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/

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..”
Intersticia UK – Registered Charity Number 1181435

Intersticia UK – Registered Charity Number 1181435

After months of hard work on the part of our Trustees, Fellows and wonderful legal team of Abbie Rumbold, Suhan Rajkumar and Darren Chin of Bates Wells Braithwaite – who have patiently shepherded us through the process – we are thrilled to announce that the Charity Commission has now determined that they are satisfied that Intersticia UK is established for charitable purposes only for the public benefit and ‘mankind’ in general.

Our objects are:

The advancement of education for the public benefit by:

  • Providing support and funding for the benefit of emerging leaders in their chosen fields of expertise, including in particular grants and scholarships for their tuition costs and/or their living costs;
  • Providing support and opportunities for emerging leaders to experience and develop leadership skills in the interstice between technology, culture and society by creating learning opportunities, including through the provision of access to  digital resources, conferences, retreats and workshops;
  • Promoting the development of digital literacy and leadership skills, including through public events such as conferences and workshops.

For the purpose of this Article 2, ‘emerging  leaders’ means individuals aged 18 – 40 with leadership experience or an ambition to gain experience in leadership, including without limitation postgraduate students attending universities.

We will fulfil our object by:

  • Making grants to individuals
  • Making grants to organisations
  • Providing services, advocacy, advice and information
  • Sponsoring or undertaking research
  • Acting as an umbrella or Resource body
  • Identifying and undertaking other charitable activities that help us achieve our objects.

A core part of this will be working globally as we continue to develop our Fellowship, our work with partners, and our Brave Conversations global footprint.

A huge thank you from us to everyone involved and from me especially to Tris Lumley, Alison Irvine, Hamish Laing and Berivan Esen, all of whom shared the highs and lows of the experience along the way.

Now to put theory in to practice!

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.

Who represents the human in the digital age?

Who represents the human in the digital age?

A version of this was written for NPC’s “State of the Sector” report.

What do we mean by “digital”?

In his book The Code Economy [1] Philip E. Auerswald talks about the long history of humans developing code as a mechanism by which to create and regulate activities and markets. We have Codes of Practice, Ethical Codes, Building Codes, and Legal Codes, just to name a few. Each and every one of these is based on the data of human behaviour, and that data can now be collected, analysed, harvested and repurposed as never before through the application of intelligent machines which operate and are instructed by algorithms [2]. Anything that can be articulated as an algorithm – a self-contained sequence of actions to be performed – is now fertile ground for machine analysis, and increasingly machine activity.

So, what does this mean for us humans, who, are ourselves a conglomeration of DNA code [3]?

I have spent many years thinking about this. Not that long ago my friends and family tolerated my speculations with good humour, but a fair degree of skepticism. Now I run workshops for Boards and even my children are listening far more intently as people sense that the invasion of the Social Machine [4] is changing our relationship with such things as privacy [5] as well as with both ourselves and each other [6].

The Social Machine is the name given to the systems we have created which blur the lines between computational processes and human input, of which the World Wide Web is the largest and best known example. These smart machines [7] are increasingly pervading almost every aspect of human existence [8] and, in many ways, gettting to know us better than we know ourselves [9]. So who stands up for us humans and determines how society will harness and utilise the power of information technologies whilst ensuring that the human remains both relevant and important?

Thus far this has mainly been either those in academia, such as the Web Science [10] community who observe and seek to understand what is going on, or those in the commercial sector, who are driving the technological development [11]. Those who are charged with setting policy boundaries and enforcing regulation (our governments) are like rabbits in the headlights struggling to keep up [12].

I believe that there is a space in between which presents both the greatest need to promote the cause of humanity, and the greatest opportunity to challenge and call to account the current onslaught of technological progress and demand that it serves humanity rather than undermine it.

Philanthropy’s time has come!

Philanthropy can be defined as love of humanity (philanthropos tropos) expressed as the caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing of what it is to be human.

I have written [13] about Socrates’ concept of philanthropy and his desire to promote the welfare of others by wandering around talking to people, examining them as he examined himself. His goal was to help individual men and women understand themselves in order to live better lives and better serve their communities [14]. The more I have reflected on this the more I realise that the concept of philanthropy needs to be at the centre of everything if humanity is to both survive and thrive in the digitally driven world. Other players are seeking to speed things up, to rush towards a future that no one can predict [15], let alone understand [16], particularly as they are now creating machines that are capable of building themselves [17]. These technologies will be of enormous benefit to humanity if they are harnessed and utilised for good but someone has to stand up and demand that this is at the forefront of all technological design and creation, not an inconvenient afterthought.

In April of this year a group of people from all walks of life came together in Canberra, Australia, to have some Brave Conversations [18] around precisely these topics. Australian economist Nicholas Gruen presented his thoughts about what he sees as the disconnect between the arteries and capillaries [19] of government as a reflection of the more pervasive inequality within society. In essence what he highlighted was the inability of many of our existing systems to address the differing needs of human culture at different scales because the arteries (those dealing with policy) neither leverage nor understand what happens in the capillaries (service delivery at the coal face). As I listened to Nicholas I realised that this is precisely the space which those who have championed social change outside of the established systems of both business and government resulting in many of the great social reforms, have occupied. It is what philanthropy is all about.

Following last year’s Philanthropy Australia conference [20] I challenged the sector [21] to take the lead in occupying this middle ground. Instead of reacting to the social problems created by ecological strain and economic stratification (the two factors which have throughout history led to the collapse of all civilisations [22]) to stand up for the humans and proactively start to shape the value system which will determine how both government and business operates both now, and as the digital world evolves.

There are two ways that the sector can do this.

Firstly, by focusing on educating ourselves, and those with whom we work, about science and technology and the social impacts which are already emerging.

Secondly, by being ingenious about how we leverage our space in the interstice between the arteries and capillaries in order to create a legitimate, important and powerful role in championing the humans we serve.

Education as the hidden connections (Vaclav Havel)

The best place to start understanding the digital world is to begin to see the world, and all that it comprises, through the lens of data and information, now being rendered as a form of digital currency [23]. This links back to the earlier idea of Codes. Our activities, up until recently, were tacit and experiential, but now they are becoming increasingly explicit and quantified [24]. Where we go, whom we meet, what we say, what we do is all being registered, monitored and measured as long as we are connected to the digital infrastructure [25]. A new currency is emerging which is based on the world’s most valuable resource, data [26], and it is this currency that connects the arteries and capillaries, and reaches across all disciplines and fields of expertise. The kind of education that is required now is to be able to make connections [27] and to see the opportunities in the interstice.

The dominant players in this space thus far have been the large corporations and governments who have harnessed and exploited digital currencies for their own benefit, which Shoshana Zuboff describes as the Surveillance Economy [28]. But this data actually belongs to each and every human who generates it. As people begin to wake up to this we are gradually realising that this is what fuels the social currency [29] of entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation, and provides the legitimacy upon which trust is based [30]. Trust is an outcome of experiences and interactions, but governments and corporations have transactionalised their interactions with citizens and consumer through exploiting data and as a consequence have eroded the esteem with which they are held [31]. The more they try to garner greater insights through data and surveillance, the more they alienate the people they seek to reach [32].

If we are smart, as philanthropists, what we need to do is to understand the fundamentals of data as a currency and integrate this in to each and every interaction we have in order to create relationships with people which are based on the authenticity of purpose, supported by the data of proof. Yes, there have been some instances where the sector has not done as well as it could and betrayed that trust [33] but this only serves as a lesson as to how fragile the world of trust and legitimacy are, and how crucial it is that we define all that we do in terms of social outcomes and impact, however that is defined [34].

In his books Sapiens [35] and Homo Deus [36] Yuval Noah Harari describes the symbiotic relationship between humans and technology framed around the economic value of humans to society throughout history. His argument is that this has evolved from humans as hunter-gatherers, to farmers, soldiers, and, from the mid Twentieth Century, as consumers. Our role is currently to gobble up the fruits of industrialisation, pay our taxes and go from cradle to grave as cogs in the wheels of industry.

This is what the Luddites saw coming when they smashed the looms in the early 1800s [37]. Without necessarily seeing the world which would evolve they sensed the degradation of human-kind and they fought for social equality and fairness in the distribution of the benefits of science and technology to all. Their struggle is instructive [38] because they were amongst the first to experience technological displacement. Much of the current dialogue around the future of work and a Universal Basic Income [39] rests on these same issues because we are beginning to link wealth to meaning, rather than just productivity and ownership [40]. Notions of good work [41] are becoming important, as is the need to harness and leverage human creativity.

The power of ingenuity

Everyone these days wants to innovate and we have Innovation Labs popping up everywhere. My own personal opinion is that the real ideas don’t come from bean bags and refrigerators full of beer and mineral water, they come from the combination of necessity and invention, from ingenuity.

Ingenuity is about being clever, original, and inventive [42], and applying ideas to solve problems and meet challenges. Above all ingenuity includes a sense of imagination and play.

One of the ways we can become more ingenious is by imagining how the world around us could be, and nowhere is there more inspiration than in the world of Science Fiction.

Science fiction predicts the present, and inspires the future (Cory Doctorow)

Most of those who have invented the technologies around us have always been avid readers of Science fiction and we now live in a world that its writers have been dreaming up for centuries [43]. The technologies upon which we so increasingly rely have been sitting in the labs for decades, but what has happened is that they have coalesced and been let loose in the wilds of human society. It is not the technologies that determine what happens next, it is the humans, and, as far as Science Fiction is concerned I believe that we are approaching an event horizon [44], a point from which we can no longer see what lies beyond because we are reaching the limits of what we can imagine. This is what is being described as the Posthuman world [45]. Most people are flat out getting their heads around Transhumanism [46], let alone Posthumanism but things are changing very quickly.

As Futurist Gerd Leonhard says [47]

Never in human history has the present been so temporary.

Whatever the future holds for us is being determined right now, and this means that we need to ensure that we learn as much from the past as we can while we still remember it. Alexander Rose, Executive Director of the Long Now Foundation [48], believes that preserving the elements of what we value today is crucial in order to provide future generations with as many options and choices as possible [49].

A time for brave leadership

With all of this in mind the fundamental question facing each of us is what role do we want to play, and how do we steer our organisations through the disruptive times ahead, which people like Alibaba Founder Jack Ma believe are going to be very difficult [50].

I believe that the greatest contribution we can make is to focus firmly on the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries and become true Servant Leaders [51].  Those who are prepared to step up and lead the brave conversations that need to occur.

This requires taking a long hard look at how we run our lives, and ensuring that we take the time to step back and recalibrate, to focus on continuous, challenging and adaptive learning, and harness our imagination to become more ingenious.

As leaders we can not leave this to other people, it is the role that each and every one of us must take on ourselves, regardless of age, stage or position. Beyond any need for skills and capabilities what we need most is to put our humanity first and take on the philanthropic mantle.

Postscript – New Philanthropy Capital’s State of the Sector report [52] has highlighted that in terms of digital and data:

There is a limited understanding among charities of what digital and data can achieve. This is matched with an overconfidence about how advanced charities are in their use of digital. In a number of cases the more confident a leader was that their organisation was making the most of digital, the less well they seemed to understand the nature of digital and its benefits.

Endnotes

[1] Philip E. Auerswald The Code Economyhttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26720923-the-code-economy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm

[3] Key decisions around Human DNA editing – https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/human-genome-editing-who-gets-to-decide/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_machine

[5] Some thoughts around Privacy on the Web – http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Passcode/2015/0216/Web-privacy-is-the-newest-luxury-item-in-era-of-pervasive-tracking)

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_addict

[7] For a good over see Shoshana Zuboff’s Age of the Smart Machine – http://www.shoshanazuboff.com/new/books/in-the-age-of-the-smart-machine/

[8] https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/5/18/15655274/google-io-ai-everywhere

[9] http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/computers-using-digital-footprints-are-better-judges-of-personality-than-friends-and-family

[10] See Web Science Trust www.webscience.org

[11] See http://www.afr.com/technology/silicon-valley-has-too-much-power-20170515-gw4w58?eid=Email:nnn-16OMN00050-ret_newsl-membereng:nnn-06%2F09%2F2016-MarketWrap5PM-dom-business-nnn-afr-u&et_cid=29077909&et_rid=1925792216&Channel=Email&EmailTypeCode=&LinkName=http%3a%2f%2fwww.afr.com%2ftechnology%2fsilicon-valley-has-too-much-power-20170515-gw4w58%3feid%3dEmail%3annn-16OMN00050-ret_newsl-membereng%3annn-06%252F09%252F2016-MarketWrap5PM-dom-business-nnn-afr-u&Email_name=MW5-05-15&Day_Sent=15052017 and https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2017/04/25/the-information-landscape-how-do-we-tackle-the-problems-caused-by-silicon-valley/?informz=1

[12] Companies and governments need to get on board with data – Australian Financial Review 21st May, 2017

[13] http://intersticia.org/moving-towards-a-more-examined-world/

[14] http://intersticia.org/the-anthro-pocene-era-and-redefining-humanity/

[15] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/the-end-of-forecasting/

[16] https://aeon.co/ideas/science-has-outgrown-the-human-mind-and-its-limited-capacities

[17] https://futurism.com/googles-new-ai-is-better-at-creating-ai-than-the-companys-engineers/

[18] www.braveconversations.org

[19] http://www.themandarin.com.au/77680-governments-organic-structure-the-living-and-the-dead/

[20] Is Philanthropy Future Ready? http://www.philanthropy.org.au/conference/2016/intro/

[21] http://intersticia.org/the-future-readiness-of-philanthropy/

[22] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914000615 and

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170418-how-western-civilisation-could-collapse

[23] James Gleick wrote about this in The Information, https://www.theinformation.com/

[24] http://www.economist.com/node/21548493/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantified_Self

[25] One example is how Google is tracking not just advertising but shopping behaviours https://phys.org/news/2017-05-google-aims-online-ads-real-world.html

[26] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721656-data-economy-demands-new-approach-antitrust-rules-worlds-most-valuable-resource

[27] http://jarche.com/2012/03/innovation-is-about-making-connections/

[28] http://www.shoshanazuboff.com/new/recent-publications-and-interviews/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QwPHinDdOc

[29] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_currency

[30] I am indebted to Dr Simon Longstaff (http://www.ethics.org.au/about/our-people) for the articulation of the relationship between trust and legitimacy. I also explored this in my PhD research, more of which you can find out about at http://intersticia.org/evolution-of-the-digital-brand/)

[31] See Edelman Trust 2017 http://www.edelman.com/trust2017/

[32] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/18/in-europe-political-attitudes-are-changing-to-facebook?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+AUS+v1+-+AUS+morning+mail+callout&utm_term=226700&subid=8643697&CMP=ema_632

[33] See UK Report https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/532104/Public_trust_and_confidence_in_charities_2016.pdf)

[34] http://intersticia.org/philanthropy-in-the-quantified-age/

[35] http://www.ynharari.com/book/sapiens/

[36] http://www.ynharari.com/book/homo-deus/

[37] https://qz.com/968692/luddites-have-been-getting-a-bad-rap-for-200-years-but-turns-out-they-were-right/

[38] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/when-robots-take-jobs-remember-luddites-180961423/

[39] Anthony Painter, In Support of a Universal Basic Income, The RSA – https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2015/12/in-support-of-a-universal-basic-income–introducing-the-rsa-basic-income-model

[40] Jeremy Rifkin, A World Beyond Markets, The RSA – https://www.thersa.org/events/2014/04/a-world-beyond-markets

[41] Matthew Taylor, “Why we need to talk about Good Work”, The RSA. – https://medium.com/@thersa/why-we-need-to-talk-about-good-work-728d7d82877c

[42] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingenuity

[43] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/the-poetry-of-progress

[44] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Event_horizon

[45] https://rdmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/the-post-human-movement/

[46] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism

[47] http://www.futuristgerd.com/2017/05/16/new-film-by-futurist-gerd-leonhard-technology-vs-humanity-the-future-is-already-here/?utm_content=buffer64127&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[48] http://longnow.org/

[49] Interview at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nqc4j

[50] http://fortune.com/2017/04/24/alibaba-jack-ma-internet-economy/

[51] https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/

[52] http://www.thinknpc.org/publications/charities-taking-charge/

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