The Che Scale is a handy ready reckoner for working out if policies are radical or just talking the talk.
Whatever the policy is, just ask yourself "If I were a rich and/or powerful person, how worried would I be by this?"
The Che Scale goes from 0 to 5, with 0 being "Ten more years of New Labour? Yes please!" and 5 being "Stuffing a suitcase full of used tenners and clawing their way onto the last Learjet to Monaco."
Anything over 0 has at least something worth listening to.
So, these are the sessions I went to at Reboot Britain, scored on the Che Scale.
Introduction and Welcome from Chairman Nesta 0/5
I wasn't happy with any of this, so much so that it gave me pause to wonder about how, why and in whose interests Nesta are spending a "national endowment".
I might come back to Chairman Nesta and his Vanguard of Innovation another time so I'll leave it there.
Except to say that this would have got minus Che Points except that Che never gets negative. When Che faces a negative situation in his life, such as girlfriend trouble or running out of milk, he gathers a band of armed men around him and sets off into the forest to start a revolution.
Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 0.5/5
Only 0.5 Che Points but a very enjoyable talk.
It was interesting to hear a working politician talking about what he thought the internet meant for the centre left and centre right in the same way it's always interesting to hear people talk about jobs that mean something to them.
I'm not sure if the phrase "collaborative individualism" can make any sense, but if it does it'll depend on who says it and who hears it.
Fools Gold, Gillian Tait, Assistant Editor, Finacial Times 3.5/5
This was the most radical session of the whole day, presented by a financial journalist who used to be an anthropologist, and had analysed the credit crunch by studying the culture within banks.
The reason the world went bust was because:
- nobody responsible for financial innovation really had a clue what they were messing with
- they were all making too much pretend money for anyone to care
- regulators didn't regulate
- banks were structured like tribes with everyone in the tribe looking upwards not across,
- but, the tribes had no one at the top who knew what all the bits were doing let alone how it all worked
- whichever part of a bank was earning the most ("Who's got the most goats?") did what they wanted.
If I was a rich and powerful banker I'd be threatened by this, because it left nowhere to hide.
To stop it happening again we need to challenge this financial "innovation", and challenge the tiny priesthood doing it.
Then she wished us "good luck" and marched out, which at first I took as fond best wishes but afterwards I thought was actually "fat chance".
Mining the Archives, Tony Ageh 1.5/5
Archives are the raw material of a new industrial revolution, but they have to be opened up.
Let's hope so because I'm not sure the UK has got many other untapped sources of new wealth.
1.5 for the openness and the challenge to existing media.
How Co-design Can Help Reboot Britain, Deborah Szebeko 1.5/5
We should listen to the people who use public services when we try to make the services better.
This will make better and more efficient public services at a time when there is no money left to spend on better public services.
Can't argue with that.
I wasn't so keen on the idea that we should look at national questions through an X Factor style "Britain's Got Problems" type event, but 1.5/5 anyway, because that bit was probably a joke.
Consumer Democracy or a Politics of Citizenship Matthew Taylor 2.75/5
This was quite useful because he said that consumerism is ok in our relationship with services as we use them - we should all expect to get decent treatment - but it's not a good way of thinking about government.
In our other role as the owners of public services we have to recognise that governing is about working out compromises between groups of people who maybe can't all have what they want.
If our opinions are surveyed as consumers of government we are quite grumpy, but when people do take a role in "government" structures, e.g. citizen juries, they prove themselves to be good at listening and compromising.
I've read a lot of evidence of the same kind in a report called "Empowering communities to influence local decision making: a systematic review of the evidence" and I think it's all very hopeful, so long as it's done on scales that people can get their heads round - very local - and it means something, so there has to be a risk of failure.
Hyperlocality and Active Citizenship 3/5
"Hyper local is bringing geographical scale down." - Kevin Harris, who really does know about this stuff.
The smaller the units are the more chance there is of self-organising, self-sustaining, bottom up problem solving and self government in which people do listen and compromise.
But there has to be a risk.
Nothing meaningful ever happens if there can't be a failure.
Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre is full of the risk of failure: if not enough people in your neighbourhood can be bothered to take part, you get less money to spend. Tough.
Straight Line Thinking Stops Here, Alan Moore 0.25/5
This was about as much use as crystal aura cleansing. Lot's of natural metaphors and folksy stuff about communities and sharing.
0.25 just for not being Chairman Nesta.
How we learn to stop worrying and love local government 3/5
Local government as a convenor ( I quite like that word just because it reminds me of 1970s trade union shop stewards on the 6 O'clock News).
If you think of local government as the convenor of a process of citizenship at a very local scale (I can't quite bring myself to say "hyperlocal"), that is again quite powerful and hopeful I think.
The more sense people have of themselves as part of a local citizenry, the more of a challenge it is to the centralised state.
How People Power Can Reboot Britain, Lee Bryant 3/5
Three points for saying that government contracts should be parcelled up into small seed funding awards for small businesses, social enterprises and so on. These businesses would try and work out solutions, with the best ones making themselves obvious, and the same money would be working twice, with even the cost of the failed ideas being repayed as support for businesses that were trying to be innovative, some of which might well use the knowledge gained from their failed innovations to come up with successful, and unexpected, new ones.
And the same three points again for talking about failure at all, and pointing out that even if 60% of the ideas failed that wouldn't be any worse than the big contracts the government gives out now to consultancies.
And again for suggesting getting rid of "process based" improvement based on setting targets from the centre and enforcing them.
Howard Rheingold 2/5
Media literacy as an ongoing personal state of mind that questions sources of authority, and that convenes collective action (my use of "convenes" to paraphrase I think, rather than him saying it in so many words.)
And that was it. Home in time for tea.
I went to Reboot Britain with very mixed expectations, and all-in-all got plenty out of it, though I might have been even happier in a plain old conference about technology and local government.