We are living longer, even despite social and economic disparities in society. We are retiring later and some individuals are not seeking to retire at all. A trend to longer, healthier lives means that there is more experience and energy that older people can offer than ever before. (You can see an Office of National Statistics report on retirement age from 2012 here…Ed.)
As a society do we value the mature contributor? Do we capitalise on the learning and earning capacity of this age cohort? Jonathan Collie thinks not. He is looking to raise enough funds to hold a conference on ‘The Age of No Retirement‘ on the 1st to the 6th October, 2014.
‘…‘The Age of No Retirement?’ is Britain’s first ever national conference to debate & revalue our opportunities in retirement. Gathering experts, policy makers, key stakeholders and the public we will explore retirement and the opportunities we can provide in an ageing, technological and engaged society’.
It is planned that the first two days of the proposed conference will look at, debate and construct visual outputs and nascent policy proposals around some key themes…
Work & employment
Ageism & prejudice
Health & well-being
Technology & communication
The plus-50 consumer
Self, family & society
Knowledge & education
After a closed day of consolidation and publication there will be a public, three day open event for the review of, and a wider consultative approach to, the work and its outcomes.
The Collie manifesto on ageing has it’s own practical outcome too. Jonathan founded, and has gained wide support for, a new social business called Trading Times.
The project connects local employers with mature workers who are often retired, single parents or carers. They may not need a full-time job, but can offer a wide range of skills to interested employers.
We think this is an important debate. Not only because the conversationsEAST office is a ‘no-retirement’ zone, but because the potential contribution of this section of society is untapped. Trading Times is not the only player in town, but could provide an economic model that works well for the mature employed.
Why not a Trading Times hub in every RSA region? (It’s not immediately obvious from the web site, but we suspect that TT is a London centric initiative at present…Ed.)
In conclusion, the Age of No Retirement constitutes a move to an important new social shift. Support it, whatever your age, as the outcomes may condition the whole life contribution you can make. Wherever you are on your journey now.
Today sees the launch of a new RSA report, generously sponsored and in collaboration with British Land – Socially productive places – Learning from what works: lessons from British Land – born out of an earlier RSA conference.
Social productivity is the additional social value that can be created through better relationships between citizens, society, business and public services…
The report is a long letter to developers, communities and planners, essentially pleading the case that ‘…long term property value is driven by the long term economic relevance of an asset’.
A socially productive place would build community capacity to benefit from and drive growth, and increase resilience to shocks and give an ability to adapt to new circumstances. This is not a new idea. The evidence in the report tracks community development progressive initiatives from early EU regional funding to the New Deal for Communities.
What is new, perhaps, is the tight focus on new skill acquisition by all partners and a fresh focus on method and delivery for impact. The same refocus is taking place in the community finance sector, where the ‘impact investor’ and how outcomes are mapped and delivered is a priority for funders, project planners and community partnerships. The report exercises this viewpoint well.
(As an example of this new social finance mode of delivery see how Social Enterprise East Midlands worked in collaboration with Big Society Capital to deliver an informative and effective mapping session for politicians, social bankers and financial intermediaries in this new sector. See more here…Ed.).
The RSA Report also shows how private capital is developing both it’s land bank and its ideas with impact in mind. The report references brands such as Asda ‘... adopting a ‘community venturing’ approach, forming partnerships with charities and public services‘.
Discover more about shopping for shared value and community venturing in a recent edition of Matthew Taylor’s blog – read more here.
Planning should be thought of as a front-line service.
The success of a development should be judged by its impact on those who use it and its ability to contribute to a broader set of social and economic outcomes, the report declares. Building high quality public realm is expensive, but, says the report, privatising public space is not the answer.
Accessible public realm is an important feature of social productivity places – places designed to support social and economic connectivity. When built, the people must come.
To achieve the above, then there are a number of often new issues to wrangle with for key players in the development process. Investing in community relationships, by any mature, established corporate entitity requires agility and commitment. The report focuses on three key elements…
Successful community investment takes time and effort by developers, including long term consistent representation, engagement by senior executives and dedicated staff.
Local political support is essential, site specific planning frameworks are not.
The results for developers can be profitable as quality of public realm drives rents, and local consent for density allows greater floorspace yield from a site.
The Cambridge sub-region:
One of our own sub-regional cities features in the report too. Cambridge, which quietly broke out of green-belt constraints in the 1990’s, created new communities and growth areas. These well designed and built communites, although having offered an increase in take up of local services were less successful, the report indicates, in increasing employment in those new communities. They have, however, increased pressure on transport links.
As universities become ever increasing drivers of economic development, then local areas should increasingly consider graduate retention as an important part of their
social and economic development thinking, the report highlights. Working with both universities and developers to pursue this goal should be a strategic priority for the future. Certainly a key development driver for Cambridge, being the world class research nexus that it is.
Finally, the report gives readers examples of non-linear, non -traditional development models which utilise public spaces for community benefit in innovative ways.
One such featured is Incredible Edible – whose growth has been achieved by by-passing bureaucratic processes, ‘…which rely on a narrow account of how value is created and maintained’.
In summary, this is an important paper, which whilst containing no ravishing new insights or philosophy, should score very, very highly with the community development sector in the way that it brings together, in a new meld, a variety of distinct skill sets to map a new way forward for developers, planners, politicians and community groups.
You can still find the content of the original conference, and the papers presented by a list of distinguished speakers here, on The RSA web site.
Continuing our diversions for summer 2014 , we nonetheless remain interested in gender inequality and below take the opportunity to look at interesting initiatives designed to boost the engagement and equality of status for women in technology.
Girls in Tech Paris 2014 – European Lady Pitch Night
Despite the rather off message phrasing of the translated title, if you are a female technologist, active in a European based start-up and have been operational in your company or project for between six and thirty six months, then you could be n your way to Paris for this Girls in Tech Paris/Orange sponsored annual event on the 23rd September.
Applications have been extended and are closing on July 23rd, so you still have time to get your bid in. All finalists will receive tickets to Europe’s top technology conferences, including Dublin Le Web, LeWeb and Europas. Your submission will be tested, in English, in front of a jury, after a telephone interview to complete the selection process.
If you are a female technologist intent on a career in the sector, despite some of the reservations below, we think Girls in Tech London is a great resource. Their pages offer insights into fifteen UK Tech Women to watch in 2014. Great role models and great examples of women driven technology enterprise. See more here…
Microsoft – supporting change in the gender balance
The Seattle giant recently, in June 2014, held a number of sessions at its Cambridge Research building in our region, designed to interest and promote female engagement with technology and software.
It is widely recognised that women entering the sector are faced by a massive gender imbalance, with attitudes to women still in transition in the industry. However, keen to not lose good minds and the opportunity for original research, Microsoft held a workshop on Tips and Tools for Scientific Research Success – ‘…aimed to educate attendees about Microsoft research tools, equip them with advice from experienced researchers about the opportunities of being an early-career researcher, and inspire them with examples from Microsoft Research that show the potential of computer science to change the world’.
Although 55% of enrolments in higher education are for women, data from HESA in 2013 shows, fewer than 3% of graduates were in computer science. Of that cohort only 17% were women.
Attendees at the Microsoft event in Cambridge looked at issues around cloud computing, research tools that Microsoft currently offers and how attendees might master Excel and WordPress in order to deliver and publish their research.
The attendees also looked at Chronozoom and Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope. If you are interested in history and star gazing, these are great tools to find out more about your subject at any level, even if you are not a research scientist .
Another solution to the gender imbalance in ‘tech’ is to build a steadfast Bailey castle, and exclude the male majority from it. In San Francisco, the Double Union feminist hacker space does just that.
Just using the word castle would, we expect, bring us into conflict with the collective’s base assumptions. However, an overwhelming belief in open-ness and collaboration is, we recognise, trumped by the assessment that the problems for women in ‘tech’ industry are so large, that barriers need to be erected to allow a comfortable, clear space for reflection and creativity.
Fast Company recently published a profile of the feminist work space and of Amelia Greenhall, the spaces Executive Director. To sign up for Double Union women must evidence that they share a similar world view as other centre residents.
A key ‘counter-text’ for Unioner’s is Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. The Union holds that it is the tech industry that needs to change, not the women in it. Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, drove a movement forward. You can see the Lean In web pages here. But the more ardent, Double Union feminist approach, and the data, argues that for most women in technology, the barriers are not falling. Despite gentler feminist movements, girls who code projects and the well known female faces in the industry – tokenism at best the Unioner’s would probably argue.
They present a cogent argument. Google’s payroll includes only 17% of employees who are women, whilst Facebook offers workspaces and careers to only 15% of its staffing levels to women. Not much evidence of internal change in these major sector players, we would argue.
Perhaps the solution is the rainbow coalition approach? The ardent, exclusive feminists and the gentler, inclusive mainstream corporate sensibility will together reshape the face of ‘tech’ in the future, for all women? We hope so.
We read and were stirred by the Fast Company article. Written by a female journalist it none the less includes a description of what the Executive Director of the feminist space was wearing. We can’t remember the last time we read an interview with Bill Gates which featured his wardrobe?
(Are there any similar feminist community initiatives for ‘tech’ in the Eastern Region? We can’t think of any. If you know of one, let us know. We’ll feature it on our journal pages and continue the conversation…Ed).
In his lecture Matthew argues that we stand on the edge of a vast plain of opportunity. Social, technological and philosophical changes in the last century have the potential to enable every person to be creative, in the widest sense.
His core argument cites Amartya Sen, amongst others, who have argued that with the creativity that education and open-ness deliver, runs alongside a reliance on resources. These must be garnered, deployed and accounted for too.
He does stress that in this century those resources are, or can be for most, free. This journal, for example, is a product of imagination and the utilisation of Open Source software to create and deliver information and opinion to a social network.
Although we would bind ourselves to the argument it does not fully extend itself, yet, into the sphere of hardware. The technology we need to deploy free assets still comes at a cost, a la Amartya Sen.
Matthew also presses us to the concept that creativity is not the sole remit of high culture alone. For a creative individual, it is perhaps starting a new socially focused enterprise, writing and publishing new works or working with others to deliver societal change.
This notion of ‘the social’ is a strong theme in the lecture. Matthew argues for the collapse of ‘Fordism’ and traditional passive consumption of services in the local authority arena. The social transaction in the workplace and wider civic society itself undergoing dramatic change at the social/technological interface. This change, the lecture makes clear, is still under way. Destination unknown.
In the final part of the lecture we hear of two key restraints on creativity.
One is the ever increasing ‘gap’ to reach those who enjoy privilege and wealth. Matthew cites Thomas Piketty’s recent argument that the traditionalist, narrow pyramidal social and economic structures of the past continue to eat into the resources, and undertake exploitation of, the majority in the present. The spectre of Marx is at the feast, even for Piketty.
Secondly, the Weberian notion of ‘splitting’ is a key restraint argued for by our lecturer. ‘Social pyramidism’ is reflected in the largest corporations, whether in the civic domain or in private hands. Where individuals are completely constrained by function and hierarchy…to the detriment of their own creativity.
We would probably extend this argument slightly further, in that the traditionalist, elitist and pyramidal organisation creates a culture of fear, not of creativity. All creative people recognise the tone of those emails, the sense of ‘beyond my pay grade’, that any attempt at initiative and new thinking can create.
This personal creativity is fostered, we would argue, in the private, domestic domain to the disregard of the corporate structures that the individual labours under….perversely perhaps, in order to acquire the technology to be properly free.
In conclusion, the lecture pitches us into the argument of ‘civic effects’, where success for a creative society will be an ad-mixture of engagement in civil society, the activation and support of creative ‘doers of things’ and the press to change entrenched behaviours, in order to disrupt the traditional pyramidal approach.
It’s a powerful argument from and for the RSA and should be heard widely.
Heading away from the Eastern Region over the summer period? Spending some time on the South Coast? A great event with some inspiring and refreshing RSA talks will be taking place at Camp Bestival 2014.
‘The sister festival of the Isle of Wight’s Bestival, in its first year Camp Bestival was awarded ‘Best New Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards and has since won Best Family Festival three times at the awards in 2009, 2010 & 2013.
With a host of thrilling activities from soft play and circus skills to go-carts and glitter, there’s plenty of excitement for kids of all ages. Plus, there are kids’ shows and performances on the Castle Stage and in the Big Top, daring antics to be had at the Freesports Park, and fairytale escapism in the Dingly Dell’.
The RSA Team will be boarding their summer holiday charabanc and leaving the metropolis for the Dorset countryside. With tents, wellies and a relaxed mind, ready to be entertained themselves and to have the children beguiled too.
Fellows, and the assembled audience, will be able to enjoy The RSA Hour events on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend…
Saturday 2 August at 10am. Psychologist Dr Ben Ambridge’s innovative interactive investigation of intelligence.
‘What is intelligence? Where does it come from, and why does it even matter? How much do you know and understand about what makes you tick? And how good are you at predicting other people’s behavior…or even your own?
What’s the link between intelligence and curly fries? Are atheists cleverer than religious people? What about men vs women, or right- vs left handers? Does listening to heavy metal or Mozart make you smarter? What do different shapes taste like? Are you stupider than a monkey?’
Sunday 3 August at 1pm. Dr. Kevin Fong – our fascination with the final frontier.
‘Of the men who once walked on the Moon, only a handful now remain. The space shuttle, the most remarkable space craft ever built, is gone. Our ambitions appear to be failing almost as fast as the Government funds available for space exploration.
Variously described as ‘TV’s face of science’ and the ‘Brian Cox of medicine’, self-confessed space junkie Dr. Kevin Fong asks – have we come to the end of our fascination with the frontier of space? What social and scientific value did our curiosity about space really add, back here on Earth? Perhaps in the future we will look back upon the endeavour of human space flight as we do the building of the pyramids…’
A formidable block, which at first appears to teeter or lean from its base, yet which is an elegant building, seeming to move forward, conveying a sense of motion.
The tower contains 15,000 square meters of space, and can accommodate some 1,800 students and staff. It crests at a height of 78 metres.
We think the tower is a great metaphor for an enterprising community. Hong Kong, enjoying unique relationships with Britain and China because of its history, none the less has in the Jockey Club Charitable Institute and the islands’s seats of learning, a powerful admixture to reap social and economic change in the region.
Indeed, the building’s occupants define its mission as being ‘…initiated by PolyU and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation (J.C.DISI) convenes university expertise, curates trans-disciplinary projects, and constructs partnerships for social well-being and positive systemic change’.
Exploring the Hadid Architects web pages, the drawings of the tower, confined by the landscape the building is set in for sure, none the less look like drawings for rotational cam devices – using an engineering metaphor to illustrate the movement of all the enterprise contained within.
Supporting the circular energy idea, despite the many contradictions of Hong Kong, are PolyU projects like SOCIA. Striving to co-ordinate and facilitate research and social change with the English speaking world, SOCIA looks to ‘…articulate partnership, with government, business, community and academia, for design-embedded social innovation projects – to incubate a new generation of graduates and young designers as novel thinkers, activists and change-makers from Hong Kong‘.
A building is simply a shelter. In the case of Hadid’s tower it is also a shelter for ideas, community engagement, innovation and education. If the concrete construct is a metaphor for innovation, it’s enduring legacy could be substantial and durable change in the communities that lie within its hinterland?
The weekend of June 28th 2014 marked the centenary of the death of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. Arguably sparking the events that put in train the First World War.
This reflection revealed a surprising and diverse range of resources about the Great Conflict. Many, perhaps, at odds with the perceived understanding of the war and its consequences. Remarkable in as much that so much is yet to be discovered, even after a century has passed…
His ambitions were arguably localised, national, but the outcome of his act was trans-continental. With the destruction to come, the terrible devastation of war, linked to and having an unfortunate long echo back to the previous tumultuous tragedies in France during the 15th Century. The anguish is contemporary still.
Allas! what peple hathe your werre slayne!
What cornes wastede, and doune trode and shent!
How many a wyfe and maide hathe be forlayne,
Castrels doune bete, and tymbered houses brent
And drawen doune, and alle tortore and rent!
The harme ne may not rekened be ne tolde;
This werre wexethe all to hore and olde…
Thomas Hoccleve, Poet & Clerk, London
‘An appeal for Peace in France’ (1412)
Princip, part of a team of six Bosnian-Serb radicals dedicated to their plan, was standing outside a cafe in Franz Josef Street, reflecting on an earlier failed assassination attempt upon the Austrian Archduke by a co-conspirator that day. When, seeing the royal vehicle, engine stalled after taking a wrong turn, he leapt forward with his revolver, and from a distance of five feet, changed history.
This story of ‘cataclysm by happenstance’ continues to provoke debate and divide about how the next few months saw progress into war, but also about the wider legacy of Princip’s actions, even after a hundred years has passed. The narratives still differ, both historic and contemporary, often in surprising ways.
Modern Sarajevo remains a divided city, politically and culturally, to this day. With Princip seen as hero or devil depending upon the view of historical events taken from the city centre. To mark the Sarajevan centenary Andrew MacDowall, in The Guardian newspaper, has written an interesting and insightful article on how stands the political front-line concerning Princip.
In Eastern Sarajevo, from the view point of the Serb Republic, Princip is a national hero,. His actions freeing the city from Austrian dominance. However, for the Bosnian Muslim population Princip’s actions bought about an end to a golden era of Austrian administration. The Muslim population look to the grand edifices of civil society, schools and railways of the Austrian Empire as evidence of their argument.
Even after a hundred years, residents of a strife torn city cannot agree on a single, conciliatory view of their history. This set us thinking about that sunny day in 1914. What were, or what did, contemporaries to Princip think about the coming events and their out turn?
We turned to the Project Gutenberg on-line library. Looking through the project’s World War 1 bookshelf we discovered, amongst the usual, deeply moving and contemporary military narratives, a surprising and very different view of events and understanding of the ‘culture’ of war, particularly of conflict in other places.
This writer did not know of a Mills and Boon, Kiplingesque literary oeuvre developed around events of the war. Deeply at odds with the first person narrative of other, military writers, but perhaps born of a then contemporary optimism for Empire, incomplete knowledge and the heady ‘home by Christmas’ approach.
The Gutenberg archive also makes available to the general reader a selection of European political writing on the Great War. We found the account of pre-war diplomacy and events from Viscount Haldane both disturbing and revealing about political attitudes and actions towards European conflict. See more here…
Margaret Vandercook in her The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army, (John Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1916) writes about war and combat as a sort of Mills & Boon romance adventure. Dashing young men in foreign places, capturing the swooning hearts of kindly young women. Published in 1916, it arguably represents a canon of juvenile fiction, that was blind to, or unknowing of the true horror of warfare at any front-line.
There is a sort of breathless, adventure story pace to the book, at odds with the newsreel and written narratives we have come to know about the Great War and other conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.
There is in this bookshelf collection a fascinating insight into the power of Empire and the loyalty created in military service.
In Talbot Munday’s Hira Singh – When India Came to Fight in Flanders lies the fictionalised story of a group of Sikh soldiers captured by the German army in Flanders and transported back to ‘Constantinople’, who then escaped and marched overland to Kabul in Afghanistan to rejoin the British Army in their fight in Europe again.
One hundred Indian troops of the British Army have arrived at Kabul, Afghanistan, after a four months’ march from Constantinople. The men were captured in Flanders by the Germans and were sent to Turkey in the hope that…they might join the Turks. But they remained loyal to Great Britain and finally escaped, heading for Afghanistan. They now intend to join their regimental depot in India, so it is reported.
New York Times, July, 1915 (Talbot Munday)
Although fiction, with some of the language jarring by modern cultural norms, and being written by a European, the story none the less provides insights into the nature of leadership, how men who were accomplished warriors from another culture, might have seen the conflict in Europe with empathetic eyes.
The archive does not contain any reflection from Indian sources, but when looking at the contribution of the Indian Army and Marine service to the conflict, there is little doubt that support there was.
How profound, prompted a look at the detail of the contribution of the Indian Army in the Great War? Details of the 1 million Indian troops who served in France, Mesopotamia and other battle zones can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web pages. See more here…
Closer to home are a range of projects and community activities to remember the Great War in detail. One such is the work done by Fellows in Chelmsford, as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project – Chelmsford Remembers, and which will be launched as part of the Essex Remembers event, which involves both Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council, to held at Hylands House on the weekend of 13th/14th September.
We look forward to supporting Fellows in the project by delivering a ‘web special feature’ about this exciting social history journey of discovery. (You can find the Chelmsford War Memorial web site here – this is a wonderful resource, with images and detailed biographies of the 359 men commemorated on the Great War Memorial in Chelmsford, Ed.)
Even after one hundred years, the local and social is as telling and moving as ever. Princip would probably still recognise the physical landscape old Sarajevo, if not the political one, whilst great new discoveries and insights lay waiting in the family archives of Chelmsford we suspect.
A new web resource, dedicated to the art, politics and history of the great conflict. Referencing major UK museum collections, but also providing insights into history from a surprising variety of sources.
A new resource offering insights into how ‘… it was the ordinary men and women who were affected the most. This exhibition gives those personal accounts from across Europe for the first time, based on stories and items contributed by the public’.
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