Tag Archives | Your Country Your Call

The Irish Government – Lizard Brains

When writing about the current Your Country, Your Call idea generating campaign, I was particularly focused on the fact that out countries leaders (both political and business) have more to gain by maintaining the current status quo than they do in supporting a couple of “truly transformational” ideas that might challenge their comfy position.

Tim Dunne and Maggie Dugan wrote some years ago about what they called “Lizard Brains”. According to them:

The Lizard Brain is concerned with survival. It sits at the base of the skull, at the top of the spine. It’s our old brain. Evolutionists will tell you that we’ve had it since we were – well – Lizards. The Lizard Brain’s reaction to everything, if it has one at all, is limited to the following…eat, attack, run away, or mate.

Recently, on his blog, Seth Godin write about Lizard Brains under the title “Modern Procrastination”:

The lizard brain adores a deadline that slips, an item that doesn’t ship and most of all, busywork.
These represent safety, because if you don’t challenge the status quo, you can’t be made fun of, can’t fail, can’t be laughed at. And so the resistance looks for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything.

Is there anything more appropriate to describe our current government? And if there was a phrase to best describe the Your Country, Your Call (and Ideas Campaign, and Global Irish Economic Forum) ideas gathering exercise, it’s:

ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything


Maintaining the status quo – Global Irish Economic Forum and Your Country/Your Call

In my post yesterday, Status Report of the Global Irish Economic Forum, I referred to the review of the status report written by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev.

One point that Dr. Gurdgiev highlighted at the end of his report was as follows:

Which brings me to the revelation that was not made before (to my knowledge) about Farmleigh. In months of preparation for Farmleigh, DofFA took over the lists of invitees, prepared by the idea originators and mercilessly cut out all potential invitees they did not approve of.
From that list gone were a number of public figures very active in policy debate in this country and internationally. They then added a number of those, deemed by the bureaucrats as representative of the Social Partnership. How do I know this? The original owners of the Farmleigh idea actually told me this a week before Farmleigh took place!

So, an idea originally devised by David McWilliams but which enrolled some government involvement, eventually became hamstrung by that government involvement.

And it’s not like anyone could be surprised by this revelation.

And after discovering a couple of weeks ago that the government has effectively funded the €200,000 prize money in the Your Country, Your Call idea generating competition (they’re investing €300,000 of the total €2m fund), we should now be expecting a very strong government involvement/interference in this campaign as well.

As I said in my very first post about YCYC – the status quo that currently exists in this country will only be maintained through this competition – rather than seeing anything of the supposed “truly transformational” ideas they’re looking for.

As the saying goes, “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”. And the piper in this case will ensure that the tune (and the two winning ideas) are not too revolutionary to change the status quo.


Your Country, Your Call – the promised website updates are not forthcoming

It’s been a number of weeks now since representatives of Your Country, Your Call on Twitter said that they would update their website with the details that they were drip-feed releasing via comments made on different blogs, including my own here.

Some of the information sorely lacking on the site were details such as who the members of the Steering Committee were, who exactly were the financial backers of the scheme and how much were they contributing, and more details of the government involvement in the whole thing.

When I asked recently when this update would be done, I was told that there was some issues over who had update rights over the website, and that it would be done soon – that was about a week ago, but still no such updates have been made.

Yet other information has been updated on the website since Monday – including details of their upcoming workshops on innovation.

I find myself wondering what reasons might exist that prevents the Your Country, Your Call people from updating their website to provide the promised clarity on their whole campaign including their financial backers and government involvement, but does allow them make updates to promote some workshops.

In the absence of the promised website updates, it’s unfortunate, but you’ll have to keep track of the Steering Committee members and the different blogs and websites that they post morsels of information on. Here are a list of links to some more reading about the Your Country, Your Call ideas gathering exercise. I’ll keep this page updated as I find more items written about one of my current favourite topics.


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Idea generating campaigns disconnect – Having ideas versus having a vision

I wrote a fair bit last week, and yesterday as well, about the new ideas generating campaign that’s currently ongoing here in Ireland – Your Country, Your Call.

I’ve tried to portray my own thoughts, particular in the first post – Yet another idea generating campaign – can we see some actions sometime maybe?

Coincidentally then, that it was only last week that I came across this article on the Harvard Business Review Blog – Having Ideas Versus Having a Vision. According to the author of this article:

One consequence of a decade focused on idea generation is ideas are now more easily accessible, which has also made idea generation less of a differentiator in competition than it has traditionally been.

What is in short supply, I’m afraid, are visionary thinkers who will be capable of making sense of this abundance of stimuli — visionaries who will build the arenas to unleash the power of ideas and transform them into actions.

This, I believe, is where the disconnect between these ideas generating campaigns, and the real world as we’re experiencing in Ireland at the moment, exists.

As I pointed out in the previous posts, Ireland at the moment is not short of ideas, and at a macro level, we’re also not short of the cash that could help develop those ideas.

What is damagingly wrong is that there isn’t sufficient vision amongst those who control the government purse strings to see where the money rightly needs to be spent.


Your Country, Your Call – are there good ideas hidden in the hundreds of submissions made already?

Over three days last week, I wrote about this years ideas generating campaign, Your Country, Your Call. And yes, I have been somewhat critical of how the campaign is organised and how it promotes itself. The 3 posts are available here:

I haven’t been the only critic, but still and all, the campaign has taken hold, and at the time of writing this, there are over 1900 suggestions submitted to the website. Personally, I’ve reviewed most of the summary text of the submissions made. Unfortunately though, I don’t believe there is yet the “truly transformational” idea that the organisers are looking for.

However, despite some of the pure drivel that is in there, I do think that there are a number of ideas, or themes of ideas that if combined together, could provide what could make a difference to the country.

Any of you on Twitter may have been following the #YCYC hash-tag where loads of people are picking out some of the more outrageous suggestions submitted to the website – and there are some doozies.

It’s also becoming more obvious, particularly in recent days that some people are just having fun with the site and submitting what they know are ridiculous suggestions for the fun of it.

Fair enough – just like the gaming of BenDunne.com when he provided free advertising – if you’re going to open up a website to unmoderated submissions, you’re always likely to get that kind of activity. According to whomever is behind the Your Country, Your Call twitter account, they’ve only deleted 5 submissions in the first week because they contravened their terms and conditions – despite the fact that there’s a difference of approximately 250 between the latest submission ID and the actual number of submissions available on the website.

In fairness though, I guess it’s quite hard to try to weed out the plainly ridiculous suggestions as you’d be unlikely to tell if someone was being unfortunately genuine, or if someone was having a laugh.

What I’d love to see though, even from the many skeptics out there, is for everyone to review the existing suggestions submitted again to see if the bones of a single great comprehensive idea could be compiled from the many smaller and incomplete ones – build the “truly transformational” idea from the thinking (sometimes incomplete and off the wall) that’s been done already.

Personally, I have seen three distinct threads of ideas submitted that align to some ideas I’ve been mulling over myself recently. I’m currently drafting together the bones of those ideas, with the stuff I’ve been working on myself. While any individual ideas might not win the prize outright, it’s possible that a combination of multiple peoples thinking would have a better chance (assuming we’re not stepping on the toes of the incumbents).

It’d be great to see others do this kind of data mining within their own spheres of expertise, just in case there’s a bunch of smaller ideas worth bundling together into that “truly transformational” one.


The Real Problem with Idea Generating Campaigns

When I first read about the aims of the countries current idea generating campaign, Your Country, Your Call, I was particularly drawn to one particular aspect. It’s contained in this section, taken from the About page on the YCYC website:

The goal is to pick two truly transformational proposals so big that, when implemented, could secure prosperity and jobs for Ireland. Proposals that could help change the way we do things, allow businesses to grow, employment to be created and prosperity to flourish.

“Truly transformational”

It’s not about growing more trees along the motorway, or gathering rainwater to sell abroad, or even to give Irish passports to the Irish Diaspora and bring them home on holidays on free Aer Lingus sites.

They say that they’re looking for something massive – something that will change Ireland for the better, for good.

A noble aspiration. However, if you really consider what might be needed to change this country at the moment, in my first post in this series, I touched upon why this is really unlikely to come to pass.

Idea generating campaigns, I said, are “where the general population are invited to submit their ideas to an elite group of people who will cherry pick what suits them and ignore everything else”.

Insiders don’t want change

I’ve described these elite as “incumbents” – David McWilliams would call them (himself included) “insiders”. But whatever you call them, and whomever they are, they are the people who were running this country, and running the businesses in this country, during the time that we rose spectacularly and descended even more spectacularly over the past 20 years.

Why then would these people entertain any ideas that come from the general public that would disturb the status quo that exists in Ireland?

For example, as is touched upon in several suggestions on the YCYC website, the most “transformational” change we could probably implement in this country in the morning would be to change the current government, possibly even doing away with Fianna Fail completely. Why not even use the €100,000 and the momentum of this YCYC campaign to create a new political force for our generation?

A new start? Hardly likely

But turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. The Dail could make a significant transformation change to how this country is run for free by instituting the much called for political reforms, but we’re not seeing that any time soon either.

How about bringing about “transformational” change by retiring off all the “incumbents” who got us to this low point? The Government has already failed to do that in the Banks, it’ll never happen in the Civil and Public Service, and despite so many promises in the past, it’s not even happening with the countless quangos set up over the years (in fact we’re setting up new ones rather than getting rid of others).

But that’s not the end of it, the current problems encountered by developers are unlikely to result in any of these being completely removed from the picture? Just as the Corporate Enforcer wouldn’t move against insider dealing in DCC, he’s unlikely to take action against any developer who so badly runs a company and who so wrecklessly incurs debt as to endanger the country, never mind their own companies.

Why nothing will really change?

This YCYC campaign will pick a panel of people who will, without doubt, be a panel made up of “insiders” and “incumbents” – the very same thing happened with the Ideas Campaign – see their Advisory Council members here to refresh your memory.

In fact, they’ve already started by picking David Byrne as Chairman of the Judging Panel – Senior Council, former Fianna Fail appointed Attorney General, former Fianna Fail appointed European Commissioner, and Chancellor of Dublin City University.

These 12-18 members of the judging panel will come from positions and backgrounds as insiders and incumbents where it will be plainly obvious that they will not actually want to see a transformational change the size of which is actually needed to turn this country around.

It won’t be in their own interests, or the interests of their buddies and political contacts to see the “transformational change” that could change how this country is run, how it does business, and ultimately how it looks after all its citizens, not just the insiders and incumbents.


Ideas Campaign and Your Country, Your Call – deja vu all over again

I was quite sceptical of the original Ideas Campaign when it kicked off in March last year – with concerns which proved to be well-founded (e.g. their daily changing of their terms and conditions depending on issues raised). There were plenty other issues, and some of these could also be appropriately be raised with regards to this years Ideas Campaign 2.0, the Your Country, Your Call campaign.

I wrote a little on Tuesday about my concern that these campaigns were actually not directed at what we in Ireland need most – action, rather than simply generating lists of more ideas. I’ll also cover tomorrow where I see the greatest weakness of these “ideas campaigns”, but for now, lets look at the common problems with this YCYC campaign vs the original Ideas Campaign.

Intellectual Property

The first concern that I had was that the Ideas Campaign (IC) initially claimed ownership of all ideas submitted, whether selected to be presented to Government, or not. On the other hand, the Your Country, Your Call (YCYC) campaign only claims ownership of the winning two ideas – but temporarily claims ownership of all ideas during the competition. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the YCYC campaign taking ownership of the winning ideas – for €100,000, that could be considered a suitable payoff for what is effectively still only an idea.

However, unlike the IC, the YCYC campaign makes every idea submitted open for public viewing. While the Ideas Campaign only published a selection of ideas submitted, by having all submissions made public on the YCYC website, they’re now there for anyone else to seize upon.

While you and I may understand the dangers of submitting an idea to such a public forum as the YCYC website, there may be well meaning individuals or groups out there who don’t. There may be those who have the unexpected surprise that having innocently and honestly tried to do some good by submitting their idea, they’ve also made their idea public, so it could be seized upon by others.

Who’s idea was this ideas gathering exercise?

The Ideas Campaign was very unclear at its initiation with regards to who was actually behind the campaign – and we’re seeing this again with the Your Country, Your Call campaign. We know that Presidents husband, Mr. Martin McAleese, is the figurehead behind the idea, but it does appear as if he probably wasn’t around at the inception of the YCYC idea. For example, he isn’t one of the registered directors of the company behind the campaign.

We don’t know either who the financial supporters are of this campaign. We’re told that €2m has been collected to fund the campaign and its prize money, yet we’re not told who collected any of this money. Some clues were provided over the past weekend on Twitter – more details here. Apparently some companies like Diageo, Bank of Ireland, Cisco and Allied Irish Bank and some other unnamed “big names” are invested to the tune of €130k.

While Aileen O’Toole of Amas Consulting initially tried to tell us on Prime Time that the IdeasCcampaign was all her own personal idea, for the good of the country, we later found out that it was actually a project sponsored and paid for by Amas Consulting.

We’re now only picking up tit-bits about who is really behind this YCYC campaign. You have to get the company documentation for the An Smaoineamh Mor company to find out the individuals behind the whole thing – chaired by former Bank of Ireland governor Dr Laurence Crowley, Martin Murphy, managing director of Hewlett Packard Ireland, and Eugene McCague, chairman of Arthur Cox solicitors.

You have to further delve behind the registration of the website domains to find out it is Allied Irish Banks who are behind the registration of the .ie domain name.

You have to read the press release from the company, BrightIdea, supplying the Your Country Your Call website software to find out that someone called Austin Hogan is the program director for Your Country, Your Call. I wonder is this the same “Austin Hogan” who’s entry on LinkedIn says they’re the “Head HR Operations & Technology at AIB”?

Further, you have to pick up on a couple of clues dropped around to find out who the “steering committee” for YCYC is. From Twitter we find that Padraig McKeon of Drury, a PR company, is a member. From The Irish Times, we find that Ferdinand Von Prondzynski of DCU is also on the steering committee. And finally then, though it’s not made available on their website, the rest of the steering committee is made up of Laurence Crowley, Martin McAleese, Martin Murphy (HP), Anne Marie Shaw (Cisco).

Finally, if you look at the Your Country, Your Call, you find out a further company that’s probably involved in this campaign. The Your Country, Your Call LinkedIn group is managed by someone called Zara Sheehin – Senior Account Manager at Agency.com/Cawley Nea TBWA, another PR company.

What’s the government involvement?

Similar to the Ideas Campaign, the YCYC campaign is suggesting that they have government support, but they’re not defining what that support is. We don’t know if they Government is providing money, or even if they’re kicking off this campaign at the behest of the government – another, “hey, look over there” diversionary tactic that our Fianna Fail government is so fond of.

Was it just a “nod and a wink” from some civil servant or government minister over a pint in Doheny & Nesbitts that is the support we’re talking about, or is it something more substantial. Only at the end of the Ideas Campaign did we find out that the government were going to take the best ideas submitted and submit them to a special task force. We have no indication yet as to what the YCYC campaign are going to do with their best two ideas.

Why all the secrecy?

Why do I even have to pose these questions about what Your Country, Your Call is really about? What is it about “idea generating campaigns” in Ireland and their promoters, that requires such secrecy and privacy?

When these people are expecting the Irish people to bear their souls for the ultimate benefit of the campaign themselves (either financially or in self-promotion), why don’t they come out with the information up front?

And why is the main stream media so quick to promote these campaigns without first questioning the who is behind the campaign, what their real motives are, and what the ultimately plan to do with the ideas?

The Ideas Campaign did manage to very successfully smack down any of this questioning with their “no whinging” rule, but why should a promoter of an idea generating campaign be given a free pass when it comes to avoiding negative media coverage?

There is, however, one major problem with all of these idea generating campaigns – and more particularly, how the supposedly “best” ideas are chosen. I’ll cover that here tomorrow.


Yet another idea generating campaign – can we see some actions sometime maybe?

I feel like it’s 2009 – March approximately. It was back then that I first wrote about the original Ideas Campaign. Some of my comments back then weren’t taken too well by some people – mainly though, they offended Aileen O’Toole who was behind that campaign.

And now, almost exactly 1 year later, we have the Ideas Campaign 2.0 – or as this one is known, Your Country, Your Call. I would love this time around to be able to say that this is a great idea and that it’s just what our country needs, but unfortunately it’s same bad idea gathering exercise, different promoters and a significantly worse website.

As a rule, who in their right mind could say that they’re against any of these kinds of ideas campaigns, but as has been pointed out on many occasions by me and others, what Ireland actually needs at the moment is action, rather than ideas.

Ireland as a country has significant funds available, and significant numbers of valuable ideas, that would help us out of our current predicament but unfortunately there isn’t enough real action to make things happen.

It seems like it could be a truly Irish unfortunate phenomenon to have these ideas generating campaigns – the Ideas Campaign, the Global Irish Economic Forum, and now Your Country, Your Call, where the general population are invited to submit their ideas to an elite group of people who will cherry pick what suits them, and their own elite purposes, and ignore everything else.

And too often we have people finding all sorts of reasons – real, or imaginary – which prevent them from taking their own ideas, accessing funds and turning them into action.

Ideas aren’t enough – will is important

Despite what could be the common perception at the moment, this country has plentiful available funds for investment, but unfortunately those in charge of the purse strings are ensuring that the finances don’t go where they’re truly needed.

Look, for example, at this article on The Story website, Enterprise Ireland Visualisations and Analysis. This excellent article tells us that over a certain period of time, only 5% of Enterprise Ireland grant recipients received 50% of the money available. The massive Glanbia organisation took 2.66% of the money available, more than the bottom 1000 recipients put together.

And given what we’re seeing at the moment, we definitely have the ideas – we need only look at the outputs from all previously mentioned ideas campaigns, and what’s being submitted to the Your Country, Your Call website at the moment. However, given the quality of some of these ideas, it’s sometimes debatable if we actually have the people necessary to progress any good ideas from germination to fruition. This was only recently worryingly emphasised on the the recent Frontline “young persons” programme on RTE, referred to so eloquently here by Twenty Major.

I have an idea for an ideas campaign submission?
How about an “actions campaign” that invites Irish people to get up and actually do something and where the rewards will be for achievement – creating a business, earning money for themselves, and providing employment – rather than for simply filling in a website form?
I have two more posts to publish on this issue in the coming days. On Thursday, I’m going to look at the uncanny and worrying comparisons between the failed Ideas Campaign and the current Your Country, Your Call campaign.
On Friday then I’m going to propose what I think is the single greatest problem with any of these campaigns – the Ideas Campaign, the Global Irish Economic Forum, and now Your Country, Your Call.

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