. Finally, a horror movie that conjures up another evil alien. I am sure there is a theme here of following ideas set-up by horror movies from the 60s and 70s.

Looking ahead

The coming week:

  • Work days are Tues, Thurs and half-day Fri
  • Meetings lined up with Reason Digital, the Cosham Institute, Intersticia, Digital On Trust, UsCreates, The Developers’ Society, & Good Tech Lab
  • Meeting up with reps from two good African tech hubs – CCHub (Nigeria) and BongoHive (Zambia)
  • Getting ready for the new UK Tech for Good programme and the new African initiative with Vodaphone Foundation
  • Attending a NESTA workshop on crowdfunding for arts and heritage projects
  • Aim is to do Duolingo every day plus some coding practice.
  • Keep on top of emails now I’ve made some real progress
  • Gym three times and jog-run once. The latter on Sun for a change as on Sat…
  • …I am due to attend the National HIV conference. My first time and just as a normal punter. Hopefully will be interesting and useful.
  • Finish my current reading book, ‘Sacrilege’ by SJ Parris
  • Listen to a couple more Dr Who audio adventures (as well as listening to the radio)
  • Not sure if I have ‘space’ next week to have a ‘do nothing’ day:(

And finally…

In anticipation of a car crash:

People waiting for a car crash

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