Category: Uncategorized

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Wales’ Climate Emergency

    Emergency: n. A serious situation or occurrence that demands immediate action.

    Climate: n. The meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and wind, that characteristically prevail in a particular region.

    On 29 April, Scotland proudly announced itself as the first nation to declare a Climate Emergency. This statement was closely followed by our own from Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths, who added the voice of Welsh Government to the growing list of towns and cities that have signed up to acknowledge the need for urgent and drastic measures to combat climate change.

    The arrival of National Governments to the Climate Emergency declaration ‘party’ is hugely significant; not just for the undoubted symbolism it provides, and for the political heft that it gives to campaigners within Wales and Scotland, but also because it heralds the likelihood that other countries will follow suit.

    As Lesley Griffiths said, government has a role in making collective action possible. And we certainly do require collective action – both individually and at the nation-state level – if we are to arrest runaway climate change and to ensure that the planet we bequeath to our children and grandchildren is habitable.

    It was interesting to note that the following day saw the First Minister outline the timetable for making a decision on the fate of the proposed new M4 relief road. The first week of June will see Mark Drakeford setting out whether he will grant the legal orders necessary to allow the project to proceed.

    M4 – Not a done deal?

    Although a decision to issue Transport Orders in June would not necessarily guarantee that the project commences – it is still subject to a confirmatory vote in the National Assembly – it would signal that Welsh Government believes that attempting to ease the flow of traffic by building additional road capacity is a potentially higher priority than tackling climate change.

    It would also put Welsh Government in direct conflict with the Office of the Commissioner for Future Generations which has stated that the proposed scheme does not properly take into account the needs of future generations.

    Whilst I have no doubt that our government could produce a narrative which demonstrates that a new piece of motorway is exactly what our young and yet-to-be-born citizens need, it feels to me as though this decision is totemic for what we, as the people of Wales, see as of value. Do we truly value the ability of our future citizens, innocent of blame, to live in a climate which resembles that which we ourselves have experienced? Or do we value more highly the convenience of private car owners in a small corner of Wales to shave a few minutes from their journey time?

    It is Business as Usual, with modest tweaks, which has got us into this emergency. And if it really is, as Welsh Government states, an emergency, then we need drastic, radical measures, individually and collectively, to avoid tragic outcomes for our ecosystems.

    Credit where it’s due

    I applaud Welsh Government for making such a brave statement of intent on the Climate Emergency, as I have consistently applauded the creation and implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. But if intent is to have meaning, we must make decisions differently. We must prioritise accordingly. And we must take every opportunity to decide against projects and systems which increase poor outcomes for the environment.

    In giving credit to Welsh Government for their statement, I would also like to pay homage to the thousands of Welsh campaigners who have become part of the Extinction Rebellion movement, which has undoubtedly played an immense role in raising the issue within the national consciousness. Their bravery, tenacity and self-sacrifice is both humbling and heartening. We owe a debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens for campaigning on behalf of our future generations, and on behalf of the ecosystems which will continue to support them in the decades to come.

    This post was first published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs

  • Why Afallen?

    As I recently blogged I’ve been working in the renewable energy sector for more than fifteen years, with nearly half that total coming from my post as Director of RenewableUK Cymru, a position I was very happy in.

    So….why am I starting work today, for the first time, for a start-up partnership with no guaranteed income, no pension, no sick pay. Why – on the cusp of Brexit, with all the uncertainty that brings – would anybody want to augment that uncertainty ten-fold?

    Perhaps to answer that question satisfactorily, the first question to answer is — what? What is Afallen?

    Afallen

    Firstly, the name itself. The word ‘Afallen’ means ‘Apple Tree’ in Welsh. The apple tree has many positive connotations around renewal, replenishment and sustainability. It is also the likely derivative word for Avalon, the island central to the Arthurian legends.

    Afallen is a limited liability partnership (LLP), currently made up of three people. We work with gifted and experienced associates from across Wales and beyond.

    We are a values-based organisation working on projects which we can influence for the good — in terms of the long-term benefit for environment, community, and the economy in its widest terms.

    We champion and support the open-source and creative commons communities, and are busy building a supply chain which rewards suppliers who hold similar values to our own (see this blog about Triodos as our first ethical supplier).

    We have committed to donating 10% of our net profits to a charitable trust to support sustainable economic development in Wales — though I am keen to widen this to enable us to financially support the amazing open-source products which enable us to work effectively, and to develop our own skills in-house on a range of platforms.

    We want to maintain as much financial and intellectual capital as possible within Wales — all parts of Wales — as possible. We want to build resilience in communities the length and breadth of the country. And we want to help others deliver their own projects in the letter and spirit of the Well-being of Future Generations legislation. For me, that includes the ability to deliver as many project outcomes through the medium of Welsh as possible.

    Why?

    The ‘why’ is obvious when you understand the social and economic context of the Wales we are proud to call our home in 2019. One of the poorest ‘regions’ in Europe with one of the worst infrastructure systems, we see all too often our financial and human capital leaving Wales.

    That’s why we want to build an organisation which can deliver extremely high-quality services across a range of sectors, and support delivery by skilled professionals who live and work in the communities where the projects are carried out. This organisation — Afallen — will increase the amount of money retained within Wales from public and private sector activity, and redistribute it as widely as possible to our associates across Wales.

    If we are successful in our aim, we will make a material difference to individuals, households and communities across Wales for a number of reasons:

    • Highly skilled professionals living outside major urban conurbations will be able to work within their communities. This will reduce the need for commuting, increase the viability of remote and rural working, and improve outcomes by bringing project delivery much closer to the beneficiaries
    • We will improve the resilience of the communities we work in by empowering the people and organisations we work with. We hope to reduce the need for future intervention by the ways in which we work today
    • We will retain greater financial, intellectual and social capital within our communities the length and breadth of the country

    What’s next?

    I am incredibly proud and humbled by being able to work with Mari Arthur and Peter Trott, two highly experienced, motivated and delightful people.

    I’m looking forward to developing our network further so that we can make good on our promise to provide exceptional project delivery, delivered locally, right across Wales.

    And in the longer term, it’s not impossible that we will be able to take the expertise we’ve developed in Wales, and take it elsewhere. Our experience marrying sustainability with project delivery through a minority national language might be instructive and useful in countries such as Scotland, New Zealand or Ireland. Well….I can dream!

    If you’re interested in finding out how we can help your project or service deliver its full meaning and value, and demonstrate superb alignment with the goals and ways of working of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, I’ll be only to happy to chat to you on the phone or over a coffee.