An Ode to Optimism

Just sent a link by my mum to Ode Magazine and browsing around found the current issue includes a list of 25 optimists. They call them intelligent optimists, I would say they were practical optimists, but nevertheless they’re the kind of people who I think will pull us out of our current problems. The intro to the list is here.

Battlefront — meet Zuhal

For the last couple of months I’ve been mentoring Zuhal, a 17-year old Iraqi living in Baghdad as part of Channel 4’s Battlefront. Zuhal’s aim is to set up the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq and eventually bring them on tour to Europe and the US. She’s a phenomenal pianist and just an outright amazing person and it’s been a real pleasure working with my co-mentor Jamie Murray Wells to help her along the way.

The first step is to organise a Summer Academy in Northern Iraq next year. She’s already got the application forms out and people are applying to come. With the help of the fantastic Paul and Allegra all the pieces are slotting into place.

It’s going to take about £70,000 to run the Summer Academy and we’re just starting to fundraise for that. If you can help, do get in touch and you can watch the campaign unfold here.

Strange but wonderful

Great quote from Anna in her summing up of Social Innovation Camp.

Something strange happened: 80 individuals gave up their weekend to come and spend two days working with a bunch of people they’d most likely never met before for no real financial gain simply to take part in an unusual hybrid of collaboration and competition, working on things that were often way beyond their normal field of experience and pitching in in every way they could. It was an intense, tough, sometimes stressful, but often passionate, creative, humbling and inspiring two and a half days.

“Representative democracy was based on the idea that people are thick”

Us Now

I went along to see Us Now on Wednesday and I like it a lot — and not just because it’s got me in it!

The funny thing about being on camera is that you sometimes come out with things you didn’t know you were going to say. In Us Now I surprised myself when I said, “Representative democracy was based on the idea that people are thick. That’s just not the case.”

Now I do believe exactly that, but I’d never thought about it in that way until I said it. To be a bit more nuanced, I don’t believe that representative democracy is going to disappear but I do think it will change. It was one of the things I was trying to get across in the piece I wrote with Tom for the FT Magazine. The infrastructure of representative democracy, which in the UK is really political parties, is struggling far more than people recognise. I don’t think it would take much for any of the political parties to collapse very quickly because alternative ways of organising and financing are very close to having the same efficiency as parties.

As I say in the film I think the really interesting stuff will happen around the edges of government where people use digital tools to organise themselves to deliver services better than institutional government can. The film is full of examples of people doing just that.

I’m not sure what the plan is for distribution of the film but if you get a chance to see it, it’s well worth a watch.

Social Innovation Camp — The Revenge

Social Innovation Camp

Social Innovation Camp 2 was a roaring success. The winners were (drumroll please), Good Gym and in second place Useful Visitors — both fantastic projects. It was very close though. Any of the projects could have won — there was just an incredible level of talent and hard work over the weekend.

The whole thing was masterminded by the brilliant Anna Maybank and Katherine Hui. It’s so much more than “just another event” as anybody who has been will tell you and that’s because of all the hard work Anna and Katherine have put in. They make a fantastic team (even if one of them is photoshy).

Anna and Katee