Teaching a young dragon fairy new social media tricks

Summary

Local social media marketing expert (no, really) Mili Ponce shows this social media enthusiast a thing or two, at an evening with JCI Cambridge

I’ve seldom had good experiences with people that have branded themselves social media marketing people. All too often, they’ve taken social media tools as channels to broadcast stuff without any consideration for feedback loops – over which they trip up in any Q&A session. Then there was this horror show in 2012 that had me, Puffles and Sue Llewellyn (who also knows her stuff, coming from a journalism direction) spitting with fire.

“So, what did Mili know that you didn’t?”

By its huge scope, there will always be something on social media that any self-proclaimed social media expert will never know. I said this in a social media workshop at the weekend when someone in the audience pointed out a feature on Facebook I was unfamiliar with. But teaching me things that I didn’t know was just part of it. Values and manner of communication matter too.

“What does that mean?”

Speaking truth to power for a start. She’s spent many years learning and building up expertise in the fields of IT, social media and digital marketing. In a nutshell, clients don’t pay her to tell them things that make them feel comfortable. Quite the opposite – even if it’s at the risk of not getting a further commission. Why compromise your values, your expertise, your experience and potentially your reputation for short-term gain? I noted with interest the number of occasions where she said ‘I can do this for you, but you’re wasting your money if you do.’ (How many times have external consultants said this to senior civil servants over the past couple of decades?)

A kick up the backside that I needed

Self-aware to a fault, but needing someone else to put things starkly to my face perhaps? I’ve mentioned in previous blogposts that 2014 is going to be a year of transition work-wise. Website, branding, how I use social media, and an increased sense of purpose locally are all things that I’ve given much thought to, but undertaken little action on. Those of us at the workshop judging by the Q&As seemed to come away with a much greater sense of focus on what we needed to do in our respective fields.

A different route, but similar experiences along the way

Although we come from very different backgrounds – Mili is from Peru – throughout her presentation I was nodding throughout. Her background is a private sector IT background. My background is a public policy civil service background. Yet many of the lessons on how to use social and digital media in the corporate world were pretty much identical. She also talked about the importance of learning to code, how other countries’ experiences of social media use were not necessarily the same as the UK’s, and how when engaging with professional specialists such as lawyers and accountants, it’s important to get someone who understands and is comfortable with all things digital. The example she gave was with competition giveaways, and how from a marketing and social media perspective they are a waste of time and money – as well as being a legal minefield. With the latter, there’s no point having the most expensive legal advice on competition terms and conditions if it has been drafted by a lawyer who hates & is ignorant of social media.

“What do you know that she does not?”

Again, it’s not a case of who knows what, but more trying to apply social media to whichever area you happen to be working in, while approaching other uses of it with an open but critical mind. In Mili’s case, there is the obvious focus on the drive for sales – and how social media can be best used to support the bottom line. In public policy, it’s much more complicated in terms of what you are trying to deliver. But that complexity doesn’t mean that there aren’t lessons and insights to be learnt from the private sector. In particular the relentless focus on purpose and impact really stood out for me. At the same time, Mili also got me thinking about how some of her approaches are also applicable to the voluntary and community sector locally in Cambridge. Even more so given Puffles’ quick response to a tweet put out by our local volunteer centre

…swiftly followed by

…but which then got me thinking about doing something positive rather than ranting. I was in the centre of Cambridge at the time to catch up with the Teachers’ rally on strike day – see Elodie Harper of ITV Anglia here - as well as getting an outfit for this:

Yep – no rest for the wicked!

Anyway, I popped into the volunteer centre and had a quick chat with them about all things social media – and Net-squared’s free monthly social media surgeries in Cambridge (see here). We had an open, friendly, frank but supportive conversation about social media and the local voluntary sector. It was also a learning process for me too as I continue to fill in the jigsaw of where South Cambridge is with social and digital media. As it turned out, in Mili’s presentation there are a whole host of other ‘analytics’ that can easily be manipulated and/or otherwise should be downplayed.

What reassured me was that what I discussed with the CVS was consistent with what Mili was saying – and she has a far higher profile than me and Puffles. At the same time, it’s also nice to know that there are others out there that ‘get’ all things social and digital media locally. Furthermore, some are probably more knowledgeable about the tools, albeit in a different market than me, and are thus potential allies in trying to get institutions in Cambridge as a city to take digital and social media than they currently are. And going by my current experiences, I feel that this requires co-operation and supporting each other, rather than seeing each other as the competition.

Next steps?

Mili re-enforced messages about diversity of content. Some of you may be familiar with my social media digital video guides – see here. I want to move onto making short digital videos on community issues. Hence my interest in Hills Road SFC’s evening class on digital film making (somewhere in here). Lack of takeup last term meant it got cancelled and I got a refund. 10 x 2hr weekly evening classes are ideal for me as a learning style, so if anyone in/around Cambridge is interested in learning how to make short digital videos on community issues, sign up for that course. (Please).

 

Posted in Business economics and finance, Cambridge, Education, training and exams, Puffles, Social media | 2 Comments

The Budget and the politics of noise

Summary

A very politicised budget with little mention of young people’s interest, as the noise from the Commons chamber drowns out the politics of hope

…which is how I felt at the end of the exchanges yesterday.

The ill-judged online poster released by Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party Chairman (click here - which had the double impact of bringing attention to #diversityfail in this tweet) provided Twitter with 48 hours of fun as people made up their own versions – you can make your one here. Chances are in the run up to the May 2014 and May 2015 elections, well see online posters of other political parties given the same treatment. Makes you wonder why parties simply don’t provide templates for everyone to play with and be done with it.

“What’s this about Bingo-bingo-land – or was that Bingo-bango by Basement Jaxx?”

After Godfrey’s bongo-bongo-land shocker (see here), Twitter users went off on one with all things ‘bingo bingo land’ – a sore point given the history of where the former remark came from (see here). But in the grand scheme of things, for me the way the UK announces tax and finance policy in set-piece speeches is more political theatre and not sound policy-making. After all, in business, surprises good or bad create instability. You have a pressure to respond to them one way or another – whether dealing with a cost increase or an expectation to pass on a tax cut onto your customers.

“The serious stuff?”

Parliament’s budget pages are here. The often-quoted Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis is here. This is the organisation where politicians love to have on their side. It’s like:

“We know the world views politicians as low-life lying scoundrels – even we think we’re low-life lying scoundrels! But because the IFS back our policy on [insert name of policy area], we must be right and that ‘orrible lot over there must be wrong!”

And so it goes on. Jill Rutter of the Institute for Government has a better alternative for financial policy making – see here.

“Was there anything good in The Budget?”

The BBC’s key points are here. One of the Lib Dems’ key policies on raising the ceiling at which income tax is paid, rises again. Also, expanding taxation on residential properties held by companies that otherwise have not been paying stamp duty equalises the market – as it tends not to be first time buyers with limited incomes that set up offshore finance companies to dodge such taxes.

“The big themes missing?”

Regional transport beyond potholes (which is not nearly enough given the damage done by recent winters), young people beyond apprenticeships, or the environment. On the last point, it feels like ministers have pretty much given up.

Labour’s conundrum

While people are generally bored of the ‘under the last Labour Government’ klaxxon, the challenge the Labour front bench has is when the Coalition brings in policies (no matter how small) that are seen to be socially just – for example raising the income tax threshold. The unanswered question will always be: “Why didn’t Labour do this when they were in office?”

“Why unanswered?”

Because the structure of the Labour Party at a high-policy level is ever so top-heavy and closed that a very small number of people have both a huge amount of power/influence along with a huge amount of information to cope with that it is beyond the capacity of that small group of people. It takes time to absorb the information and learn the skills required for different policy areas. That’s why it takes time for ministers to get up to speed on their policy areas. This is why it makes no sense at all to have such regular turnover of ministers and policy chiefs. For too many in party politics that aim for ministerial office, I get the feeling that they are aiming for the highest post they can possibly get to, rather than for a specific mid-ranking or junior post specific to their passion & knowledge, that they want to stay in for a long time.

The question the Labour Party as an institution needs to ask itself is:

“What is it about its internal structures, systems and processes that led to poor policy-making when it was in office?”

Because until it comes up with answers to that question – and acts upon what it finds, it runs the risk of making similar policy errors should it be re-elected.

On the Liberal Democrats side, they need to ask themselves about managing the expectations of the public around what being in a coalition as a principle actually means. For me, many of their political problems stem from a 2010 election campaign where they did not prioritise the policies which were for them rock-solid non-movers from the ones where they could be more flexible on. Had students known what Lib Dem HQ was thinking on fees, what would the impact have been in 2010? Who would have benefitted instead? (For example the Greens?)

The politics of noise

This is something that I’m picking up more and more as a recurring theme in TV political debate. It also makes me wonder what we had before policy think tanks were invented. My previous blogpost writing up about a panel of European Parliament candidates standing in Denmark and the UK (see here) was probably the first time I had seen ‘the politics of noise’ up close and face-to-face against a panel of people who, for want of another phrase simply do politics differently.

“How does it work?”

Take one person who might have a reputation for speaking in a very loud and/or abrupt manner with opponents, sprinkle in a mix of political partisanship along with a smattering of ill-informed publications (such as where this announcement came from) from an institute set up by people not wanting a huge amount of public scrutiny (see here), hook up with connections in the media – producers, commissioners, researchers and the like, and put together with someone either of the same disposition but from a slightly different part of the spectrum (where you get a shouting match) or someone who is more cerebral, more softly spoken and easily shouted down (so you don’t get to hear them) and job done. Either way, alternatives don’t get to be heard.

At the event at with the Danish candidates mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, I found it difficult to remember what the other candidates said because I was too busy laughing at the ill-informed points one UK panelist was coming out with in quick succession.

“Why don’t the alternatives get heard?”

For a start, if one proponent decides to be loud and shouty, their opponent all too often feels overwhelmed by the loud shoutyness of the proponent that they are silenced, or feel the need to respond with their own shoutyness to the ill-informed points made by the proponent. In the very limited media time, they have allowed the proponent to set the agenda. As a result, people generally get put off politics by the shoutyness of one person, the shoutyness of both people or the lack of clearly explained ideas from the person that was silenced. (To point out, conferences on the left/activist scene have their own issues with loud shouty people. Sometimes even I can come across as being one of those loud, shouty people too!)

“So…how do you get around this problem?”

Not easily.

Some have tried ‘becoming the media’ – or an alternative to the mainstream at least. Novara Media and Democracy Now! are two such examples. Indymedia was one I became aware of in my time in Brighton when at university, but looking at it now, it feels a bit too 2001.

Others take to popular social media – Facebook and Twitter to lampoon the proponents, but there’s only so much impact that can have. (Especially if you are faced with someone who thrives on ‘notoriety’).

Some politicians are actually going back to community roots, embedding themselves in community campaigns while developing strong links through social and digital media at the same time. Julian Huppert, Stella Creasy and Robert Halfon (LD, Lab & C respectively) are all doing this to very good effect. For me, it’s also a much more resilient way of doing things in the face of negative media onslaughts – simply because constituents’ experience of their local MPs will be far better informed than anything the mainstream media can come up with. (And thus the media onslaught risks having the opposite effect).

But in the grand scheme of things…I don’t know how to deal with the politics of noise

If you take the mainstream print media, how many people buy their daily tabloid newspaper because of the politics? In my experience living and working with many a buyer and reader over the years, very few of them have said ‘politics’. Most of them had little interest in politics anyway. But that does not mean they don’t have views, nor does it mean they ignore the very partisan politics that does get reported. In the case of the tabloid-reading men I’ve lived and worked with, sport, scantily-clad women and telly/entertainment were the main reasons. For me, that sort of explains why your politically-passionate Guardianista or campaigning Indy reader perhaps struggled to engage or empathise with the mindset of someone who is not a politics’ watcher like them.

Technocratic facts vs passionate emotions on serious issues

It’s kind of the ‘holy grail’ of politics: Finding those people who are good with the above and who can also connect with and inspire people – and enable them to contribute too. Because you can put a lot of effort into something, but is it having an impact? Or is it the equivalent of running very fast on a hamster wheel? It’s something I ask myself at a local level quite often. How much of what I do personally is having a positive impact?

Food for thought.

 

Posted in Party politics | 4 Comments

EU hustings with the Danes in London – a contrast of political cultures?

Summary

Put three UK Euro candidates with three Danish MEP candidates and what do you get? A massive contrast on the centre-right for starters.

I went along to the Danish Church (Den Danske Kirke) in London to this small but interesting hustings with Karen Melchior, a friend of mine who is standing in Denmark for the Radikal Venstre at the European Parliament elections later in May. The panel was as follows: (with Twitter links as appropriate)

UK Candidates

Danish candidates

Tory Sheila Lawlor didn’t wait long to tear into her Lib Dem opponent 

Although it was nominally 3 UK vs 3 Danish candidates, the presence of Andrea Biondi who is originally from Italy meant that we had an additional perspective to the debate. At the same time, there was only one of the six panelists that showed the mindset of a Westminster PMQs/BBC Question Time debate. That was Conservative London candidate and former Cambridge University academic Sheila Lawlor. She runs this think tank too. I got the sense that her Lib Dem colleague/opponent didn’t see the firestorm coming, and seemed a little taken aback at coming under a sustained attack over the Liberal Democrats’ position on Europe.

Euro-myths busted

Now, I try to follow politics fairly closely, and instinctively like to fact-check any statement made by a speaker when the issue is more than a little bit controversial. So when Ms Lawlor in her opening remarks mentioned ‘benefit tourism’, my eyes widened. Something in my mind recalled this myth being comprehensively busted by a number of organisations – see an example here by the BBC’s Dominic Casciani. The EU has problems, but ‘benefit tourism’ definitely isn’t one of the big ones.

What Ms Lawlor then followed this up with were a series of accusations against the Liberal Democrats about misusing statistics, and taking them out of context and using them to scare-monger people. Which was unfortunate given that the previous day, the Work and Pensions Select Committee released a report (see here) about the work of the department – scroll down to the end of this page…pots and kettles anyone? Or take your pick with this lot from the UK Statistics Authority.

Ms Lawlor also stated that Whitehall spends most of its time negotiating with Brussels – by which time I was now laughing, because in all my years inside the civil service – albeit in one that didn’t have a huge amount of EU-facing (bar my time in climate change policy), this was anything but the case. Argue for a smaller Whitehall by all means, but for the director of a think tank to come out with a statement like that does her a great disservice.

“Yeah – why are you picking on Sheila?”

Actually, it was Ms Lawlor that did much of the talking – at times dominating the panel that was more softly-spoken, considered and thoughtful in their remarks. What I found interesting was that Ms Lawlor’s Conservative ally from Denmark, Catja Gaebel came across as much more reasonable and pragmatic alongside her. If you look at Ms Gaebel’s profile in the previous link, you’ll see a very interesting career profile. Going by first impressions alone, if I were someone senior in the Conservative Party in the UK, I’d be rolling out the red carpet for someone like her if she decided Danish politics was not her thing.

The thing is, if you are going to try and dominate proceedings in the way that Ms Lawlor did, you make yourself a target. In comparison, some of the other candidates seemed ‘drowned out’ by her aggressive approach – which may have been the point. The problem with this approach is that more and more people are finding it puts people off politics in general. Furthermore, as we move into an era where more people are live-tweeting, livestreaming or posting videos of events, and blogging about them, it becomes easier to find and pick holes. In Ms Lawlors arguments, there was a sieve-load of them. And that’s what disappointed me. For someone with an academic training at Cambridge and being the director of a think-tank that has cross-party input, I was expecting arguments of the calibre that Conservative MEP Vicky Ford (see here when she sparred with Puffles) put forward in her recent talk in Cambridge.

“So…what question did you ask the panel?”

Given the spat on statistics Ms Lawler had with Mr Goodall of the Lib Dems, I knew that going in with my own quoted figures from the live fact-checking I was doing would simply have no impact. This is the problem with current political discourse. Everyone has their favourite institutions to quote – and after all, how transparent are your think tanks? It feels all too easy for some wealthy interests to set up their own partisan think tanks to come out with ‘independent’ reports that politicians can then quote to back up their own views. So much for evidence-based policy eh?

“No really – what did you ask?”

Given it was an all-White panel, I started off with:

“My family: Four generations born in three continents. Where am I from?”

“Ouch!”

The reason being that the panel picked up on the issue of migration. My question caught the lot of them off-guard – given that I went down panellist by panellist. I then focused in on the record of the UK mainstream media, the rhetoric of politicians in her own party and the impact that this can have on people that happen to look like me. The only panellist I felt that did not pick up on the point I was making was Ms Lawlor.

‘What does an illegal immigrant look like? Does he look like me?’

Hence when the latter panellists said they would see me as a British Citizen, I followed it up with whether the average person on the street having not met or heard me, would they see me as an immigrant or a British Citizen who was born and brought up here? Very similar to the point made to Conservative MP Mark Reckless when asked on Channel 4 News what an illegal immigrant looks like. (See here from 0.45). You could sense the tension in the atmosphere as we had the exchanges before Ms Sidenius of the Danish Green/Left said, consistent with her opening remarks that politicians across the EU had to show leadership and challenge the inflammatory rhetoric because failure to do gives space for the rise of extremists.

“What did the other panellists have to say?”

It was less what they said, but more how they said it. I didn’t detect much difference between the other pairs of political allies. I get the sense that with Denmark having a much smaller population (smaller than that of Greater London), the relationship between government and citizens is much closer. Speaking to several Danish people at the event, they said that Danish politicians come across as being much more sincere and much less distant than UK politicians. How much of that is to do with institutions vs national cultures I don’t know.

What do future EU parliament elections look like?

It’s not an impossibility, but this could be the last EU election I vote in. Think of this scenario. Scotland wins the independence referendum and secedes from Westminster. The Conservatives win the 2015 election either outright or in coalition with UKIP. The EU in/out referendum goes ahead and the rump of England, Wales and Northern Ireland vote to leave the EU. By the time the 2020 EU Parliament elections come round, we may not have the vote.

The above was a scenario that Karen put to Ms Lawlor, pressing repeatedly the line about what the UK leaving the EU would mean practically for UK-Irish relations. Ms Lawlor continually dodged the question despite Karen’s best efforts, saying that Cameron wanted to see if renegotiation was successful or not.

Mr Biondi then put a series of questions from a different angle. One thing Cameron has not done is stated the following regarding renegotiation:

  • What is his starting position regarding renegotiations?
  • What are his desired goals?
  • What areas is he prepared to concede ground on?
  • What are his red lines in the ground?

Mr Biondi picked flaws in the arguments around a whole series of these, asking in particular what repatriation of powers meant in practice when so many different issues – in particular around cross-border crime – required international co-operation. This also chimed with a number of points Ms Gaebel made around institutions. Her point was that it is people that create institutions, and that it is up to people to change the institutions that are not working properly.

Common party branding across the EU?

This was something I discussed with Karen and have debated with a number of other people given the example of the European Greens, who came to visit Puffles not so long ago. (See here). This is where the Greens have a ***massive*** advantage of branding. For a start, their brand is a one syllable word – that is a real word in the English language. Not only is it a word, it is a colour. Not only is it a colour, it is a colour that in the mind of many people is associated with the values of a wider movement.

In the case of the European Greens, the nature of their cross-EU open primaries to select their lead candidates (Ska Keller from Germany and Jose Bove from France) for the post President of the European Commission – which now has a much stronger EU Parliament oversight.

The impact of social and digital media users

I think this is only going to grow. The questions are at what pace, and how equal that spread will be in different demographics. As I mentioned before, I feel that it will be harder for politicians to use the tactics that Ms Lawlor used this evening. The simple fact is that at such debates, it’s not just the people in the room you have to try and convince, it’s the people following online outside of it too. And their numbers are likely to grow as election day comes closer.

Different people, different generations?

Labour had another EU candidate for London in the room – Lucy Anderson - who also focused in on Ms Lawlor’s claims about what the people of the UK will be pushing for in the election. One of the things Ms Lawlor had in her favour was that she was that what she said would clearly resonate with a specific audience – older, Eurosceptic, fearful of the pace of change. In that sense, Ms Lawlor has been selected for the wrong constituency. Chances are she would fare better in a less metropolitan/cosmopolitan constituency than London, where she is listed 6th of 9. Ms Anderson’s point was that ‘the people’ that Ms Lawlor seemed to be describing bore little resemblance to the London that Ms Anderson knew – particularly young people.

Young people again?

This sort of comes back to the migration debate. When the A10 ascension countries joined the EU in 2004, only the UK, Ireland and Sweden relaxed their controls on immigration and employment. As a result, many people from Eastern Europe came to work and settle – in particular in the UK as the economy was booming. Those people had families and children – children that went through British state schools. Many of the children from migrant families will have made friends with children here. I saw a display at a local secondary school featuring artwork from children of migrant families describing their feelings and experiences of moving to the UK from another country.

My point is that, despite the comparatively low voter turnout of young people, the first generation of children that went to school with the children of migrants from the A10 ascension countries now have the vote. It’s not gone unnoticed in some circles (see here) – who are now encouraging EU Citizens from continental Europe to register to vote & make their voice heard. See here if you are an EU Citizen from outside the UK that wants to vote in the UK for the European Parliament Elections. My point being that for younger generations, the rhetoric from the Conservative right and UKIP may well not resonate with younger audiences who see politicians using negative terms to describe their friends – and even families.

“Sheila Lawlor has strong Cambridge University credentials – could you see her standing for the general election 2015 in Cambridge?”

Not impossible – but going on her performance at this event, I can’t see Ms Lawlor gaining more than the core Conservative vote. As I mentioned a month before in this blogpost, to have any chance of reaching beyond their core vote, I think the Conservatives need someone from a small business background who is less tribal.  The current incumbent Julian Huppert would, following 5 years in the Commons be able to deal with the rhetoric and be more than up-to-speed on most things to unpick most of it anyway. Labour’s PPC Daniel Zeichner I’m sure would relish the chance of going head-to-head with Ms Lawlor (and vice-versa) in what would probably turn out to be a much more traditional left-vs-right political ding-dong verbal boxing match. But would the winner of such a head-to-head between the two be enough to force out Julian Huppert at the same time?

Food for thought.

Posted in Cambridge, Campaigning, protesting and demonstrating, Events I have been to, Party politics, Social media | 2 Comments

What does the #ITooAmCambridge hashtag say about Cambridge University?

Summary

The experiences of students photographed in a new tumblr account feel all too familiar to this local resident – me.

The page mentioned above is here.

Background

Ethnicity is an issue I’m ***really uncomfortable*** blogging about – and talking about. In the grand scheme of things, I’d rather not have people asking me where I’m from or about my family background – unless they really know me. I also ***really hate*** people making assumptions about me just by looking at me – even though we all do it. (Which makes me a bit of a hypocrite – well…a lot of one really). The thing is, a Twitter meme that started on the other side of the pond at Harvard then hit Oxford and then hit Cambridge on all things diversity and ethnicity. Hard to avoid when I spend a fair amount of time at events organised by the latter despite having never been a student at Cambridge.

Cambridge – not just a university but a place I call ‘home’ too

Cambridge is my home town – one where I spent my entire childhood in. It’s the only place I can really call ‘home’. In that childhood I was one of the few non-White faces in my year group. Off the top of my head, in a year group of nearly 250 at secondary school, only about 10 of us were not White. It was similar for other year groups either side. I grew up sort of in between communities that straddled affluent professional middle classes on one side, and families living in council houses on low incomes on the other. Yet being ‘mixed heritage’, you could say I am just as much White as I am non-White. So when people and institutions try to put me in a box – whichever that may be, there will always be something about me that they are trying to assume away, or assume into me.

At that time, Cambridge University didn’t do community outreach bar the odd school visit. The University’s admin staff simply did not want to know you if you weren’t a member of the institution. One of the reasons why I’ve grown up learning to hate them as a collective institution – I spent several weeks temping inside the institution in the early 2000s and was horrified but not surprised by what I found.

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Them: “Where are you from?”

Me: “Cambridge”

Them: “No, where are you really from?”

Me: “Cambridge”

Them: “No, what is your family background?”

Me: “Does it matter?/how long have you got because it is a ***very long*** story”

Them: “You’re so rude!” (Or normally something more abusive)

And then I’m the one who ends up feeling like shite even though the person asking those questions doesn’t know me well enough to be asking them. (For the record, me and the immediate 3 generations of my family were born on different continents. 4 generations, 3 continents. Now you tell me where I’m from.) This article explains someone else’s experience.

“Oh but that makes you very exotic and mysterious!”

Which is code for ‘foreign, but in a way that we like.’ Shappi Khorsandi (pictured here with Puffles on stage in Cambridge) came up with that one at a gig in London a few years back.

Feeling uncomfortable reading this already? Imagine how it feels writing this

What the We too are Cambridge account reveals is that something is going very badly wrong with the schools and colleges that many UK-based students come from – something that for whatever reason Cambridge and its colleges are unwilling or unable to turn around. Ditto at Oxford, where the original I too am Oxford meme was responded to in a well-meaning but woeful manner in We are all Oxford.

“Why was it woeful?”

For many reasons, but in the grand scheme of things, it revealed the class & institutional divide between many of the people that go through Oxbridge vs the majority of the people from more economically-deprived parts of the country that never get to see the universities, let alone set foot inside them. Talking to staff recently at some of Cambridge’s state schools, children from some of our most deprived communities haven’t even been down Kings Parade to see Kings College. (It was raised a few years ago – see here).  The thing is, The Manor School (since re-opened as the North Cambridge Academy) is on the doorstep of various Cambridge colleges and institutes – sort of in the same way that London Docklands is on the doorstep of some of the most deprived communities in the UK – in Newham and Tower Hamlets. Why is it then, that we have communities so polarised in wealth that live side-by-side but with next-to-no interaction? (Given the scale of wealth).

Institutions and structures

It’s like with the community activism work I’m doing. If a single one-off approach doesn’t work or an email doesn’t get responded to, maybe there is a problem with an individual in the system, or perhaps the email didn’t arrive. If repeated attempts by various different people using different means across a number of institutions in the geographical area is producing the same result (ie no responses), then the problems go far beyond an individual.

Having a ‘diversity day’ or giving a small grant to a student society isn’t going to change the cultures, systems, processes and structures that have led to the problems in the first place. Just scrolling through We too are Cambridge and more than a few of the quotations are snapshots of what I’ve experienced in life. In one sense it’s a relief to know that I am not alone, while at the same time saddening that another generation is still on the receiving end of mainly ignorance, but in a few cases, hatred too. The schools and the colleges that regularly send lots of students to oxbridge really need to start asking questions of themselves about what they are getting so spectacularly wrong with the social skills of their students.

“Have the institutions acknowledged these problems?”

Well…those that are the decision-makers will know how to make the right ‘sounds’ from a PR perspective, but with very little radical action to deal with the problems. They are good at following David Cameron’s example here – lots of ‘We need to do…’ then doing next to nothing as a result. Bearing in mind Cameron will have been leader of the Conservatives for a decade come 2015, his record on diversity in senior/decision-making posts, for all is words is one of complete and utter failure. The same is the case for Cambridge University as Professor Dame Athene Donald highlighted recently – see here. The same is also the case in professional football. I started following football at a very young age. So why is it, a generation later there are still no high profile top-flight British-Asian footballers getting regular games? Ditto when I was in the civil service. In the lunch queue at the local supermarkets by our offices on Victoria Street, it was a predominantly White customer base being served by low paid shop-floor staff from minority ethnic communities. The only White British faces you would see as staff were the managers in suits.

Separating ignorance from hatred

For me, it’s important that we do this. Like the late Tony Benn, I like to believe in the goodness of people – and of individuals until proven otherwise. The students & young people I meet in Cambridge I don’t see as ‘the finished article’. We never are. Rather I like to see people as having the potential to achieve great things. Just as I am not nearly the same person as I was when I was at university, so I see the same thing with the current generation of students too. The question is how to challenge that ignorance.

Why the leaders within institutions need to take a lead

The We too are Cambridge feed should send alarm bells ringing in Cambridge University circles. The reason being that it’s showing whatever the institution is currently doing is not working. It’s all very well having the documents and strategies in place, but if no action stems from them, what’s the point? But does a predominantly White, male, middle-aged and affluent academic and management class know where to start with something like this in Cambridge? It reminds me of when Baroness Kramer on BBC Three’s Free Speech programme (Series 3 Episode 1) complained to an audience of young people that she had tried lots of things to reach out to young people & get them engaged in politics but none of them had worked. To which the audience told her to try and listen for once.

Acknowledging the problem – and acknowledging it might make a lot of people within the institution feel very uncomfortable

Sort of like when I spotted Oliver Letwin in 2003 going punting, at the same time as I was with a group of friends. His face was a picture – as if he’d never seen anyone that looked like me before, let alone being recognised as a politician by someone that looked like me. It was as if he’d seen a ghost – poor thing. And that was in the days before I had a dragon with me.

Acknowledging that an organisation has a problem with something is going far beyond having corporate equality and diversity statements. That in itself carries huge risks – especially for an institution like Cambridge University that is more and more dependent financially on its international reputation. There also has to be a desire from people to make those changes and improvements too. What makes things challenging for Cambridge University is that every academic year you have a new intake of students. This means that some things will have to be repeated annually for the new intake. It also has implications for how Cambridge University challenges its most successful feeder schools, as well as reaching out to those that historically don’t send students to Cambridge. (Personally I quite like the idea of Oxford and Cambridge guaranteeing interviews for at least 1 student from the poorest performing secondary schools, if anything just to let students from those areas know that Oxford and Cambridge are there, and force the schools to think more about ‘how’ to get students to apply (& how to prepare them for interviews) rather than ‘why?’).

Cambridge University has no choice – social media users have let the cats out of the bag

Scrolling through and reading each account individually sends a very powerful message. These are a series of independent individual experiences put together collectively – with an impact far greater than the sum of their parts. It’s not something that can be dismissed as a one-off. The problem is institutional. The University as a corporate body has to respond.

How should it respond, and why does it matter to residents?

It matters to residents because Cambridge University and local residents share the same city. For those of us that want Cambridge University to share its knowledge, wealth and resources with the wider city, the institution’s failure with its own students doesn’t fill us with confidence on how it treats the rest of us that have Cambridge as a home.

As for how to respond, open it up to the students and the city. Acknowledge the problems, and start a process that will lead to a significant improvement in the culture. Invite people to describe how the problems manifest themselves in terms of behaviour – whether actions or inactions, invite people to set out a ‘vision’ for what success looks like, and invite people to design the actions, systems and processes they think are needed to achieve that vision. Then get the University’s Senate to sign it off and assign someone in very senior management to have responsibility for seeing it through – along with scrutiny from staff and students.

Do I think Cambridge University will respond positively?

Good question – I’ll ask Julian Huppert to forward a copy of this blogpost to the Vice Chancellor and see what his response is. Will keep you posted.

Posted in Cambridge, Campaigning, protesting and demonstrating, Education, training and exams, Public administration & policy | 1 Comment

Thinking about science at #ThinkCon Cambridge

Summary

When Suzi Gage came to town – and Dr Rupert Read of The Green Party coming back again

The MusicNet East conference left me emotionally exhausted but with a buzzing head – meaning that without medication I’d have not got any sleep. It’s one of the ways I have to manage my internal demons because lack of sleep makes me mentally unstable – as does too much caffeine, processed sugar and alcohol.

Lou Woodley tipped me off about ThinkCon, and finding out that epidemiologist and long-time dragon-fairy-watcher Suzi Gage was coming to Cambridge for this, I signed up. I’d not met Suzi before but we’ve been following each other for over a year on Twitter, so it’s always nice to meet people face-to-face at these things.

Puffles with Suzi in 'the green room' at #ThinkCon

Puffles with Suzi in ‘the green room’ at #ThinkCon

Suzi’s presentation reminded me of was that of Professor David Nutt when the latter came to speak about drugs policy to the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange. (I touched on it in this blogpost). She’s working in and on one of those areas that is ever so politically sensitive. It’s one of the reasons why Professor Nutt got sacked by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson because the scientific advice on drugs was not politically palatable. i.e. just before a general election you couldn’t run with the policies scientific advice indicated lest the tabloids have a field day with headlines such as:

“Minister: I back drugs!”

To which Suzi and the scientists (and anyone with more than a very basic level of scientific awareness) would respond that caffeine and alcohol are drugs. Brian (now Lord) Paddick when he was a senior police officer in Brixton was one of the first users of social media, using it to engage with his local community on the Urban 75 message boards (see here for the history). That was in 2001. Both Paddick – and Mike who created and has run the boards for the past decade and a half were ***years*** ahead of their time. But the tabloids didn’t like it, and he was hounded out of his job in an horrifically homophobic campaign.

Challenging those in power

This was the awkward question I put to Suzi in the Q&A session. Just as Penny Homer told me at the music conference the day before that music and musicians have historically challenged the powerful, so too must science and scientists. Part of the problem is that scientists are (understandably) reluctant to engage in politics – in particular party politics – in the current climate. If Professor Nutt can be treated the way he was by a Home Secretary, why would anyone else want to put themselves in the firing line? I’ll repeat the line again:

“How can you have evidence-based policy with prejudice-based politics?”

How do you combine a dispassionate analysis of the evidence with passion for a cause or policy?

This was an open question Suzi put to all of us. Her point was that – as with the civil service, you’ve got to be objective about the research, evidence and analysis that you do. To become too much of an advocate of that in a political arena could put at risk your impartiality. Hence her observation that there needs to be a ‘something’ that can be an intermediary.

Helping society becoming more scientifically literate

This for me is a big theme. The problem I find is that the scientific and educational communities have not come up with a suitable approach for adults. As I said to Kat Arney in the pub later on, how do you bridge the gap between scientific experts and policy advisers that might have last formally studied science at GCSE? It’s great having things like the Cambridge Science Festival (on now (March-April 2014)), but where are the opportunities for enjoyable, inspiring and structured learning for adults where you are building on previous learning?

Cambridge: When are we going to get those weekly evening classes on science for adults that don’t involve exams at the end?

Because we have come a hell of a long way since I last studied science in anywhere near a lab setting – and that was in the mid-1990s in a mobile classroom. The institutions are here, the people are here, the wealth and resources are here, and the buildings are here. Let’s use them.

 

And…what about Rupert?

Two of the Green Party’s East Anglia European Parliament candidates were in Cambridge earlier on – Rupert Read and Fiona Radic. They hosted a talk on how to make the ‘great transition’ from where we are now to where we want to be as a sustainable economy & society in a Cambridge & East Anglia context. (See here). Former Friends of the Earth chief Tony Juniper was also there – he stood for the Greens in 2010 for Parliament, pulling in an unprecedented 3,804 votes. There were about 40 people there on what was otherwise a gorgeous sunny afternoon in the city.

Kings College Chapel - the view greeting me as I headed from the Greens' gathering to #ThinkCon

Kings College Chapel – the view greeting me as I headed from the Greens’ gathering to #ThinkCon

 

 

There was a strong scientific focus on what they all said too – even though according to some of their critics, science is an achilles heel for the movement. For me, part of the reason is that for some in the environmental movement, ‘big’ science (of the large organisations) doesn’t always sit easily with the small-scale living that some promote and live by. Whether it’s GM crops to planning squabbles with wind turbines, even to homeopathy and ‘alternative healing’ (a few examples here), it’s not an easy balance to strike. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett at her recent talk in Cambridge (see here) described her party as being the political wing of a much wider diverse environmental movement. With diversity inevitably brings disagreements.

Giving people hope

This was something I pressed the three speakers on – using an example from the days when I was a climate change policy adviser in central government. For the first half of my time, people in and lobbyists for industry were constantly questioning the ‘why?’ – remember this was just after Lord Stern had published his epic report The Economics of Climate ChangeAs an economics graduate that focused on environmental economics, I was particularly interested in this report – and was delighted to find that one of my fellow students who by a country mile was the outstanding scholar in our cohort, was part of the team that wrote it. (Step forward Hannah Ryder). I knew Hannah quite well at university and had a huge regard for her knowledge and penetrating analysis of the subject. She doesn’t know this but it was knowing that she was on the report’s team that made me trust it a damn sight more in the context of public platforms when sparring with people critical of the policy responses. I also never forgot in the run up to our finals when we were discussing a paper on the economics of development when she paid me a huge compliment on my own intellect, saying that I should be getting a first for my degree. That was when I told her the impact of my mental health problems and how I was never able to really sink my teeth into the growing field of ecological and environmental economics, as well as that of the interface between economics and human psychology. But my point is that somehow, Hannah gave me hope.

And that’s what Tony said the Greens needed to do. Because in the second half of my time as a climate change policy adviser, a building firm went and built some new commercially viable highly sustainable homes. And got ***lots*** of positive publicity with it. Almost overnight, the conversation in the policy area switched away from ‘why’ to ‘how?’

‘Our message must be more “I have a dream” rather than “We have a nightmare”‘

Not just on climate change issues, but on much more besides – paraphrasing Tony’s words. Because if politicians focus on the negative as all too often in recent times they have done, it’s not surprising that people risk becoming paralysed by fear rather than inspired to take action. With that in mind, in the run up to the 2014 local government and European elections, and for the 2015 elections, I would like to see politicians showing us some positive case studies of what works, why it works and how they plan to expand this to benefit more people. In this digital and social media age, will we be seeing more short digital video clips of good things rather than doom-laden sound-bite-bitten party election broadcasts? Hopefully

Posted in Cambridge, Data, science and statistics, Education, training and exams, Party politics, Public administration & policy, Puffles, Social media | 1 Comment

Musical inclusion in East Anglia – an inspiring yet frustrating experience

Summary

Can an event be inspiring and frustrating at the same time? Yes.

Before I kick off, one of the brightest local musical talents, Grace Sarah (who has got her GCSE exams in a few months time), has got some new songs out. Here’s one.

Appropriate given the event I’m writing about and the challenges facing young people today.

I found out about MusicNet-East after browsing through Eventbrite, noticing that they had an open invitation event at The Junction in Cambridge. With a forests worth of chips on my shoulder regarding all things music tuition, I went along to see what it was all about. To summarise the event, I saw ***lots*** of really inspirational things being done all over East Anglia, but found the format of the event incredibly frustrating – and the panel talks to be utterly soul-destroying.

“What worked?”

The use of digital media by a number of people such as Anna Gowers was brilliant. A simple gadget to record digital video vox-pops (very short interviews) with children on how they were experiencing music gave a clear picture of the positive impact their activities had. It was also nice to see a much wider variety of approaches being tried – with more than a fair amount of success – to engage with young people in ways that traditional exams-focused tuition had otherwise failed.

“What didn’t work?”

There were too many things that I found incredibly frustrating – to the extent where part of me wanted to fire tranquilliser darts at the panel session hosts.

“Crikey!”

It’s not the first time this has happened at a conference at The Junction. Some stereotypical affluent, bland middle-class artsy-type asks lots of long-winded extended questions that fail to illicit focused answers from the panel – with no opportunities for short, sharp Q&As from the audience. The two people concerned (whose names I can’t find so won’t mention) demonstrated complete incompetence in their task and failed to notice that their style of facilitating was sending the audience to sleep.

With the second panel – of which Anna, mentioned above, was on, I was utterly damning.

The fault was entirely the interviewer’s – Anna had superb case studies and he completely killed it. Even the other panellist, Suzi, was trying to inject passion into the talk but the blandness of the interviewer’s responses, comments and questions was soul-destroying. Absolutely not do you say in a soft, emotionless voice in front of a conference audience something like:

‘Yes…and we can clearly see the enthusiasm in…’

…while demonstrating a complete lack of it in your tone of voice and delivery yourself.

“But then, you don’t like interviewer + expert panellist with no audience interaction”

Exactly – get the group in front of a camera, whack it on youtube and get people to view it in their own time. If you’re going to get lots of people from all over the region together, get them to interact. Don’t give them death-by-dullness-facilitators.

An ethnic musical divide too?

Professor Lucy Green of the University of London gave the opening talk. Content-wise it was fascinating but she needed to deliver her speech with much more passion and in half the time. Some of what she covered is in the video below:

The problem was when you use audio musical samples like Shakira’s ‘The hips don’t lie’ (and children & teenagers singing/playing along to it) in your talk and then follow it up with a monologue lacking in energy and passion, it brings to the fore the contrast between the hold on music academia by a White affluent class stuck in their ways (such as the toxic hold the ABRSM and other exam boards have over formal music learning in schools) vs alternative forms of music making.

It was after her talk that I verbally opened fire in the Q&A session

I have a forest-worth of chips on my shoulder over music learning in my childhood. (See blogposts here). Professor Lucy Green just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to be on the receiving end of such a passionate broadside. But as a member of the music establishment, in front of an audience of music educators at a venue on my doorstep in my childhood neighbourhood, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Hence it was more therapeutic than anything else.

“What did you say/ask?”

I asked her what was to be done about the stranglehold of the ‘exams culture’ in music. But I prefaced all of that with a short bullet-point history of what it was like growing up and learning music in the neighbourhood that the conference venue happens to be in. It’s far more powerful emotionally when you can say to people ‘This is what happened here in the neighbourhood you are standing in, and I lived through it.’

I also told the audience that after giving up the violin in my early teens because of exams culture, I wasn’t able to pick up a stringed instrument for ***fifteen years*** – and ditto trying to get back into singing. I just could not overcome the mental and emotional barriers. Understandably Professor Lucy Green was visibly disturbed as I put the emphasis on the number of years – you could see it in her face and body language. To her credit she acknowledged the points I was making, and responded by saying that the ABRSM (the main musical exam board) are a private organisation with a financial incentive regarding exams. I’m glad she said this as it’s a conclusion I came to in previous blogposts. If she’s thinking this and I’m thinking this independently of each other, how many other people are thinking the same, and of the impact this has?

‘You don’t need to read music in order to play a musical instrument’

This was a point Robert Taylor put to me on his experience with music – saying when he grew up, music theory wasn’t even considered. They just played music. The way too many music teachers in his experience taught music – in particular theory – was a massive barrier to learning, rather than an enhancement.

“Yeah, why are you bashing classical music?”

Bashing the music or the establishment around it? Penny Homer of the Association of British Choral Directors understandably got a little defensive after one to many jabs at classical music in general from the audience Q&As. (In her position I probably would have done the same). The challenge Penny and those like her face is that they are fighting battles on two fronts. The first is with their existing establishments, trying to stop them perpetuating the divisions & barriers that exist; the second trying to convince non-traditional audiences that classical music belongs to them because music belongs to all humanity.

Opera for the posh people, musicals for the masses?

My first opera that I consciously chose to go to was in 2006 – Bizet’s Carmen. My first ballet (Swan Lake – because I rewatched Fantasia the animated film & started getting back into classical music that way, & wanted to see an orchestra perform Tchaikovsky) that I chose to go to consciously was in late 2000. In the case of the latter, I was making a conscious effort at the time to become ‘educated beyond exams’ (you know in the way that everyone wants to be well-read in the classics but without actually having to read them). As it turned out, it was the costumes I was mesmerised by because they had such deep bold colours in a manner that I had not expected. I assumed it would be just prissy things in white polyester prancing about. With Carmen, I bought the a pair of tickets when I was at the end of a short intense relationship with one person, and when the event came around, ended up going with a different partner at the start of another short but intense relationship. As the latter was a choral scholar at the time, she knew the opera inside out and eased me into the operatic audience.

Yet there lies my point about barriers – music, just like human beings, are social

As a result, over the centuries humans have developed various social trappings around different musical scenes. Some of those social trappings will be barriers. The informal dress codes for classical music concerts for example. This was something I discussed when I first went to see Dowsing Collective – see here. At the other end, many-a-movie has been made of the affluent character classically trained in something meeting someone from a class-oppressed background talented in an alternative form of a similar art, and finding a connection in the face of hostility from their parents and communities. (Dirty Dancing 2 being one that, where I was in my life captivated me). My point here is how to make the social trappings part of the fun – and inclusive, rather than becoming a barrier?

How to make things greater than the sum of their parts?

The never-ending challenge for people in and around the interface between the public and not-for-profit sectors. I was guided towards the ‘Music Bridge’ that covers Cambridgeshire – and according to this map there’s nothing going on in Cambridge. Or rather, nothing listed by the organisation. But again this doesn’t mean that ‘nothing is happening.’ It is. The problem as with other areas is that we don’t have this single place/organisation to go to (whether online or bricks-and-mortar) that has all the information of what is going on and where, in a manner that is easy to search and that is run by knowledgeable and passionate staff that are not constantly firefighting against cuts.

Why does this all matter to South Cambridge?

Because from the conversations I’ve been having and from what people are telling me, this part of the city is one that is lacking in confidence. How can we use things like art, dance, drama and music to help turn things around?

 

Posted in Cambridge, Music, Public administration & policy | 6 Comments

When political issues are reduced to acts of charity

Summary

Why do we allow the media to de-politicise very political issues?

Because that’s exactly what the BBC’s programme ‘Famous, Rich and Hungry for Sport Relief‘ is.

“Why are you against charity you horrible rotten leftie scoundrel?!?!?”

For a start, what people define as charity is not set in stone. People’s definition of what charity is, is inherently political. Indeed, I’ve had a number of exchanges with my Conservative followers who take the view that charity should be about what an individual or group of people do/does to alleviate the plight of those less well off than them. And that’s it. Absolutely not in their view does charity involve campaigning to persuade people and politicians to change systems, processes, policies and institutional structures to alleviate the problems.

“And the problem is…?”

In this new two-part documentary series, four well-known personalities…

The two actors I’d never heard of, one a self-made millionaire-turned-TV-celeb and the other a well-connected journalist. But then I guess Channel 4 did the Tower Block of Commons with politicians. What happened to the people and communities featured in that programme?

“Doesn’t that just show how out-of-touch with mainstream celeb culture you are?”

Absolutely.

(Though I had heard & watched a few of the TV shows the actors were on).

The thing is, the TV programme followed a well-trodden path – one that for me was completely unsuitable for the people struggling to get by that were featured on the show. That’s what made me angry. When the cameras have gone, the media spotlight has moved on and the celebs are back in their mansions, the ordinary people featured – and hundreds of thousands like them – will still have their problems staring them in the face.

“What is that well-trodden route?”

Get some celebrities well known by the followers of celeb culture, put them in front of ‘fly-on-the-wall-style’ cameras to get the tear-jerking scenes, followed by a phone number calling for charitable donations. The show ended with a call for such donations to Sport Relief. Having scrolled through the hashtag on Twitter, I noted there were a fair few people that said they were only watching the programme because one of their favourite celebrities was on it – then being unpleasantly surprised by the picture that was presented.

“Doesn’t it raise awareness of the issues?”

It does … but then completely diverts the attention gained towards a direction that does not solve the problems. This was the bit that made me quite angry.

Hunger is a political issue, not a charity issue

As Rick B put it.

Perhaps in the same way Labour were seen to throw money at social problems in the early 2000s, perhaps the mindset is that by donating to charity, we’ll solve the worlds problems – again by giving money to those that work on the front line for charities.

I’ve expanded further on these points in blogposts here, and also here - on ‘I don’t want your charity, I demand my rights!’.

“What would you have liked to have seen?”

Basically the programme snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Having raised awareness of people living in poverty on our doorsteps, they then implied that the way people could make a difference was by donating to charity. At no point did I spot any mention of politics other than when the benefit recipients went off to collect social security payments. This differed from the Tower Block of Commons approach where the MPs at the time helped organise some of the residents to go after the council, and then pulled in one of the ministers responsible for a meeting.

Inevitably the BBC would have been treading on a political tightrope on this one – you can imagine what the print media would have made if the programme had ended with: “If you want to make a difference, get involved in politics – here’s how…” Hence through Puffles I tweeted links to Writetothem.com.

When I give food to the poor, they say “Yay! Charidee!” When I ask why the poor have no food, they say “Boo! Politics!”

The above tweet has shot round Twitter by the looks of things. It’s basically an adaptation of a well-known quotation from Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian archbishop who came up with the quotation:

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

It reminds me of the spats the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP is having with the Trussell Trust – the charity that runs many of the nation’s food banks. (See here). Again, the theme of what the role of a charity should be, comes into play. Should the Trussell Trust stay silent and simply collect and distribute food, or should they at the same time be asking awkward questions of ministers?

In Cambridge, some have gone after the food companies directly

I found out not so long ago that food poverty on our doorstep is an issue that has got local Christians and other religious groups active on social justice issues. Some of these people volunteer at the local food bank – one such volunteer being a former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who now lives locally. When a city as affluent as Cambridge has to have a food bank, you know you’re in trouble. When Emmanuel URC in Cambridge hosted an event on food security chaired by Professor Sir Brian Heap (who happens to go to that church), the audience largely made up of regular parishioners did not pull their punches as they tore (very knowledgeably) into the representatives from large food corporations. (Note the comments at the end of the blogpost here).

“So…where do we go from here?”

I think for starters, rather than jumping straight into ‘politics’, there’s something about inviting the public to think about how to resolve the problems other than fundraising for or donating to charity. Having identified the various things people can do, invite them to think about the action most appropriate to their personality and circumstances for them is. For some that might be a donation. For others, it might be something else, such as awareness raising on a street stall, or organising an event through art and drama. For others it might be a demonstration. For others it might be doing something online. For others it might be going through formal political structures. What works for one might not work for another. I’m not good at doing the street protesting. Others are. I’m not good enough on the art and drama side – others are. But I can do the social media activism and working through formal political structures, because that’s what I have knowledge of.

“So the challenge for each individual is…?”

For any social justice issue that you are passionate about, the challenge is finding the actions that you are content doing where you will have the greatest impact. What that actions ultimately are…is for you to decide.

Posted in Campaigning, protesting and demonstrating, Charities and Big Society, Party politics | 4 Comments