Thursday, 12 February 2009

Hacking The Recession - TOMORROW!

If you're in London and free tomorrow, come down to the Hacking the Recession day at Birkbeck College - one of the projects that's spun out of the conversations I've been blogging about over the last few weeks. People with geek skills are particularly welcome, but they're letting non-coders like me come too.

To get a clearer idea of what to expect, I interviewed Mamading Ceesay, the brains behind the event.

DH: What do you want out of the day?

MC: We want to inspire people to come up with creative solutions to not only surviving, but thriving during the recession - that improves outcomes not only for individuals and their families, but entire communities. These solutions should not be based on needing state or local authority action but rather on ordinary people coming together and collaborating in similar ways to that enabled by the likes of Wikipedia and Pledgebank.

DH: And what about people who come along?

MC: It's about ensuring that there are options for you and the people you care about to lead purposeful, meaningful lives, even in a time of mass unemployment when there may be no jobs available.

DH: So what would success look like?

MC: Any of the following would be a really successful outcome, I think:

  • Working code that implements an idea that helps people deal with the impact of the recession.
  • Documentation of a potential solution for recession-caused issues, that provides enough information for a team to implement it.
  • A presentation/pitch that could be used to persuade funders and other kinds of supporters to back the implementation of a solution.

DH: Have you got some examples of the kind of thing you have in mind?

MC: Well, think about the kind of tools you use for jobs around the house. If there's a lot less money around, then there's less opportunity for people to have their own drills and so on. However, if there is some sort of tool library/directory system, you can find out who in your area has tools that you can borrow to get a much needed piece of DIY done. When you borrow a tool, it's recorded in the system as is the return of the tool. This enables more effective sharing and pooling of resources in a community that can no longer rely on money and the market for getting things done.

Another example - people being able to barter their time and skills with each other using a system combining the web and SMS. This would make it easier for a community to survive and thrive with much less money. It also helps people to be gainfully employed without a salaried job.

Hacking The Recession is happening tomorrow - Friday 13th February - at Room 540, Birkbeck College, WC1E 7HX. (Entrance off Torrington Square.)

For more details, contact Mamading.


MsMarmitelover said...

Love to come but too busy organising the Underground Restaurant.
Hope to see you guys one Saturday night...

Dougald Hine said...

@MsM - sorry you're not here with us! @narq has a running Twitter commentary on some of what we've done. Keep me posted on your Underground Restaurant nights - we'll have to bring the gang along one time!

Nick Herman said...

This is really great, what you're doing. I'm thinking a lot lately about the nature of work we have created in our modern societies as a key and overwhelming feature of "modern civilization" (nowhere more true than in the USA) and the benefits and drawbacks of the system that we've taken for granted as "the way one is supposed to live," now crumbling beneath our feet. So far there is no one in the US I'm aware of that seems to be addressing the situation in this way the way you and the others you've been working with are. Interesting point you make about the UK startup/network scene being particularly community focused.

I am optimistic (idealistic?) about creating a new future from the ashes in which we recognize the value of free time, collective creativity, and individual health, as much as we value the mindless profits of the corporation. I see all sorts of adverts now for support groups for those unemployed. What will people do with their free time? More mindless entertainment to distract them from themselves? Or will they discover a more meaningful existence? Currently, the strategy of employers is to lay off as many employees as possible and work the remaining ones harder. This is not sustainable. People talk about a 4-day workweek like it's a dirty word--sounds pretty sweet to me.

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