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July 07, 2009

A bit of cognitive behavioural therapy is needed

Reboot Britain pic
(Pic courtesy of NESTA)

Yesterday was Reboot Britain day facilitated by NESTA amongst others, a day containing wide-ranging perspectives and a spectrum of opinion about how to address regeneration in depressing times.

Martha Lane-Fox talked about the enormous disadvantage that’s creeping into UK society with the disenfranchisement of the 17 million people who are not online.

In some powerful rhetoric, Matthew Taylor reflected on whether the finger-pointing for the demise of UK plc should be at the doors of those stubbornly entrenched in old power plays, the system itself or the unwillingness of the majority to do something about it. As he put it, ‘wallowing is nicer than having to deal with something you don’t agree with’.

Lee Bryant put down a challenge and asked for a shift from linear and binary conversations to networked and nuanced ones, and Howard Rheingold developed the point by commenting that just participating isn’t enough: We need a reboot that will mean something to others.

The message of the day for me was that being well-meaning isn’t good enough. The crucial step now in many ways is not to go ‘from competent to relevant’, as Emer Coleman summarized in the very good session on local government, but 'from relevant to competent’.

Because for social media and the voice of the many to show what it can do, for it to be a driver of substantive change, means crossing the threshold of it being a ‘nice to have’ to an indispensible, instructional tool, a bio feedback mechanism truly capable of generating a shift in power via a bit of collective cognitive behavioural therapy. That’s what will get the synapses going.

Social media is a participative medium and social networking is, in essence, a contact sport. Yet years of deference, a society untrained in articulation, the need to develop a collective social intelligence based on shared values and new protocols, and a human preference for inertia all prevail.

We also have a ‘data sensitivity’ issue. Lee Bryant mentioned government has to be open and transparent with data, and we do too. With privacy concerns at the core of the issue it's nevertheless the case that taking comfort from data is a vital part of using bio-feedback as a route to collective learning, growth and development. We have to be prepared to deal with the complexities and the nuances that networked information can generate. This is all part of how we learn to manage our ecosystem.

There are some substantial social and cultural challenges to overcome in rebooting Britain as a socially inclusive and self-determinant state of substance and opportunity. I left Reboot Britain yesterday feeling we are still numb to much of the potential.

Euan Semple talks about there being ‘no conscripts only volunteers’ in social media. So, the vision has to be able to be visceral enough to move people. What a reboot has to do is nurture the kind of visionary, committed and inspiring social leadership that can open up pathways for participation, make the most of always being in beta and enable giving and receiving feedback as the kind of tool we need to save ourselves.

We all need a bit of cognitive behavioural therapy, nation state, system and citizen together. It's part of developing the kind of social intelligence and awareness that collectively means we can make stuff happen.

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I like that mention of shifting away from binary thinking. Something I've written about recently and simmered over for a long time.

http://bit.ly/13HYBR

"Yet years of deference, a society untrained in articulation,"

Yes, I do wonder how long it will take for the Early Majority and Late Majority (in the Rogers Curve) to recognize their new powers. Or are they regained powers? In any event, when you say "pathways for participation", I do wonder what form those pathways will take, and if those forms have all been invented yet. Probably not...

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