The inimitable Tom Steinberg, of mySociety and much else fame, has been writing an excellent series of blog posts since he retired from heading up that organisation.

On Monday he wrote one called Problems that motivate me about the list of things he is researching and thinking about in preparation for what he might work on next. It’s an impressive list – you really should go and read the whole blog post.

It reminded me of this blog post I wrote in response to one by Emma Mulqueeny listing things I wanted to contribute to in my lifetime. Unlike Tom’s list of 15 things my previous one contained only 3 – so let’s have a look where we are.

“Help build communities of people delivering public services at many scales from within individual delivery organisations up to global reach”

This is actually going quite well. I’m leading a community in GDS, building a cross-government one, contributing to a number of others UK gov ones and also looking into setting up an international one for folks working in public sector digital.

“Help enthuse and enable dramatically more people in the UK to engage with the ideation, creation and refinement of government legislation & policy and to work with the existing political establishment to get them on board with this”

Not much on this so far. I’m speaking a fair bit to the folks at the Parliamentary Digital Service but any timescale for them to offer better platforms for doing this remain unidentified at best.

“Help build and promote an online platform for people, especially young people, around the world to share the projects they are working on and find similarly enthused people to collaborate with”

Nothing really yet on this one. It came partly from often seeing similar projects at hack-days, partly from the isolation I know a number of kids return to after Young Rewired State but also significantly from the overlap of a number of civic technology projects. Unlike the others this one would require a significant amount of effort to potentially build a site and persuade people to use it. I don’t see much happening on this any time soon. Perhaps I’ll get motivated at TICTec 2016.

These aren’t quite of the scale of Tom’s list – no fixing the social safety net, poverty, housing, the media or even just the civil service (I’m not being facetious – if Tom put his mind to any one of those I’m sure he could make a sizeable dent in it).

Is there anything new I would add? What If, say, I won roll-over lottery and had the money and time to invest in anything I wanted? I would certainly look into joining the Open Rights Group up with the EFF and other privacy organisations into a grand international alliance. I’d also invest in organisations building and promoting systems to let people control their own data via VRM.

I don’t know if issues like poverty just feel too big, to nebulous or too distant for me to want to spend my time working to help solve them. All I do know is that my motivations seem to come from empowering the individual and joining people together into groups to achieve bigger and better things.

I think if we start there then powerful good things stand a good chance of following.

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