Author: David Clubb

  • Reaping the open source benefit for Wales

    Digital infrastructure and services underpin much of our modern existence. In work and leisure, with family and friends, we inhabit – to ever-greater extents – a digital world. This world, much like the ‘real’ world, is characterised by huge disparities in access and opportunities.

    Many digital opportunities are jealously guarded by global corporations that create walled gardens within which we communicate, share, and create huge wealth for others.

    However, if we scratched just a tiny bit below the surface, we would see that there are myriad opportunities available to almost everyone, if we could only understand how to take advantage of them.

    In Afallen’s first White Paper, published at today’s inaugural meeting of the Senedd Cross-Party Group on Digital Rights and Democracy, we set out why Wales must take advantage, not just of the digital opportunities through adopting different technologies, but in the fundamentals that underpin the digital world.

    Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) underpins the majority of global digital infrastructure, from the WordPress platform that underpins nearly half of global websites, to Apache and Nginx servers carrying more than half of global web servers, to the mushrooming sector of the Internet of Things.

    The economic benefits are huge; a study recently commissioned by the European Commission estimated a return of €4 for every Euro invested into FOSS. That’s partly why the EU has a dedicated open source strategy, and why officials view FOSS as the future for the EU.

    However, there are a whole host of reasons for supporting FOSS, aside from the economic. These include environmental sustainability; equality of access; and better educational and career outcomes.

    Another reason, specific to Wales, is that FOSS is strongly aligned with the Future Generations Goals and Ways of Working. By my reckoning, a FOSS strategy would support no fewer than five of the Goals.

    Systems map showing links between open source impacts, and the Future Generations goals

    But the biggest reason for wanting to champion FOSS is in the field of education. Imagine if learners of all ages in Wales were educated not just in using digital tools; but also steeped in an understanding of the very concepts that will make up the digital tools of the future. We could create a generation of users, producers, hackers and shapers that understand the fundamentals of code, and have the curiousity and the skills necessary to engage, modify and improve on that which has gone before.

    It might seem a tall order; but remember how a Russian cyber-attack first paralysed Estonia, a country of 1.3 million people, and then propelled it to become a global centre of expertise on cyber-security.

    If Estonia can do it, our devolved education system means that we can do the same for FOSS in Wales.

    So what are the next steps for us? In the White Paper I suggest three initial approaches to help embed FOSS within the policy and education landscape in Wales.

    Firstly, our digital strategy needs to explicitly recognise the value in FOSS as a distinct component of ‘digital’ overall. The first anniversary of Wales’ digital strategy is nearly upon us; what better time to reflect on the growing body of evidence, and the policy goals of our nearest economic trading partners, than to incorporate FOSS within the main policy statement for the sector?

    Secondly the Curriculum for Wales should specify FOSS as a component within digital competency, helping pave the way for educators to introduce the concepts and practises of the sector within our learning centres.

    Finally, we must make good use of infrastructure which already exists and is helping to spread good practice in digital across the public sector. The Centre for Digital Public Services could help public sector bodies pilot, and then potentially adopt, FOSS-based ways of doing things that may help with the delivery of a whole host of public goods and services.

    Embracing FOSS will enable the citizens of Wales to not only participate in a rapidly-developing global digital economy with new skills, expertise and confidence; but also to help lift others by contributing to the sum total of human knowledge, freely gifted to all.

  • Afallen welcomes new Partner to accelerate growth in energy sector

    Afallen has expanded its partnership to include renewable energy and offshore development consultancy Venn Associates.  

    The appointment is part of Afallen’s continuing growth strategy. Venn Associates is the first new Partner since the company was founded in 2018.

    Commenting on the appointment, Joseph Kidd, founder of Venn Associates said:

    “I am delighted Venn Associates has joined forces with the Afallen team after working with them on a number of sustainability and renewable energy projects over recent years. I am looking forward to being part of a forward thinking team, focussed on helping Wales deliver its net zero ambitions and maximising value for Wales.”

    Joseph will join the three existing Partners, Mari Arthur, David Clubb and Peter Trott to strengthen Wales’ leading sustainability partnership. Joseph brings a wealth of project development and project management experience, as well as significant expertise in the offshore renewables sector in Wales. 

    The addition of Venn Associates will also expand Afallen’s network of associates and presence across Wales.  Afallen works across Wales with a team of associates leading in their own sectors, keeping profits local and helping to keep skilled people working on projects in Wales. 

    Peter Trott feels Venn Associates will add value to existing clients and projects especially work on decarbonisation:

    “Afallen aims to keep work, skills and profit in Wales and to help to grow stronger economies across all regions. We have gone from strength to strength over the last three years and expanding to include a new Partner will mean even more opportunities for Wales.” 

    Mari Arthur added:

    “Having a new partner join us from a new and exciting sector feels like a real boost for Afallen. We look for global best practice and innovation to strengthen what we do in Wales and Venn brings a range of national and international contacts and experience to strengthen our team and our work; helping us develop new ways of making Wales even more sustainable.”

  • Hiraeth Energy; embedding the community in renewable energy

    We are delighted to see that Hiraeth Energy is partnering with Norwegian based Magnora offshore wind to jointly develop two floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea.

    Of course, we would say that; Afallen is a Partner in Hiraeth Energy, and we have been working alongside the other team members to try to make the projects a reality.

    From the start, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to be part of a team based in Wales who all have a personal commitment to maximising the benefits of the projects to Wales.

    That means:

    • Ensuring that a 10% share of both projects is owned on behalf of the people of Wales by a registered Community Benefit Company (or equivalent)
    • Working with partners right across the supply chain to maximise the opportunities for companies, large and small, across Wales
    • Trying to understand and mitigate likely environmental impact and working as closely as possible with environmental organisations to shape the projects

    We’re really pleased that Hiraeth Energy has stood true to those commitments. We’re equally happy that Magnora understands the reasons for us wanting to maximise the benefits for Wales, and is highly supportive of this approach.

    We would love to see Hiraeth Energy successfully develop their floating wind projects, and then consider future Welsh projects – each time challenging themselves and others to increase the proportion that is community-owned. However, that’s probably a fair way off yet. For the time being, we’re just happy to celebrate this next step in community ownership of energy projects in Wales!

  • Reinventing Afallen

    This guest post is by David Clubb

    I was recently made aware of a superb book on organisational structure and management called ‘reinventing organisations’.

    It’s an unusual book; firstly, you don’t have to pay anything up front. The author requests that you pay him what you think it’s worth, and only after you’ve had a chance to read and digest the contents.

    Secondly for a book focusing on how organisations are managed, it’s incredibly readable. Yes, you read that right. It’s a book about how to manage your organisation in a different way, and it’s un-put-downable (particularly the illustrated version!)

    For those of us who are juggling many important tasks related to work, family and schooling that’s important – we often don’t have the luxury of extended periods of time to dive into more ‘weighty’ tomes.

    But I don’t want to do this book an injustice by implying that it is in some way not serious or worthy by virtue of it being readable in one evening (if my experience is in any way indicative).

    It’s a revolutionary piece of work which upends the ‘traditional’ model of management, and which resonates instinctively with my own values and ways of working. In fact, I was so excited while reading it that I was sending messages with great frequency to my colleague, highlighting similarities or differences with the way that we work at Afallen.

    I won’t spoil the surprise and excitement for you – if you have the niggling feeling that the organisation you work for does not exist to have you reach your full human potential, then you will be thrilled to learn that organisations exist which have exactly that priority.

    In that sense, Afallen is already on the journey to becoming one of these reinvented organisations – called ‘teal’ organisations in the book.

    Some of the characteristics of these ‘teal’ organisations are of a flat management structure, with devolved decision-making and high levels of internal transparency.

    Given that the founding Partners of Afallen knew each other, shared a set of values and came with similar levels of professional experience, it’s perhaps not a surprise that we’ve set off in the right direction. Our challenge will inevitably come when we grow and are challenged by new Partners to maintain our openness and freedom of operation

    I am delighted that there are many excellent resources available for organisations wanting to revolutionise the way that they carry out their functions – Valve’s employee handbook hits all the right notes in this regard – which will simplify the process if we decide to go ahead and ‘Afallen-ify’ the many variations of the different ‘teal’ organisations.

    And I’m really pleased that we subconsciously designed Afallen along lines which are broadly compatible with a ‘teal’ organisation. In fact, if we decide to go down this path, we won’t really have to reinvent Afallen at all. We’ve just been made aware that there are many pathways for us to consider, and many people that we can turn to for advice and support as and when we need it.

    I’m excited at the prospect of making this journey, and I believe that it’s entirely aligned with Afallen’s values and mission. I believe that it will make us a more effective collaborator, a more responsive organisation and therefore better able to fulfill our mission of supporting the practical implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations, in Wales and beyond.

  • Walking the (sustainability) walk

    We founded Afallen in October 2018 on a set of values.

    We wanted Afallen to be the embodiment of our personal commitments to seeing Wales fulfill its potential as a sustainable country, demonstrating practical ways to improve the way we live, in a way which enriches every citizen and supports our ecosystems.

    One of the most important commitments we make is to keep more money, and people with talent, in Wales. Huge amounts of money – public and private – leaves Wales every day, along with many of our best and brightest in pursuit of job prospects elsewhere. In our own modest way, we aim to keep more of that money and opportunity in Wales; and not just in Wales, but to shovel it as furiously as possible out of Cardiff and into every corner of the country.

    Our commitment to the Future Generations approach is stated on the home page of the website

    We are building our network of partner organisations, sole traders and consultants; from Ynys Môn to Ynysybwl and everywhere in between, we believe that people work best where they are grounded and happy. We want people to be able to achieve great things in the places where they have made their lives. (By the way – if you’re a sole trader, or a small business, focused on delivering excellence in your field – please get in touch!)

    It’s also important to us to demonstrate that we not only say these things, we do them. That’s why we’re delighted to report that for the last year, nearly 97% of our spend was with people and organisations based in Wales. The remaining 3% was for some IT services and insurance.

    When you commission Afallen to work for you, you know that we will do our utmost to support local supply chains. We will endeavour to provide meaningful work for small businesses and individuals right across Wales. In so doing, we will help keep money flowing in the village shops, pubs and post offices which are so vital in maintaining community well-being and resilience.

    Indeed, many of the Well-being Goals could be read as no less than a requirement to focus on retaining money and talent in Wales through supporting local businesses.

    • A resilient Wales? By spreading our spend around small businesses we help build a plurality of choice for others which diversifies the tax base. We’re also able to influence others to become more climate-resilient in the way they carry out their work
    • A Wales of cohesive communities? With more money circulating in the small towns and villages, we have the opportunity to help safeguard essential civic resources.
    • A prosperous Wales? By keeping talent and money in Wales, we are helping to safeguard jobs, education and work opportunities for the young people of tomorrow.
    • A Wales of Vibrant Culture and Thriving Welsh Language? Our commitment to providing all our services through the medium of Welsh (including this blog post!) guarantees that we are playing our part in enabling Welsh to become a natural language of business and community

    This report on our spend over the last twelve months is a pleasure to publish. Our promise is to continue striving towards the goal of 100%, and to help build a Wales that fulfils its promise to Future Generations.

  • Nor-way in the lead on electric vehicles

    The European Environment Agency has updated its data on the number of new electric vehicles purchased in Europe. When analysed as a proportion of the total cars, Norway is the out-and-out leader.

    A graph showing proportion of cars sold by electric vehicle in Europe

    The UK is a mid-table player, but this disguises very large variations by country. Northern Ireland and Wales are both poorly served by rapid-charge infrastructure, which impacts significantly on both local use, and the inclination of electric vehicle users to spend time (particularly on holiday) in those countries.

    Welsh Government has recognised this as an issue, and has pledged funding to improve the provision of rapid (and other) charging in Wales.

  • Open source social media will save our democracy

    This guest blog post was written by our Partner, David Clubb. Afallen is proud to support, champion and use open source social media networks including Pixelfed and Mastodon. We’re happy to work with organisations to help you understand, and incorporate, open source social media into your digital strategy and workflow.

    In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, Carole Cadwalladr describes how Facebook is the virus that has enabled the catastrophes of both Brexit, and the ascension of Mr. Trump to the White House.

    Facebook allows lies to spread virtually unchecked. It permits those people with the most money and least scruples to disseminate falsehoods to those most susceptible. And it allows this with no prospect of holding individuals or organisations to account.

    Whilst Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have enabled a blossoming of connection, conversation and shared ideas; they have also created a bitter, divisive, polarised digital world where shareholder value is enhanced most by highlighting division and minimising harmony. Quiet, reasoned thoughts are filtered out by algorithms designed to maximise clicks, retweets and likes. Volume is king.

    Many people want to make a difference but they don’t know how. But there is an antidote to the virus of misinformation and hatred. That antidote is open source social media, and it’s already spreading at the fringes of the online universe.

    Open source social media

    Open source social media doesn’t permit advertising. It doesn’t sell data. It prohibits hate speech and intolerance*. And it’s moderated by users, not resourced at the behest of global tech giants. 

    More worryingly for the incumbents, the hotbeds of innovation are no longer in the mega-corporations with their teams of thousands in the offices and boardrooms of (mostly) America. They are in the open source equivalents, with code freely available for thousands of supporters and volunteers across the globe to build and improve. 

    From the perspective of Wales’ Future Generations Act, anybody using, promoting or supporting these open source platforms is supporting the goal of a Globally Responsible Wales. From a worldwide perspective, that same user or supporter is increasing the freely-accessible sum of human knowledge. 

    One clear example of this innovation is the federation between open source platforms (also known as the Fediverse). Federation is the ability to connect different social media platforms, so that posts and updates become mutually visible.

    This means that if you post a photo on Pixelfed (ethical version of Instagram), it pops up in your feed on Mastodon (ethical version of Twitter). Likewise websites, blogs and updates on the ethical equivalent of pretty much every ‘surveillance capitalism’ platform you can think of can cross-post to each other, enabling much more streamlined conversations and updates.

    What are the downsides (and upsides)?

    Let’s deal with the elephant in the room; the big downside of the new open source Fediverse is that user numbers are far, far lower than for the established platforms.

    This is hardly surprising; there’s a headstart of fifteen years or so for many of the tech giants. And the science behind social media means that there’s an agglomeration effect; once most of your friends are engaged on a platform, it takes a significant effort to leave them behind and start something new.

    For me personally it meant (mostly) leaving my Twitter account of several thousand followers, and starting a fresh new Mastodon account on toot.wales, one of many ‘locality’ type instances across the world. 

    I instantly ‘lost out’ on the instantaneous stream of updates from my many friends and colleagues, and on the rough-and-tumble of (what passes for) debate there. There’s likely an impact on my ability to promote my new business, Afallen, through that network, too. 

    However, what I have found is a new community of online friends and collaborators. I’ve witnessed almost zero hatred or bullying. And I’ve relished using platforms which don’t harvest my personal data in order to sell them to companies who may – in many cases – place profit above the public good.

    The truth is that the community of users in Mastodon (and the other platforms) is growing steadily – see the example below for activity on the toot.wales Mastodon instance. At some tipping point – I’m convinced – the growth will start to become exponential, and then the users who became active first will see the biggest benefits.

    Weekly interactions on toot.wales, the Welsh instance of Mastodon

    But the biggest benefit of all will come when people start to leave the platforms of the tech giants en masse, lessening their influence as the custodians of online debate and information-sharing, and contributing to a kinder, gentler and more thoughtful world of public discourse.

    Further information

    If you’re interested in finding out more about the ethical, privacy-conscious alternatives to the mainstream social media platforms, head to switching.software.

    *Almost all ‘instances’ of open source social media ban hate and intolerance. Those that don’t are generally blocked, so the hatred is restricted to a small portion of the Fediverse

  • Supporting the vulnerable: Challenge 2050

    This blog post was written for Cymorth Cymru by David Clubb, ahead of him holding a presentation and workshop on climate change at their annual conference on March 26, 2020.

    How about this for irony; those who have contributed least to climate change, stand to suffer the greatest (1). This is as true globally as it is in Wales. 

    The countries which prop up the global per-capita greenhouse gas emissions table (2) include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Burundi, Uganda and Somalia. Africa is notable for its exceedingly modest contribution to human-induced climate change, yet stands to suffer greatly from changing weather patterns (3), not least increased average temperatures and changes in precipitation which will increase the challenge of desertification across much of the equatorial region.

    As globally, so in the UK. The lowest decile of income produces ⅓ of the greenhouse gas emissions of the top decile (4). Yet those with the lowest incomes typically have much lower resilience to events  which will be far more likely to occur as a result of climate change, such as flooding, wildfires and heatwaves.

    So when it comes to mitigating climate change, I refuse to point the finger at those who have done least to cause the problem. Yes, everyone can, and should, play a part in minimising their own carbon impacts. But the heaviest burden should fall on those with the greatest capacity to bear the cost – and on those who have contributed the greatest to the UK’s carbon emissions.

    Instead, the focus for those of us with personal and professional interests in supporting the most vulnerable in our society should be on how we can adapt our services in order that we are as well equipped as possible to respond to the inevitable challenges and crises that will arise more frequently in a future defined by a breakdown in climate as we have been privileged to know it.

    The Future Generations Act (5) provides us with a useful framework to consider our operations, with both the Well-being Goals and Ways of Working (6) requiring us to take different decisions and produce improved outcomes as a consequence.

    To take one example, the ways of working require a long-term, preventative approach. If we combine that approach with the Goals of prosperity and resilience, we can see that they mandate a careful assessment of the risk of flooding to property and other assets over a long period of time – say 2050. With coastal flooding risk increasing significantly (7), it would seem prudent for those providing services to the vulnerable to assess which of their assets will be in an annual flood risk area by 2050, and to make enquiries to Natural Resources Wales, the local authorities and to Welsh Government about any planned improvements to coastal flood defences.

    Such service providers would almost certainly benefit from also undertaking an assessment of fluvial and surface water flood risk – activity thrown into sharp relief from the recent devastating floods in the valleys, and more widely across south, mid and north Wales.

    And it’s not just the assets of support service organisations that should be considered; what happens if major transport infrastructure routes are disrupted or destroyed? How can support organisations respond to what will inevitably be a large rise in demand for their services in response to an increasingly severe flood risk? 

    Yet within the challenges that face the sector lie opportunities to make changes which will provide multiple benefits. Whilst warmer summers will undoubtedly lead to significant problems for many of our most vulnerable, the opportunity to pre-empt the worst impacts by using green infrastructure to provide natural shade and cooling will simultaneously help reduce rainwater run-off, improve mental and physical well-being, and improve habitats in and around property assets.

    The organisations which are most likely to thrive in conditions of increasing unpredictability will be those which have adopted a strategic approach to embedding resilience and subsidiarity. So the big questions to be answered by the different levels of governance within organisations which provide services for the vulnerable are:

    • Does the Board have the right strategic approach to preparing staff, property and other for a 2050 which will see much increased disruption from climate-influenced natural events?
    • Does senior management have the right tools to embed a culture of resilience and subsidiarity within the organisation?
    • Do front-line delivery staff have the right training, support and autonomy to enable them to react with confidence and good judgement in situations outside ‘normal’ work conditions

    We certainly can’t stop our climate from changing. But we can, and should, think carefully and strategically about how our organisations can play a significant role in making the transition to our new climate reality more sustainable and manageable. We owe no less to those who will depend upon us.

    1.     Extreme Carbon Inequality [Internet]. Oxfam International. 2015 [cited 2020 Mar 7].

    2.     List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions per capita. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Mar 7].

    3.     Girvetz E, Ramirez-Villegas J, Claessens L, Lamanna C, Navarro-Racines C, Nowak A, et al. Future Climate Projections in Africa: Where Are We Headed?: Investigating the Business of a Productive, Resilient and Low Emission Future. In 2019. p. 15–27.

    4.     The distribution of UK household CO2 emissions [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 7].

    5.     Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act ’ [Internet]. 2015 anaw 2 Apr 29, 2015 p. 56.

    6.     Well-Being of Future Generations – The Essentials [Internet]. Welsh Government; 2015 [cited 2018 Oct 28].

    7.     Wales underwater? – Afallen [Internet]. [cited 2020 Mar 7].

  • Accelerating sustainability

    We’re delighted to announce that we’ve been successful in securing a place in the next cohort of companies for the Natwest Entrepreneur Accelerator.

    This competitive process rewards companies with a range of support services which can help accelerate their development. The application process comprised an application form, an interview, and the delivery of a 60-second ‘elevator pitch’.

    We’re extremely keen to use our expertise in sustainability to help influence the other members of the April 2020 cohort in a more sustainable direction – as well as ourselves benefiting from mixing with a very varied group of start-up businesses.

    The placement is for six months, with another six month extension possible, under competitive terms with all existing and new entrants.

    We’re very excited to learn, and share our own skills. Watch this space for our reflections on how we’ve benefited from the support!

  • Our new website

    A new start

    I first started to develop the Afallen website in October 2018, as we were starting to move from the concept of our Partnership, to the reality of communicating our ideas to the world.

    In 2018 the options for creating elegant websites were somewhat fewer than today. The basic wordpress functionality made it difficult to produce bespoke aspects of design, so we opted to use a commercial theme.

    Fast-forward to 2020, and a number of things have changed, in the world of web design, but also more widely in our understanding of issues surrounding surveillance capitalism and privacy.

    The new WordPress content management system – Gutenberg – has certainly not been without its critics; but the latest iteration allows for custom design and drag’n’drop type functionality, in a way which allows us to mirror the design of our previous website, but with a much lower code-base.

    Our old website; 14 months of trusty representation

    Privacy, surveillance and a ‘free’ web

    In the 18 months since our first website was launched, we’ve become much more aware of data-mining, and the extent to which large corporations collect (and use) data on us as individuals.

    This information can be used in unscrupulous ways to micro-target individuals, in some cases with misinformation in order to try to solicit actions such as voting for a particular outcome or candidate.

    By using something as innocuous-seeming as Google Analytics, organisations are helping to maintain and strengthen the ability of private organisations to influence and direct our public discourse – and even our voting intentions.

    That’s why you won’t find any tracking code on our website. In truth we never changed what we were doing based on our analytics anyway, so there will be zero impact on our operations. But there will be a minuscule reduction in the amount of data that Google – and others – are able to collect, as a result of your visit here today.

    This article in The Atlantic magazine describes the worrying trend of using harvested data to try to spread misinformation in the United States; it’s a trend that we also see in the UK.

    Accessibility

    There are two other important improvements that arise from our change of theme.

    Firstly, our website is now more accessible. Whilst not being perfect, it is much easier to navigate and read, because we’ve dispensed with a bunch of code that was necessary to create and place the elements that made up our previous website.

    The other advantage is that the website is now able to automatically output new blog posts to the Fediverse, via the Activitypub plugin.

    In other words, each of our posts will find its way to a (potentially) global audience via Mastodon and other federated networks – which will help us to reach, and influence, people everywhere.

    So – a very warm welcome to our new website. And if you want to find out more about why we do the things we do, take a look at our values, or meet us over a coffee to talk about how we can help you in implementing sustainability and well-being. Privacy included as standard.

    A picture showing different federated platforms as circles upon a background of an atlas
    Some of the components of the #Fediverse