Your Country Your Call looks like a good idea, and it is, and a lot of effort is going into it. However, there are also clearly some big, serious problems with it.
Simon has pointed out that if you enter the competition, you are giving your IP to them. What this means is not made clear in the discussion. What it actually means is that you are giving the organizers the option to take your idea and implement it, and also to prevent you yourself from implementing it. They can pay you any amount they wish when they exercise this option. They are not bound to pay you EUR 100,000. The amount of the prize is not specified in the terms and conditions which you sign up to. And anyway, the organizers can change the terms and conditions any time they want.
I would really put this down to failure to think the issues out rather than any real malice. I doubt if the organizers plan to operate in this way, but that’s not the point. The point is, they can if they want.
So it’s vagueness, rather than malice. But the vagueness goes on. What the organizers are looking for is as vague as the terms and conditions. When you analyse it down, ‘transformational proposals’ is what it seems to boil down to. The last time we heard the word ‘transformational’ it was John Gormley talking about the revised Program for Government. And he was using it very vaguely indeed.
Still, it’s not YCYC’s fault the word has been sullied. But what do they want? Suppose we agree we need to transform Ireland (I agree with that) how do we do it?
The problem is that transformation is a fancy word for ‘change’. Change is difficult, and in practice, change is expensive and takes a long time. It involves upsetting people and causing a lot of trouble.
In general, you don’t get much change on a national scale for half-a-million euros. If you are depending on government help to drive change, well you will be in for a disappointment. Governments (and institutions generally) are like Dublin Bus. It’s very hard to get change on-board. This isn’t because governments and institutions contain bad people. It’s just that that’s the way institutions are.
Are there things we could do? For sure there are. But they won’t result in the sort of change YCYC seems to be envisaging, at least not in the short term. You could do a pilot project of some sort for EUR 500,000 for something like an International Content Services Centre, or you could develop a new brand identity for Ireland. These could well be the catalyst for change. But they probably wouldn’t be, or at the very least would require a lot of other similar scale initiatives to get them to take off.
Equally, I could say that there is a need to transform banking in Ireland. I could certainly give you a blueprint for doing that over six weeks, but there is no chance that I would get support within Ireland for doing that. One or possibly two of the sponsors would have a conflict of interest and the whole thing could not possibly be judged on its merits or even on the actual facts (i.e., that the two main banks in this country have run out of equity capital).
The vague thinking has led to another problem in YCYC, the idea that you might be able to jettison the guy with the idea before you even get going. This is like throwing the pilot out of the plane once the plane has got clearance to take off from the tower. It just doesn’t work like that. Great enterprises and great change need someone to champion them. It’s nice to think you could wheel in a few lawyers or PR guys to get the idea into the sky, but it just doesn’t work like that.
There is also vagueness about the funding. It’s far from clear whether the organization actually has the funding to do what is promised. It’s not at all clear where the money is coming from.
We don’t even know who is organizing this, apart from the chairman and one other brave soul who has bravely exposed himself to the ravages of Twitter.
One thing we have to do as a nation is to get rid of the vagueness. We have to deal with the tough problems head-on, not just hope they will go away.
Hopefully the Your Country Your Call organizers will recognize this and face the issues they have head on, so that they and the nation can get the maximum return from their investment.