My birthday is rapidly approaching and now, being the wrong side of 35, I seem to be acquiring some unfortunate age-related mannerisms.
Hankering after slippers is one. After years of walking around a flat with wooden floorboards, my feet are suffering from the lack of cushioning. Lacking slipperage, I have taken to throwing off my shoes after work and donning a pair of old beach flip-flops over my socks.
Socks and sandals already? This is ominous. Is this what they mean by a "slippery" slope?
Thankfully, a powerful antidote to my furtive fogeyishness has been my recent experience of working with young people on a couple of RSA initiatives. These only strengthened my conviction that the coming generation are going to do amazing things if only we can give them the opportunities they deserve.
This is a major challenge in the current climate but some help can come in the form of small, agile initiatives that give young people a chance to shine, and thereby prove their worth to potential employers or as future entrepreneurs.
One of these initiatives we've been working on, the University Business Challenge, I'll blog about soon. But now that we have the footage (below), it's the next stage of the Google Hackathon that I wanted to share.
Over two days in the second half of February we worked with our partners at Google, FutureGov and Livity to run a Hack event with over 100 young unemployed people, student designers, software developers, social entrepreneurs, RSA Fellows and others. Great, cool people, with nary a sandal to be seen.
If you've seen previous blogs, you'll know that this event was part of a Google Interactivism challenge. The aim was to harness the web to help young people find the right kinds of work, education or training. Working in partnership, we did a roundtable event and produced a publication to frame the challenge, then we crowdsourced ideas online on Simpl, before bringing it all to a head with the Hack event itself, at the designerly Ravensbourne College in Greenwich.
Over the two days of the Hackathon we witnessed a bunch of complete strangers - young people from all walks of life and parts of the country - rapidly organise themselves into teams and develop some outstanding software platforms and business propositions. They had to overcome any mutual shyness or suspicion, unfamiliarity with subject areas or technical issues, and the stresses associated with delivering a very ambitious pitch under intense time pressure.
Rather than attempt to tell the story in writing, I think the film we shot does the job very well.
For a full account of the two days, with more photos and descriptions of each of the ideas click here.
There are so many great things about these kinds of events, but one of the (justified) criticisms is that not much usually happens afterwards. Things just tend to fizzle out.
It's not realistic to expect that ideas with true commercial potential will necessarily emerge from two days of furious flipcharting, software coding, beer and pizza. But on this occasion we're really keen to see what kinds of spin-off benefits we can create, whether in terms of further developing the ideas themselves or mentoring and assisting the young people involved into the work or education their talents deserve.
To that end, the partners involved in the project are trying to find ways to extend the life of the challenge. So if you (especially if you're an RSA Fellow!), your business or organisation, would like to offer your support to develop the ideas or help the young people involved just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
If there's enough interest we'll be trying to connect and support people online and/or in person. There may be life in the old dog yet.