Categories
Reading

The #lockdown reading list

Given I now have a bit more time on my hands, I plan to spend my time working on institution-building for democracy.

I’m also planning to catch up with several years’ worth of Things I Really Should Have Read Earlier. The COVID-19 lockdown presents an opportunity to try to get through some it.

Categories
Thinking

A more democratic country

This time four years ago, Sym Roe and I found ourselves working from the converted cellars of Somerset House, alongside the Thames at Waterloo Bridge. Nice spot. We’d joined the Bethnal Green Ventures programme for ‘tech for good’ startups, having decided that Democracy Club — the organisation that Sym had woken from hibernation for the 2015 general election — was worth throwing ourselves at, full-time, in an effort to make something happen.

Categories
Adventuring

Huckford Viaduct, Jan 2020

The Huckford Viaduct, via the Frome Valley Walkway.

Categories
Thinking

New year’s donations (2020)

It’s that time of year again… when we all donate some cash. 

The best thing you could probably do with your life in 2020 is to take the Giving What We Can pledge: to choose to spend 10% of your salary to do the most good you can.

If, like me, you want to be good, but are also lazy, then the people at Effective Altruism (EA) Funds are here to help. You visit their website, play with some sliders as to what you think is most important, donate, and then, voila, they parcel it out to the most effective organisations.

You’re supposed to be public about it, pour encourager les autres. So in the last calendar year I earned £30,000 and am donating £3,000: 95% will go to global health and development organisations (mostly to fight malaria) and 5% to support the work of EA Funds.

If you’re like me, then you also donate to climate charities, cos it’s not clear where that falls in the EA work. I’ve given to 350.org every year for a few years and it seems to have worked pretty well. Last year I also donated several times to support the narrative-flipping, game-changing activism of XR. And I’ve just made a donation to Trees for Life, because their website is beautiful and it seems like planting a few trees is wise* to cover all bases.

*Particularly if you’ve not taken the FlightFree2020 pledge. Which you should.

Until next year! (Unless we’ve solved poverty and inequality by then… Or Jeff Bezos has finally stepped up)

Categories
Thinking

New year’s donations (2019)

Whoops, I’ve not blogged about anything since last year’s donations. Must try harder .

In the meantime, here’s a belated new year’s donation update: over 2018, I earned £30k and so am donating £3k to the global health and development fund run by Effective Altruism Funds. Thanks to them for doing the ongoing research work to make my money work harder.

I’ve lost the bit of their website where it tells you where your money’s gone, but assume it’s going towards malaria nets, deworming and anti-bilharzia/schistosomiasis stuff. Possibly child nutrition too, not sure.

I also need to sort out payroll giving so that this happens monthly rather than in a terrifying blob at the end of the year.

Over the past year, I’ve worried more about climate change / the anthropocene and its coming effects on health and humanity — but it’s hard to work out where to be useful here, apart from preventing harm (lower your environmental footprint) and lobby lobby lobby for systemic change. Previously I’ve donated to Cool Earth and 350.org, but the former took a bit of a beating in this useful blog post, and I like the urgency of the Extinction Rebellion folks, so they’ll get a donation this year. (Not included in the 10% to the ‘most effective’, which is the original pledge.) I need to read this document by ‘Founders’ Pledge’ on climate change, and see what other research into effective mitigation/adaptation is out there.

This is all inspired by the work of Giving What We Can, which is a good place to start learning about — and trying out — charitable giving.

None of this negates the need to do political stuff too!

Scarlet (?) macaws by Alan Godfrey (Unsplash)

Categories
Thinking

New year’s donations

In 2013, I took the Giving What We Can pledge.

It states that I’ll give 10% of my income to effective charities working to reduce global poverty.

As a result, for 2014, 2015, and 2016, I’ve given £3,300, £3,500£1,605. This represents:

  • 717 long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets distributed via the Against Malaria Foundation;
  • 3,023 neglected tropical disease treatments provided by the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative;
  • 4,762 neglected tropical disease treatments provided by Deworm the World; and
  • an unspecified amount of micronutrients given to kids via Project Healthy Children.

So, the theory goes, I’ve saved the lives of a few children. Hurray!

I earned £27,300 in 2017, so I’m about to donate another £2,730.

Categories
Reviewing Thinking

The Bristol Cable needs to define what it is, work in the open and get an editor

Last week, I went to the monthly members’ meeting of The Bristol Cable. This is the newspaper* that is co-operatively owned; anyone can become an owner, from £1/month. I wrote about the AGM here. The aim is to come up with a sustainable model of quality, independent local journalism in the service of the people, not shareholders, advertisers or Rupert Murdoch. (Hackney Citizen is similar, but is privately owned by one individual — and seems to run on fumes.)

I find myself getting fired up about the concept — and wanting to raise plenty of critique and ideas — because I want this thing to succeed. Strong, vital local journalism could make such a difference to the quality of local political debates on housing, the environment, schooling — basically everything. If we’ve reached ‘peak centralisation’ in the UK and local/regional government is going to increase in importance, then we’re going to need high quality, independent local media and journalism. And if knowledge is power, and you believe in political equality (the idea that we should all have equal political power) then it seems logical that the people should own the means of the production of knowledge.

Makes sense to me, anyway. And as I get excited about the concept and its potential, I worry that The Bristol Cable isn’t good enough. Of course it takes time and resources to build the thing, and it’s not always helpful to have co-owners being a nuisance. But I’ve written some things, meant with the best intent, and hopefully useful to someone — whether the Cable or another media co-operative somewhere. I think the big risk is that the Cable fails because of execution and then the co-op model takes the blame.