Transforming Politics in the 21st Century 11 Jun 2015

I’ve just returned from a debate at the RSA on transforming politics in the UK. The resounding – and familiar – conclusion is that the adversarial party political system is so over. Fit for purpose 200 years ago it now woefully ignores advances in technology, citizen empowerment and expected standards of public service.

Click here to join the discussion on Thursday Jun 11th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

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Is it good enough?

While the expenses scandal of UK politicians may have been the last straw for UK voters, it is not the main underlying reason for a global trend of increasing disenchantment with democracy. Imagine if retail worked the same way. Every five years you got to pick one store that you would use for everything. It would be the only one you could use and you would have to buy everything it sold. Even if the day after you chose it there was a policy change and they now only sold GMO and processed food when you had voted for them because of their fresh vegetable selection. Or doubled the prices.  You wouldn’t stand for it would you? Nor would most of the other customers. There would be rioting on the streets. There would be outrage. People would take action.

How fascinating then that we have been successfully trained to put up with this sort of deal when it comes to something way more important. This is no longer just shopping at stake, this is our health, our education, our civic state. This is the way we treat criminals, the elderly, immigrants and each other. This is everything and yet our say is so minimal and so infrequent.

So what’s the alternative?

Having competing governments operating parallel systems like different brands of retail store could be tricky. But not entirely impossible. A worthwhile thought experiment at least just to work through some of the issues.

Another option would be a super coalition. A proportional representation so that Parliament roughly represents the preferences of the population and a Big Cheese is elected separately.

Or how about no politicians? Have people on charge of say, transport, who know about… Oh let’s say, transport. And then a serious process of derivative debate and research to agree strategies that maximise benefit for the population overall. That any of us could seek to be part of. Protected, of course, by some checks and balances to avoid vested interest ruling the roost.

Current status

Apparently there are more members of pressure group 38 than there are of any political party in the UK. That’s a good clue. When I explain the voting system to my teenage children I have so far failed to come up with any argument compelling enough to get them to vote (one because they say they know too little so can’t make an informed choice, the other because they live in a parallel world where authority has no value and little clout).

I am impressed that the Dutch government show a more open minded tendency. Ministers in various fields have held online citizen dialogues where the wisdom of the crowd is allowed to influence the outcome of the policy. A lot more subtle than another referendum and more representative than a town hall meeting with its attendant risk of being taken over by the loudest vested interest. See the road tax example here.

Next steps

They say we get the government we deserve. If the current system is good enough for you then fine. If not, then rather than moan about low citizen participation, let’s see what we can do about it. What’s your first step going to be?

I run an independent online dialogue forum called The Thinking Tank. Our next conversation will be about citizen engagement and how we shift from leaving  it all to top down politics towards more bottom up collaborative decision making where we all become part of the solution. Got a point of view? Let’s hear it. See you there on Jun 11th (add your name to our mailing list using the form on the right to make sure you get the right info about it)

Click here to join the discussion on Thursday Jun 11th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

 

Next debate: Sun Mar 8 International Women’s Day 2015

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

The original version of the film The Battle of the Sexes was made in 1914… and while it might sound anachronistic it seems we’re not done yet. The most likely person to kill a woman is still her partner. 44% of women in the UK experience sexual violence at some time in their lives. In recent research I have done with young men they talk of the difficulty of understanding and dealing with unfamiliar emotions of attachment and jealousy with little or no guidance. As well as the shocking figures there is a more subtle problem that society as a whole needs to address.

ttt1503 IWD

On this year’s International Women’s Day we invite both men and women to consider the dysfunctional dance we have created between us and what actions might take to address the root causes of this situation which is not serving either gender.

For a quick and witty round up of the facts, you might want to prep by reading Soroya Chemely‘s piece on the Huffington Post. “according to UN gender reports, women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income.

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

Or book your place with Eventbrite

Dive into the Thinking Tank today to share your insights and consider those of the diverse group of participants we have come to expect. for a short while today think freely about something that affects us all and let’s see where we can get together.You can share your views in advance on twitter #ttt.

Check out our report from the last debate on nationality.  The Thinking Tank Report Nationality 1412

The Thinking Tank debate on Nationality revealed this to be a complex and under-considered topic which requires a more proactive approach to make the most of the potential benefits and mitigate against leaving it to be hijacked by nationalism.

Report: What is nationality? Dec 2014

Nationality … what matters to you and why? How can we make it work for us?nationality Post Scottish referendum and with serious ongoing challenges in Ukraine, Syria and Palestine to name but a few, in this Thinking Tank we took an open minded, open hearted and challenging look at the concept of nationality and its value and price in modern society.

Maybe you are a Scot disappointed at the recent referendum. Or a New Zealander wondering about your new flag. Maybe you no longer identify with what your nation is doing, or maybe you have moved around the world and don’t quite belong where you are or where you used to be.

Read the report and find out what we concluded together about the risks and rewards of nationality and why we should be taking a more conscious stance. The Thinking Tank Report Nationality 1412   Dive into the Thinking Tank today to share your insights and consider those of the diverse group of participants we have come to expect. for a short while today think freely about something that affects us all and let’s see where we can get together.You can share your views in advance on twitter #ttt.

Pirates! Oct 18th, 2012

On Oct 18 we had conversations at two time slots to consider our relationship with piracy in 2012. Over 300 ideas and opinions were put forward and considered by the group with some key themes emerging.

LATTE REPORT

Download the more detailed report here: (coming soon)

ESPRESSO REPORT

These are the top statements that I tweeted immediately following the event (#tttpiracy):

Strongest statement (both groups)

  • Artists have a right to get money for what they produce

And conversely, the most opposed statement was

  • I think all music should be free for everybody

Other strong statements

In favour of piracy:

  • No major jail time for downloading or distributing music/ movies/ media

Anti middle men

  • I’d feel better about buying more music if I knew the money was going straight to the artist

Solutions:

  • On download sites they could put banners “why not get the legal version for $2?”
  • Micropayments… –> Bitcoin to the rescue!!!!!!
  • I would find it a lot easier to do the decent thing” [with pop up micropayments]
  • it is not about restoring the old market forces, but finding new ways for new channels to generate income to artists

 

Olympian values: RESULTS

As we neared the 2012 Olympics the Thinking Tank examined what the concept of Olympian has to do with those of us not participating. We considered the 3 Olympic values of respect, friendship and excellence.

ESPRESSO Report

Right after the discussion we tweet the top comments. Here they are:

Click on image

  • top tip for : fight against corruption more obviously
  • top tip for : give prizes beyond the competitions to the athletes with the “best” behaviour
  • Enjoy the games as much as possible, and celebrate successes
  • Friendship is important to make the world a ‘better’ place and is indeed based upon respect
  • the major world problems we have are conflicts, and respect for others is a panacea for conflict
  • [we need to increase] respect: for different people in different situations, having a open view
  • Athletes train a lifetime to excel in their disciplines and inspire many around the world as role models

Latte report

Afternoon Tea Report

Read everything here

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Jul 19 and let’s see how Olympian we are. Meanwhile tweet your views #tttolympian

So how might we apply Olympian values to other aspects of our lives? The Olympic Museum website describes the Olympic approach as:

A life philosophy — Promotion of three core values : excellence, friendship and respect.
  • According to Kimon Valskakis, Professor of Economics at the University of Montreal, Olympian philosophy is a good basis for moral capitalism.
  • Find out here which of the 12 Olympian gods/goddesses you are most like

On July 19th from 4pm (UK time, for 45 mins) we will be discussing if and how the Olympian tradition fits with our own lives.

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Jul 19 and let’s see how Olympian we are. Meanwhile tweet your views #tttolympian

Eventbrite - Thinking Tank debate: Are you Olympian?

Results from 21.07.2011 debate. The Murdoch Effect.

ESPRESSO SUMMARY

Power corrupts: we must all be vigilant and selective.

  • We need to get our information from different sources , always to balance and weigh  whatever comes our way

Watchwords: Governance, ownership, checks and balances, avoid concentration of power

  • In Latin America we also see a similar phenomenon with the media companies and their power

The clean up process: ugly but welcome

  • Personally I thought that anyway so I am glad that it has been exposed like this. There are many honourable police officers but also systemic corruption that needs to be rooted out.
We are all part of the problem or part of the solution
  • Good reminder that we all make many choices each day. Sometimes the choice is to do what’s convenient or to do what is right.. If we go with convenient we are each part of the problem.

FULL WORKS

Click on the pdf file to see the full list of synthetrons ordered by topic 1107 Murdoch Effect full report

4pm 21.07.2011 debate. The Murdoch Effect. Just desserts or Just a Blip?

Recent events in the UK have jeopardised Murdoch’s bid to control satellite TV. Relationships that have come to light between media, politicians and police have caused many questions to be asked. Click here to join us 4pm (UK time) July 21st.

In this month’s Thinking Tank we consider

  • Are these cosy arrangements inevitable or should we fight to expose them?
  • Does this decision signify a new era of transparency or is it just a one off?

Previous Thinking Tanks have often cited the media as the cause of the problem.

  • Is this a moment of truth for their role in our lives?
  • Or are they right when they blame consumers who buy the scandal and horror stories?

Don’t miss out. Have your say in this debate and let’s make the news for ourselves.

Click here to join us 4pm (UK time) July 21st.

Results: Is networking notworking?

Our June Thinking Tank reflected on the rights and wrongs and changing trends in networking – online and offline. More below…

Espresso summary

Online networking in particular is on balance seen more as a force for good, encouraging transparency, connectedness and egalitarianism.

  • benefits: Egypt
  • benefits: an online debate includes a much wider audience not just a handful behind closed doors
  • consequences: transparency will become a bigger issue. We must think about what we stand for and live with integrity
  • tools: certainly not Facebook. Too much info too easy to grab

Medium summary

USAGE: All participants network more now than 5 years ago, mostly much more. The additional networking is on-line though offline is still used – in a focused and contributory way.

  • online platforms are a great tools to get back in touch with people we somehow lost track of
  • more efficient use of my professional time, especially with respect to increased time pressure
  • Offline I am having more focussed conversations with people I largely know, making the most of relationships that are already solid

BEHAVIOUR: there is not a consensus on how personal behaviour changes online

  • I think I am more open, more human, online (SPLIT VOTE)
  • still weird to market yourselves almost as a product  this way (SPLIT VOTE)

TOOLS: most mentioned is LinkedIn. Feels safer and more professional for the group. Also useful for finding the right people to employ or collaborate with. Facebook seen as much more lightweight – entertainment and gossip, not serious business. Not much twitter yet for these senior managers.

  • those profiles on LinkedIn do help to stay in touch or to find people with specific qualifications
  • I find twitter the most efficient for developing contnections in a new sphere (SPLIT VOTE)

BENEFITS: The speed of communicating uncensored information has risks but is mostly seen as a benefit. There is a sense that conversations are more direct, fairer, more objective – more productive.

  • indeed there is much more social openness in groups on the net then in real life
  • Now an idea can gather support, be challenged, be improved, increase awareness and get implemented in a much shorter space of time
  • crowdsourcing to generate ideas in any possible fields
  • more people can participate.. it creates a new democratice force
  • you connect on the basis of shared needs / interests – which makes it easier to set a step towards ‘action’
  • more egalitarian in terms of rich/poor countries and individuals. Not just the CEOs and presidents who know the score.

RISKS: there is only half as much support for comments about risks – of course they exist, but they are not seen to be as important as the benefits. There was some concern of risk of fraud and manipulation but not widely supported.

  • lack of critical reflection
  • fragmentation of focus and shallow analysis
  • good people or organisations can get taken down by an online campaign that spreads like wildfire but is just malicious, not true

FUTURE: the majority think that online networking is a game changer and it will make a difference to how we work, how we present ourselves to the world and what we can achieve.

  • We are just a the beginning of learning how powerful we can be if we connect
  • Surprisingly it is in world of politics that we have witnessed impact the most so far, but this is very new, business will follow with some dramatic changes due to networking
  • Maybe the idea of work has to change to reconcile this! [networking/notworking]
  • I think we are in a new world: Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria are all examples of this new world.

And final word of advice from our posters to all our readers:

  • follow your values and don’t post crap

Grande summary

This pdf file contains all the 64 statements that made it to Synthetron (supported) status plus the results of the polls. Interesting to note that 36% of the Synthetrons were originally stated by the same participant – one of you has their finger on the pulse! 1106 The Thinking Tank Networking or Notworking full report

Thinking Tank on Crime and Punishment 17.02.2011

In this debate we took a broad look at the challenging area of crime and punishment. Considering reports of high correlations of those in prison and those with dyslexia, communications disorders, child abuse, sexual abuse etc, maybe it is time we reflected on how to address crime in a more integrated way – and we saw more empathy for criminals than the popular press might suggest.

For the first time we ran the discussion at two time slots – afternoon and evening (GMT) to see which worked best. Turn up at the evening slot was very low but we will try it again in the March 17 debate in case that is just a one-off. All the results below are based on the combined debates. All comments are verbatim and got support from at least a third of the group, those in bold had majority support.

Tough on crime and the causes of crime?

The overall attitude towards crime was split with about half the group on the “hang them” side of the spectrum and half on the “heal them” side. There were diverse views about the underlying causes of crime because of this diverse group of participants, but we did agree on:

  • lack of community
  • sadly enough it is often related to social factors, education, family life, role modelling.. moral values

The view that “there are really bad people out there” split the vote, but there was general agreement that putting all crime in one basket from shop lifting to murder was unhelpful. The Thinking Tank did not feel that it was reasonable to manage these through the same system.

  • I am more relaxed about petty crime.. the stolen PC etc is annoyance, but no infringement in my family’s physical safety
  • Though crime is always crime I think a clear classification of crime is needed. Also perhaps for really petty crime a better way of dealing with it.
  • eg just focus on violent crime / criminals

Criminals

There was a lot of debate about the possibility of pretty much anybody losing their path and becoming a criminal of some sort. Many did not see criminals as a different species. But there was not enough convergence on this view to generate strongly supported statements other than:

  • Criminals come in all ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc.
  • I’ve done massage for women prisoners. Very moving (and disturbing) that they are so unused to kindness

There was much more agreement on the positive aspects of criminals, particularly if they are reformed and prepared to communicate about their journeys:

  • There are some reformed criminals who make excellent mentors for younger people. They understand how it goes, on the right wavelength, high credibility and a strong message
  • indeed my son has been given info from an ex drug addict criminal and this has helped him
  • My decorator was an armed bank robber… now he works in the local community centre and tries to discourage young people from making the same choices that he made
  • Yes, I think there are examples in lots of communities where criminals have made a positive contribution to society.  In terms of peer education, many young people are more likely to listen and take heed from people who have experienced it themselves.  It’s much more meaningful and so if they can prevent even one other young person from following a life of crime then that is positive

But this wasn’t enough for everybody and these statements also got support:

  • I don’t like the hopelessness of giving up on people but I’m no softie either, I’m a mum of 2 kids … I agree with the comment re life should mean life … but for me that would be a lifetime’s worth of rehab I guess!
  • Although I can see many criminals as “victims”, I believe that their real victims are more entitled to attention and fair treatment – which is not trivial

What next?

Lastly we discussed ideas for useful action in this area – which focused on prevention and cure rather than punishment.

  • Rehabilitation through work: couldn’t prison sentences be turned into useful work ? Doesn’t have to be slavery …
  • “I have recently learned how poorly “re-entry” into society is managed. Criminals need to be welcomed back if they are to “”recover”” rather than be treated as outcasts – so they may as well reoffend.
  • If criminologists can use their skills to work out who committed a crime, or profile a likely murderer can they not use this insight to help prevent criminals before they are fully developed?

To see the full list of comments made contact Catherine Shovlin
Some Inspiration:
TED talk by Kiran Bedi – the female former Director General of the Indian Police Service who introduced education and meditation for all in one of India’s toughest prisons.
Lord Ramsbotham on startups not lockdowns
Life science in prison TED talk
Women in prison. Smart Justice video on youtube

Communicating Sustainability. Thinking Tank 21.11.09

There were clearly two camps in November’s Thinking Tank and many statements split the vote.

Some overlap though on the issues and the challenges – and the wordcloud below shows the importance of changing people’s minds through costs / taxation, making sustainability affordable and increasing impact of information via clear labelling.

The following two statements got the highest level of support:

  • Its easier to agree that “something should be done” than on what that something is or who should do it
  • It is a moment for inspiring leadership. If whole countries cannot get their act together then at least transition towns can lead the way. Then counties? States?

Maybe then the issue is not so much to agree on the technicalities (definition, scope etc) but to gather support for the concept. After all many broad ideas such as love, good citizenship, decency are not easily pinned down — but widely accepted and worth pursuing nonetheless.

30% of participants classified themselves as “mostly sustainable” or “activists”. The majority  self-classified as “I try to do my bit”.

Key Issues

Participants identified a set of conditions for effective action on sustainability

1. Clear up the confusion

  • I think the apathy is partly because people are unsure about what they should do
  • labelling that makes impact clear, tax to increase the cost of things that use up resources, and increasing general awareness

2. Improve the offer

  • make sustainable products look and feel like other products, same quality/same price/same comfort
  • Another seems to be to make it easier, more convenient, more fitting into normal life either at no cost or the same cost ( rather than charging extra)

There is recognition by some of this unrealistic position given current economic models. Non-sustainable products are artificially cheap as the true costs are not passed on to the consumer. Therefore penalties may be required to level the playing field.

3. Improve the motivation

  • better to motivate people and reward them for their good behaviour instead of punishing them

Divided opinions

The following comments split the group and may point to potential difficulties for getting sustainability across to the population as a whole.

1. Communicating sustainability

  • Most people just don’t think about tomorrow
  • It’s not that people don’t think about tomorrow, just  that we are busy getting through today
  • It’s just common sense. It’s the non-sustainable approach that has been imposed on us.
  • My kids respond best to the “Hole in the Sky” concept (their language not mine). They can see the sky. A hole would be scary. Easy to say to each other  “don’t do that or you’ll make the hole in the sky bigger”

2. The business of sustainability

  • Sustainability is big business for many, many consultants and advisers
  • Overcomplicated, elitist greenies making it too hard to understand

3. The economics of sustainability

  • At the moment, behaving unsustainably is “free at the point of purchase”. We could change that with a “damage tax”
  • Develop an i-phone app that keeps track of my ecofootprint, rewards me when I reduce it, makes cool suggestions etc

If you would like to see a full list of statements please email me

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