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)

news 1302

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.

Report: Mind the Generation Gaps

Generation Gaps: we always knew about the teenager / parents one but as we live longer and change faster how many more are opening up? Click here to see the report Thinking Tank – Generation Gaps

generation 1408s
From centenarians to baby boomers to millennials* – and whatever comes next – we have grown up with different needs and priorities. Eco-warrior or conscientious objector? Rationing or hedonism? Facebook or telegrams? It’s little wonder we don’t always see eye to eye.
In this Thinking Tank report we examine generation gaps. How can we live with them? Or even  turn them to our advantage? What examples have you come across where the outcome is richer and more relevant because of intergenerational involvement?
If you belong to a generation*, or you know someone who does, if you’ve ever wondered what on earth your teenage kids or elderly boss are talking about, then bring your thoughts and get some new ones. You might even change your mind about something.

* if you’re not sure which generation you are in, you can find out here

Click to see the report
     1408 cover
     Catherine Shovlin, Founder, The Thinking Tank

Report: Engaging Employees

According to recent research, If the average workforce were a basketball team, 2 people in the team would be trying to score, 2 would be actively sabotaging and the rest would just be standing around. Which of these are you? How does this lack of engagement or sense of purpose at work affect us and our teams? At what cost not just to the economy but to human spirit and wellbeing?

Read our short report and get thinking

report engagement 1406


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.


Download the more detailed report here: (coming soon)


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


  • 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.


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?

The F-word Apr 12

Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Active in the late 1700s, Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founding feminist philosophers. It’s been around as long as women, so what do we need feminism to do today? Or is it simply past its sell-by date?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think about feminism in 2012. Meanwhile tweet your views #tttfeminism

Here are a few points of view to get you thinking

@BillyBragg on physical equality: Anyone who believes that equality has been achieved and feminism no longer matters should listen to the women at #ididnotreport

@Pimpleye: I’m glad such a thing as feminism exists, it gives women something to occupy themselves with whilst the men do important stuff.

@Platform51: Our Woman of the Week is Fawzia Koofi, brave champion of feminism in Afghanistan.

@thenatfantastic: if you think you’re being ‘held back by feminism‘, chances are you are actually being held back by gross stupidity.

There is no shortage of strongly held views for and against, by both men and women. What are you thinking on this subject these days? Still work to be done? Time for a strategic repositioning? Wither feminism in 2012?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think

Post-capitalism? Where next 1 Mar 2012

Now it turns out the crock of gold at the rainbow wasn’t quite what we expected, there is much debate about where we go from here.

Let’s say we consider deBono’s approach of zero budget thinking. If nothing was already decided, what would we want our socio-economic model to look like?

That’s too big a question, so we reframed it. See the quick results here: ttt1203 quick report The New Capitalism

What does the new capitalism have to do for me? What do you want from it?

Bill Gates says Creative Capitalism is the answer…

This RSAnimate video might also help get us started…

Modern Rituals. 22 Dec 2011

In the December 2011 Thinking Tank we considered rituals and their role in modern society. Some of the discussion focused on Christmas preparations but we also considered marriage, funerals and other rituals. There was some dissent over what was a ritual and what was just a habit, but in general a triumph of personal meaning over social conformity. Just over 100 ideas were proposed and considered by the group. Here is a summary of what was shared

Espresso Summary: Top 5 (the most supported comments)

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Christmas feels like a big task. Not just the work involved (wrapping presents, preparing food etc) but also the ritualistic ways people behave at this time of year
  • Christmas is too commercial
  • Rituals don’t work when they too superficial – no time and no space to really pay attention to people

Latte Summary: when you have a bit more time


General view is that they can – and should – be personalised to increase their meaning

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Some of the old rituals appears as not mine, others are new and very welcome

There were less supported comments about the specifics of Christmas preparations – carols and family and gifts and food.


Benefits of rituals were contemplative: a time for reflection, pause for thought.  rather than anything to do with pomp and circumstance.

  • The positive side is that it creates space for family time, that it creates moments in the family history
  • Is almost a way to learn myself better, getting a deeper insight into myself
  • My marriage: although I don’t believe in God, I enjoyed the ritual.
  • a time to share

Opinion was divided on more mundane rituals – these comments became Synthetrons but also attracted negative scoring.

  • arriving home. Not just shuffling in and getting straight into the jobs but taking a moment to arrive, greet each other, be present
  • Having a cold shower after a family struggle – you are immediately nourished by fresh energy
  • The checkin and checkout of meetings: To get a sense of the feelings that are in the room, to see the development of the meeting, to get a closer feeling to what happens


There are potential downsides to rituals that the group were aware of, mostly around coercion and falseness:

  • when a ritual is felt more as a constraint rather than an event to look forward to
  • When the ritual itself becomes more important than its original intention
  • When everyone pretends

The group agreed on some strategies to avoid these risks

  • rituals must be considered as occasions – not obligations
  • Distinguish between personal rituals and traditional rituals. Maybe knowing our own reason for participating makes a difference too. It’s not the ritual that has meaning in itself, it is we who choose to bring it meaning (or just go through the emotions)


Ah. Let’s hope that we can all remember these wise words in our hearts during the Christmas and other seasonal festivities

  • a ritual that encourages me to think of the rhythm of life, the tides, the seasons, the births and deaths. Get a sense of perspective and stop obsessing about my own trivia
  • a ritual that encourages us to look within hearts and also at our global connectedness
  • A trueness-ritual … perhaps … like this: If I was born in Ohio, now i would be this, if i was born in Kabul, now i would be this, if I was born in ….
  • A ritual that includes time for deep reflection in a safe environment
  • pause to think about the meaning of what we do
  • It’s not about the stuff – or the stuffing! It’s about the meaning. I can choose for it to be meaningful or I can choose for it to be a chore. Right now I am hoping to have the presence of mind to choose meaningful.
  • Relax, be authentic, thoughtful of others

Full Summary

Click on this pdf file to see all the comments 1112 Rituals full report

Page 1 of 3123»

Join the debate

Email Marketing You Can Trust