Analogue leadership in a digital world

Creating a 21st Century Literacy

Creating a 21st Century Literacy

Founders Joe Friel, Oliver Smith-Wellnitz, Kristina Jaggard with Dan Sofer and Anni Rowland-Campbell

Founders and Coders started life as “Self Organising”, a MeetUp at the British Library[1] which led to a 6 week pilot at the Camden Code Academy in March 2014[2].   The next step was a crowdsourced 8 week programme in January 2015[3] (FAC4).

Founders and Coders are now about to graduate their 17th cohort FAC17, and have helped to initiate Coding bootcamps in Nazareth, Gaza and Hebron[4].

I met Dan in 2015 and quickly realised that his vision of bringing the ability to code to all those who are interested in developing a ‘literacy for the modern age’, and ours of developing 21st Century leaders, were closely aligned.  This resulted in our support to help him create the Tech for Better Founders Programme[5] and ever since we have been exploring new ways to work together and develop both the technical and social skills required to lead in the twenty first century.

Our first cohort of Founders, Joe Friel, Simon Dupree and Michael Watts[6] have now founded the first FAC ‘spin out’, the Yalla Co-Operative with Gaza Founders Ramy Shurafa and Asala Kamal[7].

Our second cohort, Oliver Smith Wellnitz and Kristina Jaggard[8] finished their Founders work and are co-ordinating the 17th FAC programme.

Tech for Better – Founders 2 Projects 2019

Oliver and Kristina worked with a range of Palestinian Founders on three projects:  Commons, HOWL, Business LaunchPad

The Commons:  Networked City sought to progress work towards their ultimate goal of creating an online platform for supporting the development of communities and networks, both in a spatial (e.g. a local community) and interest (e.g. supporting at-risk youth) sense.

Team:  Kristina-Talisa Jaggard, London Oliver Smith-Wellnitz, London Haneen Shahwan, Gaza, Ali Haj Ahmed, Gaza

HOWL (The History of Women’s Liberation (HOWL) ​group) is a group of aged 60+ women who were active during the Women’s Liberation Movement between the 1960s and 1990s who continue to contribute to the contemporary feminist discourse.   Their central aim is to create a collection of stories, visual documentation and ephemera relating to the Women’s Liberation Movement in the United Kingdom

Team:  Kristina-Talisa Jaggard, London Oliver Smith-Wellnitz, London Orjwan ​Al-Rajaby, Hebron Muhammed Shareef, Hebron

Business Launchpad aims to support young entrepreneurs (16-30) through running free workshops and mentoring sessions with groups and individuals. Part of their work involves collecting and digitizing information related to each individual’s journey in order to both better support them and to inform the future direction of the organization.  They sought to create an app that would help to facilitate their data collection while also providing something that would be useful for young entrepreneurs.

Team:  Kristina-Talisa Jaggard, London Oliver Smith-Wellnitz, London Salwa Mugh, Gaza Shaima Azmi, Hebron

Gaza Sky Geeks Second Cohort Founders

Haneen Shahwan – Graduate Coder

Haneen Shahwan is a software engineer who graduated from Gaza Sky Geeks Coding Bootcamp in 2016.  She worked in the management field for one year then decided to return programming.  Code Academy has challenged her and helped her develop her software engineering skills together with her skills in systems analysis, and her English and communication skills.  She returns to Tech4Better so further develop the skills she began developing during the first round of projects.

Ali Haj Ahmed – Graduate Coder

Alis has a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics Engineering, from Al-Azhar University, Gaza.  He graduated in 2012 and joined the Business and Technology Incubator (BTI) at the Islamic University (Mobaderoon 2 project) before starting his own business in CNC Zone.  He then decided to learn programming and joined Gaza Sky Geeks in mid 2018.  He is keen to further develop his technical and communication skills as a team and community member.

Muhammed Shareef – Graduate Coder

Muhammad graduated from Palestine Polytechnic University in Aug 2018, with a BA degree in Computer Science.  He joined the GSG Founders and Coders program to strengthen his programming, management, and social skills, and also to make good relationships with people out of his country.

Orjwan Al-Rajaby – Graduate Coder

Orjwan heard of Gaza Sky Geeks after being unable to attend College and then entered the Coders programme after hearing about them on Facebook.  She is now a Fullstack Developer.

Salwa Mughessib – Graduate Coder

Salwa studied Electrical Engineering at Islamic University of Gaza and applied for Gaza Sky Geeks Code Academy shortly afterwards.  She enjoys the community and meeting new and interesting people.

Shaima Ihdoosh – Graduate Coder

Shaima has an information technology degree from Palestine Polytechnic University graduating in July 2018.   After graduation she was unable to find work and then did volunteer work to gain experience before hearing about Gaza Sky Geeks when browsing Facebook.  She was keen to learn programming and communications and work with a team of students from other fields and joined the first GSG Cohort in the West Bank.

All Tech for Better Project GitHub Repositories and Descriptions:

  • https://github.com/techforbetter/connect5
  • https://github.com/yalla-coop/myPickle
  • https://github.com/techforbetter/nightingale
  • https://github.com/founders-programme-2/commons
  • https://github.com/founders-programme-2/howl
  • https://github.com/founders-programme-2/business-launchpad

 

[1] Initial meeting – Self-Organising Meeting at British Library – http://selforganising.org/

[2] 6 week pilot Camden Code Academy March 2014 – https://vimeo.com/88149344

[3] Crowdsourced programme for FAC4 –
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/founders-coders-a-free-coding-academy-in-london/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/05/wireless-in-gaza-the-code-school-bringing-hope-to-the-strip and https://medium.freecodecamp.org/something-within-me-whispered-be-the-builder-9a47fcc013f

[5] See https://intersticia.org/founders-and-coders-tech-for-better/ and https://www.foundersandcoders.com/techforbetter/)

[6][7] See https://www.yallacooperative.com/, https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/the-most-international-micro-agency-how-two-london-bootcamp-graduates-built-a-remote-3eeda0be1b2a/ and https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/indyventure/founders-coders-software-developer-academy-islington-gaza-yalla-a8907586.html

[8]https://intersticia.org/founders-and-coders-tech-for-better-second-cohort/

Brave Conversations goes Global even more in 2019

Brave Conversations goes Global even more in 2019

In July last year, before we had Intersticia UK properly set up, I wrote this post.

We are about to take Brave Conversations to the next level with events in Melbourne, Boston and London.

If we know that alternative futures are possible then we can start thinking about better ones.  (Cory Doctorow, What should we do about democracy?)

In my last post I referred to Psychohistory, Isaac Azimov’s fictional science which combines history, sociology and the mathematical statistics to make general predictions about the future behaviour of very large groups of people – in other words to explore alternative future.

It has been said that the World Wide Web is a portent of precisely such a thing which is why those who invented it created the interdisciplinary field of Web Science.

“Research tries to anticipate time. If you’re reading the Economist it’s interesting facts.”  (Luciano Floridi)

Since its public release in to human society the Web has evolved from being a small academically orientated Read Only (push information out) information community to a global publishing Read-Write infrastructure upon which almost 50% of humans interact with each other facilitated by the largest companies of the modern era.

The Web is changing the World, and the World is changing the Web 

(see 10th anniversary video).

Not only do we communicate via the Web but increasingly it is becoming an environment where we actually live (Luciano Floridi) and as with all social ecosystems our ability to co-habit as a bunch of evolved apes is dependent on the rules and norms which govern how we act and treat each other.

“Civilization is but a thin veneer stretched across the passions of the human heart. And civilization doesn’t just happen; we have to make it happen.” (Bill Moyers)

In previous eras the relative rates of technical and societal change have been roughly equivalent.  In the digital age this is not the case, which is why we created Brave Conversations in 2017.

Brave Conversations

Brave Conversations is the first non-academic but publicly focused Web Science event to provide people from all walks of life – industry, government, academia, and the community sectors – with the opportunity to sit back, reflect and respectfully explore the socio-technical issues beginning to arise as a result of digital information technologies.  It carries on from MetaLounge, our first attempts from 2008 – 2011 to create these types of event, and has now had four iterations around the world;  2017 in Canberra; Dubai as part of the 2018 World Government Summit; London 2018 in partnership with SoapBox Islington, and Kingston, Jamaica in July 2018 hosted by the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission.

At each event I have been humbled and privileged to help facilitate and encourage people to be truly brave in addressing issues which have been both confronting and uncomfortable, but most importantly to feel that at the end of each session they have left slightly more educate and enabled, but most of all empowered, to more proactively navigate and negotiate their digital lives.

Throughout we have continually been asked “what is a ‘brave’ conversation“?

As we were designing the programme it struck us that the most valuable thing we could contribute to the global dialogue would be to intentionally confront people with ideas, concepts and suggestions that they may intuitively be aware of but were unable to explore, understand or articulate in a public space.

Our Canberra event taught us the importance of actively listening to, and integrating the voice of young people.  It also demonstrated the benefit of having a diversity of voices in the room, sometimes creating discomfort and tension when language was a barrier, by which I mean those comfortable with technical language and those not.  This is why we chose to partner with SoapBox Islington and a huge thanks to James Dellow, Nick Crivello and all the team there for their wonderful hospitality and terrific group of young people who joined us.  Thank you also to Tris Lumley, Lydia Hascott and Jo Wolfe for their incredible support and amazing organisational skills in supporting Leanne Fry, Bel Campbell and me throughout.

Brave Conversations London in partnership with SoapBox Islington

“Technology challenges us to assert our human values which means that first of all we have to know what they are.”  (Sherry Turkle)

As we were framing Brave Conversations London we reflected on the 2018 Data breach scandals and the calls for ethics to be more proactively integrated in to the development of digital technologies.  But which ‘ethics’?  Ethics, from my understanding, is relative and is based on how you see the world, what matters and how things fit together.  As we explored this we determined that what was more important was to help people focus on and articulate their values as a foundation piece in order to have brave conversations, particularly as the group was quite diverse having a good mix of sexes, around a third under the age of 35, together with a number in their 70s, and one family of three generations.

In understanding the difference I found this to be a very useful overview:

  1. Values are the basic beliefs that an individual thinks to be true. Every individual has a set of values through which he looks at all things and also at the world.
  2. Ethics are guidelines or rules that are set for a society or an organization rather than for an individual.
  3. Values can be said to be the guiding principles in one’s life. ‘Value’ can be defined as a bridge by which an individual makes a decision regarding good and bad, right or wrong, and most important or less important.
  4. Ethics can be defined as set of rules formulated by a country or a company or some institutions. Ethics is mainly based on the moral values.

We crafted our values framework based on both an interpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs combined with Moore and Khagran’s Strategic Triangle for Creating Public Value.  Not only did we frame our questions around the questions of ‘what Can we do‘ (logos, the technology) and ‘what Should we do‘ (ethos, culture) but we also highlighted the need to ask ‘what May we do‘ (pathos, authority).

In addition we created a very simple, but quite informative, algorithm to poll the group about their feelings towards technology asking four questions to elicit their confidence that five potential technology innovations would improve their lives.

This graphic shows the results - a score of -0.18, in other words they were not confident at all.

Whilst the exercise was both crude and we did not have a lot of time to explain it in detail, it was indicative in terms of the general feeling in the room over the two days and the flavour of the discussions that were held.

What we learned in London then informed how we framed the conversations for Jamaica.

Brave Conversations Kingston in partnership with the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission

“We need to ensure that future citizens have the human capacity to operate in the digital world.” (Dr Andrew Wheatley, MP, Jamaica)

I met Cordel Green at the Harvard Kennedy School and our mutual interest in digital literacy and the need to empower people in the digital world resulted in his very kind invitation to travel to Kingston to hold Brave Conversations.

Not only was I welcomed with open arms but I was almost overwhelmed by the hospitality I was given and a huge thanks to Cordel, Karlene Salmon, Don Dobson and all at Broadcom for giving me such a privileged insight in to Jamaica.  Thank you also to Kemal Brown and his wonderful team who recorded it all.

Broadcom is the communications regulator in Jamaica, but not only is it doing that it is taking the lead in educating the Jamaican community about the world of information and both their rights and responsibilities in it.  We kicked off with an interview on Smile Jamaica, the opening of the Jamaican Teachers’ Federation Conference, and a radio interview, all of which gave me some initial insights in to this wonderful country.

Many of the conversations I heard in Jamaica were similar to those I hear elsewhere, but with their own unique twist.  Jamaica’s history, geography, climate and demographics have created an island paradise from which individuals have always shone on the world stage and of course writers such as Ian Fleming have been at their creative best.

Jamaica’s most pressing challenge is its crime rate.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 the most problematic factors for doing business in the country are Crime and Theft, Taxes and Corruption.  But this links to so many other factors, and what resonated deeply for me was the determination to help young people develop the resources and resilience through both education and opportunity to help change this and determine a different future.  This was coupled by the high level of religious affiliation which was proudly displayed and acknowledged.

When I was crafting Brave Conversations Jamaica I wondered what impact this would have particularly as one of the key thinkers we reference is Yuval Noah Harari, whose Homo Deus and interviews directly challenge traditional religions comparing them to the “playing of virtual reality games in order to give humans meaning and purpose”.

It proved to be a core part of the conversations, and an opportunity to push both boundaries and ideas.

Fear and love

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” (Nelson Mandela)

We chose the word brave because any discussion around technology forces us as human beings to confront our deepest beliefs, aspirations and above all fears – how we see and make sense of the world and above all the things we are afraid of losing – from the basics of safety and security, to the intimacy of love.

At each of our Brave Conversations a mini-community evolved within which there was a degree of discomfort, people did have to explore and listen to different, and often challenging, viewpoints, but there began to emanate both a sense of trust and the preparedness to be brave.

“The real existential risk is a loss of the ability to make sense of the world around us:  what is worth doing, and what the likely effects of things will be.” (Daniel Schmachtenberger)

Having now run Brave Conversations in numerous countries, and with other invitations in the pipeline, we are keen to do whatever we can to help people better understand and appreciate the new digital space within which they are living.

What I have learned is that if we can provide the framework, the information and safe space for people to take a risk, present themselves as truly curious and smart humans, they will be brave and they willingly embrace the opportunity.

The real question of course is that armed with the insights of research, coupled with the power and communication afforded by our technologies, and with Humanity’s future at stake, can we afford not to be brave?

Founders and Coders – Tech for Better, Second Cohort

Founders and Coders – Tech for Better, Second Cohort

Founders Oliver Smith-Wellnitz and Kristina Jaggard with Haneen Shahwah and Ali Haj Ahmed

Intersticia is thrilled to announce our second cohort of Tech for Better Coders in partnership with Founders and Coders (UK) and Gaza Sky Geeks.

This builds on the very successful first round which resulted in the creation of the Yalla Co-Operative providing ongoing opportunities for the team from our first cohort to continue their collaboration in a commercial environment building real products and services.

Our second cohort consists of two London coders who will work on three sprints over three months helping to develop Tech for Good projects.  They will be complemented by six Gaza coders who will work in pairs for one month each.

The Course Faciliator is Charlie la Fosse.

London Coders – Second Cohort, 2019

Oliver Smith-Wellnitz – Graduate Coder

Oliver Smith-Wellnitz is an Australian-born international Circus Artist turned Web Developer. After spending twelve years training, performing, and teaching as a trapeze and hula hoop artist, Oliver turned to coding as a means of finding not only more stability, but also opportunities to make a meaningful impact with his work. Founders and Coders, with their peer-driven and community-oriented structure, offered the perfect opportunity to achieve these goals, and Oliver was quick to accept when offered the chance. He is extremely excited to be able to take advantage of the skills learned throughout the course and apply them to projects for Tech For Better clients.

Kristina-Talisa Jaggard – Graduate Coder

Coming from a background in visual art, Kristina-Talisa Jaggard developed an interest in programming after being introduced to web design through her job within the charity sector. Noting a disparity in online accessibility for those with disabilities, Kristina decided to learn to programme for herself. It was the core values of social impact, inclusion and cooperation that drew Kristina specifically to the Founders and Coders course.  Kristina applied to the subsequent Founders Program because she wished to continue to develop her programming skills while working on real-world projects that push for a more inclusive World Wide Web.

Gaza Coders – Second Cohort, 2019

Haneen Shahwan – Graduate Coder

Haneen Shahwan is a software engineer who graduated from Gaza Sky Geeks Coding Bootcamp in 2016.  She worked in the management field for one year then decided to return programming.  Code Academy has challenged her and helped her develop her software engineering skills together with her skills in systems analysis, and her English and communication skills.  She returns to Tech4Better so further develop the skills she began developing during the first round of projects.

Ali Haj Ahmed – Graduate Coder

Alis has a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics Engineering,from Al-Azhar University, Gaza.  He graduated in 2012 and joined the Business and Technology Incubator (BTI) at the Islamic University (Mobaderoon 2 project) before starting his own business in CNC Zone.  He then decided to learn programming and joined Gaza Sky Geeks in mid 2018.  He is keen to further develop his technical and communication skills as a team and community member.

We are very excited that our ongoing partnership is providing such fabulous experience for young coders, and for the opportunity to continue working cross-culturally between London and Gaza.

Founders and Coders Tech for Better

Founders and Coders Tech for Better

In November 2018 Intersticia UK began supporting the Founders and Coders Tech for Better programme.

The programme seeks to design, test and build new digital service ideas using developers in London and Gaza which not only gives the opportunity for graduate coders to gain experience working on real, needs based client projects, but also for those clients to take their initial ideas and turn them in to a testable pilot service.

Founders and Coders aim to encourage and develop diversity in coding, focusing not only on the coding itself, but on the entrepreneurship and community building.  They seek to be an early stage incubator and accelerator for Tech for Good through actively providing education and experience, as opposed to Venture Capitalists who provide funding.  It is very hard to build a business model through the learning process itself, and therefore F&C are encouraging graduates to work on real projects aims to draw key lessons from early stage projects, as well as develop intercultural skills and team processes.

This is precisely why Intersticia is supporting the Tech for Better programme, to both enable the development of prototype services that will have social benefit, and to support the graduate coders in working on real challenges.  In addition the cross-cultural learning between London and Gaza is a unique learning experience for everyone.

Finally, Intersticia is keen to work with Founders and Coders and their graduates to help develop much more of a contextually driven social conscious around the business of building technology.  By bringing coders from different cultural backgrounds together in a deliberate way the participants have to learn to understand differing viewpoints, value frameworks and norms of acceptability in the work that they do.  We will work with them to further consider the ethical and moral questions that underpin their work, and interrogate the business models that accompany and support any technology solution.

This is just our first group of graduates and we are excited about the potential they have to truly become better leaders through the work that they do.

Our sincere thanks to Dan Sofer for inviting us to be a part of the team, and to Jo Kerr for her ongoing participation as one of our Intersticia Fellows.

Tech for Better projects 2018 – see Connect 5, My Pickle and Nightingale

Connect 5 is a UK-wide mental health promotion training programme developed from a unique collaboration between Public Health England (PHE) & Health Education England (HEE). It is designed to increase the confidence and core skills of front line staff so that they can be more effective in having conversations about mental health and well-being, help people to manage mental health problems and increase their resilience and mental well-being through positive changes.

Connect 5’s system is highly reliant on ongoing monitoring activities to ensure trainings are effective, and one crucial element is to collect and evaluate participant’s feedback. After each training session participants are supposed to fill out a survey form and this process can be cumbersome and difficult.  The Connect 5 App aims to tackle this by creating a tool that focuses primarily on trainers to easily share survey forms with course participants and to collect results. Moreover the App shows and visualises individual and overall average survey results.  Finally trainers can export and download all of their results. Using the app Connect 5 trainers can gain insights about their teaching outcomes over time.

My Pickle is a new social enterprise platform that helps people find support and in doing so, funds are raised to help more people access the services they need & support VCS services.  Cat Divers’ (My Pickle 5 Founder and Product Owner) basic aim was to create a platform related to integrated wellness which addresses multiple health & well-being factors rather than a single issue. It is an holistic, person-centred approach and uses a combination of services, activities & technologies across all eight dimensions of wellness.  The objective was to help My Pickle develop to become a Minimum Viable Product.

Nightingale is an innovative analytical software tool for the early identification of mental health and wellbeing concerns in schools.

2018 Tech for Better Graduates London

Course Facilitator:  Michael Watts

Michael is the course facilitator for FAC15, who started their cohort on 29th October. In previous lives he has been a musician and teacher, and discovered his love for coding through teaching coding to children using Scratch. He was drawn to Founders & Coders as a place to train because of the emphasis on social impact projects and is now overseeing the Tech For Better programme to help develop it into a consistent and sustainable pipeline of meaningful projects for students in London and in Gaza.

Graduate Programmer:  Simon Dupree

Simon comes from Berlin, Germany. Having studied politics, economics and natural resource management he has determined work towards improving social and environmental conditions through the use of technology.

“Having recently graduated from Founders and Coders I am very eager to use my software development skills within the Tech for Better programme. I am sure that together we can make huge impact and I am very excited about the chance to work together with like minded developers in Gaza and the UK.“

Graduate Coder:  Joe Friel

Joe worked in media and digital advertising where he helped build the children’s radio station, Fun Kids, into a national award-winning brand and set up an influencer marketing division for one of the UK’s leading advertising agencies. Having spent most of his career working where technology and young people intersect, Joe is keen to develop technology in a responsible way that will help drive positive, sustainable change. 
“Tech for Better is a truly unique and fantastic opportunity that connects like-minded developers – across the UK and Gaza – with people looking to address important social issues, to bring to life solutions through technology that can deliver real impact. I am so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of Tech for Better and help it to continue to grow so we can help many more non-profits in the future.“

A major outcome of the Tech For Better programme thus far is that five of the coders (Michael, Simon, Jo, Ramy and Asala) have formed a Co-Operative to take their collaboration further as The Yalla Co-Operative.

2018 Tech for Better Graduates Gaza

Gaza Sky Geeks is the leading co-working space, pre-seed accelerator, and technology education hub in Gaza which brings together online freelancers, outsourcers, and startup founders together under one roof.  It is one of the most women-inclusive startup communities in the world (42% of the community is female) and was founded in 2011 in partnership with Google and the international NGO Mercy Corps.

Graduate Coder – Connect 5 – Ramy Shurafa

Ramy was born in Gaza-Palestine. and attended Islamic University – Gaza where he studied Science and then both Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering.  He graduated as a Civil Engineer and then received the Surveying and GIS Diploma before working as an engineer.
“I applied to work on Tech for Better so that I can have the opportunity to improve my technical skills. Working with remote clients and remote developers are invaluable experiences that will allow me to see how other developers think and to learn new techniques.“

Graduate Coder – Connect 5 – Marwa Jomaa

Marwa is from Gaza and having graduated from the fourth cohort Code Academy is now a Javascript web developer working on community projects.
“The thing that made me like programming is that it doesn’t believe in boundaries and constraints, while it enables me from home to communicate with people from different parts of the world, and this is my dream, which I found in Tech for better, where I can communicate and work with talented developers and clients remotely, share ideas and do great work as if we are in the same place. Also to have the chance to enhance my technical and communications skills, so I think I’m lucky to be a part of this community as I’m looking for working with such talented developers from the UK.“

Graduate Coder – My Pickle – Haneen Shahwan

Haneen studied software engineering before working in management and has returned to programming.  The experience of working on the Tech for Better programme has enabled her to focus on both her technical and communication skills, and to gain experience working remotely as part of the team where people think differently.
“So far the code academy is one of the most challenging things and the best experience for me. It’s really helped me to become a good software engineer because this experience is not just focusing on the technical side, but also involves your (English) communications skills and how to analyze any system.  GSG encouraged me join to Tech for Better to learn more and know how different developers are thinking. It also created the first remote client experiences and also supports me to build my portfolio.”

Graduate Coder – My Pickle – Ismail Al-Salehail

Ismail attend Al-Azhar University-Gaza, initially studying software engineering before moving to computer science in the third year.  Ismail is excited by the challenge and reward of writing code and building something to solve problems and brings this to work on new projects and enhance his technical and communication skills.
“The main thing that makes me love programming are the challenges and the competition that faced me when trying first how to learn to programme. After I finished university and learned the basics of programming I felt that it is not enough for me to reach my goals. Friends advised me to come to GazaSkyGeeks and join their program and being a part of the Founders and Coders community. It was the most amazing thing in my life. It’s a great community and they are a great people.  Joining Tech for Better was an amazing opportunity to learn new things and also to meet great people from the community and clients in London.”

Graduate Coder – Nightingale – Asala Kamal

Asala is a 2018 graduate of E-business management from Khan Younis Training College, and part of the 5th cohort of the Gaza Sky Geeks Coding Academy.
“My top interest in work and learning is work in teams, faced challenges, work in complex projects which offer opportunities for gaining new experiences and have fun ?. So, I applied to work on Tech for Better so that I can have the opportunity to improve my technical skills. Working with remote clients and remote developers are height experiences that will allow me to see how other developers think and to learn new techniques. I also thrive on challenge. I am motivated about new challenges and tasks and always attempt to take original approaches to achieve success in all project..”
Leading in the Age of Cognition

Leading in the Age of Cognition

“Knowledge is power. To scrutinize others while avoiding scrutiny oneself is one of the most important forms of power.” (Frank Pasquale, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information)

Recently I joined Tris Lumley and Baillie Aaron at New Philanthropy Capital’s Ignites Conference to talk about data. What was pleasing was that we had a room full of people genuinely interested in having a mature and robust conversation about data and it’s context, and that throughout the conference digital and technology pervaded. As Fran Perrin commented these issues which digital technologies raise are now becoming mainstream, and finally people are beginning to focus less on the technology and more on the skills, knowledge and resources that people need in order to work within the digital space.

I believe that we have now moved past the ‘digital’ age and we are entering the Age of Cognition, the age where everyone and everything, is rapidly being connected in to a Global Societal Mind, the ultimate Social Machine, where data is coming from all sources, not just digital.  In December of this year a group of luminaries within the Internet/Web Worlds is coming together to celebrate the point in time where 50% of humanity is now online.  As with all technologies there is a Faustian Bargain – whilst connectivity brings access to information, resources, communities and networks, underpinned by a disconnection to geography and place, it also brings forth challenges to individual privacy and liberty as the price to pay for security.  The original vision of those who built the internet and the Web was to bring global connectivity to all humanity, but the consequences are only just beginning to be understood.

Amidst all of this progress the focus on the Machine is paramount, but what of the humans in this machine, and particularly those who lack the personal power and resources to push back and create some personal boundaries?  To me this is this is why the Charity Sector and the practice of Philanthropy is so very important.

In May of this year I spoke at the Quilter Cheviot Charity Seminar (see my interview https://vimeo.com/276237074) and there were four key points that I made concerning our Sector:

  1. we need to recognise and appreciate how important we are, and the power that we have to represent the human in the digital age
  2. we need to be beneficiary, not funder, driven – we need to focus on the human needs of those we seek to help
  3. we need to lead the regulation rather than let the regulation lead us, precisely because we are beneficiary driven, and
  4. we need to embrace the emerging world of data as a positive challenge, not something to be afraid of, but rather something to harness but also to understand.

Phil-anthropy quite literally means “love” of “Man” and is traditionally interpreted as meaning the desire to promote the well-being of others through the giving of alms, or money to good causes.

As I see it the cause of humanity is the most important we currently have, in both the short and long term, and the three key challenges facing our very existence – which include Climate Change, Nuclear War and the rise of Artificial Intelligence – are those which should be just as important as the more immediate ones relating to everyday life.

Throughout history technology has been harnessed to address societal challenges, and in the 2000’s it was digital media that began to determine societal systems and processes.  It changed business models, it changed expectations and provided hope for a better way to govern our societies.  Many felt that by making information more open and accessible the power imbalance between the government and the governed would be redressed (see the Power of Information Report) and many governments professed to embrace the principles of the Open Data movement which sought to provide Transparency, Participation and Collaboration as a path to more open and accountable government. (For more on this see https://www.finance.gov.au/blog/2010/07/16/declaration-open-government/, https://opengovdata.org/ 8 Principles and https://www.opengovpartnership.org/open-government-declaration).

The promise of open data resulted in whole bureaucratic processes changing in the rush to publish public data, but sadly much of it was published in a way that was relatively useless (see the 2016 Open Data Report) where there developed a focus on the collection of data for its own sake, “just in case”, because one day, as our technologies become smarter and more powerful, the data collected would potentially be useful.

Underpinning all of this was the thinking that

What gets measured gets managed. (Peter Drucker)

If we could only gather all the data, measure everything that we can, and then apply smart algorithms and increasing processing and storage power, we could more effectively understand the world around us and solve the problems we face.

But do we all want to be managed?  Where do we draw the line between privacy and security, between freedom and control, between dignity and insignificance, or perhaps irrelevance?

If Philanthropy has any role to play in the Age of Cognition it is, in my opinion, to fight to maintain the rights of human beings to retain their dignity, to recognise their value, and to maintain their sovereignty.

The more I have thought about this over the past couple of months the more the word Sovereignty keeps resonating in my mind.

Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. 

Historically we have thought of the word in terms of nation states or kingdoms, but as the individual becomes both more empowered and more measured it is the dynamic between the individual (in the libertarian sense) and the individual as a cog in the wheel of the Social Machine that for me is the central issue which will determine the lives of each and every one of us.

So, as we increasingly become more and more an integral part of the Social Machine how do we slow things down and take the time to think about how we design our systems – of government, society and community – to ensure both human dignity, but also human sovereignty?

In a very early Web 2.0 Conference Professor Genevieve Bell asked

What if we designed for data the way we design for people?

This question is the most important of our age, and as Bailley talked about her work in prisons, and the rising awareness of the value of personal data, the need for everyone – but particularly those working in the Charity Sector – to understand that link between data and these fundamental human values is crucial.

At a Royal Institution event I heard Professor Gina Neff make no bones about the fact that Artificial Intelligence is becoming social infrastructure.  The values baked in to the algorithms and operating systems that underpin our societies will determine how authority is given, taken and utilised in the digitally mediated world.

It will determine who we are, how we live and how we treat each other.

We cannot sit idly by and allow corporations and governments to determine these values, it is our sector, with our focus on our fellow human beings, that must take the lead and put true phil-anthropy first.

In my next post I will explore in more detail some ideas for precisely how the Philanthropic sector can take on this leadership.

Leadership for the 21st Century

Leadership for the 21st Century

When everyone agrees on where the future is headed – especially when that destination is so far from our current reality – that’s not a sign of inevitability; it’s a sign that people have stopped thinking.  A good time, perhaps, to hike out to some awkward, sideways headland where we can look things over from a contrary angle.  (Lee Simons, Wired)

Last week I was hugely privileged to attend the Harvard Kennedy School to participate in their Leadership for the 21st Century programme, Chaos, Conflict and Courage.

I have long wanted to attend a Kennedy School course, particularly as ANZSOG (with whom I taught and researched for a number of years) follows the Harvard pedagogy, with the intimate format, case-based analysis, and working groups.  The course was facilitated by Dr Tim O’Brien, himself a Harvard Alumni, who very ably crafted a safe learning space within which the 77 of us were able to both get to know each other as individuals, as well as to understand ourselves a little better.

The course builds on the Adaptive Leadership model developed by Professor Ronald Heifetz which articulates the difference between technical problems and adaptive challenges, and from there describes a set of strategies, tools and tactics to address each.  It also incorporates numerous elements of the Tavistock Institute’s Group Relations to enable individuals to understand their respective roles within the a broader organisational system, both in smaller teams and the plenary.

Four external presenters were brought in, each with their own unique perspectives drawn from the world of experience:  Farayi Chipungu described her consulting experience with McKinsey; Dr Donna Hicks shared her work based on leading with dignity; Shannon McAuliffe told the story of her work with Roca Inc, and Hugh O’Doherty took us on a journey through the work he has done in peace negotiations globally.

I went to Harvard to soak up the experience of attending one of the world’s leading academic institutions, but also to learn as much as I could from every source that presented itself – the facilitators and presenters, my fellow classmates (one of who was Negar Tayyar, our first Intersticia Leadership Scholar), and of course, myself.

There was much I found extremely familiar about the course – how it was taught, the framing of exercises, the use of cases, and the exploration of individual as well as broader human issues.  What made the Harvard experience special were two things:  firstly, the calibre of highly intelligent, self-motivated and senior people from all walks of life and virtually every continent around the world; and, secondly the very safe container that Tim O’Brien created and held for us all to work in over the course of the five days.

As we explored the concept of Adaptive Leadership people gradually disconnected from their daily work roles and began to more reflectively explore themselves as leaders – they began to move from the dance to the balcony – one of my favourite coaching phrases!  With this came the ability to unpack and more fully understand both the context and any personal stuck issues.

Each person had their own Aha! moment last week, some more profound than others, but regardless of how far along the personal learning journey each of us were, there were salient lessons for everyone as a 21C Leader.

Most people were from the public sector, but there were a number from the Third Sector, which, as I have written in numerous posts, I believe to crucial in championing the human in the world at the moment.  Regardless, everyone was struggling with the complexity of the world around them, and the need for adaptability, agility and improvisation.  This is where Adaptive Leadership comes in to its own, and where the skills taught at courses like this will be invaluable to all leaders.

However, as with so much of any education in the leadership space, and particularly for senior people, there was only a passing mention of technology (including data and digital) in its own right, let alone the socio-technical challenges which underpin so much of what is happening in the digital age.

As I found at ANZSOG this seems to stem from two things:

  1. there seems to be a tendency to regard technology issues as separate from the human and social issues, or at least secondary in some way; and
  2. many academics who teach leadership (and indeed most of the social-sciences) are ill equipped to address the socio-technical issues because they do not themselves understand them, at least this has been my experience up to date.

This is not a criticism, in fact it is a challenge, but one that needs to be addressed immediately.

Whilst we are focusing on giving the next generation the skills for tomorrow it is just as, if not more important, to help the leaders of today who are too often focusing on industrial age problems, often missing, or neglecting, the techtonic shifts that are happening underneath them.  All industries, businesses and enterprises are changing, but we don’t necessarily know what that change will mean, and the more we take time out to sit in some awkward sideways headland and reflect and think, the better equipped we will be to meet what is coming at us.

This is the core of our Web Science challenge and why Web Science, in itself, is crucially important, but also unique.  It is precisely because in Web Science we understand that

the Web is changing the World, and the World is changing the Web – we live in the age of the Social Machine where there are no boundaries between humans and our technologies.

As Marshall McLuhan said, way before the days of the ubiquitous internet and the Web,

We become what we behold.  We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.

Our tools and technologies are extensions of who and what we are, but most importantly

as the boundaries between our physical and digital existence increasingly blur, the need to understand, analyse and address the socio-technical challenges will be at the heart of the work of all leaders.

Therefore I believe that the first step for every 21C Leader – regardless of age or stage – is to much more proactively take it upon themselves to study the technologies which are now all around us, to understand where they have come from, and begin to articulate, or at least, explore, where they might be taking us.  I had hoped that Harvard might be a little more advanced in this, but sadly not.  They are not on their own however.

The second step for every 21C Leader follows on from what I wrote about in my last blog, and that is to figure out how to lead in new and different ways.  Much of this is about standing aside and allowing the Web Generation to take the lead, whilst mentoring, coaching and moderating with the benefit of wisdom and experience, and maintaining the authority that is so important.  In this they need to hold the space within which the important work needs to happen.

This is where I believe that Adaptive Leadership is ideally suited precisely because

  • it sees leadership as a practice not a position
  • it recognises that ongoing nature of the challenge of leading, not the problem
  • it differentiates between leadership and authority
  • it stresses the need to observe and interpret before any intervention
  • it recognises the fluidity and ongoing evolution of the systems within which it exists
  • it connects with purpose.

It also links to Robert Greenleaf’s ideas around moral authority and Servant Leadership.

Moral authority is another way to define servant leadership because it represents a reciprocal choice between leader and follower.  If the leader is principle centered, he or she will develop moral authority.  If the follower is principle centered, he or she will follow the leader.  In this sense, both leaders and followers are followers.  Why?  They follow truth. They follow natural law.  They follow principles.  They follow a common, agreed-upon vision.  They share values.  They grow to trust one another.

The Leadership for the 21C programme went a long way towards articulating how this moral authority can flow from the Adaptive Leadership framework, and the course was of great value in many other ways.

However,

I would like to challenge the Harvard Kennedy School to itself take the lead and by stepping in to their own authority recognise and integrate the Social Machine into all of their leadership courses, particularly this one.

In a world where we are continually being forced to assert our human values whilst we are bombarded by our screens the most important thing that any leader can do is to protect them with all of the moral authority they can muster, for all of our sakes.

June 2024
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

-->