Mar 05

Fresh constructive thinking on gender

Communicating underpins our advances in civilisation. First came spoken language, then writing and printing. Now the internet, and its hard-to-ignore offspring – internet 2.0, offer us an unprecedented opportunity to share ideas, co-create solutions and accelerate both our connectivity and our ability to solve problems.
Of course it’s easier said than done. Chatrooms can feel clumsy and time consuming. Webinars might not generate enough engagement. Jams that last all week can generate vast quantities of data without any easy or robust enlightenment. All thoughts and no sifting can make for dull reading.

I started the Thinking Tank as an independent not-for-profit idea in 2009 after becoming frustrated with the traditional ‘expert telling audience followed by 5 questions’ format of knowledge sharing. It often felt to me like the exploration was only just beginning when everybody shuffled out of the room and off to their train home. How much richer to have a 45 minute conversation with as many people as we wanted to, from diverse walks of life? A space where we could stimulate each other’s thinking and find our way towards some shared views and winning ideas for personal and societal action.

ttt1503 IWD
This year for International Women’s Day the Thinking Tank debate will consider the connection between women’s low level of economic representation and the more subtle forms of gender based violence. At professional women’s networks I hear repeating themes of lack of value placed on connected, collaborative ways of working and of the persistent need to conform to traditionally male behaviours in order to advance. And this is here, at the cutting edge of equality in terms of access to education, confidence, independence and opportunity. How much harder must it be for women in other cultures or socio-economic groups?

Thinking Tank discussions are run on the Synthetron platform, based on the Surowiecki’s principles of the Wisdom of the Crowds. They are completely anonymous so we don’t know if the ideas and views we see and consider are coming from a male politician in the South or a female banker in the North. That removes a major hurdle to constructive debate. What matters here are the ideas. The best ones gather support and rise in the debate – typically 20-30% of the ideas receive enough support to move up. And a handful of those will resonate with a wider group.

It’s an intriguing process to moderate – in a very open way – and see how the debate develops. Analysing the data afterwards appeals to the mathematician in me as much as the social activist – finding the breaking lines and language patterns identifying clusters of views, seeing which topics generated energy, discovering the heart of the conversation and substantiating that with the quantified data that emerges.

You might join this conversation because you have important information to share or because you are curious about the broader view. You might be the kind of person who is personally or professionally intrigued by crowdsourcing and welcomes the opportunity to participate and witness first hand. You might be a campaigner or a researcher keen to find out more or test hypotheses. You might just be tired of the same old people having the same old conversation and drawn to the idea of a very diverse group batting round some thoughts.

Hundreds of participants from age 8 to 80 from many countries, professions and points of view have joined thinking Tank debates over the last 5 years. We have covered such diverse topics as feminism, financial ethics and football. Now we would like to see what you have to say on this topic and how together we can find some winning ideas and fresh thinking.

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