The normal days around Madeira and Berlin

Mon 28th Aug – Thurs 7th Sept 2017

My normal weekly blog is on hold for a short period whilst I accommodate trips to Madeira and Berlin. I have done separate blogs on the conference I attended in Madeira as well as my personal impressions of the island. However, I was living my life as normal the immediate days before I went and for the couple of days between returning and going off to Berlin. This blog looks at those normal days compartmentalised in the usual way I do my weekly blogs.

Tech for Good

In the office / doing paid work Tues and Wed of w/c 28th Aug and w/c 4th Sept. It’s interesting I don’t think of my time at the Madeira conference at work but it very much was. Lots of quite mundane but important things done including paying the final grant installments on the current Tech for Good projects and chasing up missing monitoring information – all part of good grant-making. Note you can see short vids about all 10 Tech for Good projects we funded this year here.

A good cover picture

Some great catch ups with excellent individuals

  • Zoe Amar who runs a communications and digital strategy agency and writes features for The Guardian and Third Sector on tech for good. We met at the beautiful RIBA building constructed in the 1930s. Great to catch up eventually and discuss how we can help charities do tech better. I still need to do some e-intros I promised to do…
  • Darshan  Sanghrajka who runs the developers Super Being Labs. He has been involved in our latest Tech for Good programme supporting the QuidsIn project. An all-round good guy with excellent ambitions around delivering social change. We particularly talked about the next Tech for Good grants programme based on lessons from the most recent one.
  • Dan Sutch from CAST along with James Boardwell to review the support given to the Tech for Good projects in the most recent programme and plan ahead for the next one. A good meeting that took place at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation office.
  • Cassie Robinson at DotEveryOne who is working with Snook to deliver the evaluation on the recently completed TfG programme. We can be quite honest and robust with each other which is fun especially with our joint passion to develop and expand the Tech for Good sector. We both agreed on the need to nurture diversity and new talent.

The future - next exit

Some interesting speculative meetings

  • Met with Global Disability Innovation Hub alongside some other colleagues. The hub is a new creation based in the Olympic Park in Stratford bringing together different partners including academic and voluntary sector ones as well as some that developed as part of the legacy from the London 2012 Paralympics. Noting specific agreed but good to open lines of communication around areas such as digital innovation and disability sport.
  • Had a catch-up coffee with Jaryd Ridgeway. He is one of the people behind Muzi. This is a new digital tool I saw demonstrated at the Global Collective Accelerator presentation I attended a couple of weeks ago. The tool is designed to work around self-diagnostic medical testing i.e. for HIV. The app confirms the test result and then links the person into the health system or other appropriate network. A good, open chat particularly covering further contacts he might want to consider.
  • With another big grant funder (best I don’t say who) which wants to look at use of video applications. We have been championing this in our TfG work. And for the next TfG programme we are looking at doing full video application with a four minute video completely replacing the written form and only minimal written submission required. We need to test if decision-making only based on video submission is in any way deficient to a ‘normal’ application process. There will still be assessments and due diligence / compliance after shortlisting.

Catching up with our digital team

innovation labsCouple of meetings with our own digital team who primarily deal with tech related to marketing and fundraising. Getting them involved in Grants has been one of my successes. First meeting where different individuals from the team showed work they had been doing around producing different ways to visualise our grants data for the public. And then a  one-to-one meeting with the team leader to navigate how members of her team could be more linked up with our grants. One big idea is perhaps through directly supporting projects with practical advice and mentoring.

CrowdMatch and Techies in Residence

crowdfunding wordmapPresented to Grants Committee on our small grants that organisations will then crowdfund to match (another pilot initiative) and the upcoming work with Building Change Trust to support their Techies in Residence initiative in Northern Ireland. For the latter, this is where local not-for-profit organisations are paired with local digital developers. And linked to the crowdfunding, we had a meeting with our creative team who are doing a workshop on making and using video with the organisations that are lined up to receive CrowdMatch grants.

Promoting the research on social tech ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa

There has also been lots of work in getting ready for the two days later this month when Chris Csikszentmihalyi from M-ITI Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute will be visiting London. He will be talking about the research on Social Tech Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m trying to arrange as many opportunities as possible for him to talk. So far he is doing a roundtable for Bond (the UK network for organisations working in international development) on morning of 25th. Then a meeting with my Grants colleagues on morning of 26th followed by a public ICT4D meet-up in the evening of that day. Please feel free to sign up for the latter!

Queen’s Young Leaders

And under-lying all this was the Queen’s Young Leaders scoring. There were over 4,500 applicants for these awards this year from across the Commonwealth. It’s a mass team effort to do the initial sifting and scoring. Indeed I was doing it all over the place to get through the mass I had. I discovered it was quite an easy and ‘fun’ thing to do on my mobile whilst in various places like waiting at different airports.

Health and Efficiency

Health and efficiency magazine cover

Time away has meant little physical activity during this period though with one noticeable disaster.

Jog-run disaster

Aug bank holiday Monday, I decided to go for my jog-run. I knew I would not be able to run for the following two weekends with being away in Madeira and Berlin. But I still knew I had a muscle pull in my right calf and so I deliberately left off doing it on Sat or Sun. It felt like hard work generally but that may have been psychological and I just pushed on. But slowly the aggravation in my calf grew and just after the 4km mark, I had to give up. Details on all my jog-runs can be found here. Frustrating but at least it should be fully rested for when I next do a weekend jog-run in middle of Sept. Didn’t do my post jog-run video as I wasn’t in the mood.

Gym and yoga

woman doing tree poseNeither of these done because simply my time was filled with being at work or away in Madeira and Berlin. Looking ahead, I don’t think I am going to be able to go to the gym until mid-Sept 🙁 . And my Sunday yoga probably ain’t going to happen until the end of Sept as I am off to Brighton to see the old chaps the weekend after I return to London. Good to have a break but feels frustrating generally and specifically I am feeling fat (which is primarily because I am).

Personal development


Very little time to do duolingo and I relied on picking up languages by being in situ. This had some limited successes such as me picking up small bits of Portuguese and German primarily by having my memory jogged. But it is a process with limited success due to the general ubiquity of English and people wanting to speak that in order to practice it and be helpful.


Another failure in this weird three week period. In theory, being on holiday should create time to do things like play around on Code Academy. However, my time fills as full as in normal life.


One of the key things for me during this whole period has been to still keep on top of emails both personal and work-related. On both I have just about kept my head above water.  Actually dealing with them takes a lot of my time even when I am supposedly in ‘my own time’. The value of personal stuff is that I am exploring and sharing new information. Work ones, it is just about not being overwhelmed. This is good in itself but isn’t real progress.

Books and Reading

I managed to get through a couple of good books.

‘The Sword and the Scimitar’ by Simon Scarrow

This is an author I really respect though have not heavily read. Scarrow manages to produce brilliant historical novels in a constant stream. His main work is based on the Roman period with several series. This is a stand-alone book about the grand siege of Malta in 1565 when the Turks besieged the Knights Hospitaller. A grim and dark story sanitised a bit here. This siege started the breakage of the power of the Ottomans in the Mediterranean. Was that a good thing? Suppose it depends on your historical perspective.

Have no doubt the book is very well written but with a whole slant of English involvement (actually miniscule in reality) and that the Christians = good guys / Turks = bad guys. Though interestingly there is a constant meditation by the lead character on the futility of religion. With some thinking around being better off without it which I suspect few thought of in the sixteenth century. I really enjoyed this story though the plot has a strong element of ‘deus ex machina’ with things conveniently falling into place – but isn’t that true of all fiction? Perhaps the mark of the best fiction writers is the way they manage to hide this or make the reader forget it.

‘Trespass’ by Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is one of my favourite contemporary writers. So reading one of her books is always a treat. She can be slightly twee though never as bad as Patrick Gale. I wasn’t totally sure on this book at first. But it’s a real grower and brilliantly inter-weaves the lives of several different people. Interestingly a range of characters almost none of whom is totally likeable. Interesting the way you find sympathy for certain characters and dislike of others which is switched around as the book reaches its end point. A quite philosophical novel, worth reading not least to for a contribution to that lovely age old question ‘What makes a good life?’

Dr Who audio adventures

‘1963: Fanfare for the Common Men’ (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companion Nyssa)

sixties doctor who logoThe first of three audio adventures created set around the year 1963 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr Who first appearing on the BBC. It’s a fun adventure with the Doctor and Nyssa finding aliens having re-set time so that ‘The Common People’ become as famous and influential in place of ‘The Beatles’ that don’t happen in this time stream. The aliens do this to take energy from the adulation of the masses for this band. It’s a good story though a bit clumsy operating across several time streams at once. The fun bit is people within the trio that is The Common People telling stories as if they were really McCartney, Lennon, Ringo, or Harrison.

Looking ahead

Everything gets back to normal after my return to the UK from Berlin on Tues although some things will be far from normal:

  • Big news is that on Fri my partner goes off to Australia for work stuff. He’s gone for nearly three weeks 🙁 . I’ve suggested I have a surrogate boyf whilst he is away but he has rejected this..
  • In work Wed afternoon, all day Thurs, and a bit of Fri. Nice internal and external catch-ups on Wed to be followed by the video workshop with our successful CrowdMatch grantees all day on Thurs and a working group on Fri.
  • Aim is to get to the gym at least twice next week and do a jog-run
  • Sunday I am off to Brighton to catch up with my old chaps on Mon
  • Finish my current Kindle book and start on another couple
  • Listen to some Dr Who audio adventures
  • Keep on top of emails
  • Duolingo and coding practice
  • QPR’s winning streak continuing (they beat Ipswich 2-1 on Sat just gone, currently 8th in the Championship)

And finally…

I will do a review of my time at Folsom so please feel free to have a read of that next week

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