Open Thinkering


Tag: work

Weeknote 28/2024

A road flanked by tall trees on both sides, their lush green foliage forming a canopy overhead that filters sunlight. To the left, a sizable tree with a rough, textured trunk stands prominently, with smaller shrubs and ground vegetation surrounding it.

We’re now three months into living in our new house. Although we’ve unpacked everything and done most of the things that needed sorting immediately, there’s still a lot to do. My home office is still in the utility room, something which I need to rectify as soon as possible. If I hear another washing machine spin cycle while I’m working, or if one more member of my family comes in during a Zoom call to get something from the fridge behind me, I think I might explode 🤯

It’s been the last week of term for our two teenagers, with my daughter finishing middle school and my son finishing the first year of Sixth Form. I’m not going to trot out any clichés, but the pandemic does seem to have had quite a distorting effect on the passage of time. This time next year, my son will have finished school, and perhaps be preparing for university; my daughter will be starting her GCSEs.

This is the first year when we haven’t booked at least one of them into summer holiday activities. As teenagers, they’re going to have to entertain themselves a bit over the next six weeks. My son will be doing more shifts at his part-time job, and (hopefully) doing both revision and some school assignments. My daughter? She’ll probably read the entire local library while recovering from her knee injury.

A month ago, I went to my GP asking for some preventative medication for the migraines I’ve experienced all of my adult life. I’ve been reticent to do this, as when I’ve tried before, everything I’ve tried has made me tired. I explained this to the doctor, and he prescribed Candesartan, which is usually used to treat high blood pressure.

Guess what? I stopped taking it a couple of days ago because I was knackered.

It’s only when I spent a moment to reflect on having migraines for the past 25 years that I truly grasped the impact they have on my life. I get them from not having enough sleep, from being even moderately stressed, or from drinking more than a couple of beers. I have to keep my heart rate under 160 when I exercise, ensure that I’m hydrated enough, and don’t consume too much sugar. Air travel triggers them, as does too much time on screens, and flashing lights. I get migraines from having too much caffeine. Yet caffeine also helps dispel them if I haven’t got my Rizatriptan handy. It’s a constant struggle.

Like most chronic conditions, I can prevent and mitigate my migraines by controlling my environment and day-to-day routines. Working from home greatly helps with this, to the extent that I don’t think I could ever give up remote work. I’m not entirely sure that my family realise the extent to which I experience shared activities differently to them. I just hope that my two teenagers don’t develop migraines; I was 18 when I started suffering from them, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway, what have I been up to this week?

  • Working on the Job Readiness Credentials project with JFF, IRC, and Participate. We ran the client kick-off meeting, came up with survey questions, sorted out logistics and finance-related stuff, and populated the kanban board.
  • Having a chat with a couple of people, including Simone who connected me with a bunch of contacts who might be able to help with the above project.
  • Collaborating with my colleagues as part of a WAO monthly co-op half-day of planning. Anne joined us for most of it, although she’s started a new job so will be collaborating with us much less over the coming months. It’s great seeing her development from our intern to striking out on her own.
  • Studying towards my MSc in Systems Thinking. I’ve started working on my second assessment for the module I’m currently taking. The word count is ridiculously small given the size of the ideas with which we’re grappling. We’ve been told that we’ll be penalised by one mark for every 1% over the word count 🙄
  • Updating the WAO wiki in preparation for our new website. We’re going to keep the latter super-simple, linking out to the wiki and our Learn with WAO site. That means moving and updating pages. I took the opportunity to update our various policies.
  • Listening to The Phenomenological We which was recommended to me by Jamie Allen after he read my post on the role of phenomenology in systems thinking. It’s an interesting and well put-together lecture, but ultimately I think we need to take into account both intention (forwards-looking behaviour) and existing webs of beliefs (backwards-looking behaviour) when thinking about shared/group experiences. Perhaps I should write more on that, as I have more to say than is appropriate for a bullet point 😅
  • Being driven by my son, who is progressing really well and I would say is almost ready for his test. He’s very keen, even driving my daughter and me to the swimming pool even though he wasn’t going in himself!
  • Continuing with my summer social media detox. That’s given me space to tinker and experiment with stuff, including an installation of Writebook and (separately) creating a PDF of blog posts I wrote about my previous MSc module.
  • Writing blog posts, including those for my current MSc module, and:

Next week, we’ll hopefully be sending out the stakeholder surveys for the Job Readiness Credentials project. I’ll also be coming up with the user research questions, and ensuring that everything is set up for me being on holiday for the two weeks after that. I’ve been looking into some of the stuff we can do while we’re in the Azores.

Photo taken on my 10k running route via Mitford. Given the shape of the tree canopy and that there’s the remains 12th century castle next to it, I’m guessing this is a pretty ancient road.

Weeknote 27/2024

‿︵‿︵‿︵‿ヽ(°□° )ノ︵‿︵‿︵‿︵

I’m writing this before the EUROs final between Spain and England but after Carlos Alcaraz absolutely demolished Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon Men’s singles final. I’m tired after having a migraine this morning due to a disturbed night’s sleep — for reasons I’d rather not get into. I’ve also spent time in the swimming pool with my daughter walking backwards and forwards through the water for rehabilitation as she recovers from a knee injury.

This week I’ve decided to have a bit of a summer digital detox, and tried to catch up with some MSc work:

WAO had the internal kick-off meeting for the new Job Readiness Credentials project we’re starting with JFF, IRC, and Participate. I wrote about it in this blog post. The client kick-off meeting is tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it. Somewhat cheekily, I’ve already submitted a proposal related to it for ePIC 2024 which will be in Paris in November. I’ve also submitted a workshop proposal based on mapping Open Recognition skills using AI.

I did some work on the comms and storytelling project with the DCC as we finish that off, sent out the ORE announcement for this month, and submitted a proposal to Friends of the Earth for some Mozilla-funded work around ‘Greening AI’. I’ve set up an instance of Writebook, which has a fantastic UI and with which Laura and I have already started experimenting. She’s also been working on designing us a new website (still WIP).

There’s not much else to say other than we had an exercise bike delivered which syncs with various apps so we can do some virtual cycling, I booked my place for the Systems Innovation Conference 2024 (London, September), and I’ve done a bit more planning for our family holiday to the Azores in just over two weeks.

Next week, I’ll be working on the Job Readiness Credentials project, putting in proposals for more new work, collaborating with my colleagues during a co-op half-day, and supporting my family. It’s the last week of school for our two teenagers, and for our youngest it’s her last week at middle school!

Weeknote 27/2024

Firth Court, University of Sheffield

I’m composing this weeknote while watching Wimbledon on TV. Usually it’s warm and sunny here at this time of year and… it’s really not. I got absolutely soaked walking back from the gym earlier, and it seems to rain and be colder than usual every day at the moment.

Despite this, I’m happier today than I was earlier this week: after the General Election we’ve finally got some grown-ups in charge of the country. Look what our new PM said in response to a question from a journalist:

Look, the thing that’s changed already is the mindset of government; it’s a mindset of service, of “country first, party second.” That’s not a slogan, that is the test for all of our decisions. So when submissions come to me from the cabinet when I’ve had to take decisions — which I’ve already had to of course — the the principle is “country first, party second” and that’s the driving principle. So that change has already happened.

Keir Starmer – first news conference as UK Prime Minister

Other good news this week included the England men’s football team reaching the semi-finals of the EUROs, and WAO getting some new work in helping Jobs For the Future (JFF) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) with Verifiable Credentials.

The latter should ease some pressure on the job front, as although I’m still in the running for one role, I wasn’t offered the senior product manager position. The feedback was good, but a bit odd as they said they’d be back in touch if they needed another group product manager (i.e. one level up). Ah well.

We’re finishing off our work with the Digital Credentials Consortium (DCC) at the moment, which involves putting together all of the assets we’ve created over the last eight months into a ‘playbook’ which links them all together. I’m hoping that we get to work on DCC projects again, as the storytelling and comms stuff we’ve done with them has been interesting.

A quick roundup of some other things:

  • Matt Linaker, who I know from my time consulting with Totara back in 2017 invited me onto the podcast he hosts. The episode is now available and involves me talking about Open Badges and digital credentials. It’s fairly introductory, so if you’ve ever heard me talk about this stuff it probably won’t be anything new.
  • I’m a bit behind with my MSc in Systems Thinking study, but now have a complete VSM model for my system of interest.
  • David Van der Velde introduced me to Prof. Toby Lowe about some potential work. Toby is a proponent of Human Learning Systems which is a form of systems thinking applicable to civic society and public institutions.
  • I had further tests after starting new medication a few weeks ago for migraines. As expected, everything came back fine — especially as I’m only taking 4mg. The only change I’ve noticed really is that my smartwatch is telling me that I’m stressed more often!
  • My son and I continued our visits to open days for universities to which he’s potentially interested in applying to do either Geography or Environmental Science. This week it was the turn of the University of Sheffield, where I met my wife and his mother when I was only a year older than he is now! Crazy.
  • While we were in Sheffield, we visited the sports facilities where the American Football team were immediately interested in recruiting him. One thing led to another, and today he ended up going to a two hour training session for the Gateshead Senators. They were great with him, and he seemed to really enjoy it. We’ve not allowed him to play rugby since an injury to his neck four years ago, but the padding that American Football players wear should enable him to play.
  • While we were in Sheffield we stayed at the new Radisson Blu and I think we were in a brand new room which no-one had stayed in before. We went out for dinner with my sister and nephew, as they live not too far away.
  • My son and I have started swimming again, going twice last week. We’ve both swum competitively before, and you never lose the muscle memory, only your water fitness!
  • My daughter got back into Sunderland’s Emerging Talent Centre (ETC) for next season. The ETC is one level lower than the Academy, but they do the same drills and exercises. It’s good for her at the moment, as it means she gets to play for her grassroots teams on a Saturday and Sunday as well. She also got back into the regional East Northumberland team, which you’d expect given that she was captain and got Outstanding Player of the Season…
  • I’ve sorted out the travel insurance, hire car, and airport for Team Belshaw’s holiday to the Azores at the end of the month. I’m really looking forward to going! It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit since I was about my daughter’s age.

Next week, we’ll have our internal kick-off meeting for the JFF/IRC work, continue finishing off the DCC project, and perhaps run the first of three workshops if we get enough sign-ups! It’s my daughter’s sports day, which will be the last we get to go and watch as parents as she heads up to high school in September. I’ll continue to do some business development and work on my MSc, and then next Saturday we’re at Flamingo Land for a football tournament in the morning, before having a chance to visit the theme park in the afternoon.

Image: Firth Court, University of Sheffield