Openness and transparency – are we there yet?

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William Tyndale was arrested and jailed, convicted of heresy, sentenced to death by strangulation, and then burnt at the stake. That was how the Monarchy and the Church dealt with ‘traitors’ and threats to their power in 1536. We’re a bit more civilised today – in most countries – but we still have government organisations, professional bodies, corporates, and NFPs with their own ways of condemning those who try to do what William Tyndale was doing 500 years ago.

So what was Tyndale’s crime? He translated the Bible into English and tried to make it available to the masses. Indeed, Tyndale’s Bible was the first to be published in English. Previous attempts had been subject to the death penalty, and the burning of any texts discovered.

We are supposed to now live in enlightened times and in a digital communications age where information is freely available. We are told that openness and transparency are essential for a modern democracy and for a business or organisation operating in this ‘age of accountability’. We have the internet, wiki-based sharing of knowledge, open source software, instant messaging, citizen journalism, company information freely available on websites, school performance results available to parents, in some countries at least.

And yet, we still have an army of people out there trying to stop us getting access to information and trying to ‘control the message’ just like the Churches and Governments did in the 16th Century.

We still have professionals who exclude people via their technical language. We have scientists who keep us at a distance despite all the attempts of popular science programmes to let us in on the secret. We have judges and lawyers tying us in knots with legal jargon and Latin phrases that no-one else ever uses these days.

We have government advisers, spin doctors, media relations advisers to the bishop, corporate communications departments, and many others who now form a new profession which prides itself on ‘controlling the message’ and deciding what the masses can have access to.

William Tyndale advocated a simple truth. If the Bible really was the source of wisdom and guidance the priests said it was in their weekly sermons – drawing from the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts – then why not make the whole book available in English for all English-speaking people to read and benefit from? In essence, Tyndale was saying why not allow people to find their own salvation in their own interpretations rather than have someone else pick selected translated text and give people one particular interpretation based on the view of a minister or church?

But here we are in 2017. The ‘need to know’ principle is alive and kicking in many institutions and organisations. We still have thousands of boards, cabinets, committees, senior leadership teams, and managers who operate on the same basis as the Churches did in Tyndale’s day. They give us information when they think we need it, with their particular spin on it, plus selected evidence that supports their interpretation, not the full source material, so without full openness and transparency.

For many managers, the power to control the message and the information flow is the only power they have left, and they are hanging on to it until the bitter end. And it will end. To not accept this is to swim against the tide – and swim they do against the waves of new affiliative, collaborative, deliberative, democratic, and facilitative styles of running organisations that have evolved for the real world we are living in today.

Society is shifting permanently in the direction of greater openness and accountability. Digital communications technology, citizen journalism and participative democracy are changing our world in a way that governments, institutions, companies, organisations and managers cannot resist. They will still put up the barricades, get the wagons round in a circle, disappear into their bunkers, and fool themselves into believing they are still in charge – with their command and control structures and hierarchies – but time and reality will prove otherwise.

It is incredibly threatening for the control freaks that so many managers and communicators are. They will continue to react as the King and the Church did in Tyndale’s day. Non-complying employees are sent to metaphorical dungeons. Non-aligned voices are strangled. Whistleblowers are metaphorically burnt at the stake. Annual Reports and official communication no longer read like Latin but they appear in a new form of language – Sanitised English – thoroughly washed of any undesirable messages or alternative interpretations of source material.

These days there are many complaints about politicians, the media, and manipulative activists putting out ‘fake news’ but we have an institutionalised inauthenticity in a lot of our daily stream of controlled communication that emanates from governments, businesses, sporting organisations, big charities, etc. As soon as any organisation is large enough to think it has something to lose, it starts to try and protect what it has, and its first line of defence is trying to control information and the narrative around it.

William Tyndale’s immediate legacy was to make ‘The Good Book’ much more accessible. He had four challenges – translating the text, publishing the translation, getting the publication to a wide audience, and trying to avoid the forces trying to stop him making it available. If Tyndale were alive today, he might be using online translation programs and publishing other key texts on his website. Life would be much easier from that perspective.

However, he would still have people trying to stop him publishing certain material, and trying to control the narrative around it. If he worked in a government organisation, church, professional association, corporate or big charity, he would probably think the attempts to ‘control the agenda’ were – as a young social media commentator might put it these days – “so 16th Century”!

Paul Vittles FMRS FRSA FAMI GAICD is open and transparent. It has generally been good for his career (occasionally limiting), his clients, his colleagues, his partners, his stakeholders, and his mental health!

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RSA Animate behind the scenes

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From Paul Vittles on the Fellowship Forum

I don’t actually think this is on the RSA Website – it certainly should be – but it’s the story behind some of the very best content on the RSA website.

It’s Andrew Park talking about his wonderful RSA Animate videos, and Professor Richard Wiseman talking about the evaluation which demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach for embedding communications messages.

Andrew talks about how he used to do real time graphic facilitation because he could and it impressed people but he then realised it’s more effective to listen to the talk multiple times before creating the animated version to be really effective at getting the key messages across.

 

The RSA Animate series was conceived as an innovative, accessible and unique way of illustrating and sharing the world-changing ideas from the RSA’s free public events programme. With millions of views and thousands of comments, fans and subscribers, RSA Animates have revolutionised the field of knowledge visualisation whilst spreading the most important ideas of our time.

RSA Animates are created in collaboration with CognitiveAndrew Park, the mastermind behind the series and everyone’s favourite hairy hand, discusses their appeal and success in his blog ‘Talk to the Hand’.

You can find and contribute to translations of RSA Animates on DotSub.

All of our work, including RSA Animates, is supported by our 27,000 Fellows who inspire, support and enable new solutions to address the problems of the 21st Century. If you share or demonstrate a commitment to positive social change, find out how you can become a Fellow.

If you like the videos in our RSA Animates series, find out more about how you can use our audio and video files

Check out the RSAnimate series here

History teaching for the Trump and Brexit era

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fellws forumFrom the Fellows Forum by Paul Vittles 15/04/2017

We have moved into a world where few people read history or study history like they used to, including checking references, triangulation, going back to original source material, corroborating evidence, etc. It’s just a quick Google, quick ‘facts’, move on.

But the ‘God of Google’ is often wrong, just like the ‘Wisdom of Wikipedia’ is often factually incorrect. When people find out that, in 1996, I led the team to decide what to do with the site of 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, they often say to me “_Oh yes, they turned it into a memorial garden_”. No they didn’t. That’s just what it says now on articles that show up prominently on a Google search. The problem is that was early media speculation with a massive amount of prurient interest, before the real hard work got going behind the scenes listening to all the victims’ relatives and the local community to bring that tragic chapter to some semblance of ‘closure’.

We have fake news, fake Facebook accounts:

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/facebook-targets-30000-fake-france-accounts-election-46793944

…and, some would say, fake politicians with fake spin doctors, with their alternative facts.

Never before in human history have we had to deal with having so much information at our fingertips, so much apparent ease of finding out ‘the truth’ and yet so much manipulation and distortion to stop us finding the real story. Technology is part of the solution but it’s also part of the problem. Getting to the real facts. the real story, the truth as we traditionally define it, is not a high tech activity, it’s high touch.

We have evolved as a society and an education system to not just rote learning of ‘facts’, so that’s a step forward. However in countries like Australia, ‘the facts’ have always been a grey area anyway with different interpretations of history:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_wars

[ps yes, I’m conscious of the irony of quoting Wikipedia but this particular entry does seem to be well-informed, objective and dispassionate on a subject that fuels great passions and polarisation – almost guaranteeing a response to challenge what I’ve just said!]

However, we have new challenges, especially with world leaders – from Bashar-al-Assad to Kim Jong-un to Vladimir Putin to Trump to Sepp Blatter – constantly questioning the free media and all of the evidence we have so freely available as unreliable or ‘fake’.

The RSA started taking the right direction with the Opening Minds curriculum, e.g. helping children and young people (and all of us) to learn how to better manage information, resources, and relationships to be able to make more sense of the modern world we live in:

http://www.rsaopeningminds.org.uk

Btw, what has happened with Opening Minds? The website doesn’t seem to have been updated for a long time. It has said “_200 schools_” for the past couple of years. Maybe the action has switched elsewhere?

We need to go much, much further in teaching, training, mentoring, coaching and facilitating to help children, young people, and the population at large to be able to properly research history, check facts, corroborate evidence, challenge established or emerging interpretations of history, develop critical thinking skills, challenge cynicism but encourage healthy scepticism around online evidence sources via Google and Wikipedia, help those with reliable source material to tell their stories and communicate the facts, and broaden the base of knowledge to be able to have more informed discussions with more considered conclusions.

Despite the scale, breadth and rate of technological change, history does keep repeating itself, and so we do need to study the past, learn from the past, thereby helping to better understand our present and anticipate the future.

I’ve posted at length elsewhere about Brexit, so I won’t repeat that here now (maybe I’ll paste it in here at some point). I’ve tried to have reasoned discussions around Trump, Bannon, Spicer, Conway, etc but people tend to get into their bunkers and only let in the data that supports their worldview.

So much rubbish is spouted by elected politicians and their advisers these days that I find the most interesting ‘moments of truth’ to study are the few, begrudging occasions when they actually apologise – like Conway over fabricated stories around terrorist incidents, or Spicer over the ‘Hitler’ comment. It’s nice to know that even the Chief Spinners, Manipulators & Fabricators still have some boundaries.

As I’ve been writing about this, it has made me think more deeply about how important it is to our civilisation to have apologies – proper, unconditional, heartfelt apologies – as part of the process of knowing what ‘the facts’ are, what history teaches us, and in order to move forward together to a better future. I feel another post coming on!

For more visit http://fellowsforum.thersa.org

Selective Education: Increasing social mobility or for the benefit of the few?

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fellws forumFrom the Fellows Forum

This is an example of some questions we are asking / discussing in the forum….

How do you view the increased spending (£50 million) on selective education in England and the expansion of grammar schools places? This news comes alongside reports suggesting a financial crisis in education more generally.

Some claim that the expansion of selective places will provide more opportunities for those deemed to be ‘just about managing’ or from ordinary working families. However, others argue that these represent a small number of children at grammar schools and whether these ‘opportunities’ will be restricted to a limited number of children.

The other question is whether we should protect and promote educational opportunities for all children and not the selected few. The government have implied that attending a non-selective or comprehensive school can involve just ‘making do’, but should we invest in all education to ensure that every child does not have to ‘make do’. Also while there are some excellent comprehensive schools, how will the fears of a financial crisis impact on the future of these schools?

Also some argue that certain children suit a more ‘academic’ pathway connected to grammar school education. However, does this system decide who should follow this pathway too early and does this raise additional questions about what ‘good’ education actually means for our society?

Despite many experts and educationalists being against this move towards greater selection, it seems that this will become a reality in the coming months? How do you feel about this move? Is the expansion of selective places and schools a good idea?

Below are some articles with additional information about the current situation.

Digital Literacy and Blogging

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digital literacy

Digital Literacy has been defined as

A Digitally Literate Person:

• Possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats;

• Is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information;

• Understands the relationship between technology, life-long learning, personal privacy, and stewardship of information;

• Uses these skills and the appropriate technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public; and

• Uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.

ALA Digital Literacy Taskforce, 2011

The discussion of Digital Literacy on the Fellows’ Forum is here

It is these two latter points that of actively participating and contributing is my concern here. Blogging fulfills these requisites. A digitally literate person by having a blog contributes to our society. They communicate their experiences and their skills. Using WordPress dot com gives a person an insight into how the web works and it is not difficult to set up a blog. WordPress populates 27% of the Internet.

If you need instructions as to how to setup a blog go here

Having a web site on your CV makes you much more attractive in this digital age. It takes about 30 minutes to set up a blog and if you can use a word processor making a post is as easy as pie.

Everyone should claim their spot on the Internet and this is the way to do it.

The Power To Create

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The power to create is in all of us, we only have to do it. One way to start being creative is to create a blog. Second Life is very creative, but limited; generally what is created there stays there. It is time to move outside the box. The video below says a lot about creativity : “The Power To Create”. 

So what will you do now? How about a blog?

Get Started here > 

http://hosting.digitalforces.net/domains/ if you want your own dot com etc

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If you just want a free WordPress blog to get your little toes wet go here >

http://OlderCitizens.org/