Time to step this up, pay people and get real.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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%.

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“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.

people dont know their true power
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ask ChangeTheFuture anything:

https://trello.com/c/SZdZkAPD/6-click-here-to-add-a-new-question-about-absolutely-anything-vaguely-related-to-changethefuture

Moving on: Challenges & opportunities

I’m missing one of my best friend’s birthdays right now to write this. I’ll head there in a bit, I just want to get some thoughts down.

I’ve just had a really interesting meeting at Folk House – the offices of Woodcraft Folk (where I volunteer as a member of General Council, so I’m a trustee of the charity & a director of Woodcraft Folk ltd). In reality I basically do nothing, apart from criticise the way things work (even though I don’t understand them in the first place) and generally struggle to make sense of/express my frustration at how such a beautiful and inspiring organisation based on the value of cooperation fails so hard to be an example of good cooperation internally, and on a national scale. Probably not compared to most organisations, but compared to what I imagine in my mind, and what I need ChangeTheFuture to be (a truly effortlessly cooperative movement, incredibly engaging and easy to understand as both an outsider and more intricately as an insider – including all the nitty gritty challenges and tasks and resources – and ultimately really rewarding to invest time into).

Anyway, Jon (the secretary) and I had a great chat about web platforms & online tools designed to help groups to collaborate together (in ways much more focused and productive and democratic than email)…

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I did some initial research into… well, what I should & shouldn’t research into.
Then found this.
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To be honest, this is as far as I’ve got with the article right now – I just knew I wanted to share that (as a way of really recognizing this trait in myself; that I am more concerned with going about a task in the best possible way, than actually getting anything finished.)

I think it was a positive revelation for me, certainly a big one, and recent – that I am actually not a task-finisher. I am shockingly bad at actually finishing…anything.

My bedroom is half tidied, I’ve half-set up the attic to be a usable space, I’ve half-invested myself in multiple voluntary projects, and I’m in the middle of several video projects which I started years ago.

I did a poll at the end of my last blog, asking if there was anything in particular that people wanted to hear more about

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So there’s one of my biggest challenges, within both ChangeTheFuture and my personal life. Finishing anything.

There’s almost no chance that this blog post will be finished before I cycle to Kemptown for my friend’s birthday thing. I suppose the main reason being because I started it at the wrong time. Or that I started it at all.

This is why I want to make sure I put myself where I fit best; problem solving. Creatively identifying problems in this cooperative movement and helping solve them, in order to support other people actually finishing tasks. I’m a catalyst, not a completer. I think this feels right – that ChangeTheFuture needs me in this overview role, supporting everyone in what they’re each doing as best I can, without disappearing into any single task too long.

 

Enough self indulgent stuff – more about

Challenges & opportunities for ChangeTheFuture today in my mind (as always  in this blog)
Arguably the most important thing to think about with a project/anything you’re investing your energy into…

IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE:

  1. CHALLENGE: How can this project wake people up & organize them into super-productive cooperative action, before the actual CTF web platform even exists?
    People are SO used to just being passengers,
    not taking initiative, not asking questions, or becoming leaders, or spending more than 5 seconds doing 1 thing online, or believing that CTF is any different to the other 35,019 things out there that say “Look at me! I’m going to revolutionize everything and help fix your life!”
  2. OPPORTUNITY: An incredible opportunity has been created for me by the unbelievable generosity of my friends & family who have made it possible for me to put what I’m most passionate about above whatever pays my rent
    www.GoFundMe.com/ChangeTheFuture it blows my mind… because my rent is only ~£260 per month, I have a decent opportunity to deeply explore ways I can make it realistic for me to continue working full-time on ChangeTheFuture for the foreseeable future. People dream about this shit. Since the beginning of this month, I’m living it. For all the chaos of this project, it’s often daunting logistics and overwhelming ambition, there is already a magic about what’s happening here which is not accreditable to any single person.
  3. CHALLENGE: Working out what the best currently available tools are that we can use now for:
    • Democratically making decisions as a movement (eg. “What tool should we use to make democratic decisions?” – I could just decide Loomio on everyone’s behalf, and impose it on everyone, but as well as totally undermining the ChangeTheFuture values of Cooperation & Democracy, it’d be failing to exploit the ideas and expertise of everyone else, and it’s a really important thing to get right)
    • Cooperatively devising the values, vision and strategy of ChangeTheFuture, which will in turn lead to the above democratic decision making process, one we get more focused, developed ideas (basically we reach the Proposals stage)
    • Managing tasks (WHO is doing WHAT, by WHEN, HOW?) – pretty convinced Trello is the way of doing this (specially after our third(?) overhaul of how to layout the content…thing is you can set up Trello completely confusingly and uselessly, or in a way that’s incredibly productive, empowering and easy to make sense of – and accessibility is hugely important for a movement proactively striving to be open and interactive)
    trello 2
    Yay birds!
  4. OPPORTUNITY: Office.
    Being donated a free, enormous office by Centric Community Projects definitely helps. So thanks, a lot for that one. Just got the mobile internet router today so it’s finally ready to be a usable office. Hurrah!
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  5. CHALLENGE: Drink?
    Definitely getting a bit drawn into this idea that having a few drinks really helps me be productive (now is no exception). I want to get away from this story I tell myself because I love my body and want to respect it, and not develop any kind of dependency on something so stupid. Not sure if I’m over-reacting, but I think my relationship with booze has definitely changed a bit, perhaps become a bit of a vice, possibly slightly coinciding with my last break up. Should I give myself some slack if it doesn’t feel like I’m suffering any ill effects? or should I assume I’m heading in a scary direction?? I think I mainly feel like my brain is a fucking frenzied chaotic supernova of ideas and problem-solving cogs furiously grinding against one another, and a couple of drinks always seems to help slow me down a touch, so that I can remember to take a breath and focus and concentrate on one thing at a time (while the coke I always mix my rum with keeps me super awake for ages and on the ball..) How much worse than coffee is this?
    Not sure how obvious it is but that was definitely one I’d been keeping to myself until now.
  6. OPPORTUNITY: This blog.
    Finally an outlet for my brain, my heart. A place I can record and share my thoughts, which may or may not be of interest or use to others. For me, it’s what I didn’t realise I needed, in a project that is consuming my life (which I love) but I need to not be mine – where do my personal opinions belong in a project that by definition must be free of  opinions and bias? (lest the opinions attract some people more than others, thus failing to be truly representative of society, which creates a broken democracy.)
  7. CHALLENGE: Money.
    I’ve got several months’ rent covered through my crowdfunding campaign, which is nice, to say the least. What about everyone else? Jack Pasco (who actually I want to write about now) and others who’ve started to get serious about really stepping up and taking some ownnership over this awesome movement…how can I help to remove their rent as an obstacle in the way of them spending lots of time on ChangeTheFuture? Generally each hour spent on CTF is more valuable to the project than the last (in my experience) because people carry their insight and understanding of this really unusual and pretty pioneering project and apply it to every thought that passes through their brain.

So yesterday was pretty amazing.
My beautiful housemates Lula & Grace (both of whom I’ve recently coaxed into volunteering with Woodcraft Folk, as I’ve done since 2011) helped me run this week’s main activity – an interactive live demo of ChangeTheFuture, on paper! After several years theorizing over the best possible process for humans to cooperate together to come up with insightful, well-informed ideas for improving their schools, organisations, communities, countries and planet, this was I suppose, the first ever actual real-world implementation, putting it all into practice; albeit in a pretty simplified paper version, aimed at 8-10 year olds..
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Fern adding an ‘Argument FOR (benefit)’ for a solution (proposal) that she’s made, that addresses someone’s problem (challenge) they’ve identified.

Of course it was filmed by Jack (who is seemingly always contactable  (something I’m struggling with with Charlie at the moment, as the co-founder of this project, and in many ways, my go-to person for most super-important issues, questions, ideas, etc), super reliable and just really committed and so fun to be part of this project with.
When he’s past mad dissertations in a couple of weeks, we’ll have the first episode of the CTF story he’s making. So excited to see his perspective on the story unfolding.

I really felt like us 4 made a powerful unit this Thursday (with of course Maddy – who has taught me so much about young people, and people generally, through Woodcraft Folk – and Ruth, who is always there for our group) and I really felt part of something bigger than me again, just like I did at our office warming party when I came back to this circle of lovely people sat on the floor of this mad new office space I’d got us, all talking in depth about how some fascinating detail of the ChangeTheFuture platform would work… It had just been carrying on with out me. I could go home and tidy my bedroom or finish setting up the attic and ChangeTheFuture would still be moving forward cooperatively.

Use this poll to tell me what you’d be interested in me writing next:
facebook.com/lflegg

My hardest lesson Founding my life ambition project

When starting a social interest project based on the values of openness, transparency, cooperation and democracy, try to avoid embezzling £2,500 like I did.

 

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ChangeTheFuture   is my baby; it’s my life ambition project. It represents all of my biggest hopes and dreams and interests and is so vast as an idea, as a project, that it incorporates human psychology,  film making, branding, non violent communication, emergent web technologies, facilitation and space holding, political engagement, collaborating with new people and amazing organisations and going in incredible events. It’s an unimaginable privilege to be part of this project. I call it my baby but really I don’t want it to be mine. This would restrict it to my limited world view and insights collected over my single life; holding it back from truly harnessing collective intelligence. I am certain that when this web platform is online, it’ll be used to implement some proposals I think are terrible ideas, but I wouldn’t want it any other way, so long as everything that could’ve been done to help the people involved to educate and inform themselves took place in the process, and that ChangeTheFuture also facilitated the decision to made in a cooperative, accessible and truly democratic way. Luke Flegg and Charlie Shread

A thorn in my side throughout the last couple of years has been wrestling with how to deal with the squirming truth about this huge segment of our project budget… I’ve been hiding from to some extent, or at least avoiding – and more than I’d like to admit, the reason is because it’s desperately, painfully awkward. I’ve fucked up.

 

Since I stopped getting student loan I have been one of the most skint people I know. God knows how I earn so little money. Doing several voluntary jobs (www.lukeflegg.co.uk) will be part of the reason, but also my video production work (www.PassionworksProductions.com) is almost all for small charities and community projects with tiny budgets. I’ve probably averaged about £6,000 per year income over the last 5 years and most of what’s left after rent has gone on camera gear.

 

So when money from our sponsors went into my personal bank account, it was too late by the time I really consciously clocked what I’d done with our project money, which was for ChangeTheFuture’s expenses but instead went mostly on paying my rent.

 

Writing this and sharing it feels good, because it feels like I’m not hiding any more. It feels like I’m practising what I preach instead of trying to advocate open, transparent values while behaving exactly the opposite, like the worst politicians out there. Writing this and sharing it with the public, people who haven’t even met me also feels incredibly scary.

I’ve poured thousands of hours into this project over 4-8 years (depending on where you define its incarnation; for me it was the feature length drama exploring the often dysfunctional relationships between adults and children, which I gradually evolved into a documentary by young people on different approaches to education). So it’s hard to imagine myself as not part of this project, and I feel that by effectively having ‘disappeared’ £2,500 somehow into mostly rent over the course of about a year, I have discredited myself and much more importantly corrupted the project.

Since I’ve already corrupted the line between CTF money and my personal money I now extend the transparency to my personal money: Luke's bank account

The reason I’ve been involved in moving and managing CTF money is simply because no one else is currently doing it – I would love anyone to help take this responsibility off my hands, as I need to improve my relationship with money (and numbers are also not a skill of mine).

So after confusing myself with what I was trying to achieve by spending a couple of hundred pounds more on ChangeTheFuture expenses from my own pocket instead of our remaining ~£2,000 in the project account, I had a long talk (again) with my best friend Charlie Shread, with whom I founded this project (he was involved at the documentary stage). We talked at length about how best to deal with this disgustingly uncomfortable situation. We didn’t really reach a clear resolve. I said I want to do everything I can to take responsibility for this and to evolve now.

I feel like ChangeTheFuture has helped me grow so much and I want to let go of some of who I used to be, including the younger version of myself who was completely hopeless, unreliable, unrealistic, confused and blind with money. Also the version of me that assumes the best possible scenario whenever imagining how something might turn out – not least financially. It’s frustrating that funding has been so easy to get for project expenses, but not for any living costs – which, for many lower-income (but really valuable) people working on the project is actually the biggest obstacle, preventing them every day from being able to work on CTF, because they always have to prioritise paid work. Meanwhile, the vision of CTF is not really compatible with most/any revenue models selling a product/service. It needs to be a publicly owned, publicly financed, volunteer run public resource.
Though I think there should be an infrastructure for donating to the project and for surplus donations to be allocated intelligently to volunteers (cue my ‘Crowdsourced Workforce’ feature, which I think needs to be the first module of CTF that we build). Crowdsourced Workforce cropped

This idea to write a blog, and especially to open with this bombshell of a first post is a pretty new idea and right now as I write this line, I haven’t really cleared it with anyone, but I feel like I’m being driven by a positive thing right now, a motivation to be guided by honesty. Clearing decisions with others involved in ChangeTheFuture is a really important process for me. In my mind it’s critical that I don’t make decisions alone with the project, otherwise it’s my project, and I’m the leader. This is an instant fail when trying to create a movement that represents a new era of human cooperation, inspiring and empowering us to work collectively as a compassionate democratic collective.
However, I’ve always said that we should of course be allowed an identity outside ChangeTheFuture and that’s what this blog is for me – I am not writing with my ChangeTheFuture hat on right now; this is Luke Flegg; trying to exercise the values he is trying to instil in the project he runs with other people who share a similar dream to live in a world in which people have a better tool for understanding one another and cooperating beautifully in re-imagining and re-designing our planet together. I hope reading that this, you will still consider being one of those people.
I want to be held to account for undermining the work we’ve all put in and I want to make less mistakes and contribute more positive things to this project.

Whatever happens as a result of this post will be based on the whole truth and I’m ready, even if I can’t imagine what that means yet.