Category Archives: 2012

PayPal and Jadu Launch Weejot Charity Web Apps

Jadu has launched an app creation platform integrated with PayPal’s Express Checkout to help charities create web apps that can quickly process tablet and smartphone donations.

Weejot was launched with the Alzheimer’s Society by Suraj Kika, CEO at Jadu, who demonstrated the platform. “It allows non-technical people to build apps in real-time,” he said. “You can deliver to any device without app store approval. I’ve just built an app in one and a half minutes.”

The apps can help fundraising managers capture data on who is donating, where, using GPS, and why. They are responsive and adaptive to different screen sizes, including tablets, but don’t work on older handsets. If charities have developers in-house, they can build their own custom templates, but as the platform is free for a year, and negotiable thereafter, it is designed to be used by chairities without large budgets. The platform is cloud-based and open source so any updates made by developers can be shared with the whole community.

Cardless payments

PayPal currently has 123m users and enables people to pay on the platform without entering their card details. Using PayPal, charities can build in monthly donations so users can schedule payments like a DirectDebit. Although Kika said there were no plans to integrate with other payment sources, developers can wire in their own. The apps natively supports Giftaid.

John Lunn, global director of PayPal Developer, said that PayPal already has more than 300,000 not-for-profits collecting donations on its platform, processing $4.6bn every year, but only 3 per cent are currently coming from mobile.

He suggested that future applications could see charities have NFC tags or QR codes on street fundraisers’ clipboards to make it simpler and feel safer to sign-up in the street. He also highlighted that by using PayPal Now, charities could take on-the-spot chip and pin payments using a mobile device with the chip and pin reader. “We don’t want to interfere in someone’s decision to do something by putting too much in the middle. Weejot Donate makes simple impulse things easy.”

Download, tweet and like

Users can download the web apps to their phone, whether that is singly, or as an ‘app store’ from the relevant charity. The charities can add in Twitter and Facebook automation so users can either communicate to others that they have made a donation, or like the Facebook page. They can also ask users to tell them why they made the donation.

Liz Monks, director of fundraising at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that charities need to use technology in ways that suits the donor. She pointed out that during the recent Comic Relief campaign, more than 60 per cent of donations were made on mobile between 9 and 10pm.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here: http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/paypal-and-jadu-launch-weejot-charity-web-apps

Facebook Will Monetise Instagram – But How?

Written for and first published here: http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/facebook-will-monestise-instagram-how

For the early-adopting hipsters that popularised the photo-sharing app Instagram, its buyout by Facebook was welcomed like their mum turning up wearing skinny jeans. It was inevitable that change was on the way and Facebook has now begun testing the service as its route to making money on mobile. Just as they find out their mum has started hanging out in East London.

Facebook has so far proved that you can have 1bn users and not be making enough money. And as a publicly listed company, it really needs to start making something back for its shareholders, particularly on the costly buyout of the Instagram app company. Of course, as Instagram’s co-founder, Kevin Systrom, said in a clarifying blog after the news spread, and suggestion of a boycott gathered pace, the service was created to become a business.

While he has denied that the company will sell users’ photos, social advertising in-app, with branded accounts and the potential for your preferences to be considered as endorsements are well on the way. While Instagram says on its website that it is looking at ‘innovative advertising’, this sounds very similar to what Facebook is doing, and is struggling to monetise.

But if I like something on Facebook, or follow an account on Instagram, does that mean that I advertise it? Questions have already been raised about whether people have even ‘liked’ things that appear on their Facebook feeds, and some have even claimed that dead people are managing to endorse brands from beyond the grave.

“Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time,” Systrom said.

So what does the future hold for Instagram – apart from the inevitable need to generate some cash? As with many changes that Facebook has introduced, while there is the usual push back and the most determined leave the service, many people accept them as the price of free access. If a service is free, you are the product, so the saying goes. Users have to ask themselves what they are comfortable with sharing while accepting less control. They have until 12 January to remove their profiles before the experiments with brands and advertising start to happen.

Instagram could opt for a paid-for, ad free premium service, although this could reduce the appeal of its inventory to brands by reducing the number of affluent, desirable advertisees. Microsoft computer science researcher, Jaron Lanier, told Newsnight: “The internet has to be about more than advertising or it’s a path to nowhere.” Alluding to a looming advertising bubble, he said that if we wanted to build the ‘information economy’, people have to be able to share money and buy things on Facebook. But that means they have to trust it.

The question has started to be asked – can and will people start charging for their data? Or could they be given more opportunity to say ‘yes, I want advertising about cars, holidays and business solutions, please do not send me things about…’? For more on what these developments could look like, see i-allow.

Could this very 21st century problem end up with one social network bringing down another? The #boycottinstagram campaign on Twitter sure hopes so. Or is this all just a Twitter storm in a tea cup?
Meanwhile, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced the donation of $500m worth of Facebook stock to charity…

Turning the tide of media sexism

Written for and first published here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kirsty-styles/turning-tide-of-media-sexism

Comedy and social media are targeting Britain’s Page 3 culture. With Lord Leveson’s inquiry lashing the tabloid press for ‘reckless prioritising’ of sensation, now is the time for activists is to reach out beyond the middle class Twittersphere says Kirsty Styles…

Peter Ustinov said that comedy is simply a funny way of being serious. So a comedy show put on by two young women who have created very modern campaigns to highlight and change the way women are seen and treated in Britain was the perfect setting to laugh, and look seriously, at 21st century Britain.

Lucy-Anne Holmes, who started the No More Page 3 petition, and Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, presented the Stand Up to Sexism show with the tagline ‘get your gags out for the girls’ at a historic theatre in London’s West End. Comedians gave their time for free for the cause. A crowd of 600 raised £4,000 for the End Violence Against Women campaign and proved that two young women can think, do and lead.

For over four decades, Britain’s leading national daily newspaper, The Sun, has featured a large photograph of a semi-naked woman on page 3. ‘Page 3’ is now synonymous in British culture with a woman’s breasts. Holmes’s campaign aims to close that chapter in British newspaper history. But even in the midst of the biggest crisis to hit the British media sector this century, with a massive formal inquiry into press culture and ethics, the Sun’s editor, when giving evidence to Lord Leveson, felt quite able to justify his paper’s commitment to reporting the news of girls in their knickers. He said that he believed the daily photograph was ‘meant to represent the youth and freshness’ and ‘celebrate natural beauty’ and amounted to an ‘innocuous British institution’.

At the comedy show Viv Groskop, a writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian, highlighted that Page 3 ‘celebrated’ its 42nd birthday the same weekend as the gig. “That’s more than 13,000 editions. 26,241 nipples. Why the one?” she asked. “Melinda Messenger had her hand over her tit on one picture. Was it a protest? Was it a cry for help? Or was she just a bit chilly? We are not saying ‘boo’ to nipples, but boo to the outing of nipples. When you’ve seen that many, it’s not really news anymore. Yes, we still have nipples.”

Lucy Porter, compere for the evening, has built a successful career as a female comic, in a media environment where even she wasn’t immune from the sexist culture. In the 90s, she worked as an assistant producer at the BBC. When she was groped by a well-known male DJ, her superior said ‘come on love, laugh it off’.

“But the people who were laughing loudest and longest were the men who were getting away with it. One tragedy of being a woman is that, when you can finally stand up for your tits, pervs don’t want to touch them anymore.” There are stereotypes of feminists as ‘man hating lesbians’.  “But the women who really hate men tend to be heterosexual,” she said. “It seems there is nothing like sleeping with someone of that sex to lower your opinion of them,” she laughed.

She wasn’t surprised that the No More Page 3 campaign was taking off. “It’s creepy and weird… I’m hopeful for the future of feminism,” she said. “These campaigns have been created by young women with lots to say.”

She noted that what was once called ‘being a twat’ has been rebranded as ‘banter’. Her husband told her a joke, “watching your wife giving birth is like seeing your favourite pub burn down… Misogyny can sound quite funny at first. But ‘banter’ is actually men saying things that they know are unacceptable.”

It’s hard to underestimate the power that social media is giving to both campaigns, helping to build sufficient profile to fill a major London theatre for a fundraising night of comedy. ‘Humourless’ feminists have come a long way and the sound of tables being turned is getting louder. Holmes is collecting signatures for her petition, which already has more than 55,000, with lots of work put in on Twitter to get people to see and share her vision. She also arranged a protest outside the Sun’s HQ. When the police arrive, they signed her petition.

#Everydaysexism’s Bates is collecting 140-character examples of sexist incidents experienced by women. In little over six months, 10,000 women have lodged their complaints. But her campaign still exists in a virtual world where #boobs is also regularly used by the Sun to direct its frothing audience to their site.

Kate Smurthwaite, said that Page 3 makes her feel ‘embarrassed’, especially when friends around the world happened upon this Great British institution.

The Sun is not the only culprit in the race for depravity, Kate noted. The latest issue of the satirical magazine Private Eye highlights this article: “Teenager Elle Fanning shows off her womanly curves… The 14-year-old took to Instagram to share a photograph of her Hallowe’en outfit and wasn’t afraid to flaunt her curves for the camera.” Not a paedophile website, no. But the Daily Mail, the world’s number one online site. Even in a media world rocked by the revelations of child abuse by the late entertainer Jimmy Savile, once one of the UK’s biggest TV stars, this is somehow considered ok.

Joe Wellspicked out Front magazine, where they proclaim a ‘no fake boobs’ policy. “Yes we objectify women like pieces of meat, but they are 100 per cent organic.” He said that when writer Laurie Penny said that there were not enough women on BBC television’s Newsnight, Katie Price, glamour model and reality TV and tabloid regular, was invited to talk about the ethics of breast implants. “By far the worst editorial decision of Newsnight to date. Like getting a pig to debate EU farming regulation.”

Tiffany Stevenson came out and told the audience about her ‘muffin top’. “But I’ve come out here and slagged myself off – why do that when I have magazines to do that for me?” She said it’s weird that as you grow older you almost ‘miss sexism’. “Would you mind not talking to my face, they’re right here,” she said pointing to her chest. “But that’s what I was told I was worth my whole life. Your whole self-worth is tied up in how you look.”

“People now get botox in their late 20s as a ‘preventative measure’. Let’s stop carving our faces up. It never looks better, you should own your face, own your years. It’s the same with technology. You can’t judge a Kindle by its cover. Soon kids will be saying ‘Do you remember books??’ ‘Hey, remember old people?’ STOP IRONING THE WORLD!”

Poet Sabrina Mahfouz performed her No More Page 3 poem, one of the first overtly political pieces she had written, but something she felt compelled to do when she saw the campaign. “Even though I’d gone to grammar school. Not glamour school. And I was at university. It seemed to me that the only way I could see to the top was through desirability – ‘cos that’s what I’d seen non-stop in the papers, magazines, films and on TV.”

“Now fast forward 10 years and I hear of this thing – No More Page 3 – and it makes me so happy to think that finally, 84 years after women won the right to vote through protest and death, newspapers might actually start to fill pages with the sagest and most outrageous words of powerful women.”

Bates closed the event by saying: “Page 3 is everyday sexism. For 42 years, the largest female image in the biggest selling newspaper has been a woman with her breasts on show. Women should be represented with more respect. A mum sent me a message on Twitter saying that her young daughter wished she could turn into a boy so she could go to space. A quarter of seven-year-olds have tried to lose weight. 80 per cent of 10 year olds have done the same. Against odds like those, no wonder she’s thinking she has to change who she is to be what she wants to be.”

The timing of these campaigns is significant. The crisis sweeping journalism has also implicated British politics and the government. Despite the soft pedalling in Lord Justice Leveson’s report on figures like Prime Minister Cameron and former Media Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, the political fallout has plunged the coalition government and Parliament into splits and conflict. Leveson’s inquiryinto the British media was prompted by phone hacking at The News of the World, the Sun’s former Sunday ‘sister’ paper.

Even in the eye of a major political storm, leading British newspapers continue to publish sexist content with impunity with no detriment to their sales figures. Lucy Porter also noted that the Stand Up audience was a very middle-class show for a very middle-class audience. The next task then for No More Page 3 and Everydaysexism, at this moment of opportunity in the wake of the Leveson report, must be to take their campaigns beyond the Twittering classes, to the people who read the Sun and the people who don’t read much at all. So women everywhere can be sure that finally in the 21st century, they will know that assets means more than just breasts.

Women in Wireless London – Building your International Career

Written for and first published here: http://mobilemarketingmagazine.com/content/women-wireless-london-building-your-international-career

 Women in Wireless London welcomed two internationally successful women in mobile to talk at their event last night, ‘Building your International Career’.

Both Cynthia Gordon, CCO at Qatar-based network Qtel, and Marianne Roling, MD of Mobile for Microsoft in Central and Eastern Europe have had impressive 20 year careers that have seen them living all over the world.
Cynthia Gordon 
Cynthia GordonCynthia’s roles have taken her from the -35 temperatures she experienced when working for MTS, the largest mobile operator in Russia, to the +50 heat she now works in at the Qatari firm that serves 90m subscribers and generates $10bn. “One tip – it’s all about clothing” she said.

“Europe and the US are quite similar, there are commonalities. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Rajasthan are truly different – the culture, the environment. If I can excite you about anything – grasp those opportunities to experience something that is totally different.”

GSMA MWomen Programme

She said that an international career gives you a fantastic opportunity to learn but also fantastic opportunities to help other women in the customer base or company you work for – women are often hugely underrepresented in emerging market companies.

She highlighted the MWomen Programme of the GSMA. “In Iraq – women are killed for having a mobile phone. Men think they will have affairs or it will take them away from their families.” The GSMA created special TV ads to address the cultural barriers and have increased the female user-base from 20 to 30 per cent. “How many women have the opportunity to use mobile phones is a big issue in emerging markets.”

From the Berlin Wall to real-time global translation
Marianne Roling 
Marianne RolingAfter the fall of the Berlin Wall, Marianne had the opportunity to work on a Hungarian project funded by the World Bank to build telecoms infrastructure, where just 8 per cent of the homes had a telephone line.

She has seen the internet boom and bust, the development of the mobile industry and now the smartphone and tablet revolution. Micosoft recently performed a real-time translation between the US and China as if the American speaker was fluent in Chinese.”This is the most viibrant, amazing industry ever,” she said.

Work/life balance

She separated her success into having great networks and role models, identifying sponsors, mentors and coaches, as well as getting a work/life balance. She moved five times in five years while she was working for Lucent in South America, completely starting form ground zero every time.

“Now I don’t travel at the weekends and do lots of conference calls early in the morning. You have to create the rhythm with your family.” But Cynthia said she believes you can’t have it all. “My husband gave up his career even though when we met we were level.”

Her key advice to get that international mobile career you crave: “Numbers numbers numbers. Go into the detail – never skim over the topic, seek to understand it better than anybody else. Have confidence in what you can do and achieve, get on that plane, you can do it.”

When will male politicians take women’s rights seriously?

Written for and first published here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kirsty-styles/when-will-male-politicians-take-womens-rights-seriously

Feminism appears to be back with a vengeance in the UK. Kirsty Styles reports from the UK Feminista lobby of Parliament, and asks how long it will take before the f-word that really rings true in our society is ‘fairness’

Perhaps one of the most surprising outcomes of the 2012 Olympics was that the women who played Suffragettes during the opening ceremony were inspired to seek out the modern women’s movement. Some even took part in a feminist lobby of Parliament on October 24. They were joined by Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter – Dr Helen – her surname synonymous with the votes for women campaign in the early 20th century. She was one of more than 400 men and women who marched through central London with the campaign group UK Feminista to meet and lobby their MPs on gender equality.

Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party, told the marchers it was thought by many that the ‘job’s done, it’s all been sorted’. But this cannot be the case, she argued, when 60,000 women a year are raped in the UK, two women every week die at the hands of a partner or ex, and sexual harassment in schools and the workplace is routine. This also coincides with a 25 year high in female unemployment, and with women making up just 22 %  of MPs, 12.5 per cent of directors of FTSE 100 companies and 9.5 per cent of national newspaper editors.

Just a day earlier, the UK was found to have slipped down the league table of the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap report – moving from a pretty poor 16th to a worse still 18th– prompted by the decrease in women in ministerial positions following the recent government reshuffle from 23 % to 17 %. But on the day of the lobby, a landmark case was won in the UK’s Supreme Court, giving women from Birmingham Council back-dated payments for unequal wages.

In the two and a half years since UK Feminista was founded, another serious debate about what women want, have and need has begun. Even Cosmopolitan magazine has launched its own campaign to ‘reclaim the word “feminism”’. Although Cosmo’s airbrushed pages can be seen as a contributor to the negative way women view their bodies, its UK editor, Louise Court, told the Metro newspaper: “Young women at the moment, because of the economic situation, feel that they’re in a worse position than the women who went before them. They’ve come out of university, they’ve got pretty big debts, they have not got the world that they were promised so they’re finding it really hard to get on the career ladder.”

A survey by NetMums, the UK’s biggest parenting website, found that one in seven of its users identifies themselves as a feminist even though its founder, Siobhan Freegard, said that feminism is “aggressive, divisive and no longer works for women”, adding that the battle of the sexes no longer exists. UK Feminista wants to put feminism at the heart of politics. They brought together a broad coalition, including representatives from each of the major parties, to join the discussion before the march, all of whom outed themselves as long-standing feminists.

Unlike the recent Occupy protest, which has been lambasted for having no leaders or concrete motivations, UK Feminista is organised, it wants equality and it wants it now. The speakers who took to the stage before the march covered everything from women asylum seekersto sex education, and hearing all the statistics in the cold October light was pretty harrowing. According to Caroline Lucas, 43 % of young people in UK schools think it is acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive to a female partner. One in two think it is alright to hit a woman, and one in three think it is alright to force her to have sex.  20,000 women in the UK are at risk of female genital mutilation. From the Rochdale and Jimmy Savile paedophilia scandals, to the No More Page 3 campaign against naked women in the UK’s top selling daily newspaper, the oppression and exploitation of women are exposed in our society on a daily basis. So why aren’t we confronting things head on?

An unnamed MP was mentioned by the New Statesman as saying that the student constituent who had come to talk about women’s rights wasn’t entitled to a view on refugee women or abortion because she didn’t pay taxes and hadn’t had a baby. Not knowing the gender or party of this MP is unhelpful. But it is likely they were a man and therefore hadn’t had a baby either. If MPs believe that people, and therefore even legislators, cannot contribute to discussions or make laws on issues that they do not have direct experience of – how can our largely male parliament be expected to take women’s rights seriously?

Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, rather bravely took to the stage to say that her party had a commitment to women’s rights. She urged us to think about self-employment and highlighted how many women had benefited from the government’s decision to raise the pay level at which people start paying tax – those women who are low-paid, having to work part-time and are feeling the cuts the hardest because of changes to working tax credit and Sure Start services. But her audience wasn’t convinced. Perhaps this is because the Conservative Party is dominated by upper class males – Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson to name but a few.

Too few men take women’s rights seriously. A male national newspaper journalist told me he didn’t want to get involved with the feminist discussion. His highly privileged position, as he saw it, meant that people like him dominate so much of the public debate already that he wouldn’t want to be seen to be trying to ‘get on our thing’. But if we don’t get people, men, talking about it, and agreeing with it, publicly, then can we really say that we are winning the argument? What affects women affects men. Thankfully some men do think through how to relate to feminism actively, starting with the promotion of women’s voices and the spaces where those voices can be heard.

Women also need to put themselves forward to get into Parliament to change the practices that mean that public policy doesn’t offer women fairness and equality. Noted political organiser Saul Alinskysaid in his 1970s book, Rules for Radicals: “If you aren’t satisfied, you be the delegates”. He continued: “Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience. A revolutionary organiser must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives – agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.”

The revival of feminism has hit the mainstream, where writer Caitlin Moran’s book How to be a woman has become a bestseller. There was a lot of media coverage of the UK Feminista lobby. A photographer from one of the major news agencies told me it would give him a good picture to accompany that day’s Supreme Court ruling on equal pay. But many organisations were there to cover the lobby in its own right.

The more there are rulings like that made for council workers in Birmingham, the more normal men and women take to the streets to fight for equal rights, and the more women push against the tide for top city, political and media jobs, the more it may mean that it won’t take another generation of Pankhursts to ensure that the f-word that really rings true in our society is ‘fairness’.

Community energy cooperatives take on the ‘Big Six’

Written for and first published here: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-10/22/community-energy-initiatives

The Big Six energy companies control 99 percent of the UK market, but energy cooperatives — democratically run community renewable energy programmes — are springing up in the fight against the “fossil fuel economy”

When we think of community energy projects, we often look to the developing world. From Brazil to Indonesia, local schemes bring energy by the people, for the people, often to areas that have never had access to electricity before. These projects bring jobs in construction, operation and maintenance, often with caveats that say any surplus is shared or invested in local business or schools. But surely, the same thing isn’t necessary or possible in the UK?

Guy Shrubsole, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, believes community energy is vital to wrestle control from what he describes as the “dirty polluting cartel”, the Big Six energy companies who control 99 per cent of the UK energy market: Scottish Power, British Gas, EON, Npower, Southern Electric and EDF. This murky world where shareholders have to see a profit has left us, he says, with “chronic underinvestment in infrastructure”, “confusing, opaque tariffs” and a country “hooked on expensive fossil fuels despite the increase in gas prices”.

Friends of the Earth calls for a complete decarbonisation of infrastructure by 2030 in order to ensure energy independence and stave off environmental disaster. Even the government’s Met Office now accepts that “since the early 1900s, our climate has changed rapidly due to persistent man-made changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use”. Vestas’ most recent Global Consumer Wind Study, conducted by TSN Gallup among 24,000 consumers in 20 countries, found that 85 per cent want more renewable energy. Germany, held up as an economic powerhouse, already gets around 25 per cent of its energy from renewables. Denmark powers a third of its country on wind. In both countries, there is less opposition to so-called “green” infrastructure because local populations have a financial stake in democratically owned and run organisations. With no large corporations involved, they can control the profits.

“Renewables can do it,” Shrubsole said. “We know that six times more energy can be generated off shore than the UK needs per year, using wind, wave, tidal and even solar.” While critics argue that we can’t cope when the wind doesn’t blow, Shrubsole believes that this is a tech problem that the national grid can deal with. And for those who say renewables are too expensive, he notes that the costs are only decreasing while gas bills are at record levels and rising. “Nuclear is actually the most expensive ‘solution’ and wouldn’t be ready until the 2020s. Green is one of the only growth areas in our economy today, including creating job opportunities, but the industry needs supportive policies.”

Ewa Jasiewicz, from Fuel Poverty Action, echoes Shrubsole’s sentiment. “We don’t believe energy should be a commodity controlled by the market. We have a right to energy. But at the moment that is a right we have to pay for.” Fuel Poverty Action descended on the Big Six at the UK Energy Summit where future climate policy is decided. “They are part of the problem, the fossil fuel economy,” she said. “Anything other than this and they would be abolishing themselves.”

So if we can’t leave it to our utility companies, and the lobbying power that comes with their position means government is unlikely to take drastic measures, who can we depend on to deliver the energy we want and that the planet needs? The answer might be that we have to do it ourselves. Energy cooperatives are springing up all over the UK, dispelling the myth that renewables are too expensive, not ready or not worth it, and proving that nuclear is not a necessary alternative. Some in the most unlikely of places…

Afsheen Rashid works for Lambeth council in London looking after Brixton Energy. The co-operative is about to go into the second phase of its plan to “repower London”, having successfully launched the UK’s first community-owned solar powered energy project in the south of the capital. Phase one is exceeding its targets for the year, having already generated 70 per cent of the amount it estimated it could, despite only being operational since April. Solar 2 will extend this across London and they are asking for people to pledge between £250 and £20,000, with up to three per cent return on investment, tax relief on your money and a shareholder’s vote. The second project aims to raise £61,500 to enable the purchase and installation of new solar panels on the roofs on Brixton’s Loughborough Estate.

Lambeth Councillor, Lib Peck, said: “The project will bring significant benefits for the local community and will help inspire locals to become more energy efficient and play their part, in whatever small way they choose, in creating a clean energy future. Lambeth Council is pleased to be supporting Repowering South London and I look forward to seeing Brixton Energy Solar 2’s solar panels glinting in the sun on the roofs of buildings on the Loughborough Estate, generating clean energy.”

Glyn Thomas works with Community Energy Warwick, a cooperative which aims to decentralise energy production, increase efficiency and cut carbon emissions in Warwickshire. They raised £115,000 in six weeks from 70 local investors for their first project. “We generate energy where it is needed, initially on a Stratford and a Warwick hospital that now use all of this energy on-site. This connects people locally with the way energy is generated and used. It gets them interested in it, which makes them use less, effecting a long-term behavioural change – the holy grail for any campaign. It also allows local people to benefit financially.”

But it isn’t easy. “Community Energy Warwick took a huge amount of voluntary work,” Glyn said. “We started with six volunteers and needed finance, legal, project management and procurement expertise. Plus a lot of goodwill. Coops UK was instrumental in helping us. What would make it easier would be more grant funding, low-interest loans that surprisingly weren’t available to cooperatives from the government’s Green Bank or Green Deal, and a national body to support community projects where we could share best practice, as well as technological and legal expertise.”

What energy co-ops do is use existing technology to give people new ways of trading electricity that aren’t imposed from outside, which is seen as the biggest reason why local areas resist such projects. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, agreed: “If one of the big energy providers puts a wind turbine on the hill above a village, sometimes, understandably, people get upset about that. But if the village owns it and the profits from that wind turbine goes to put a new roof on the village hall, or some extra facilities in the school, then that wind turbine looks very different. When people put solar panels on their house, they get to see their electricity meter essentially running backwards.”

“Decentralised, community-owned, local schemes and even individual panels on people’s roofs, help connect people back to the energy supply and make them realise that there’s a cost to it. In terms of the type of system that’s created, it’s much more resistant to shocks and what we need for the future.”

The rise of the Erotocracy

Written for and first published here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kirsty-styles/rise-of-erotocracy

Is the 21st century woman someone who doesn’t have to choose between a career and kids, but is doomed to spend hours in the gym so she can climb that ladder? While the UN celebrated the first International Day of the Girl, Kirsty Styles heard Catherine Hakim on the power of erotic capital

We all know that capitalism isn’t fair, but who knew that there is a hidden economic truth in lines like Kate Moss’s ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’? We aren’t all going to be supermodels, but it turns out that being slim and attractive can actually be good for your bank balance, whatever your profession.

Traditionally, we heard at a New Turn event held at University of London Union, your chances of success come from three sources: your economic capital, your human capital – what you know – and social capital – who you know. The speaker was Dr Catherine Hakim, who believes she has identified the missing fourth factor – erotic capital – a combination of physical and social attractiveness. The theory is that beautiful people naturally develop good presentation skills, and those who are warm and turn themselves out well are perceived as being more attractive than they otherwise would be.

Research by economist Daniel Hamermesh, Beauty Pays, found that using erotic capital can add 10 to 20 per cent more to your annual salary. “And you spend a lot of time in the labour market,” Hakim added. The bad news, as she sees it, is that even here there is a gender gap. Men make on average 17 per cent more from erotic capital, whereas women’s beauty premium gives them just 12 per cent extra. This, she feels, is the new area in sex discrimination.

Fortunately, unlike IQ, which is far the highest determinant of success and is 50 per cent inherited and 50 per cent learnt, Dr Hakim believes that only 25 per cent of your erotic capital depends on what you are born with. The rest is what you do with yourself.

While I was half reeling and half assuming these people must have shares in a beauty products company, I couldn’t help thinking that Hakim had a bit of a point. There is evidence, she said, that people react to those who are attractive in a more positive way. It is subliminal – people can’t stop themselves from doing it. Attractive people, Hakim believes, receive more support and cooperation, are given the benefit of the doubt, and are thought to be more honest.

Addressing a room of students, many of whom were rocking laid-back fashions of the 80s and 90s, mid-austerity throwbacks in high-waisted trousers, denim and not-quite-done hair, she said that erotic capital is equally as important as qualifications. “Not the sort of thing that universities tell you.” A lot of young people strive to be the best they can be on paper, why not try to radiate that in person? The reality is that if you look after yourself, are active and lively, and dress to impress, then you are more likely to feel good. And it shows.

An audience member asked, where does this leave meritocracy? “Meritocracy is terribly unjust and unfair, people get ahead purely because they’re clever, and have a few qualifications” she replied.
Hakim says her views have been misconstrued as ‘women should make more effort to look attractive’. “Dump the idea that beauty is superficial and skin deep,” she said. “That attitude has lead women to be more embarrassed, anxious or nervous about exploiting their erotic capital.”

Recruitment consultants could probably make a princely sum, according to Hakim’s research, if they vetted all of the CVs they receive via the medium of Google images.  As it is increasingly difficult to distinguish by qualifications alone, and IQ tests are unlikely to become part of many recruitment processes, this could already be used as a way to select interviewees.

Hakim cited Christine Lagarde, the first female EU economic minister and first female head of the IMF, as someone with lots of erotic capital. A former labour lawyer, Lagarde is not the economist-type usually chosen to lead the supranational organisation. Could the way she dresses, her slim physique and glamorous jewellery have tipped the scales towards her selection when she might not quite have fit the bill? Oxfam criticised her appointment for its lack of transparency.

I was reminded of a conversation with a friend who leads a team of mobile developers. He had to sack a new recruit because he swore at a client. He told me that techies get away with looking and acting a bit odd because people think they have ‘unknowable knowledge’ behind unkempt locks. They can get paid up to £80,000 per year. So perhaps there is a similar unbeauty premium at work in some industries?

What I was surprised to learn from Dr Catherine Hakim’s talk about her books and her newest release, The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs, and Erotic Power, was that all sociological studies use wealth as the key measure of success. She said: “I don’t think money will ever go out of fashion”. Am I the only one who feels like it already has?

If the financial benefits of being attractive outlined by Hamermesh and Hakim are to be believed, then surgery might seem like a good way to get richer, even though we know that beyond a certain level, money doesn’t make you any happier. Plastic surgeons and make-up peddlers play on our insecurities and people feel miserable that they can’t live up to the ideal. Tellingly, Hakim’s talk coincided with the UN’s first ever International Day of the Girl as well as the publication of a study that  revealed that hospital admissions for eating disorders in the UK were up 16 per cent year on year. 91 per cent of the people affected are women, and one in 10 is a 15-year-old girl.

The new labour market realities are actually that no amount of lipgloss or a good personality could see you easily make the leap from low to high earner. The pay ratio between bosses and their average employees has ballooned from 10:1 in the 1960s, to 200:1 today while graduate starting salaries are down 13 per cent over the past year. Young people are being priced out of jobs, education and the housing market.

There is a crisis of trust now in traditional political and economic institutions. People across the western world are increasingly turning, through belief or necessity, to alternative forms of interaction. Manuel Castells, renowned sociologist from the University of Southern California, sees the aftermath of the financial crisis playing out through fluid, even disorganized, networks. What is to come, he believes, could be the most drastic change since the feudal system collapsed. And if there is no profit motive, what then for erotic capital? Castells even notes that internet dating, the subject of Dr Hakim’s latest book, is a symptom of a world where we don’t have time to pursue the thing that will really make us happy – love.

At the individual level, it could pay to be a good person, get your 5-a-day and exercise, heck, even rock a dress if the situation calls for it. So the message I took away was, sure, keep an eye on your capital assets for now – but be prepared for something better.