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Weeknote 48/2020

Sunrise in the distance, fields in middle ground, tree stump in foreground.

This week has been better than last week, although I did have issues on Monday and Thursday with irregular sleep patterns. Thankfully, I figured out the culprit: whisky. I tend to have a couple of doubles on a Sunday night while playing PS4 with Adam and Sean, and, well, another double on what my wife and I have come to call ‘Whisky Wednesday’.

I started off November with intermittent fasting and swearing off refined sugar and alcohol for the month. The alcohol abstinence lasted a week, and I kept off sugar a week longer. I’ve been better with the intermittent fasting, most days consuming my calories between 10:00 and 18:00.

As I pointed out in a post entitled What’s your favourite month? I kind of collapse like a flan in a cupboard during the second half of November. Thankfully, I have almost complete control over my working patterns, so this is somewhat manageable. I’d love to just completely sack off the year from mid-November and return in January, to be fair.

Other things I wrote here this week:

…and on Thought Shrapnel:


I’m reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden at the moment. I’m (very) late to Steinbeck’s work, having never read him at school, but this year have read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. He really was an amazing writer, and I’d put East of Eden in the same bracket as The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Recommended!

Other things I’ve enjoyed this week include a Q&A session by Jocelyn K. Glei on the topic of what she calls Tender Discipline. I’ve been listening to a Spotify playlist called Jazz in the Background a lot, although I’m still most productive when using Brain.fm.

Prompted by buying and then deciding to cancel the order on a Fairphone 3+ I’ve been deleting a bunch of apps that I don’t really use that much. In addition, I’ve deleted the Amazon shopping and YouTube apps from my phone. When I treat these things as websites instead of apps, I find I have a different relationship with them.


I’ve split my work this week between Outlandish, business development for Dynamic Skillset, and a little bit of Greenpeace work for We Are Open Co-op. I’ve been trying, mostly successfully, to wrangle collaboration across CoTech for collaborations around Catalyst Open Project briefs. I’ve also been working on a couple of proposals for the Mozilla Festival.

Next week, more Catalyst briefs are coming out, and I’ve got to finish off the ones we’ve already started. That will take up much of my time, along with other Outlandish work.


Photo taken during a run during sunrise on Tuesday morning near Morpeth, England.

Weeknote 47/2020

This week’s been a bit rubbish, mainly on the health front (migraines, erratic sleep patterns). So I don’t really want to go back through it, other than say that I published the following here, and on Thought Shrapnel:

Next week I’m working on Catalyst bids on behalf of CoTech and Dynamic Skillset, as well as continuing my work with Outlandish.

Weeknote 45/2020

This week, I’m not even sure where to start, so I’ll first point to the things I’ve written.

Spider web

Here, I published:

…at Thought Shrapnel:

…and on the We Are Open Co-op blog, I published HOWTO: make a Discovery process more participatory which was republished by Catalyst.


There’s not much I can say about the US Presidential election that hasn’t already been said. All I can add is my personal perspective: not interacting via the major social networks, and uninstalling The Guardian app on my phone has improved my mental health.

Reflecting on the last five years, it’s sad that the general public in the US and UK have been so easily manipulated, regarding Trump and Brexit, respectively, that both countries are ideologically fractured. As I mentioned on Mastodon earlier this week, it’s difficult for people who act in good faith to deal with people who act in bad faith. And it’s exhausting.


On the work front, I’ve spent most of my week working with Outlandish, another tech co-operative in the CoTech network. They turned 10 this week, which led to some pre-lockdown partying.

There are two closely related streams of work that I’m focusing on with Outlandish. The more general one is ‘productisation’, the process by which you take internal business capability and turn it into tangible products. In layman’s terms, Outlandish are really good at delivering on bespoke projects to individual clients, and I’m helping them investigate whether they’d like to move into selling products to multiple customers.

I ran a ‘lightning talk’ on productisation on Thursday which was well-attended, with plenty of interest and lots of questions. This isn’t a small undertaking (one person likened it to “walking into Mordor”!), but I feel that Outlandish are more than ready for it.

The other stream of work is called Building OUT, which stands for ‘Openness, Understanding, and Trust’. It’s referenced in the playbook that I and others have started putting together. As part of this strand, this week we ran an internal pilot of a new workshop around better communication within teams. That will be ready for external sign-ups soon.

Other work I’ve carried out this week was for We Are Open with Greenpeace, which involved getting to the nub of what the client was actually asking for.


I took most of Friday off this week, mainly because of a meeting I had on Thursday afternoon. I needed to process what had happened, so took my laptop to the beach, sat in the car, and did some writing in periods between staring at the waves.

As I’ve referenced in passing in my weeknotes, there has been some tension in our co-op for a while, so I invited to a meeting those members who will still communicate with me directly. From my perspective, I spent that meeting outlining why I feel aggrieved, marginalised, and unfairly treated.

It appears, however, that they have a different perspective. It’s becoming increasingly clear that my remaining in the co-op will be difficult as things currently stand. I’m considering my options.


Next week? For the moment, I’m pausing all of my work with We Are Open, so next week is entirely focused on collaborating with Outlandish.


Photo of a beautiful spider’s web at the beach on Friday morning.

Weeknote 44/2020

Wooden-clad house in the Scottish borders

I’m writing part of this from my bed, at home in Northumberland, and part from an Airbnb just over the border in Scotland. Thankfully, the North East has so far been spared the Tier 3 lockdown which would have rendered this trip illegal. Small mercies during a pandemic.

This week has been odd as I’ve worked ~15 hours over four days, which is around half of what I would usually work over five. Our children are on half-term holiday, so I’ve been kind of around and kind of not. It’s not ideal, but I had things to finish off and keep ticking over, so needs must.

Other members of our co-op are away. I’m particularly jealous of Laura sailing around the Mediterranean and going scuba diving. Bryan‘s stay at a friend’s house with a swimming pool sounds great, too. But I should grateful that we live in such a lovely part of the world and that, even pre-pandemic, our house was set up for me to work from home contentedly.


I’ve done a lot of reading this week. Some of this has led to blog posts (more on that later) but most has been for the sake of pleasure and curiosity. I used to track my reading habits, but it sucked all of the joy out of it for me; metrics have a way of bringing out the worst sort of self-competitiveness in me.

In terms of books, I finished re-reading Jostein Gaarder’s The Solitaire Mystery and Dan Jackson’s The Northumbrians: North-East England and its People. I also am a good way through Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith. The latter two I bought for my parents as gifts and borrowed back from them.

The amount of time I had available to read this week was increased due to me working less, but also because I uninstalled The Guardian app on my phone. It’s something I pay for, and value, but found that I was returning to it and refreshing almost as if it were social media. There’s a limit to how well-informed I need to be about things that might happen. Not all information is ‘news’.


In terms of the work I did do this week, it was divided into three main areas:

  • Wrapping up the Catalyst Discovery project that ended for participants last week. I completed some of the reporting requirements, met with the Catalyst comms team to give them feedback, and drafted a post for the We Are Open blog.
  • Continuing to help Outlandish with some work around productisation, mainly with their ‘Building OUT’ programme which you can read a little bit about in their new playbook.
  • Thinking about what’s coming next for We Are Open Co-op and me personally. There’s a few projects that we need to decide whether we have capacity for, and some that I may decide to do individually.

I’ll be back to working on Greenpeace stuff next week when Laura is back.


If I could wave a magic wand and instantly reorganise my working year, I would divide the types of work I do into broadly two phases. Right now, I’d be into my book-writing phase, which would last from the end of September to the end of March. During this time, I’d limit all distractions and write and write and write, satisfying my inner introvert.

The other phase would be my information-gathering phase, which would last from the beginning of April until mid-September. During this time, I’d be out and about as much as possible, working with clients, speaking at events, and keeping my finger on the pulse of everything going on.

Perhaps that’s overly simplistic, and maybe that wouldn’t be as enjoyable a life as that which I have right now. What I do know is that I want and need to spend more time doing ‘deeper’ writing than I’m doing now, and life and work is getting in the way of that.


In terms of the things I’ve written this week, here I published:

Over at Thought Shrapnel I published:


Next week, I’m looking forward to planning my work up until Christmas (and beyond) and ensuring my life is achieving the kind of balance which means that I avoid migraines. I had one this week, and it wiped me out for the entirety of Wednesday afternoon, which was not fun.

Weeknote 43/2020

Eroded cliff face (Cresswell, Northumberland,)

This has been a good week. Among other things both at work and outside it, the highlight perhaps came on Friday morning when I went for a run.

Picture the scene: I get my running gear on, head downstairs, pick up my phone and open the Spotify app. It notifies me there’s a new album out by Faithless. I stretch, and start my run just as the sun is beginning to rise.

As I run the bypass route around Morpeth, the sky changes from purple to pink to orange to yellow, while a magnificent sonic landscape emerges, and my endorphins surge. Perfect.


In parenting news this week, we confiscated my son’s smartphone for a week due to his consistent, albeit reasonably low-level, flouting of family rules. When he persisted a bit, I banned him from the PlayStation for the weekend as well.

The above isn’t usually something I’d share here, but I watched The Social Dilemma this week, and thought it was so good that I watched it with my son at the weekend. Although the whole thing is a warning about the dystopian mess we’ve got ourselves into, it was nevertheless gratifying to see my own position vindicated.

Not only have I retreated from mainstream social media, but I’ve also insisted that our children go nowhere near it either. Their screen time is limited, especially compared to other kids their age. I wasn’t surprised to learn via The Social Dilemma that the those involved in Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. do likewise. I remember reading that Steve Jobs was particularly zealous in that regard.

I wrote a rare post on my literaci.es blog about this after watching the film, which I entitled Notification literacy? Being very intentional and strict about notifications is, I think, the single most important thing you can do to improve your (and your children’s) relationship with their devices.

The funny thing is that, after a few days away from his phone, my son (as usual) finds other things to do, and is generally just a much nice teenager to be around. Funny, that.


On this blog I wrote:

Meanwhile, on Thought Shrapnel, I published:


On the work front, this was the final week collaborating with a cohort of nine charities as part of the Catalyst Discovery programme we’ve been funded to work with over the last month. It’s been great, and they’ve all really enjoyed it too, giving us fantastic feedback and all rating We Are Open Co-op as either a 9 or a 10 out of 10 in terms of an NPS score.

Other work has included a bit of work on a new Greenpeace project, mainly reading and suggesting ideas while Laura is away. She’s leading the project, but is currently away for a couple of weeks, sailing around the Mediterranean with her husband and scuba diving. Not that I’m in any way jealous.

The third bit of work I’ve been doing is to continue helping Outlandish with productisation and their new Building OUT programme. The sweet spot between the two is the playbook I’ve started helping them with, demonstrating how they add value to organisations by sharing the resources they use internally and with clients.


It’s half-term for our kids now, and we’ve booked a couple of nights away next weekend just over the border in Scotland. We’re on the verge of a Tier 3 lockdown in the North East of England due to the pandemic and numbers rising in certain areas. If those restrictions are introduced, we won’t be able to go, so fingers crossed!

If we do get to go, I’ll be taking Friday off, but either way I’ll be taking it a bit easier next week to hang out with my family and decompress after a reasonably-intense few weeks.


Image from the cliffs near Cresswell, Northumberland, where I took my laptop to work on Wednesday morning. There’s a lot of fossils around there!

Weeknote 42/2020

This was a four-day working week due to my taking Wednesday off to celebrate my wife’s birthday. It was a ‘significant’ one, and I’ll be turning 40 in December too. Oops. Sorry Hannah.

We had a great day. I’d been a lot more organised than usual in my gift fiving and, given we’ve been together more than half our lives, I focused on the things that I know she likes. That includes walking on the beach in the sunshine, and ordering small plates from a gastropub.

It was lovely to spend the day together and a great reminder that before Moodle I used to work four days as a consultant, taking Wednesdays off. I need to get back to that.

One of the places we ended up wandering around was Barter Books, one of my favourite places, particularly because I always come away with an unexpected find. This time around, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places jumped out at me, and I’ve loved randomly dipping into its contents.


Talking of work, this was Week 3 of a four week Catalyst-funded discovery programme with nine charities. It’s gone really well, mainly because we’ve got a lovely cohort, and I took my ‘benevolent dictator’ role seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disciplined with a project!

Other work this week has included the kick off for a top-secret Greenpeace project that is going to both be exciting and challenging. We ran a pre-mortem as part of a mini thinkathon with some senior Greenpeace staff, and although we’ve totally got the talent and experience to deliver, by the end I was a bit 🤯

The third block of work I’ve done this week has been with Outlandish. My work with them has been squeezed a little this month due to my other commitments, but I’m looking forward to spending half of my time working with them on productisation and Building OUT from the start of November.

A couple of Outlandish blog posts this week mentioned me. The first was a quick update about what I’ve been doing with them over the past three months. The other was a really interesting post from Abi documenting a couple of hours in the life of Outlandish where a lot of consent-based decisions were made. It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re in an organisation that struggles to make decisions.


My therapy session again focused a lot on the internal drama within our co-op. One particular thing came out of the session was that I, like many people, look to other people for reassurance. As my therapist skilfully helped me to realise, this is doomed to failure for a couple of reasons:

  1. We don’t necessarily receive the kind or amount of reassurance we require from others.
  2. Even if we did receive the right kind and amount of reassurance from others, it’s only a temporary fix.

As such, we must look within ourselves for reassurance. For me, this is reminiscent of a Stoic idea that I’ve always found challenging: we should be so indifferent to the world that our happiness is independent of our current circumstances.


While I didn’t write anything here this week, on Thought Shrapnel I published:


Next week, I’ll be finishing off Catalyst stuff, diving more into the Greenpeace project, and spending time on Outlandish work. We’ve got a couple of nights booked just over the border into Scotland for the weekend after next, so we’re hoping the North East doesn’t go into Tier 3 lockdown…


Image of Dustanburgh Castle from the beach at Low Newton, Northumberland.

Weeknote 40/2020

I like the balance in the numbers of this week’s weeknote 🙂

Bluebell Wood, Morpeth, Northumberland

This week has been pretty intense, in lots of ways. It’s been the first week of a four-week Catalyst-funded discovery programme, with We Are Open Co-op as one of 11 digital partners helping 103 charities. The aim is for them to have identified a problem area, done some user research, performed some ideation, and prototyped an idea.

It’s going well, and although there wasn’t enough lead-in time, we’ve got a great cohort. The hardest thing, I think, is for them to think of something which isn’t a huge change management project for their organisation, but rather something testable and achievable inside the month-long window.

Another thing that has led to this week’s intensity was the short notice I had to present a proposal to the Outlandish members circle about working with them up to the end of January 2021. Thankfully, a number of them had already helped me frame it, so the proposal passed and I’m looking forward to continuing helping them with some productisation.

There’s yet another thing that has added to this week’s intensity: the huge spike in COVID-19 cases around where I live. It’s got to the stage where we’re wondering whether to send our two children to school next week. I don’t want them to get ill, and I definitely don’t want to get infected myself. After all, I don’t get sick pay.

Finally, there’s ongoing tension within our co-op. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but mediation has proved unsuccessful, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen next.

Due to the above, I didn’t end up writing anything here this week, but on Thought Shrapnel I published the following:

Next week I’m primarily focusing on Catalyst stuff, although I’ll also be adding some Outlandish and Greenpeace into the mix.


Image of Bluebell Wood, not too far away from where I live in Morpeth, Northumberland, England.

Weeknote 38/2020

Doug while writing this post

This week has been a rollercoaster, especially towards the end. Among other things, it’s featured:

  • Lockdown being announced in the North East of England (where I live)
  • Success in a bid application We Are Open Co-op submitted to Catalyst to support charities doing discovery work
  • Being shouted at for the first time in a while (they apologised, it’s cool)
  • Conversations about productisation at Outlandish going well
  • Progress on an updated version of the email-based course on openness
  • Wrapping up a 6-month contract with the Greenpeace Planet 4 team in a retrospective meeting
  • Taking delivery of a new tumble dryer
  • Sunny weather making me feel better about everything
  • Both of our children being off school (on different days) due to having a cold
  • Playing more Star Wars: Battlefront II than usual to blow off some steam (with Sean and Adam)
  • Shaving my hair off again, just because I felt like it

Sometimes I think back to life just over a decade ago when I was working full-time as a senior leader in schools, with a baby at home, and getting up at 4am to work on my thesis. I’m not sure I could do that now.

But then, I’ll probably think the same in another decade’s time about this pandemic. It’s certainly tough, but I’m also thankful that, fingers crossed, things haven’t yet affected our family and town as much as elsewhere.

Background anxiety and stress levels are high, and I feel like I’m on high alert all of the time. This must be having a long-term effect on our bodies —and I’m not just talking about the increased weight we’re putting on and the extra alcohol we’re consuming.


I’ve published three posts here this week:

I’ll probably add a couple more things to Thought Shrapnel before the newsletter goes out on Sunday morning, but here’s what I’ve added there so far this week:

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to end support via Patreon and switch to a ‘bitesize updates’ model, pulled together in a weekly email. It’s more enjoyable for me to do things this way, and the mailing list is growing again for the first time in a while!


Next week, after being concerned that I wouldn’t have enough work, I’ve got so much stuff to get on with! I’ve got the upcoming Tech4Good event to finish planning with Erica, a new Greenpeace contract to get started on with Laura, a team to put together for the Catalyst work, Sociocracy work at Outlandish, and internal projects to keep ticking over.

Remaining unmanaged, whatever name you give to it always seems to be feast or famine, but the great thing about being part of a co-op is that you can balance out the work between you a bit. Get in touch if we can help!


Selfie taken while writing this post, at home, using the Retroboy app.

Weeknote 36/2020

Trees and path at Thrunton Woods

This week I got into a new rhythm with Thought Shrapnel, restoring it to something approaching its strapline – i.e. a stream of things going in and out of my brain. I’m pleased with the result, although it will evolve and change as I do.

As a result of that focus, I only wrote a couple of posts here, which both happened to be framed as questions: What’s the purpose of Philosophy? and What do we mean by ‘the economy’? They’re part of my ongoing contribution to the #100DaysToOffload challenge, and I’ve been enjoying reading contributions by other writers. There’s an RSS feed if you choose your reading (rather than have it served up algorithmically by social networks) 😉

This week featured a Bank Holiday in the UK, so it was a four-day working week. Team Belshaw spent Monday in Thrunton Woods, which we’ve never been to, despite only being 25 minutes away from where we live. Of course, we decided to do the red walking route, despite the fact that our two children were on their mountain bikes. Cue me and our son having to carry bikes up a very steep section, broken up with tree roots. Still, it was fun, and we went out for lunch afterwards.

Despite the four day working week, I managed to fit in the same number of hours of paid work as usual. I ended up doing four half-day for Outlandish, continuing to help them with productisation and in particular developing what they offer to help teams work more effectively. There’s only a couple of places left on their upcoming Sociocracy 101 workshop.

For my home co-op, We Are Open, I’ve been mainly focusing on business development, submitting three funding bids on Friday. We’ve got some things to work through internally as the co-op expands and grows. That can lead to difficult conversations, some of which we’ve been having this week.

Those connecting with me via video conference in the last few days would have seen something new behind me in my home office: a full-size dgital piano, and a tiny Korg NTS-1 synth. Inspired by Mentat (aka Oliver Quinlan) I decided that it’s been too long since I tried making my own music. 25 years, in fact.

The piano was my parents’ and was at our house while my two children had piano lessons. Given our eldest gave up a few years ago and our youngest decided she no longer wanted to play during lockdown, it’s been sitting in our dining room gathering dust. I noticed it has MIDI ports to the rear, so I’ve hooked it up to the Korg synth and experimenting with the noises I can make. And they are definitely ‘noises’ at the moment…

This weekend, my wonderful wife and I celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. We’re pretty much middle-aged now, so celebrating it by going for a child-free long walk and having coffee and cake. Our children will be at my parents’. It’s a shame we can’t really go away, but on the plus side the pandemic has meant we’ve explored many more places locally than we have previously!

Talking of children, they were back to school this week, both starting new schools. They seem to be really enjoying it, especially being back among their friends rather than mainly connecting with them via Fortnite.

Next week I’ll be working a couple of days for Outlandish and getting started on a new piece of work for Greenpeace through We Are Open. Other than that, I’m still looking for a bit more work, so hit me up if you see anything Doug-shaped!


Image shows path through trees at Thrunton Woods

Weeknote 35/2020

Road being resurfaced with lorry

I’ve spent this week looking forward to this Bank Holiday weekend. I’m not employed as such, so there’s no particular reason I have to take Monday off, but not only do I want to, I feel like I should. After all, public holidays were fought for by previous generations.

I spent the majority of Sunday afternoon with my neighbours at a pot luck on the back lane behind our terrace of houses. Thankfully, the sun came out after the wind and rain earlier in the week!

On the work front, we had the final deliverable meeting for the work we’ve been doing for Catalyst and the Social Mobility Commission. It’s a series of linked resources relating to charities taking their programmes online: a quality framework, benchmarking survey, and toolkit of resources.

For Outlandish, I’ve continued with the productisation work, thinking particularly about the product manager role in a co-operative, and about upcoming products and services around Sociocracy.

I had a chat with a couple of large tech companies this week about roles with them. One flat out told me I was over-qualified for the role I’d applied for, but it looks like we might get some consultancy through the co-op with them. The other is a work in progress.

I made the decision yesterday, after much deliberation, to delete my Patreon account. This means I’m no longer supporting a bunch of creators, and also means I’ve told the ~50 patrons of Thought Shrapnel that I’m taking it in a slightly different direction.

Other than that, I’ve been playing quite a bit of FIFA 20, going for a run and on our exercise bike, and hanging out with the family. One thing that’s had quite a big impact on my life over recent days is workmen re-doing the road surface right next to my home office. The noise!

Next week will be a four-day working week due to the Bank Holiday. I’ve got a couple of days lined up for Outlandish, and then will be applying for a couple of pots of funding and doing some business development. Let me know if you see anything Doug-shaped!


Image shows road being resurfaced next to my house.

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