We’re not looking for a new England

Well, we might be. Earlier this month, Toby Perkins MP managed to restart a conversation about a national anthem for England. It’s a fun question – and represents an accessible entry point into thinking about the constitution of the UK and the varying nations, principalities, islands and peoples that make it up. And who decides what, and how.

In a happy coincidence, Compass last week hosted 40 people who run or manage democracy organisations for a day of “Designing a New Democracy.”

My notes are below. I think the crucial question is about authority. It’s only going to be useful and gain momentum if the public considers that the process has power and will actually lead to real, lasting change. That is the challenge that reformers face.
Continue reading We’re not looking for a new England

How to do more good this year

It’s about this time of year that in a moderately hungover fashion, I cast my mind back and ponder what I have achieved in the last 12 months.

In my day job and as a volunteer, I work at trying to increase public participation in governance.

And I do ultimately think that a more democratic system of governance – across political deliberation, decision making and across public services, coupled with citizenship education and better informed citizens – is the kind of systemic change required to solve the big problems.

However…

I’m aware that this systemic shift might take a while.

In the meantime, it makes me happy to think that each of us still has the capacity to be extremely effective in making the world a better place. That is, increasing the net wellbeing of everyone on the planet.

There are now nearly 1,500 members of Giving What We Can, the network of folks who donate a significant proportion of their salary to do as much good as they can. This is typically realised as donations to low-cost high-impact health interventions. So far, the membership has donated $10m, and is projected to give $500m over members’ lifetimes.

For me, in 2015, I earned £35,000 (before tax). I’m donating £3,500 to their trust, which in turn passes the money to four charities:

  • Against Malaria Foundation
  • Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
  • Deworm the World
  • Project Healthy Children

According to the number-crunchers this should be enough to:

  • distribute 600+ bed nets to prevent malaria; or
  • 3,000+ deworming treatments

…the equivalent to saving at least one life this year.

That’s a Happy New Year.

Learn more (and even try it out) here.

P.S. I’ve also tried to offset my carbon footprint separately with the great Cool Earth and 350.org.

(Photo credit: BY-NC-ND 2.0 Paul Brock Photography)

Politics without Parties: Flatpack Democracy by Peter Macfadyen

the bookFrome. Rhymes with broom. Nice small town in Somerset. Home to the Guardian’s John Harris, who brought attention to the fact that in May 2015 the local electorate booted out political parties from the town council altogether, in favour of a loosely aligned group of independents known as Independents for Frome.

The ringleader behind it all – though leader is probably an unwelcome word – is Peter Macfadyen. He’s written a call to arms / guidebook on why and how to repeat their success.

The book’s only a 100 pages long – so you should probably just order a copy. But here’s a precis just in case.  Continue reading Politics without Parties: Flatpack Democracy by Peter Macfadyen

Cycling the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries

The ‘Magnificent Seven’ are seven large Victorian cemeteries in London town. They were run by private companies into the C20th, where they basically all realised that sustainable profits from cemeteries were a bit tricky. So they were typically abandoned and then taken over by local authorities.

Google’s hopelessly optimistic about how long this 37 mile trip takes. But then Google doesn’t add time for wandering around looking at gravestones, or grabbing sandwiches and lunchtime beers. So fair enough. Continue reading Cycling the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries