Cram a load of geeks in a building...

Corbet Place in the Truman Brewery, East London is heaving with geeks and city workers, drawn by the lure of an open bar. At one end of the space people are swapping stories over a beer, while at the other handful of earnest looking men are hovering around a raised stage, with some kind of presentation projected onto the wall behind. One picks up a mike, and starts trying to draw the attention of a crowd; "Okay everybody, lets all do this together. One, two, three.... ssshhhhHHHHHhhhhhhh.." A good half of the bar joins in shushing, and the compere, Christian Alhert, introduces Minibar.

Minibar is a monthly event for designers, programmers and geeks of all kind with big ideas, to meet people with the means to turn their ideas into actual sustainable enterprises, with funding and support, and this month the line up was all about social Innovation.

From Social Innovation Camp we had the two winning teams presenting the fruits of their labours; and continuing the theme, part of the team at torchbox who worked on the Carbon Account were in appearance, along with Dan McQuillan from Make Your Mark.

First up was the team behind 'Prison Visits', working to shine a light on the conditions for people visiting loved ones in prison, by letting visitors write about their experiences, and direct that feedback to people who can make improve conditions. Improving the conditions of family visits in prison is proven to improve prisoner behaviour, increase family cohesion, reduce reoffending rates, and crucially lessen the impact that having a parent behind bars has on an inmate's children. There's also been some progress on the business model too since we last looked at it; there's talk of adapting a similar approach to that of Patient Opinion. Patient Opinion is a website that performs a similar function to the prison visits site with NHS Trust hospitals, and stays afloat financially by licensing the data feeds of patient feedback in a format the trusts can use, so the right feedback goes to the right people, and it's early days, but the team are hopeful about finding a way to make the prison visits website sustainable.

Following on came the team who worked on Enabled by Design, a site set out to use design to make lives for people with disabilities better, by offering novel solutions to mundane but necessary problems, or by giving a voice to the people who have to use the mobility aids on the market at present. Users affected by debilitating diseases like multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease have to make to do with equipment that looks and feels like it was designed 60 years ago, and by creating a shared space for the users of the tools to converse with the designers and manufacturers, Enabled by Design hope to see better designed tools that stop making user's homes look like hospitals.

The 'cram a load of geeks and designers in a building and give them 48 hrs to make the world better' model piloted by Social Innovation Camp so far has delivered some interesting projects, and while it's hardly going to replace the current government's current love of massive big budget IT projects tomorrow, the fact that some of the funding came directly from the cabinet office suggests we may see more of these kinds of events in future.

Which by and large, can only be a good thing.

Photo: Getty
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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.