Britain’s big (epistemological) break

Britain’s big (epistemological) break

An epistemic break has gripped the British Isles — a crisis of understanding of what is true, what is false and how we collectively decide.

Modern culture’s greatest institutions — of all four estates — are called into question on a daily basis. The government makes a declaration. A newscaster calls it false. A blogger claims something else. And your Best Facebook Friend says they’re all liars, before adding a new news link.

Whether we call it “computational propaganda”, viral disinformation, or simply “Fake News”, the civil society and its citizens seemingly struggle now more than ever with truth and lies.

Government inquiries into fake news have been launched in several countries, including the UK’s own Parliamentary Select Committee investigation, adding evidence to the prospect of a crisis state. Just consider that according to Demos, 67% of the British public are concerned about fake news.

How did we get here? We propose a few ideas in our own submission to the Select Committee, pointing out that fake news is now one of the most powerful forces countering democracy, that the rise of social media has changed the nature and distribution of real news, and that fake news contributes to radical ideologies that encourage acts of violence, from radical Islam through white nationalism.

We make several recommendations as well, including establishing programmes to promote critical thinking skills around digital and social media, helping citizens separate the truth from the hype.

Was there ever a halcyon time when truth was truth, without dispute? Doubtful. Propaganda has been with us from the beginning of recorded civilisation, but democracy is a process, not a destination — all the more reason that constant vigilance, long-view approaches, and ongoing programmes of media education and literacy are vital to maintaining the interests and ideals of the civil society.

Read Ci’s submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee’s investigation into fake news on our app, The Observatory for a Connected Society.

Fake News Graphics.png

 Addressing the cyber security skills gap

Addressing the cyber security skills gap

Earlier this year, Corsham Institute (Ci) celebrated the graduation of the 100th student from a cyber skills training programme run in partnership with the IBM UK Citizenship Programme, IBM Security and SaluteMyJob. On that day, Ci’s CEO, Rachel Neaman, sat down to speak with Enterprise Times about cyber security and, more broadly, the digital skills gap all employers are currently facing. 


In her interview, Rachel discusses the links between digital exclusion and socioeconomic exclusion. She highlights the value of soft skills that are not recognised through formal qualifications and the importance of lifelong learning in a world that is rapidly changing. She says: “When we look at the skills that are needed today, particularly the technological skills, there is a very strong correlation between communities and individuals who are digitally excluded and those that are socially excluded and financially excluded.” Rachel also talks about the need for organisations to be less traditional in the way they approach recruitment. She says “If we don’t adapt the way we recruit, [if] we don’t encourage employers to understand what they really need, we will never be the global economy we want to be.”

To hear more from Rachel, listen to the short podcast (13 minutes) here.

Digital Leaders South West partnership

Digital Leaders South West partnership


Ci is delighted to launch a new partnership with Digital Leaders. We’ll be working together to facilitate new and refreshing thought leadership, networking opportunities and exciting events for the digital community across the South West region.

At Ci, we recognise that we live in a world where the benefits of technological change risk being overtaken by fears around data protection, cyber security, fake news, the future impact of AI and automation, and the impact of biases in algorithmic decision-making. As our 2017 Thought Leadership programme identified, technology is developing so quickly, it is difficult for society, businesses, policy-makers and regulatory frameworks to keep up. This is why it is so important for us to work collaboratively across sectors and share knowledge. 

We are proud of our roots in Wiltshire, and our place at the heart of Corsham’s rich heritage of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. So the opportunity to help expand and inform the Digital Leaders South West network is a natural evolution for us. But our networks go much wider. We have a national approach, connections and reach, with extensive convening power across civic society, government, industry and academia. And our CEO, Rachel Neaman, is proud to be a member of the Digital Leaders Advisory Board and a former Chair of Digital Leaders.

The launch of the Government’s UK Digital Strategy in March 2017 provided a clear framework to develop a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. With the Government’s proposal for a new Digital Charter, the recent announcements of new investments in the tech sector, digital skills and R&D, aligned with the Industrial Strategy and the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, there is increasing impetus for organisations to learn best practice from one another and prepare themselves for a new and fast-evolving phase of digital innovation and technological change.

That is why this new partnership really matters to us at Ci, and why we are looking forward to working with Digital Leader South West members to shape a programme of activity for the coming months to facilitate useful and relevant conversations.  

Anyone can join as a member of Digital Leaders South West and benefit from our joint work by signing up through the Digital Leaders website.  

Building trust in the future

Building trust in the future

The Chancellor opened his Autumn Budget statement looking forward to “A future that will be full of change; full of new challenges and above all full of new opportunities.”

As is traditional, his set-piece speech was prefaced by trails, tasters and teasers. For those with an eye on tech and innovation, there was not just one but three separate packages of announcements in the last week, with not-insignificant funding commitments.

So, before the Chancellor even got to his feet today, we knew about:

o   An increase in the number of Exceptional Talent Visas from 1,000 to 2,000, to attract international tech specialists to work in the UK

o   £21m for Tech City UK, the organisation which supports the UK’s start-up ecosystem, to expand its network and become ‘Tech Nation’

o   £20m to stimulate the growth of GovTech start-ups and provide innovative solutions to public service challenges

o   £20m towards a new CyberFirst training programme for 14–18 year olds.

  • A commitment to have driverless cars on the road by 2021 and trails for Budget announcements of £75m investment in AI, £100m in computer science teaching and £160m in 5G mobile networks.
  • A taster for the Industrial Strategy White Paper (due on Monday 27 November) that included:

o   a pledge to increase public and private spending on R&D to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027, with an extra £2.3 billion of government investment to start from 2021–22

o   a promise of investment in four “Grand Challenges”: AI and the data economy; clean growth; healthy ageing; and the future of mobility.


At the despatch box, a further £20bn worth of tax relief over 10 years for innovative businesses and scale-ups was also announced. So far, so good for tech. But what of the readiness of the society into which these investments will be made, start-ups supported and innovations developed and delivered? Interventions like the GovTech fund and the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges are shrewdly designed with a threefold purpose: to provide economic stimulus; to accelerate UK global competitiveness in cutting-edge technologies where we already have a significant strength; and to develop improved, innovative services for the wider public good.

But there is much to do to ensure that the benefits of this high-tech future, as well as its economic advantages, are felt equally throughout society. Encouragingly, the supporting Budget documents include a commitment to establishing a “Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to ensure safe, ethical and ground-breaking innovation in AI and data‑driven technologies”. But this must also be accompanied by a programme of proactive engagement work if the public are to trust, and therefore adopt, the new services and products being designed for them in every sphere of their lives.

Recent evidence suggests there is a long way to go. Just this week, Sage published results from their “Optimism and Ethics” AI survey. It found that 43% of US respondents and 46% of those in the UK admitted that they have ‘no idea what AI is all about.’ Interestingly, 81% of their respondents still felt optimistic about its possibilities. But beneath this optimism, when you ask the public  for views on some of the specific new services and products being built with AI and other emerging technologies, trust is an increasingly important issue. Take, for example, driverless cars. Earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review cited a survey of German car buyers that found only 5% would trust a fully autonomous vehicle; the RAC reported on a survey that found only 18% of respondents believed technology firms could be trusted to build self-driving vehicles and securely deal with connected data; and a US survey found that trust in autonomous vehicles had actually reduced since the previous year.

The Chancellor’s vision of driverless cars on UK roads by 2021 was greeted with scepticism by the BBC’s technology correspondent this week. And it would be easy to think that we have years to work on this trust thing as we wait for the technologists to deliver the goods.  Yet a ComRes survey for the Information Commissioner's Office earlier this month found that only 20% of the UK public have trust and confidence in companies storing their personal information. Data – whether personal, or produced by personal, household or other connected devices – is the foundation for the transformative potential of AI, machine learning and the Internet of Things. There is an immediate job of work – indeed something of a Grand Challenge – ahead for the government, the tech industry, the new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and groups across civic society and the charitable sector to tackle the issue of trust together, and to ensure that public engagement and inclusion keeps pace with the speed of tech-driven change the Chancellor wants to embrace.   


A great reception for Ci’s new initiatives

A great reception for Ci’s new initiatives

Last Thursday 12 October, Ci and RAND Europe launched both our new Observatory for a Connected Society app and the reports from our 2017 Thought Leadership programme at the House of Lords. We were delighted to be joined, on a wonderfully sunny day, by around 160 invited guests from across industry, government, academia and the not-for-profit sector to celebrate our achievements.


The reception was kindly hosted by The Rt Hon. the Lord Knight of Weymouth and featured speeches from Ci Chief Executive Officer Rachel Neaman and RAND Europe President Hans Pung, as well as a video on the government’s policy agenda from the Digital Minister, the Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP, who was unable to attend in person.


You can download the Observatory for a Connected Society app here:


You can also find out more about our launch activities in the news post below, and download the reports from our research pages.

We are thrilled with the response we have received for the app and the reports – both at the launch event, and in subsequent feedback. Ci’s vision for a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society, based on trust and security, has really resonated with representatives from many different sectors and we look forward to building many collaborative partnerships to take forward our shared areas of interest.

We have also had huge support on social media and within digital networks for the launch, with some great coverage of our work:

Read Computer Weekly

Read Commentator piece

Read Public piece 

This is just the start for Ci. We are excited about what lies ahead and will build on the momentum from the launch with news on further activities and events, including our 2017–18 Thought Leadership programme, in the coming weeks and months.

To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter @Corsham_Inst for regular updates.

We also launched our new Patron scheme last week and you can find out more details here. If you would like to support our work more actively, please consider becoming a patron. You can also get in touch with us via email at


The launch of two new resources focusing on a connected society

The launch of two new resources focusing on a connected society


Today Ci and RAND Europe will bring together leaders from across government, academia, the not-for-profit sector and industry at the House of Lords to celebrate the launch of two exciting joint initiatives:

  1. The Observatory for a Connected Society is the first mobile app and online platform for policy makers and innovators focusing on the impact of technology on society.
  2. The new ‘Building our Connected Society’ report, which draws from the findings of our 2017 Thought Leadership programme, covers a range of trends, risks and needs for a UK society increasingly reliant on digital technologies.

Both of these resources are designed to help policy makers and leaders keep right up-to-date and critically informed about the digital developments that really matter from all sectors. We hope the resources will encourage ideas, collaboration, partnerships and innovation to help citizens embrace and adapt to our increasingly networked, connected and data-rich society. 

Watch Rachel Neaman, Ci’s CEO, and Hans Pung, President of RAND Europe, talk about the launch.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock welcomed these initiatives:  

The new Observatory for a Connected Society is the culmination of many months’ work with RAND Europe. It extends our Thought Leadership programme and helps us to continue to build a community of interest in all things digital. We’re really excited about the app’s potential, and this is just the start. We will continue to develop the platform together adding new functionality and features.

As an indispensable resource, it provides the most important research, analysis and thinking from leading experts on the opportunities and challenges of our digital society in one place for the first time.

It includes:

  • Authoritative, curated news and research, for example reports from World Bank, Nesta, Demos, Open Data Institute and World Economic Forum.
  • Analysis and insights based on the latest evidence, case studies and data from RAND Europe.
  • Commentary from high-profile thinkers, sector leaders and subject matter experts, for example new pieces from Jacqueline de Rojas, President of TechUK, on diversity in tech and Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, on his new role and its potential.
  • Details of the most important upcoming events, conferences, consultations and other activities.

The Observatory for a Connected Society is free to download here:


The findings from the ‘Building our Connected Society’ report reflect our four Thought Leadership discussions which took place earlier this year. These covered digital learning, open science, digital currency and civic engagement. The four discussions, held at St. George’s House, Windsor Castle, were attended by over 100 representatives from industry, academia, the not-for-profit sector and government with an interest in the future of the UK’s connected society.

The overriding message coming out of the discussions is that we cannot wait a moment longer to address the challenges, and the opportunities, ahead of us. 

These include:

  • The challenges posed by the pace of technological change across all sectors and all parts of society, and the difficulties for policy in keeping pace with this change.
  • The potential of digital technologies to provide significant benefits in some parts of society against the potential to amplify negative social and economic effects on others – whether through the lack of internet connectivity, lower levels of skills or reduced confidence and motivation.
  • The risks around data and ethics when the public uses digital technologies, with low public trust in the organisations and institutions that handle personal data online.
  • The need to define and mainstream a shared set of societal norms and standards when using digital technologies.
  • The need to provide information and training to help individuals critically challenge online material and deal more effectively misinformation and extreme views.
  • The digital skills gap between the older and younger generation, with younger people often able to use and understand digital technologies far better and faster than the older generations and, in some cases, even their teachers.

For more on the Thought Leadership programme’s 2017 topics click here.

Click here to download the summary report of the 2017 programme. 

Our 100th MoD veteran graduates with cyberskills

Our 100th MoD veteran graduates with cyberskills

Corsham Institute’s (Ci's) partnership with the IBM UK Citizenship Programme, IBM Security and SaluteMyJob to deliver digital and cybersecurity skills reaches a milestone this week, (w/e 9/9/2017), with the 100th MoD veteran graduating from training.

At a press event, attended by national and local media, Ci’s CEO Rachel Neaman, highlighted the huge skills shortage that exists in the digital world, where it’s been estimated up to 350,000 more cybersecurity specialists will be needed in Europe by 2022, yet only 17% of tech specialists are women.

The training programme recognises that service personnel have many of the soft skills and capabilities needed to work in the cyber arena, but lack recognised qualifications. Often this can be barrier to finding work on leaving the Forces.

One student on the course this week, who has applied for 100s of jobs, believes there’s a lack of understanding.

“With 18-years service in the military, in what were essentially project management roles, I now struggle with my cv and with applying for jobs, as although I believe I have the experience, I haven’t got the recognised civilian qualifications. This week has given me more optimism."

Julian Meyrick, Vice President, IBM Security Europe said;

“It makes perfect business sense to hire veterans into roles from threat monitoring analyst to penetration tester, security operations centre (SOC) analyst to cyber operations manager. They come with relevant soft skills that are often difficult to interview for. With the right training and investment, hiring veterans can help with the huge challenge of closing the cybersecurity skills gap". 

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With the wide variety of cybersecurity roles that exist today, many of the core attributes and skills needed to succeed in the industry can be developed outside of traditional four-year university degrees. Vocational schools, military veterans' programmes, coding camps, degree apprenticeships and skills-based certifications are all great ways to develop cybersecurity talent, which are often overlooked in traditional hiring and recruitment programmes.

Ci is committed to empowering people to develop the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills that they need in the digital age and to find ways to go beyond traditional ideas of knowledge and education.

Managing Director of SaluteMyJob Andrew Jackson, knows that;

“Veterans possess the knowledge, skills and experience to become significant assets to public and private sector organisations. These courses are designed to encourage those with the relevant skills to gain a highly relevant qualification at the start of their journey into new careers in cybersecurity".

Ci's CEO Rachel Neaman reinforced the importance of;

“Our partnership with IBM and SaluteMyJob to develop cyber and digital skills and provide the knowledge that creates opportunities for immediate employment. Our ambition is to encourage individual responsibility and build confidence for all the veterans we support, to embed a mind-set of lifelong learning". 

Call for '1% Open Platform Challenge Fund’ to support innovative Health IT

Call for '1% Open Platform Challenge Fund’ to support innovative Health IT

A guest blog written by Phil Barrett, Director & Programme Manager, Ripple Foundation in response to the Corsham Institute Digital Health and Care Thought Leadership Event’.

Phil Barrett Ripple Foundation.jpeg

I’ve worked in Health IT for over 5 years now and it feels like a system on autopilot. Decision makers invest in systems that are widely recognised as lacking usability with limited or no communication to other clinical systems leading to systems that are failing patients and yet we continue with no options for change. Compounding the issue further is that the public sector in the UK desperately needs to become sustainable, yet millions of pounds are committed to the same large vendors that provide solutions that are often inadequate.

When we think of the NHS in the UK we need to appreciate that it is one brand made up of 1000s of separate organisations, that all make their own independent decisions and this has accelerated a system that lacks interoperability and has led to frustrations for clinicians and patients.  

We all recognise the importance of innovation across all sectors of society, but yet in Health IT there feels to be limited choice. I’ve met with countless SMEs over the years with great ideas and great innovation, but common themes continue to come up, such as:

  • the barriers of entry are too high
  • the market feels sewn up with the incumbent suppliers
  • who do I speak to, to make people aware?
  • how can we get a foot in the door to show ideas working in the real world?

We need to think differently about technology in the public sector, we need to take back control. That is why in 2016, Dr Tony Shannon, Dylan Roberts and I established the not for profit, Ripple Foundation. The Foundation supports the adoption of an open health and care platform.  Open digital platforms present a real opportunity to stimulate innovation, providing new ways of working that will create a digital health and care marketplace, based around services and away from proprietary, locked in solutions.

I believe we need to work and think differently.  Decision makers do have a choice and they can choose another way:

  • they can collaborate
  • they can act and work as a joined-up system instead of just for their own organisation
  • they can have more confidence and demonstrate leadership with innovative technology, looking at opportunities to pool technical and clinical knowledge as well as funds and tap into a more competitive services market
  • they can ask the marketplace to solve some of the gaps and ensure that the code that is then developed is shared on a recognised open source licence.

Ripple Foundation has and continues to make significant efforts in helping and supporting organisations and people to think differently.  As part of the work we’ve been appealing along with Handi Health, Synapta and many more, for an Open Digital Platform Challenge Fund that we have called the #1percentfund.  Diverting 1% of available Healthcare IT funds to an open digital challenge fund we believe could improve the care of 99% of the population, by stimulating and supporting both the creation and adoption of an open digital ecosystem internationally.

We hope this Open Digital Platform Challenge Fund could help any interested clinical and technical leaders to implement a different approach to the issues we are facing. In England that 1% would equate to £40 million. Can you imagine what such funds could achieve if well spent?

We’ve had over 45 expressions of interest from healthcare organisations and SMEs across the UK and the Republic of Ireland that want to help stimulate this marketplace and help transform Healthcare IT, with reusable modules, infrastructural components and solutions. The appetite for change is growing and we are now seeking, through a more joined up approach, national organisations to recognise the clear benefit of this initiative and release the necessary funds to enable this needed change.  

To find out more about the 1% Open Digital Platform Challenge Fund please go to our website and show your support by spreading the word.



  1. Ripple Foundation is a community interest company that is supporting the adoption of an open health and care platform.  It is a clinically led team that is working with communities to support an integrated digital care platform for today and the future, that is open source and underpinned by an open architecture that can be used worldwide.
  2. Ripple Foundation is supporting and promoting the #1percent Open Digital Platform Challenge Fund that is hoped will stimulate and support both the creation and adoption of an open digital ecosystem for the nation.

Delivering digital health and care

Delivering digital health and care

Blog by Suzannah Kinsella, Corsham Institute Associate

The Corsham Institute Digital Health and Care Thought Leadership Event brought together digital leaders and stakeholders from across the Bath & North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW) Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).  Organisations included local authorities, hospital trusts, mental health trusts, CCGs and other health providers, as well as NHS England and NHS Digital.

The event’s objective was to explore ‘how can we collectively exploit technology and digital ways of working to transform the way in which we deliver health and care across our STP footprint?’

An urgent priority for the BSW STP is to combine their three Local Digital Roadmaps (LDR), identifying what is best done at a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) level versus an STP level. To do this, participants used the day to discuss four themes, identified as priorities by the digital leaders in BSW:  integration and interoperability; mobile working and infrastructure; population health and data analytics; citizen engagement and consent.

Throughout the event, subject matter experts from the fields of cyber security, citizen engagement and health data management gave 20 minute, TedX style talks to stimulate thinking on how these priorities could be realised.

The day was designed to deliver a set of recommendations to the STP Leadership Group that the digital leaders could feel empowered to focus on and deliver. These are some of the recommendations taken forward:

  • Greater integration and interoperability will lead, among other things, to the long desired single care record across health and social care. To help achieve this, participants wanted to ensure that a single, unified STP Information Governance strategy and sharing policy is developed.
  • Effective mobile working and infrastructure means that health practitioners have fast access to the information they need, where they need it, be it on the ward, in the community or elsewhere.  Working together to secure funding for proof of concepts will help to achieve small scale quick wins that could help STP organisations to work together.
  • Population health and data analytics have the power to revolutionise how a population’s health needs and effective care are identified.   Diabetes was proposed as a common priority for the BSW STP that could jump start joined up working.
  • Involving citizens in how digital tools are introduced and used will help ensure digitisation has popular support and understanding. Participants wanted to use the disparity between public expectation and reality to generate an appetite for change, such as surprise that “the hospital can’t see my GP data?!”

To support these recommendations, participants highlighted several enabling factors. The two most often raised included: greater clinician involvement to guide on the information their clinical colleagues want. The other was how to work with traditional funding methods, (notably capital vs operational expenditure), in a world where we are shifting from buying ‘stuff’ such as servers to buying services, such as cloud subscriptions.

The STP leadership group came together earlier this month (July 2017) and endorsed many of the recommendations mentioned here and in the main report, and these will be progressed through the STP’s digital workstreams in the coming months.

Rachel Neaman, CEO of Corsham Institute, said of the event,

“The citizen is at the centre of all of Ci’s work, and digital technologies and the use of data will radically shape the future of health care. Ci was delighted to play its part in enabling these vital discussions to ensure that trust, security and above all the patient are at the heart of the planned transformations”.

Social Media’s monopoly on public life

Social Media’s monopoly on public life

From its chatroom roots as a quaint virtual hangout, social media now dominates public life having morphed into a news-distributing, opinion-shaping, life-altering beast used by 37% of the world’s population. Now the go-to platform for essential government communications, emergency information, marketing and persuasion content, social also hosts a dark side of propaganda, fake news, and untraceable ad buys designed to manipulate public opinion. For large organisations, school fundraising lemonade stands, and Islamic State alike, the primary platform for audience access is social.

 ‘Social media now has a monopoly on public life.’ – Dr Charles Kriel

Corsham Institute joined Digital Leaders Week to showcase, share and inspire the best in digital transformation, gathering three digital leaders — the Digital Director of Tate, a podcast startup founder, and Ci’s Director of Digital Creativity — at UKIE to discuss the current landscape, showcase their work in the field, and point the way toward the future. The event was chaired by Rachel Neaman, Ci’s CEO and member of the Digital Leaders Advisory Board.

Tate Digital Director Ros Lawler runs an ambitious programme stretching from social campaigns to experiments with 360° video, publicity management, and online art and activism workshops. Lawler framed her talk around the need for meaningful measurement and a desire to deliver the Tate platform to its audience.

‘4 million people on Twitter? What does that mean?’ Lawler asked. ‘I’ve liked 10 things already this morning. Probably can’t tell you what they were. What does that “like” mean?’

‘If somebody watches two seconds of one of our videos, is it meaningful? I think the word meaningful is really important here.’

Lawler also spoke about Tate’s 360° video campaign for the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition, garnering more views than Top Gear, and went on to hint at Tate’s digital future in China.

Matt Hall is founder of podcast startup Anmama after a career that included roles as Executive Producer at Guardian News and Media, and Head of BBC Radio Production for Somethin’ Else. Hall addressed the strengths and pitfalls of using social to reach new audiences.

‘Multimedia is great — it makes your audience really engaged. The problem is that it’s not searchable,’ Hall said. ‘If your podcast is thirty minutes that’s around 5,500 words. If that was an article that Google could look at, it would contain an awful lot of information. You put your podcast up and, “Bye! See ya! It’s gone.” Social media is a good way to tell your audience what’s in your multimedia.’

Matt went on to speak about the power of trusted advisors, mailing lists, and the thrill of finding his podcast Remainiacs sat between Ru Paul and Desert Island Discs in the charts.

As Ci’s Director of Digital Creativity, I spoke about the darker side of social, from hidden ad buys to the manipulation of elections, joking ‘My colleagues brought the love, so I’m here to bring the hate.’

‘Social media now owns a monopoly on public life,’ I said. ‘And 75% of it is dominated by bots.’

I explained how Facebook ‘works’ in the context of behavioural economics, articulating how addictive mechanics shape the news users consume via Facebook and Twitter, quoting Marshall Macluan‘s dictum that ‘the medium is the message’. I also pointed out how these compulsion mechanics shape the message of online news, impacting public life and the way communities conduct conversations.

I proposed that sensationalist news is more shareable than ‘real’ news, discussed fake news and computational propaganda, and explained Cambridge Analytica’s work on the US presidential election.

From charity campaigns through the Arab Spring to social’s role in the US presidential elections, this decade will be remembered as the period when social media began to dominate the delivery of news and information, and became the conduit through which communities conducted public life. In this new social media reality of contemporary culture, it’s all the more important for news and civil society organisations like Tate, Anmama and Ci to pioneer new practices and critical approaches to navigate the ever-shifting social sands.

Note: This blog post by Dr Charles Kriel, Ci's Director of Digital Creativity, was originally published 10th July 2017 on Digital Leaders.

Social Media for Social Good

Social Media for Social Good

The Friday of Digital Leaders Week (June 23rd), saw Corsham Institute’s ‘Social Media for Social Good’ event, chaired by CEO Rachel Neaman and hosted at Ukie, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, in Central London.

Our panel consisted of a disparate and fascinating mix of social media experts, Ros Lawler, Digital Director at Tate, Matt Hall, Anmama Founder and podcast producer and Dr Charles Kriel, Ci’s Director of Digital Creativity.

The theme of the event included how the latest social media micro-targeting techniques sway communities, how they can deliver fresh takes on culture and how creating the right creative media content can increase social sharing and impact.

As Rachel Neaman said in her opening remarks, social media is increasingly changing social interaction and recently there has been a polarisation of attitudes to social media; from the positive impacts of connecting many types of communities and increasing the reach of communications, to the negatives of fake news and algorithm manipulation. Therefore, it is vital that there is an increased level of debate over how social media can be used for social good.

Each panellist presented a short summary of their work, with their thoughts on where the world of social media is heading. We include them all here as separate podcasts, which are embedded from our Sound Cloud page.

If you want to add to the debate, then please do get in touch. Email us at, or tweet us @Corsham_Inst. 


Ci CEO honoured with Founder's Award

Ci CEO honoured with Founder's Award

This week (19- 23 June), has been Digital Leader’s Week, a week of focussed events around the UK that has celebrated, showcased and inspired the best digital transformation across the public, private and non-profit sectors.

The National Digital Conference on 22 June highlighted, in many quality presentations and discussions, that in this time of societal and economic uncertainty there has never been a greater need for leadership in the digital world, to find ways for social good and community inclusion, and to inspire and drive innovation and understanding.

There were calls for business, government, academia and non-profit organisations to strive even harder to find ways to empower people with digital skills and ensure that the UK grasps every opportunity to be a world digital leader.

There were also great contributions to the debate from some of the next generation of passionate, digital leaders: Molly Watt, Jessica Okoro and the winner of the 2017 Young Digital Leader of the Year, Jack Parsons.

Following the conference, the Digital Leaders 100 Awards again highlighted digital excellence in a raft of categories, covering every sector of the UK. Corsham Institute’s CEO, Rachel Neaman, was honoured with the inaugural Founder’s Award.  She admitted that it had been a “complete surprise” and said;

“It is wonderful and humbling to be recognised in this way by the Digital Leader’s community. I am passionate about digital transformation and leadership and it is a true honour to be part of a group that helps focus and highlight all the great digital transformation work that is going on throughout the UK”.

Cyber Security Podcast for Digital Leaders Week

Cyber Security Podcast for Digital Leaders Week

This podcast, our second for Digital Leaders Week, is with Professor Richard Benham, the current Digital Leaders South West Champion and the first formal Professor of Cyber Security Management. He discusses a whole range of Cyber Security issues, the benefits of GDPR, and steps that both businesses and the Government need to take.

Richard is pictured with one of his 'Cyber Citizens', soon to be appearing in schools and businesses all around the country to raise awareness around Cyber Security.

For more information about #DLWeek2017, which runs from June 19th-23rd across the UK, visit:

Digital Leaders Week - Podcast with CEO, Rachel Neaman

Digital Leaders Week - Podcast with CEO, Rachel Neaman

This podcast is a conversation with Rachel Neaman, CEO of Corsham Institute, who is also a member of the Advisory Board of Digital Leaders, about the first ever Digital Leaders Week. She also talks about the Corsham Institute, the role that the organisation plays and the impact we hope to have.

For more information about #DLWeek2017, which runs from June 19th-23rd across the UK, visit:

The reality of Virtual Reality

The reality of Virtual Reality

Blog by Nik Hunt, Corsham Institute’s Project Co-ordinator, following some experiences with the Ci team, of a number of current uses of virtual technology…

There are many interesting ways that visual augmentation technology is currently being used, mainly in the leisure and entertainment sectors.

In 5D cinema, 3D glasses are worn and you sit on mechanical chairs. As the film starts, the chairs move and things from the screen seem to come towards you, while at the same time water gets sprayed at you and the back of your legs are touched from beneath the chairs to synchronise with elements of the film. The films are short, and the technology is aging, but the effect of more than one sense being affected has exciting potential applications. In an educational setting, it could be used to experience what it is like to blast off in a space rocket, how it felt to be in a wartime bunker, or maybe as an inclusive way of showing how it feels to ride a horse.

Urban Golf is golf played in an augmented reality cave. The technology is simple, a projector projecting the image of the golf course and a ball with sensor stickers on it that can detect the acceleration and direction of the ball which is then added onto the play screen, so that it appears that the ball carries on into the screen. There is only one screen used, as three screens, (as we have in the Ci CaVE), require projectors in the middle of the ceiling that would provide a risk when swinging a golf club! The possible educational applications of this technology could be as a sports science aid – combined with a video, it could help students or athletes to evaluate and improve their techniques, not only in golf, but in many ball sports.

Virtual Reality Exhibitions are becoming more commonly used. They consist of a virtual reality headset, headphones and, if they are in a walk-around environment, a backpack that contains a processor and battery. This technology has many promising uses. As it is, it could be used for exhibitions around the world without the artefacts being moved. It could be used to explore any situation that is not easily accessible, you could, for instance, experience what it’s like to be in a submarine. What is most intriguing is the use of physical objects within the space that feel like the objects visible in the VR. It could have uses in education for sensory impairment or as a more interactive experience with different textures to touch, or even science experiments out of the lab.

We have the hardware at Ci for developers to work on and test software for these educational and research purposes. If you have any ideas, contact us at or arrange to come and experience our CaVE!

Civic Engagement through Digital Activity

Civic Engagement through Digital Activity

Blog by Martin Head, Corsham Institute’s Director of Communities...

Ci's Communities Programme is developing a range of projects that are finding ways to engage people more in civic society and local democracy, as part of our overall mission to promote a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society.

As part of our Digital Corsham initiative with our online digital tv platform Corsham TV and our partner community radio station KIK Radio, we cover local and national elections from a local standpoint, as well as regularly holding our MPs and Councillors to account in detailed interviews, addressing local concerns. The resulting engagement is measurable and has real impact.

During the 2015 General Election campaign, we produced video clips of the local hustings event, which resulted in over 1,500 views compared to around 125 people who attended the evening. Over 10 times the engagement in the debate, through digital activity.

Our production partnership with local BBC Radio to deliver an EU Referendum debate attracted over 900 local video views and one of a very few community media co-productions with the BBC nationally.

Coverage of the May 2017 local elections had every candidate in four wards offered a video statement and in a typically low turn-out election over 750 people viewed the results.

We also audio live-stream local Council meetings and the Unitary Authority Area Boards and reach over 500 people a week locally with topical podcasts. For the General Election this year, each candidate in our local constituency has recorded a video message and we’ll be at the overnight count to cover the results and be the first community media to hear from the new MP, whoever they may be!

All the above examples have impact and the potential to re-define the way local communities engage with their politicians and councils and there is an increasing role for community media to serve their communities by shining a light onto the democratic process.

However, the long-term impact of greater local digital engagement in the democratic process is still to be quantified. After the 10-fold level of digital engagement that we saw during our coverage of the General Election in 2015, there is a clear research opportunity to examine connections between levels of engagement and voter turnout.

Digital media can lead to greater engagement and participation in the local democratic process and part of Ci’s ongoing work is to develop examples and partnerships to prove the power of digital community media to engage citizens more widely.

Introducing the CaVE!

Introducing the CaVE!

Blog by Nik Hunt, Corsham Institute’s Project Co-ordinator….

At Ci we’re in the beta testing phase of our new innovation space, called 'The CaVE'. 

The Corsham (Institute) Augmented and Virtual Environment brings together research, innovation and reality in an area designed to optimise thinking.

This technology is currently used in a variety of sectors; at MTC it is used by architects and constructors to formulate building plans; at BP it is used to train for oil platform usage. At Welsh Water it is used for touring sites using Google Earth, and at the University of Brighton, VR is used for sports training – timing starts and analysing performance. These are only a few of the endless possibilities, made available through the use of VR and AR.

In our CaVE there’s a work zone with a conventional set up, where a group of people can plan and deliberate, but it’s in the adjacent tech zone where it gets really exciting! You step into a space that has projections on three walls, so that you’re surrounded by a different reality. Although the space is for one person, others can see in, interact and make suggestions from the outside.

There is also an HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset – this is currently a one person activity, however, we are in the process of expanding it for 2+ users.

We’re creating a real eye opening experience to encourage out of the box thinking and dynamic discussion and we’re hoping to work with developers on projects that will deliver Corsham Institute’s vision of a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society.

To find out more please email:

Currency: re-defining the way we transact in a digital world

In May we held the third Thought Leadership event of our 2017 Programme at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, exploring the impact that digital technology is having on the way we are able to transact and how this is fundamentally altering what we understand as ‘currency’ in an increasingly connected world.

Delivered in conjunction with our partners, RAND Europe, the event was attended by senior leaders from across academia, business, government and non-government sectors, and explored how new models of transaction can help to create new opportunities for social benefit.

There was widespread agreement amongst participants that more traditional, monetary-based forms of currency are here to stay, however we are likely to see the emergence of a ‘mixed economy’ in the future, with data being increasingly viewed as a currency in our connected world. Interestingly, cryptocurrencies were considered as more of an asset management mechanism for storing value, rather than transacting.

However, we also heard how the speed and scale of change may have potential downsides for the economic well-being and stability of our society.  Ensuring equality of access and adequate levels of financial and digital literacy were also seen as key issues that need to be addressed if individuals are to be able to make the most of opportunities presented by the growing number of transaction platforms and mechanisms.

Our discussions highlighted how new platforms are facilitating the more efficient exchange of data during transactions.  This has the potential to impact price setting, enabling greater amounts of data about the products/services and the parties involved in a transaction to be shared during the transaction process.  Such bundling of data has the potential to alter the relationship between the vendor and the customer, enabling price to be set on a more informed basis.  It could support individuals to transact in a more informed manner, increasing confidence and trust, allow organisations to offer more personalised services and recommendations.  However, at the same time this could create unfair practices when such data are used by vendors to adjust price based on prior usage patterns to create unfair commercial advantage.  

Finally, we discussed which groups in society are most likely to benefit from changes, as well as the implications for policy and regulation in terms of economic and financial stability but also in terms of generating greater trust, and the behaviour changes required to encourage adoption of a broader range of transaction mechanisms.

Further details on the debate will be available in the form of Conference proceedings, which are to be published shortly. The Ci 2017 Thought Leadership Programme now moves forward to our final event in June, which will focus on civic society and the opportunities created by digital technology for more effective civic engagement.

To follow comments from the events on Twitter as they happen please follow the hashtag: #digitalsociety or if you’d like any more information please email:

Open Science: the citizen’s role and contribution to research

Open Science: the citizen’s role and contribution to research

The second event in our 2017 Thought Leadership Programme was held on April 6-7th, at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, and explored the opportunities for citizen science and how digital technology can support stronger citizen engagement in research activities.  

Working with our partners, Rand Europe, and attended by senior leaders from the UK, Europe and internationally, representing Academia, Business, Government and Non-Government organisations, our discussions focused on how citizen science has the potential to transform both the process of research and also the impact that research findings can have.

During the 24 hours that we were together we considered some critical questions on the role and purpose of citizen science, including:

  • What do we mean by the term ‘citizen science’, and what activities should we include within this definition?
  • Are we clear about the benefits and opportunities of involving citizens more centrally in the research process, and conversely what concerns and challenges are restricting greater involvement of citizens?
  • Does digital technology have a role to play in accelerating the growth of citizen involvement in research?
  • What should a forward thinking and aspirational vision for citizen science contain and who can help us realise the true potential of citizen engagement in research?

Some of the key conclusions we agreed included:

  • The term ‘Citizen Science’ has different meanings to different individuals and organisations;
  • Citizen engagement in research has been growing in importance and has the potential to transform research activities at scale and with speed;
  • When citizens are engaged in defining the research scope and brief, it supports stronger engagement because the research is focused on issues which matter most to the people supporting it;
  • Citizens need to develop good ‘research skills’ and this requires clear accessible advice and guidance as well as training;
  • Barriers to engagement and inequalities remain key challenges to be addressed;
  • Some academic researchers appear hesitant to recognise research led by citizens, and data collected by them as being a valid and value adding activity; and
  • Digital technology has the potential to amplify both the opportunities and also some of the challenges faced.

These are just some of the initial conclusions emerging from our discussions and more will follow in the conference proceedings currently being drafted, which will then be available from the Thought Leadership pages of our website.

At the end of our discussions and in keeping with our theme of scientific research, we were honoured to have a private demonstration of the Gömböc - the world’s first self–righting object, which was invented by Professor Domokos and Mr Péter Várkonyi.  To mark the presentation of the Gömböc to St George’s House and in advance of a lecture on natural numbers and shapes we were able to see the object in action.  More information The Gömböc and how the mathematics behind it were proved can be found on this link.

The Corsham Institute  2017 Thought Leadership Programme continues with our next event in May, which will focus on the role of currency and how this is being redefined, as we transact in a more connected world.

To follow comments from the events on Twitter as they happen please search for the hashtag: #digitalsociety, or if you’d like any more information please email:

Ci's first CEO is Rachel Neaman

Ci's first CEO is Rachel Neaman

Ci is delighted to announce the appointment of Rachel Neaman as its first Chief Executive Officer. She will take up the post on 1 May 2017.

Rachel is currently a consultant at the Tech Partnership, the network of employers collaborating to create the skills for the digital economy. She was previously Director of Skills and Partnerships at Doteveryone, the digital organisation founded by Baroness Martha Lane Fox to make the internet work for everyone, and before that was Chief Executive of Baroness Lane-Fox’s digital skills charity Go ON UK, which merged with Doteveryone in April 2016. Prior to joining Go ON UK she was Digital Leader and Head of Profession for Digital at the Department of Health, responsible for digital strategy, policy and transformation

From 2013–16, Rachel was Chair of Digital Leaders, the UK’s premier platform for expert opinion and networking on digital transformation, and is now a non-executive member of the Advisory Board under the new Chair, Lord Francis Maude. She is also a non-executive member of the DigitalHealth.London Advisory Board. Neaman was voted 20th in Computer Weekly’s list of 50 Most Influential Women in IT 2016.

Jeffrey Thomas, Founding Chairman of the Corsham Institute said: “Rachel’s extensive senior leadership experience in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in the UK and internationally makes her the ideal choice to lead the Institute as our first Chief Executive Officer. The Corsham Institute was founded to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges afforded by our digital society. We are delighted to welcome Rachel at this formative stage in our development.  She is uniquely qualified to deliver on our vision to establish the UK as a leading digital economy.”

Karen Price, CEO of the Tech Partnership said: “I’m delighted to see that Rachel will be leading the exciting programme of work at the Corsham Institute. This appointment is very good news for employers and the broader digital community and I look forward to continuing to work with Rachel in her new role.”

Rachel Neaman said: “I am hugely excited by the opportunity of working with the Corsham Institute. I strongly believe Ci has a major role to play in creating the inclusive, citizen-centred digital society that we so badly need in an age where personal data has become a commercial commodity, information is manipulated by algorithms, and individual privacy has lost its meaning. I have been extremely impressed by the amount that Ci has accomplished to date as well as by its ambitions for the future. I look forward to building on these achievements and helping Ci accelerate a digital society and economy in which all can thrive.”

You can follow Rachel on Twitter @RCNeaman and for any further information please email: