Photo by mike anderson on Unsplash

Having worked at Involve for just over five months now, it felt about time to say hello! When I was offered the opportunity to provide short-term support on public engagement with decision-makers at this “interesting sounding but no idea what they do” charity – I jumped at the chance. 

Involve’s work resonates with my academic and working life so far and reflects my fascination and interest in people. Before joining Involve I ran the services at the Small Charities Coalition. Prior to this I studied a Masters in Middle East Politics after having lived in France for eight months. Time and time again the learning I gained from these experiences would lead back to the barriers individuals and groups have always faced when trying to make their voices heard.

Involve’s mission to put people at the heart of decision-making was a great fit for me and Involve seemed a very attractive and intriguing initiative to join. What I can’t claim however is any long-standing experience or knowledge in the first topic area I started work on - artificial intelligence (AI).

What have I been working on?

The first project I worked on focused on AI for Nesta around the ethical questions we should be asking in this area. The second is a stakeholder engagement process in collaboration with DeepMind (yes, the irony of having to Google who they were soon struck me!), also around AI and ethics.

I was, however, soon hooked.

Having grown up on a farm, AI only ever meant artificial insemination of cattle to me! So whilst I slowly began to grapple with this world of tech and data (and numerous new acronyms), Involve’s approach and essence was firmly reassuring. I was refreshed by our focus of:

  • this affects anyone and everyone
  • we want to bring in all perspectives, levels of knowledge and experience
  • each person is an expert in their own perspective

I soon learnt that no one can be more of an expert on our opinions and perspectives than we are.

Now I am working on two further projects. One is focussed on providing an open space for civil society organisations and the Home Office to have constructive conversations around a New Law Enforcement Data System. The other is the second phase of a project delving into the public benefit of data sharing and how public service providers can test new data sharing initiatives.

Both are engagement processes at stakeholder level (e.g. with civil society organisations, academics, local authorities, national government) rather than directly with the public. These employ different techniques and methodologies to establish and develop dialogue which have been fascinating to learn about.

What's struck me about Involve are the similarities with aspects of my previous work that I so enjoyed. This includes building networks, focusing on collaboration and working in partnership with the aim to increase reach and impact when resourcing and capacity is not on your side.

What's coming up?

The next challenge I am supporting is to secure funding for a global project led by Missions Publiques – a French think tank that share our worldview. Missions Publiques want to create simultaneous public debates in cities across the world to bring the public’s voice into discussions about the future of driverless cars. We are hoping to be able to bring this opportunity to the UK.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch on if you may have ideas or suggestions to help with this challenge or if you would just like to chat about any of the above.

Now, I’d best get back to my Googling!