I’ve now received emails from at least six different organisations about the HSBC tax scandal, with all the related ‘Did you miss this?’ or ‘Thanks for signing, can you forward to everyone you’ve ever met?’ emails.
I think we might be reaching peak e-petition. Or maybe I am. Cos I sign up for too much stuff. Or because these organisations love list-building – several get their funds from donations from a minor percentage of their lists, so they’re incentivised to grow their lists, weakening the case for collaboration. (Collaboration that might, however, more effectively lead to results.)
Anyway, I think digital democracy might not be meant to feel like getting bombarded with emails. Continue reading Are we reaching peak e-petition?
Exactly one year ago, I took the Giving What We Can pledge. It’s a commitment to contribute 10% of my salary to the most effective efforts to end global poverty.
This post details what I’ve done about it and hopefully encourages others to join the fun. Continue reading One resolution fulfilled: my 2014 charitable giving
Policy Network and the Barrow Cadbury Trust are running a great little series of events under the umbrella title of ‘Understanding the Populist Signal’. Last night’s was ‘Contact democracy for the hyper-connected age‘ – probably the area most closely related to my own interests.
Prof. David Farrell of University College Dublin gave the main presentation – an excellent review of both the pessimistic view of democracy (turnout down by an alarming rate in all large Western democracies – but watch those Scandi’s bucking the trend, of course) and the optimistic view (today we engage in different ways – by signing petitions, by tweeting a minister – and we hate the phrase politics, but that doesn’t mean we don’t practise it). Even on constitutional reform – which can seem to be going nowhere – Farrell argued that the UK has been a lot more successful over the last 20 years than his home country of Ireland (e.g. progress on Freedom of Information and the Human Rights Act). Continue reading Quick notes from ‘Contact democracy for the hyper-connected age’ event
Earlier in 2014, the Legatum Institute published the final results of their Commission on Wellbeing and Policy. I don’t know much about this think tank – it seems to lean rightwards, but claims a non-partisan and is probably funded with oil cash, but they put together an all-star cast to advise this report:
- Sir Gus O’Donnell (former head of the UK civil service)
- Prof Richard Layard (a leading author in the field, wrote the book on ‘Happiness‘)
- Prof Angus Deayton (economics prof at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Service at Princeton)
- Martine Durand (Head of Stats for the OECD)
- David Halpern (ex-academic, now running the quasi-governmental Behavioural Insights Team (their ownership structure is worth a blog of its own))
It is a superb piece of work. If you’re interested in the role of government, public services, evaluation, economics, life, the universe, or indeed anything, you should read it. Lots of golden nuggets and summaries of vast amounts of academic research. It should be shaping the way governments work, everywhere.
Its main conclusion is a call for the greater use of subjective wellbeing data in policy making. It argues that we need to stop using money as a proxy for wellbeing in basic cost-benefit analyses. The logical second conclusion of the report is that we need better data. It’s not impossible – wellbeing really can be measured. And we’re getting better and better at it. As we get better data, governments will be able to take far, far better policy decisions, which in turn should increase our wellbeing. It’s fairly intuitive, but could be revolutionary. Continue reading Why it’s time for governments to take wellbeing seriously