Fuck man it’s been a really mad week. The Wall Of Ideas marked a pretty massive landmark in the course of history for me/ChangeTheFuture… putting to the test a shit ton of theories about how democratic/cooperative processes could be in society; how we could be more creative with the ways we influence decisions that generally are made on our behalf by elite minority concentrations of power that fail to exploit the unimaginable collective intelligence of the people that they represent.
This is what reminds me of the power of this project: A group of people who don’t profess to have all the answers but are just up for playing with the concept that there might be better ways of shaping our communities (schools, orgs, cities, countries, etc) than we currently use today.
Looking at this photo I wonder what makes these beautiful humans feel like laboriously constructing a pretty huge & awkward wooden construction in the pissing rain, despite me starting to lose my heart in it, feeling like the odds are impossibly against us.
and this is what we created. Sure it’s only 2 fifths of the original wall that we designed and purchased and it cost £30 each of the 3 times that we relocated it, but I feel like it was a really bold and courageous effort to truly test the ChangeTheFuture process – finding out whether it actually made any sense to people and whether we’re starting to master that art of finding a balance between caging people into communicating/contributing in a very prescriptive, technical way that we’ve designed to be effective vs inviting completely free and open contributions any way that people feel inclined to make them.
In other news, we got kicked out of our office.
For loads of reasons – mostly around us using the place “as a workshop” once – the night we were finishing building the Wall Of Ideas. It’s a huge loss. At the same time, this project is all about valuing what we each bring to the table and using it to build a sense of belonging in our community, as we share ownership of it by shaping it together. At Prestamex House, we were forever treading on eggshells, feeling very much on someone else’s turf, not feeling valued for what we offer, and certainly not much being done to help foster any sense of belonging there.
On this messy work night, we had 1.5 hours sleep (me + molly; who has always been alongside me almost all the time I’ve been working on this wall the last week or so). I look at her name + number written in the blank space on our ChangeTheFuture business cards and feel a beautiful sense of this project being increasingly led by other people, which is more what inspires me than any single ultimate goal decided by me…rather it is the way we travel, than our destination.
I know that I’ll hold this project back if I try to maintain ownership over it more than anyone else.
I know that already I’ve been adamant about countless things and I’m so, so grateful that I was overruled by majority loads of times because I’ve been wrong about so many things, and I know I will always be wrong about some things. Liquid democracy (inspired by consensus based decision making) is definitely better than what I had envisaged before for example, and open sourcing the code and using decentralized technology is definitely the way to go, etc, etc
So yesterday, the wall went up at TedxBrighton. We saw again that it stands out as something new, disruptive but approachable, and instantly people see that it actively invites everyone’s ideas for improving things (in this case Brighton) and they quickly see we have a very particular way of facilitating this process, encouraging cooperation and co-creation in an interesting way. We got some really good contacts and leads. We’ll get more pictures up soon.
Basically, I want to step up now.
I know that this work is unbelievably important – people NEED to be able to not only start knowing what decisions are being made on their behalf every day, but also to have the opportunity to question those decisions and bring something to the problem solving process for the benefit of their own communities – in which they have a right to have an effective voice, rather than just being passengers completely excluded from decision making processes which today happen 99% behind closed doors.
Take a minute to stop and think about what you both know & care about most.
No one has ever lived your exact life, people may have had many similar experiences to you, but we understand our experiences based on previous experiences – it’s the inter-relationship between the different experiences and perspectives and disruptions throughout our lives that shape us and our unique insights in the world.
Some things I know & care about include democratic education, and young people, including vulnerable young people. I feel like my adventures across the world visiting all different kinds of schools including some of the most radical secondary schools that exist (in the western world at least) making documentaries about them for myself, and also for other organisations, working with the Woodcraft Folk, Sussex Nightstop, CHICKS, NSPCC, Inspir8, being a teaching assistant/technician in a big college, etc, etc – this experience is being wasted; very little opportunity is offered for me to bring any of this experience to the table in terms of making decisions about the national curriculum, regulations about fining parents for kids who truant, how bullying is handled in schools, how budgets for PRUs are managed, or how they even operate in the first place, etc, etc, etc – there are so many conversations that have little or no interface for me to offer any of my experience, wisdom, insight, questions… and that is why these decisions will continue suffering, and in turn so will the young people subjected to this arrogant and closed-minded authoritarian process of ill-informed governance and the wider community as a whole will have to deal with the consequences.
People have tried forever to appeal to these authoritarian structures to reform and create better ways to involve those who are actually impacted by their decisions. For every successful campaigner, there are 100 shouting in the wind, banging their heads against brick walls. This is the past.
The future is creating something new. Not some reform coming from inside existing structures of governance; for this is not a place any revolution will come, and what’s needed is nothing short of revolution – only this will not be overnight and in the news like the Occupy movement. This will creep like ivy, up the old, crumbling walls of the oligarchy. Each and every leaf winding its way through the oppressive brickwork and reaching toward the sun.
But this isn’t about the 99% vs the 1%.
“vs” is the past as well. A war will always have losers, just like any campaign with an ‘us and them approach’.
The ‘vs’ ideology is part of the crumbling foundations of campaigning; as outdated, arrogant and unresourceful as the power structures they seek to overthrow.
There will be no battle in our transition, or if there is, it’ll be inaudible, and in the shadows beneath the canopy we’re building together. Our numbers are not as important as our diversity.
ChangeTheFuture is a strategy recognising that the so called 1% is a very easy to label anonymous demographic – probably many of whom are my friends, many of whom are perhaps headteachers, councillors or CEOs of companies that simply believe they are meeting a demand, such as our unquenchable thirst for oil. If we are solve major systemic problems, we need to deeply understand these problems. If we are to deeply understand them, we must involve everyone, from every angle of the problem; especially those with whom we usually associate with least – for this is where we are most lacking in our insight and intimate understanding, and where it is most easy (and counter productive) to place blame.
It is a bully who has the answers to reducing bullying in the school.
Rather than punish them, we need to help them understand themselves.
We can create something new which inspires 100%. A goal or approach which attracts everyone, and even if it’s only the majority – at least at first – we know that blaming or punishing people for what some of us see as ‘bad behaviour’ is much less effective that encouraging (and facilitating) the behaviour we do want.
What companies (or specifically, the humans inside those companies) are behaving badly, right now, in your opinion?
When I got put into detention again and again in my first couple of schools, me and the other kids there did not sit and think about what we had done and suddenly draw inspiration out of thin air to change our ways. We thought about how much we fucking hated our school and the teachers and the lessons. And how we could carve something into the desk without getting seen. What inspired me out of this place was moving to a school that didn’t demonise me for my behaviour they discouraged, but rather they had the respect to offer me the time to explore what was missing from my life (perhaps even socially) -why was I not more inspired or equipped to be a positive contribution to my community? And how could they help me to fill this missing piece?
And in the end, this (9 grand a year, minus bursaries) democratic school, almost shut down several times (by a narrow-minded Ofsted who couldn’t get their head around the concept of non-compulsory lessons) didn’t have to do that much work on me in the mere 2 years I was there, to fill me with inspiration and ideas for how I could explore being happier and more empowered and play with creative ways to share that in my communities I lived, worked and played in as an adult.
In fact, tax payers currently spending £27,000+ a year for each kid in my old Pupil Referral Unit (a fraction of course, of boarding school units) can go to bed at night knowing this:
The kids I knew there were not getting the special help they needed from this government service, we were scared of getting bullied, terrified of looking scared. All the while learning to hate learning, and generally never developing passions or a sense of any real prospects in their life. We were living in the cracks between the floorboards, a safe distance from the well-behaved kids and teachers pets they’ve learned to despise for reasons they probably haven’t learned to understand or at least articulate.
I believe ChangeTheFuture will, before long, save costs in campaigning, change-making, council planning, meetings, protests & policing, health & education and countless other places, but it needs to be built first.
I know that this project growing and developing relies on us effectively problem-solving the challenge that our many keen volunteers are effectively held back from investing time in ChangeTheFuture because they have to so often put paid work first, to cover their rent.
This is why we decided we wanted to raise a few grand to pay people for their time. But rather than pay a salary and have some superior responsible for that employee, we thought the most open way to do this, in line with our values, would be to put a democratically decided ‘bounty’ on each task (using an efficient & fair process) and anyone is invited to put themselves forward to lead that task and get the bounty (perhaps usually between £5 and £30, but bigger tasks could offer much more)
This offers so many opportunities for people to earn money by being incredibly empowered through a cutting edge project pioneering exciting news ways to empower the wider community.
My focus continues to be mainly on introducing people to ChangeTheFuture, inspiring & equipping them to get involved and increasingly take ownership of it; while encouraging a healthy amount of criticism and questioning forever along the way.
Ask ChangeTheFuture anything: