Social reporting through the social silicon valleys

Events where citizens can work with councils and other agencies to design innovative projects and services are a great way way to give a real boost to people powered change. Two years ago Amy Sample Ward and I helped facilitate and report Transformed by You with Kent and Medway Councils. The event was preceded by online ideas generation, and an online community.

Kent is noted for working with other partners, as you can see here , and Noel Hatch is at the heart of that as Project and Research Lead.  We thought Noel was the ideal person to give us an update on digitally enabled innovation with communities in the run up to the next event in Kent. He came up with this really rich mix. – David Wilcox

As we’re preparing for our innovation camp, we’ve been reflecting on how we can stimulate collaboration between entrepreneurs, students and communities. Having just seen the impressive Civicrowd being used in South Holland (to my surprise, it’s in England) developed by @davebriggs and it provoked a couple of thoughts as I was reporting a delayed train to @fixmytransport that had succumbed to the “terror of the leaves”.

The conversation around localism can be exclusive and excluding with the language being used…without even beginning to understand its variants such as “guided localism“. But actually if we start looking at what social and digital innovators are developing to help councils and communities come together to develop new forms of local social action, they are creating:

  1. New forms of community insight by enabling citizens to submit ideas in easy & meaningful ways
  2. Digital tools for micro social action which although not started up on the Shoreditch Roundabout could aggregate to a “social silicon valley”

New forms of community insight by enabling citizens to submit ideas in easy & meaningful ways

With various councils launching calls for ideas or competitions, whether it’s involving staff and users to rethink ways of working (@futuresurrey), crowdsourcing ideas for ward budgetsdeveloping a bank of social capital (@innovationbank) or connecting civil society students with digital entrepreneurs to stimulate digital innovation in communities

We’ve been looking at how we can make sense of their ideas not just to judge them as part of the competition, but in terms of community insight. We’ve been prototyping ways to make sense of the ideas put forward through mapping a “neighbourhood of ideas“, creating personas on how people want to help each other.

How could think tanks or government departments make use of these “banks of idea data” to understand how localism is being played out and what could support it

Wouldn’t it be great if researchers could use this data to develop new ways of making sense of this community insight in really meaningful and compelling ways? Could these ideas be used to create Community Lovers Guide in people’s neighbourhoods, so that they live beyond competitions?

Digital tools for micro social action could aggregate to a “social silicon valley”

Whether its Civicrowd or Fix My Transport, these tools have all been created through gaps in the technology or even the consumer market, but through unmet needs in public services and communities in how citizens can feed in their ideas or insights. NESTA’s “Make it Local” is the standout programme that is jumpstarting this new economy from a digital perspective while Hub Westminster is creating the spaces for people to build the social infrastructure to enable this. We’ve been much more modestly working with our local business school to help people develop business models for their ideas and with our service users to test the prototypes out as well as intergenerational & artistic activities to provoke creative tensions.

How else could this be stimulated by councils, civil society and social entrepreneurs themselves? Just as we have digital missions (@futuregov) to the US, could we have digital travelling tours across neighbourhoods similar to @johnpopham‘s #cantgetonline adventure or a digital transition handbook modelling on the Transition Town’s very own? This could help stimulate communities to use tools to help them work with councils to better design solutions together, but also support digital entrepreneurs in showcasing their tools to the people that could benefit from them?

Social reporters would be valuable not just to connect these ideas and tools between communities, but to get people with those ideas to discover and link up with people in other neighbourhoods with similar issues!

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