Open Thinkering


Tag: Catalyst

Weeknote 12/2021

Old-school square drainpipe with plants growing around it

This week was the second of two weeks that our two children have spent in school since lockdown. It’s now the Easter holidays, and I’m planning to take (the equivalent of) two days off each week for the next couple of weeks.

Last week was the last (funded) week of a project, a Catalyst-funded sector challenge that I’ve been leading for most of 2021 so far. We achieved a lot in a short amount of time (see participants’ thoughts here), and did a project retrospective on Wednesday and a digital team retro on Friday. The ‘playback’ for the funders is next Tuesday.

The other Catalyst project I’m involved with just finished Week 6 of 10. That one involves taking a cohort of charities through a ‘definition’ programme, leading them to prototype solutions for problems faced by the audience they serve.

In addition to some business development and catching up with a few people, I attended the RSA’s Cities of Learning Summit on Thursday afternoon. Back in 2013, my colleagues on the Mozilla Open Badges team helped with Chicago’s Summer of Learning. That morphed into a programme of ‘Cities of Learning’ across the US.

Here in the UK, the RSA did things slightly differently, and over a longer period of time, so the pilot projects have only just finished up. It’s been a success, particularly during the pandemic (oddly) so the programme is being rolled out to more places — and not just cities.

I’m keen to see this programme succeed, and in an open source way. I’d like to ensure that a diversity of badge platforms and providers are involved, to avoid vendor lock-ins and silos.

The thing that took up a lot of my curiosity and time this week was refactoring the site. I explain more about that process in this post, but suffice to say figuring out the technical side of things had me staying up past midnight for the first time for a long time…

Other than that, I haven’t published anything as I’ve switched Thought Shrapnel to a monthly newsletter. That allows me more time for other side projects.

As I’ve already mentioned, next week I’m taking some time off, which will be nice. I need to get back to doing more exercise as my back is slowly getting better. I really wish I could get back to the gym, but until all of the adults around me have been vaccinated, that’s probably not a great idea.

Image: a curious-looking drainpipe on the side of the Boys Brigade Hall, Morpeth, England

Weeknote 09/2021

Abstract image with concentric circles

This week seems to have gone rather slowly. It seems a long time since last Sunday afternoon when I launched, my new side project. I later found some time to refactor it down to a mere 6.6KB in size and change the default to dark mode. It’s a fun thing to work on.

I’ve worked more hours this week than I have since the pandemic started, I reckon. We’ve just finished Week 8 of the 11-week Catalyst project I’m leading, and Week 3 of the one of which Laura is in charge. Both have their challenges, I guess, but I’d definitely answer “yes” to my late grandmother’s question, “are you winning, son?”

I published a post on the Medium publication about the project I’m leading to help people be able to register more successfully for Universal Credit. We’re testing three prototypes, progress on which you can see below:

Screencast of three prototypes from ‘Sector Challenge 9: Claiming Universal Credit remotely’

It’s a pleasure working with the digital team we’ve put together. Dan, who’s organisation Bay Digital I’m partnering with on this project, wrote a post about the difficulties we’ve had doing remote user testing. I’m looking forward to writing the report when we’re finished.

I’ll give you three guesses as to what happened to my decision to give up refined sugar for Lent? Well, reader, I feel like my friends and family conspired against me; my co-op colleagues told me I was “definitely grumpier” and then my daughter, mother, and wife baked sweet delights on consecutive days that it would have been positive rude not to taste.

In addition, my back is hurting. I’m trying not to whinge and I really should seek some medical advice, but I’ve got all of the symptoms the NHS list of a slipped disc. I did go for one (what I’d be ashamed to call) ‘run’ this week, but then was popping ibuprofen like a junkie the next day. I exaggerate for comic effect, but something’s not right.

I’ve done a decent amount of business development for We Are Open this week, talking to people about blockchain, digital credentials, and getting their processes sorted out. I’m never quite sure where the next bit of work is going to come from, but it always does. I guess that’s what happens when you work as part of a talented collective.

On that front, we had a chat with a mortgage adviser this week about our options for moving house. We’re not entirely sure whether to stick or twist, knowing that we’ve got it good where we are for the moment. However, that’s likely to change for a number of reasons, so it’s just deciding when (and how) to make the jump.

Things I published this week:

Next week, it’s the Mozilla Festival. This is usually an event I’m excited about and enjoy the heady mix of meeting new people and ideas. I’ve bought a ticket and even helped Outlandish with the sessions they’ve had accepted. I just haven’t been able to prioritise going through the 500+ sessions yet to pick out the ones that I can attend alongside getting my work done. A first glance at the schedule suggests there’s a lot of sessions about AI and not loads on the open web…

Image by Adrien Converse

Weeknote 05/2021

After around 10 days of migraine-like headaches and fuzziness, they ended towards on Thursday evening. I’m sure some of it is due to the weather, which has been abysmal (it’s still raining as I write this) but also due to the amount of time I’m spending on screens.

We’ve just finished Week 4 of the Catalyst-funded sector challenge project that I’m project managing. As I mentioned last week, the project is successful if we manage to identify and prototype ways to remove barriers for the 25% of people who are eligible for Universal Credit, but who, for various reasons, don’t claim it.

I published a post on the project blog about the double-diamond process we’re using to organise the 11 weeks we’ve got to get something prototyped. Thankfully, we’ve got a talented team in Dan Mosforth of Bay Digital, Hannah Belshaw, Ivan Minutillo, and Tom Broughton.

In addition to the Catalyst project I’m project managing, I’m part of the We Are Open Co-op team that is helping 11 charities better-define what they need to do to create a product or service for their users. Laura Hilliger is project managing and is doing a great job in getting everything organised.

It’s Week 1 for that project next week, so from mid-February until the end of March, I’ll be working almost entirely on Catalyst-funded stuff.

In preparation for that, I’ve been tying up most of my work with Outlandish this week. I led a retro on the productisation work I did with them primarily from September to December last year, and am stepping back from the week-to-week work around Building OUT. I will, however, still be part of their monthly strategy sessions around the latter.

The only other bit of work I’ve been doing this week is planning the Getting Started with Digital Badges workshop I’m running for Waterford Institute of Technology, funded by the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. It’s been a couple of years since I ran a badges workshop, so it’s a good chance to revisit existing resources and materials.

While I didn’t write anything here this week, over at Thought Shrapnel I published two link-based posts with a tiny bit of commentary:

Next week, then, is the badges workshop, Catalyst projects, and a co-op half-day. Laura and I will also hopefully finish recording the first episode of the podcast we’re working on.

Photo of the stepping stones in Morpeth, England, where I live. The amount of rain this week has meant that the River Wansbeck is close to flooding.