This article in the Atlantic talks about families using tools like Trello and Slack to keep track of each others activities and tasks.
It calls it treating the home like the office or running the household like a business and presents it like an oddity if not a 21st century abberation of family life. E.g. tracking how often you call your mom.

I find the tongue in cheek tone rather tone deaf. It misses the point on several levels.
The examples are not showing how families are run like an office or business. Families are seeing parallels between work and private processes.
After all task allocation and keeping track of each other is important in the household too. Besides households are the original economic unit.

Tracking tasks, also for children, has been around for ages. Dalton schools, with their focus on independent learning tasks, have had to do / doing / done boards since the 1920s.
Hallways and refrigerator doors have displayed lists and overviews forever too. My grandma kept track of everything in notebooks, how many beans harvested and stored for the winter, how much fuel used etc.
All it shows is that what families have been doing all along is also done using tools imagined for a work environment. Just like owning carpentry tools was once limited to masters who were members in a guild, and are now found in every household.

That is useful for several reasons. It helps make sure that the household and family get at least equal attention as areas of responsibility.
Keeping track of work but not the home easily means the home gets attention when all else is finished, which it never is.
For that reason I have areas in my GTD todo lists for me personally, family, daughter, partner and the house. Similarly I have long term goal descriptions for them too.

We would never have moved so quickly and readily early 2017 if we had not set it as a goal in the summer of 2013 to be ready by the end of 2016 for it.
It meant building up the financial buffer for it, and thinking about where we would want to live. As part of that we regularly temporarily moved to other cities for a month to figure out what we wanted.
Since July 2013 when we set the goal on the balcony of a friends home in Switzerland, I kept track of what we needed to do for it in my GTD tools.

It does sometimes feel odd to track things like how often I spoke to my parents. But it was necessary as my parents would often forget when we talked last. Sometimes telling me it had been weeks when it was yesterday.
So I made sure I called them at least once a week by having it in my todo lists. I also kept notes especially when their health deteriorated as they would tell my sisters different things, so we could compare.

For the household and for our family we have shared Evernote notebooks. To share receipts, info about daycare, holiday plans, or my itinerary when I travel for work.
Weekly we look ahead at what is happening the next week or two.

I mentioned the household being the original economic unit, and in one aspect it means I do treat it as a business.
Optimising household income also means I regularly spend time assisting Elmines business, as she does mine. It helps maintain and increase our freedom of action.
Every Euro I help her make and she me being better at what I do means improvement for us and providing our daughter with a good start in life.

If Slack or Trello, Evernote or Things help us do that then great.

While we were with friends on one side of the Atlantic, other friends such as Jon Husband and Lee Bryant met under the Lisbon son at SocialNow, brought there by Ana Neves, to discuss digital leadership. I need to find out if some of the talks were recorded and got posted already. Here’s a brief recap, with lots of familiar names from our early blogging forays taking on the push for agency and real transformation in the emerging space now that some of the luster of the big tech platforms has gone out of style and seen for what it is.

From the recap the term neo generalists is something I will explore, as it was put forward by Kenneth Mikkelsen in the context of increasing people’s agency.

The Irish government started planning for Brexit in 2014, a full 2 years before the UK referendum, and lobbied both EU and Cameron to secure a yes vote. In contrast it seems the UK started debating the impact of Brexit on the Irish border in earnest about two weeks before the 29 March cliff-edge. “Easiest deal in history” and all that.

Bookmarked How the Irish backstop emerged as May’s Brexit nemesis (the Guardian)

Ireland was streets ahead of the UK when it came to planning for Britain’s exit

Harold Jarche looked at his most visited blog postings over the years, and concludes his blog conforms to Sturgeon’s Revelation that 90% of everything is crap.

I recognise much of what Harold writes. I suspect this is also what feeds impostor syndrome. You see the very mixed bag of results from your own efforts, and how most of it is ‘crap’. The few ‘hits’ for which you get positive feedback are then either ‘luck’ or should be normal, not sparse. Others of course forget most if not all of your less stellar products and remember mostly the ones that stood out. Only you are in a position to compare what others respond to with your internal perspective.

At the same time, like Harold, I’ve realised that it is important to do things, to keep blogging and writing in this space. Not because of its sheer brilliance, but because most of it will be crap, and brilliance will only occur once in a while. You need to produce lots of stuff to increase the likelihood of hitting on something worthwile. Of course that very much feeds the imposter cycle, but it’s the only way. Getting back into a more intensive blogging habit 18 months ago, has helped me explore more and better. Because most of what I blog here isn’t very meaningful, but needs to be gotten out of the way, or helps build towards, scaffolding towards something with more meaning.

It’s why I always love to see (photographs of) artist’s studio’s. The huge mess and mountains of crap. The two hundred attempts at getting a single thing to feel right for once. Often we see master pieces only nicely presented and lighted on a gallery wall. But the artist never saw it like that, s/he inhabits that studio where whatever ends up on a museum wall someday is just one thing in a mountain of other things, between aborted efforts, multiple works in progress, random objects and yesterday’s newspaper.

Shakingtree Award

Today I attended the presentation of this year’s Shaking Tree Award. This annual award started in 2016, and is named after my friend Niels who received the first award during his ‘last lecture‘. Niels died a year ago. The Ministry of Healthcare has pledged to keep going with the award, in the spirit of Niels’ efforts: shake up the system, fighting unneeded and kafkaesque bureaucracy, have hands-on experience with the system at ‘the receiving end’ so you know what you’re talking about, have a sense of humor to go with it, and be able to ‘dance with the system’.

The meeting was attended by a diverse range of people, from the healthcare domain, Niels’ family, and of course a smattering of Niels’ friends.

Before presenting this year’s nominees and the award, time was given to remembering Niels and the reason for this award. This was followed by two conversations between a previous winner and nominee and a representative of an institution they struggled with. First were Annette Stekelenburg and Ria Dijkstra, manager operations at a health care insurer. Annette has a son that needs tube feeding to survive. This situation will not change. Yet every year they need to apply for approval to continue receiving the materials needed. Annette and Ria had a frank conversation about what happened when Annette publicly announced she was fed up with this yearly bureaucracy that should be unneeded. Dijkstra explained how they thought that they had already changed the rules, making the renewal once every 5 years, but that the suppliers never knew, and that forms are being sent out in the insurers name that don’t actually exist anymore.

The second conversation was between Kathi Künnen, a previous nominee, and Betsie Gerrits, department head at UWV, the government agency in charge of employee insurance. Kathi is 29 and has incurable cancer. Because of that she has been determined to be 100% incapable of working, yet there are lots of phases where she actually does want to work. 25% of young professionals with cancer have an incurable form, and most want to remain active as long as possible. Yet the system tells them their ‘earning capacity is 0’ and with a stamp like that there’s no way to find paid activity. Here too, the conversation first of all made the two parties at the table see each other as individual human beings. And from it energy and potential solutions follow. Kathi said she needs reassurance that there can be administrative certainty (other than being tossed out as worthless), as her own life is fluid enough as it is and changing all the time.

I thought both conversations were impressive, and the type of thing we need much more of. Once you get past the frustration, anger and disbelief that often plays a role too, you can see the actual human being at the other side of the table. Dancing with the system is, in part, being able to have these conversations.

The award was presented by the previous winner, Tim Kroesbergen, and the secretary general of the Ministry Erik Gerritsen was host to the event, with Maarten den Braber as MC. The jury, consisting of Sanne (Niels’ wife) and the previous two winners, Annette Stekelenburg and Tim Kroesbergen, made their choice known from amongst the three nominees: Eva Westerhoff, Elianne Speksnijder and Geert-Jan den Hengst. All three nominees were presented by a video, as well as a conversation about their experiences.

Eva Westerhoff is a disability rights advocate & accessibility consultant who happens to be deaf. Next to her job at a bank, she does lots of volunteer work on diversity, inclusion & accessibility in information, communication & tech. She’s been knocking on doors in the Healthcare Ministry for over 20 years. Today she said that because of the political cycle, it seems you need to do everything again every four years or so, to keep awareness high enough.

Elianne Speksnijder is a professional fashion model, photographer and story teller. Lyme disease and epilepsy caused her to land in a wheelchair when she was 15. As she said today, an age which brings enough difficulties as it is. It took her a decade to accept that her wheels were a permanent part of her life. She’s 28 now, a woman with ambitions ‘on wheels’. When she was a teenager she sorely missed a role model (or rolling model, as the Dutch word ‘rolmodel’ can mean both). Now she is setting out to be that role model herself. She hopes for much more inclusivity in media, and challenges companies about it.

Geert-Jan den Hengst, is a 48 year old father of two adult children. He has MS and has been living the last decade or so in an environment that provides 24/7 care. His laptop is his core conduit to the rest of the world. Writing is a need for him. He blogs on his own blog, and writes for the local football team’s website, various media in his hometown and more. At the heart of his writing are everyday observations. He says he is “not a political animal, so I need to stay close to my everyday life in what I do”. Often those observations are examples of how life can be made impractical for someone in his position. He mentioned an early example that got him started: for the local football stadium all types of tickets could be bought online, except for …. tickets for wheel chair access. People with wheel chairs needed to come buy the tickets in person. The group least likely to be able to do that easily.

From all three nominees, I think the main takeaway is taking the time to share and listen to the actual stories of people. Especially when things get complicated or complex. Not news, there’s a reason I’ve been active in participatory narrative inquiry and sense making for a long time, but it bears repeating. Stories are our main way of ‘measurement’ in complex situations, to catch what’s going on for real, to spot the actual (not just the intended) consequences of our actions, structures and regulations, to see the edge cases, and to find the knobs to turn towards getting better results (and know what better actually is).

Jury chairman Tim Kroesbergen after reading the jury motivations for all three nominees, announced Eva Westerhoff as the new Shaking Tree Award winner.

'Last Lecture' Deluxe @shakingtree #fakkeldragers
The Shaking Tree Award statuette (photo by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat, CC by-nc-sa)

Inside the Ministry a poem by Merel Morre is painted on the wall, that she wrote in honor of Niels ‘Shakingtree’.
A rough translation reads (anything unpoetic is all my doing)

outside

shake goals awake
jump past rules
dance joints wider
dream chances free

out of bounds
outside limitation
it grows
as it grows

tree high
dream high
where it lighter
but never stops

In the ministy’s central hall all the pillars show a face of someone with the words “I care”. That and the poem are promising signs of commitment to the actual stories of people. The Ministry still has 24 statuettes in stock for the Shaking Tree Award, so there’s a likelihood they will keep the annual award up as well. But as this year’s winner Eva Westhoff warned, every 4 years the politics changes, so it’s better to make sure.

20181112_173353
The faces in the Ministry with the text ‘I care’

This Tuesday 2 October sees the annual event of the Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation. The coalition consists of government entities, knowledge institutions, academia, businesses, and humanitarian organisations in the Netherlands. Together they aim to develop and scale new solutions to increase impact and reduce costs of humanitarian action.

I was asked to join this year’s jury for DCHI’s innovation award. There is a jury award and a public award. For the jury award 8 projects were shortlisted, from which the jury has now selected 3 finalists that were announced last Friday. The public award winner will be selected from the same short list.
At the annual event of DCHI this Tuesday the public award winner will be announced, followed by closing remarks by the Minister of development cooperation mrs Sigrid Kaag, who is very well experienced when it comes to international development. The jury award will be presented to the winner on October 11th at the Partos innovation festival.

The three finalists my colleagues and I in the jury selected are all very interesting, so I briefly want to list them here.

Optimus by the UN’s World Food Program and Tilburg University
Data analysis and mathematical modeling optimises supply and distribution also by taking into account locally available food and conditions. Optimisation means delivering the same nutritional value against lower efforts. It has been successfully used in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Ethiopia. In Iraq it helped save a million USD per month, allowing the program to provide an additional 100.000 people in need with food packages. (link in Dutch)

Quotidian early warning solutions by Oxfam India
Flood prediction models in India are accurate, but still flooding causes many fatalities. The cause is often not being able to timely reach and warn everyone. Oxfam India came up with ways to integrate early warning systems with existing local infrastructure, and so create a low cost option for real time distribution of flood warnings.

Words of Relief / Translators without borders
Being able to provide key information to people in need depends on having that information in the right language. Information only saves lives if those who need it understand it. Translators without Borders creates glossaries which can be used for humanitarian response. Their Gamayun initiative wants to bring 20 underserved languages online by creating such glossaries and providing that as open data to all who can use it. They see it as a key tool for equality as well. In a slightly different setting I saw this work in practice, during the Syrian refugee wave in Germany, at a hackathon I attended such glossaries were used to build apps to help refugees navigate German bureaucracy and find the help they needed.

These three projects are very different, in terms of technology used, in the issues they address, and the way they involve the communities concerned, and all three highly fascinating.