Analogue leadership in a digital world

Imagine they held a war and nobody came …

Imagine they held a war and nobody came …

Photograph – looking over the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes, Israel

We cannot change the past, but the past can inspire us to campaign and change the future. (Julia Gillard)

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Jesus of Nazareth, The Beatitudes, King James Bible, Matthew 5:1-12 KJV).

I took this photo as I sat on the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Israel, in 2022 and pondered the words of Jesus of Nazareth. I felt deeply moved, but above all deeply saddened that the words he spoke at this place have been so ignored or deliberately manipulated by so many for so long in pursuit of their own agendas, and that his message has so often been used as an excuse for violence rather than peace.

So too with the words of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the Quran, man is called “khalifatullah”: Allah’s representative, His vicegerent, His responsible steward on Earth. … That man chose to accept the “trust” signifies that God has granted him free will. … Man is not free, however, to escape the consequences of his wrong choices, any more than the earth can escape the consequences of man’s constant misuse. (Barbara (Masumah) Helms).

As Barnaby Rogerson states in The House Divided it is a pity that throughout history the gap between the ideal example established by the Prophet(s) and the reality of political leadership has been a continuous tragedy.

I am writing this post as our Intersticia community gathers in London for the first of our Voice Workshops developed and facilitated by our Creative Fellow Jess Chambers.  Jess gave a great introduction at our 2023 Retreat and is following this up with both group and 1:1 sessions in London over the next month, for Intersticia, Founders and Coders and The Yalla Co-Operative.

Jess’s work is about

crafting a dynamic voice that completely and truly represents your dynamic thoughts and ideas. I believe that when we work with the voice, we are working with the whole person. (Jess Chambers)

Our hope for the programme is that as individuals our community will learn to trust, integrate, harness and amplify their voices in the work that they do, whilst simultaneously enabling them to craft a community voice for Intersticia and what it stands for.

With this in mind I am also beginning to prepare for our next Brave Conversations to be held in Stuttgart as a part of the 2024 ACM Web Science Conference.

I have been mulling over what the key themes to extract for the world in 2024 are, both for our Intersticia community and for Brave Conversations. Both our Intersticia work and that of Brave Conversations Stuttgart 2024 exist within the context of a world undergoing a confluence of social, political and technological change, perhaps the greatest confluence in recorded human history.

  • 2024 is the year which seems the most number of human beings participating in ‘democratic’ elections, something that has been described as an ‘election extravaganza’ (Reference)
  • Technology companies are releasing more and more powerful Large Language Models and Machine Learning systems and Intelligent Agents (Reference)
  • They are also rapidly developing and releasing new ways of interacting with technologies such as Augmented Reality (Reference)
  • Social Media companies are under increasing scrutiny by governments and regulatory authorities around online safety (Reference)
  • Progress on human longevity is becoming increasingly interesting with progress being made on the Science of Ageing (Reference)
  • It is hoped that renewable energy sources will achieve one third of global power generation in 2024 (Reference) particularly as the planet warms at an unprecedented rate (Reference).

Within all of these there is no one theme that is paramount, but it is the collision and convergence which is creating a pivotal moment for humanity – one in which we may either destroy life as we know it, or we may muddle through to embrace a Brave New World that is positive, or, something entirely unexpected may emerge.

History has shown that the success of homo sapiens has come about through collaboration, social intelligence and our preparedness to believe shared myths and stories (Harari 2015).  The power and influence of stories, and the voices that tell them, are often under-appreciated but they changed the path of history, and all too often resulted in the destruction of our environment and the desolation of landscapes, and the traumatisation and humiliation of human beings.  Whilst history does show that warfare has inspired, funded and progressed the human technological condition, it has also enslaved us because more often than not we have given in to our anger and aggression, we have allowed our primal reactions to dominate rather than to draw on our capacity for forgiveness and compassion.  We keep repeating the same mistakes and following the same patterns.

The definition of insanity is doing the same experiment and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

With this in mind one framework I have been pondering is that of the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, sometimes referred to as The Four Turnings. What intrigues me is to reflect on how human generations have been shaped by what they encounter in the key years of their development (their 20s) which then determines how they respond to major changes or crises that they meet later on.

For me as a Generation X (with a bit of ‘late Boomer’) what I find frustrating is that despite being armed with an unprecedented knowledge and understanding of a combination of history, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, sociology and politics, and supported by the growing power of artificial intelligence, we keep repeating the same mistakes that have rhymed throughout history:

  1. Dictators still think they are all-powerful and will defy history
  2. Democratic societies still don’t appreciate the fragility of their governance systems
  3. Religious leaders still exploit tribal differences to propel and further their own power and influence and political agendae.

History has told us that this often breeds results in the short term, but is usually destructive in the longer term.

Trying to foretell and influence the longer term is what Hari Seldon sought to do with his Psychohistory (the inspiration for, and basis of the Social Machine), which of course didn’t work.  This is perhaps because Seldon too succumbed to the arrogance, hubris and confidence that scientists always seem to bring to their own models, rather than drawing on sufficient humility to allow for Black Swans and the unexpected.

Carrying the past through collective memory and stories is crucial to our survival but it fails to serve us unless we heed all the lessons, good and bad, that our ancestors learned. Central to this is the power of forgiveness which is a powerful theme that permeates throughout human cultures:

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve Peace. (The Buddha)

Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass. (Confucius)

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  (Jesus of Nazareth, The New Testament, King James Version, Matthew 5:38 – 5:39)

Having a cross-cultural understanding to focus on what brings us together, rather than what pulls us apart is crucial in a world where people are increasingly moving.

As Edward Said said:

We need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together in far more interesting ways than any abridged or inauthentic mode of understanding can allow. … We need time and patient and sceptical inquiry, supported by faith in communities of interpretation that are difficult to sustain in a world demanding instant action and reaction.  (Edward Said, Orientalism)

As I consider the work of Intersticia as a group of people whom we have chosen deliberately to craft as global a community as possible, spanning across multiple generations, it seems that a key priority for us in 2024 is to harness the collective support and curiosity of the group experience whilst acknowledging and supporting the individual and cultural identity of our people.  As one of our Advisors Philip Hayton so astutely told me at the Leicester Conference in 2018 ‘this IS the work!”

If we can harness this to support each of our people individually whilst crafting a collective voice then our work will truly be transformational for us all and have a degree of impact beyond any one of us individually, and we can honour the trust that our Fellows have put in us to enable each of them to be the best person that they can be.  That is our hope.

We need to be able to sit in the interstice of forgiveness in order to break the cycle of madness or else we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and if so we will only have ourselves to blame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intersticia’s Decade in Review

Intersticia’s Decade in Review

The emerging generation is one of hope, awakened and will reboot the way we live – regenerate society as you gain voice, implicitly awakened choices (Professor Lisa Miller).

Yesterday our UK Trustee Louise Sibley and I attended the World Premier of “Lost Histories“, a show based on the family history of Biripi and Gamillaroi musician Troy Russell, created for Musica Viva Australia’s In-Schools Program.  Troy, together with  Leila Hamilton and Susie Bishop entertained a small group of families from all walks of Australian life as they visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales to celebrate the opening of it’s new Library and Archive as part of the Gallery’s opening of its’ major new development.

This project came about due to Zoë Cobden-Jewitt, now one of our Intersticia Advisors, with whom we started working on our very first Australian project with the Bell Shakespeare Company when they created their Writers’ Fellowship in 2015.

As I sat and listened to Troy, Leila and Susie explore the memory-box holding these Lost History stories I began to think about the stories within Intersticia that we have all created over the past decade.  It was at the end of 2012 after Sam, Lock and I had been to the UK in the Summer with my Aunt Joan Doughton (whom our Doughton Scholarship is in memory of) that I first began seriously exploring the concept of creating a family Foundation through which to undertake our philanthropic activities, and the Intersticia Foundation Australia became a reality on 23rd July 2023.  Intersticia UK became a Registered Charity on 7th January 2019.

The idea of being able to support younger people as they journey through life began when I was a student at Goodenough College in 1985, but this was further stimulated by a conversation I had with John O’Neil, founder of The Good Life, in 2016.  The Good Life evolved from the Aspen Institute, which was created to enable business leaders to take time out to discuss philosophy, ethics and literature as a key part of their own leadership journey. In 2006 two Aspen teachers – John O’Neil (ex AT&T) and Pete Thigpen (ex Levi Strauss) realised that the lessons of Aspen needed to be brought to the tech-leaders and community of Silicon Valley, and so they created Good Life.

When I visited John in Sausalito in 2016 we talked about how important it was for elders with resources to enable and empower emerging stewards and he challenged me to create a Fellowship – a group of people of like mind that I could support in the work that they do to make the world a better place.  This is what has guided our thinking throughout the past decade and has informed the people we have chosen and the organisations we work with.

Here is an overview of our major activities in that time.

2013:

2014

  • We began working with the Web Science Trust and in partnership with them developed Brave Conversations in March 2017.
  • We supported our second Rowland Scholar, Hamish Laing.

2015:

2016:

2017:

  • We created our first Leadership Scholarship with Negar Tayyar as the first recipient.
  • We created Brave Conversations held at the Australian National University in Canberra.  From this has evolved into Future Worlds Challenge.
  • We continued our partnership with Bell Shakespeare supporting Teresa Jakovich in their Education Programme.
  • We supported our fifth Rowland Scholar, Osheen Arora.
  • Bel Campbell worked as Intersticia’s Creative Director co-creating Brave Conversations and the development of Future Worlds Challenge and became our third Leadership Fellow.

2018:

  • We held our first Intersticia Fellowship Retreat at Goodenough College which ten Fellows, both Australian and UK Boards, which was facilitated by Sam Crock and John Urbano.
  • We began working with Founders and Coders and Gaza Sky Geeks to create the Founders Programme which supported eight FAC Graduates and fifteen GSG Graduates to work on Tech for Better projects. Our first Founder Fellows being Joe Friel.
  • We supported our sixth Rowland Scholar, Timothy Wong.
  • We welcomed Nick Byrne as our second Leadership Fellow.

2019:

2020:

  • The Covid 19 Pandemic hit the world severely curtailing travel and all social activities.
  • As part of our adaptation forced by the Covid19 Pandemic we created our Digital Gymnasia Series of workshops, initially run through Goodenough College aimed at their Alumni and Student communities, but run out more broadly in 2021
  • The Digital Gymnasia material was integrated in to the Founders and Coders Social Machine curriculum with the help of FAC Graduate Hannah Stewart.
  • We held our second Intersticia Fellowship Retreat online with 17 (seventeen) Fellows and 4 (four) advisors (Sam Crock, Marianne Darre, John Urbano, Louise Sibley and Dan Sofer).
  • We supported our eighth Rowland Scholar, Sean McDiarmid.
  • We supported our third Doughton Scholar, Marco Valerio.
  • Louise Sibley replaced Alison Irvine as a Trustee of Intersticia UK.
  • We welcomed Marianne Darre and Philip Hayton as Intersticia Advisors.
  • Jacquie Crock began working with Intersticia as our first Intern.
  • Doughton Fellow Berivan Esen became a Trustee of Intersticia UK.

2021:

  • For the first time we funded two concurrent Goodenough Scholars, Farahana Cajuste and Sergio Mutis.
  • We continued our work with Yalla through creating the Yalla Apprenticeship Programme which supported two GSG Graduates to work full time with Yalla for six months.  One is now a full time employee of Yalla.
  • We held our first hybrid Intersticia Fellowship Retreat with 8 (eight) UK Fellows and Advisors attending in person at Schumacher College, Devon, and 15 (fifteen) Fellows and Advisors attending via Zoom.
  • We began working with Abeer Abu Ghaith, Founder of MENA Alliances.
  • Leadership Fellow Nick Byrne joined the Intersticia Foundation Board.

2022:

  • We supported Gaza’s first Rock Band Osprey V with some funding towards sound and recording equipment. 
  • We delivered our first Brave Conversations to the Solstrand Leadership Programme, Norway.
  • We supported our second Newspeak Scholar, Ardavan Afshar.
  • We began supporting the development of a First Nations’ Ensemble through the Musica Viva Australia “In Schools Programme” resulting in “Lost Histories”created by Troy Russell.
  • We supported the development of a new theatrical performance “Darkness” with Five Eliza Street, Newtown, Sydney to be premiered in January 2023.
  • We supported our eleventh Rowland Scholar, Yujui Li.
  • Abeer Abu Ghaith became a Leadership Fellow.
  • We welcomed Hannah Stewart as Founder Fellow.
  • We welcomed Zöe Cobden-Jewitt as an Intersticia Advisor.

Reflecting on the last ten years it seems fitting that we close the decade by once again working with Zöe on a project in Australia whilst also exploring new initiatives globally as we have always done.

From the beginning our aspirations for Intersticia were always global.  Ten years on we have now achieved this working with a range of organisations and supporting a Fellowship of individuals from all walks of life who are all contributing to the crafting of the story of Intersticia.

I would like to thank each and every person who has been a part of this.

An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being (Bertrand Russell).

 

 

The Yalla Apprenticeship Programme

The Yalla Apprenticeship Programme

We began our partnership with Founders and Coders in November 2018 by supporting the Founders Programme.  The objective was to give Founders and Coders (FAC) and Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG) Graduates some practical industry experience as well as the opportunity to work on projects which had social impact.  Over two years Intersticia funded three cohorts of Founders each comprising two graduates from London over three months who worked with three teams of Gaza (one team per month) from the Gaza Sky Geeks Code Academy on Tech for Better projects.

One outcome of the Founders programme has been the creation of the Yalla Co-Operative, a start-up Web Design and Development Agency formed by Joe Friel, Simon Dupree and Ramy Al Shurafa, with Simon working in Berlin, Ramy in Gaza and Joe in London.  Our second Founders cohort, Kristina Jaggard and Oliver Smith-Wellnitz, acted as Class Co-Ordinators of FAC 18 and Kristina has now started working with Yalla in Berlin.

As we reflect on the programme and what we have achieved it is time to move to the next phase.

The Idea

In London Founders and Coders has recently been granted the status of a UK Registered Apprenticeship Training Organisation which means that in addition to the Coding Bootcamp FAC is in a position to work more closely with employers by providing on the job training as well as coding skills. (FAC has developed guidelines for their programme which can be found here.)

In early 2020 as Yalla were exploring how to further support their Gaza team the idea began to emerge of Yalla itself taking on Apprentices which would provide GSG Graduates with ‘on the job’ experience whilst also helping Yalla to grow as a business.

This very much fits in with Intersticia’s desire to deepening our connection with existing Fellows whist also strengthening our impact on the projects we undertake.  By continuing to invest in both the GSG Code Academy graduates as well as Yalla as an young start-up enterprise we can created a prototype programme which demonstrates the ability of a company to work collaboratively from both Europe and Gaza whilst also continuing to give opportunities to Palestinian graduates.

The idea is that Intersticia UK will fund Yalla to create such a programme whilst also drawing on GSG’s mentoring network, FAC’s support through logistics and administration, and Intersticia’s coaching and mentoring expertise.  Once developed and tested then Yalla and GSG can take the concept to other partners and employers around the world.

How it will work

As with most things Intersticia we are making it up as we go along – there is no tried and tested model for this, nor are there other examples we can draw lessons from.  Yalla is a rare entity in it’s UK-Europe-Gaza partnership structure and this would be no different, but that is why this is the perfect philanthrophic opportunity.

Yalla have crafted a very comprehensive plan for the Apprenticeship Programme which is now being refined and, as we proceed, will evolve as we all learn.

The primary aim of the programme is to provide two recent graduates from the Gaza programme to earn a living wage while also gaining experience in a real life agency and practicing the hard and soft skills that they’ll require for meaningful employment.

Secondary aims are:

  1. To provide many recent graduates with the experience of applying for their first employment opportunity within the field of Web Development
  2. To provide the opportunity of permanent employment to new graduates living in Gaza
  3. To support recent graduates in building the leadership skills that they need to work with clients either as a part of, or independently of, Yalla (soft skills, project management, confidence in spoken and written communication, experience in remote working)
  4. To support recent graduates in building solid portfolios that showcase their interests and strengths
  5. To provide recent graduates with a chance to acquaint themselves with the technical skills which are commonly used before moving on to billable work
  6. To build a sustainable apprenticeship programme that can eventually be promoted to other organisations

Our Founder Fellow Kristina Jaggard will act as the Programme Facilitator and the application and interview process will take place in April 2021 with the programme commencing in May 2021.

Intersticia’s role

As always Intersticia works in the space where things are ill-defined, a bit messy and always challenging – the space where all things are possible.  During our conversations with Yalla over the past two years it is apparent that they have sufficient technical skill to give the Apprentices their ongoing technical and business experience but there is much more we can offer in the area of coaching and help with the ‘soft skills’.  To this end we will be helping with the Interview process and then working with the Apprentices during the six months of their Apprenticeship.  In addition we have engaged Ahmed Elqattawi, an English/Business coach and mentor working with Gaza Sky Geeks and who served as my translator for Brave Conversations Gaza, to join the team as our Gaza based resource and advisor.

It has been an enormous privilege to work with FAC, GSG and Yalla over the past few years –  this new initiatives takes our work to the next level truly demonstrating the potential of a small, agile and innovative project to have broader implications whilst enabling and empowering individuals to change the world.

 

May 2024
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