During this exploration into using digital technology in later life, supported by Nominet Trust, we have benefited a lot from the experience and ideas of Shirley Ayres, among many others.
Now the Trust has published a paper by Shirley, and the first blog post of a series, on Can online innovations enhance social care? There’s a wealth of great ideas – plus a proposal for better ways to share knowledge in the field, which I’ll come to later.
Shirley acknowledges that technology can’t replace human contact, kindness, empathy and understanding – and then provides a host of examples of how it can help people to connect in different ways, and enable a range of innovative solutions to the challenges of social care. Shirley writes:
Digital technology and social networks provide some of the most powerful tools available today for building a sense of belonging, support and sharing among groups of people who share similar interests and concerns.
I believe we need a dramatic re-think in the way that care and support is organised for adults in the UK. This should focus on keeping people healthy and independent for as long as possible and preventing crises before they occur. It does not seem that statutory social services recognise the reality of the digital age and how technology is supporting the development of new social networks, social learning and sharing resources. We need a major cultural shift which recognises the role of technology in shaping services which are focused around an individual’s needs and aspirations.
Our #dtlater exploration expands on digital technology in support of people’s wellbeing, before care services may be involved, so we believe the two publications will work well together.
We now have a draft of ten provocation and a number of themes – as you can see here http://bit.ly/VoVk0J - and we will be reviewing those with the Trust to agree how publication can best inform those considering investment and project development in the field. More on those provocations in a later post.
One idea I do want to pick up on now, from Shirley’s paper, is the recommendation for a knowledge hub in this field:
There is a need to explore the potential for developing a Community Wellbeing and Social Technology Innovation Hub which brings together all the organisations funding, researching and promoting digital technology innovations and pilots across the wider care sector. This could be an independent organisation or a new remit that falls to an existing one, however it could also be developed ‘from the ground up’ in a way that takes advantage of the very technology that it reports on. By supporting practitioners, researchers, funders and policy makers to share resources in ways that makes them highly discoverable, we could begin, now, to create this useful hub of knowledge.
I’m with Shirley on this. Our research threw up an enormous range of research, scores of organisations, and hundreds of projects, which we have gathered as 16 Storify stories to underpin the provocations and themes. It was very evident that people in the field didn’t know what others are doing – which cuts down on the scope for innovative cooperation – and leads to re-inventing and refunding of digital wheels. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, makes a smilar general point here about social innovation funding.
I was at a meeting recently of the Age Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group where a dozen of so organisation were discussing how they could organise and share their work, and finding it quite a challenge even at that level.
In a recent paper by Geoff Mulgan and Charlie Leadbeater the innovation agency NESTA makes the case for systemic innovation – “an interconnected set of innovations, where each influences the other, with innovation both in the parts of the system and in the ways in which they interconnect”. In other words, joining up people and ideas to create good new stuff from what we have, and what we may develop.
At this point there’s a danger that we drift towards the idea of big databases that need constant updating -which doesn’t happen – and knowledge sharing forums that show little activity after initial enthusiasm, unless there’s a lot of facilitation. Shirley makes the point that we can start knowledge sharing bottom-up in fairly simple ways, by tagging tweets and cooperating on bookmarking.
Of course, as Shirley says, we need a blend of both the formal and informal.
Steve Dale, who designed the substantial local government Knowledge Hub, and has worked on #dtlater, is now exploring the idea of social ecologies as a framework for thinking about the following challenges which he kindly attributes in part to me:
- Social media is generating enormous amounts of unorganised content: how to make sense of that.
- Social networks enable a wider range of connections: how to find people and develop relationships.
- New forms of collaboration are made possible by social media and networks: how to organise and manage.
- There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use.
- The new ways of making sense, connecting, collaborating, and using technology throw up the need for new skills: what are the new roles and the new skills?
- The emphasis on open access and sharing changes where value may reside: so what are the new business models?
- Social capital is becoming increasingly important in establishing trust and credibility in the virtual world: how do we increase or measure our social capital?
In his post Steve makes the case for all of us having to get better at finding the knowledge that we need, and making our own connections rather than expecting to find them in one “hub”. I’m sure he will be developing the idea of personal knowledge management and personal learning networks, on his own blog and in the modest social learning space we have used during the #dtlater exploration. Do join us there
I hope that Nominet Trust may help develop Shirley’s idea for an innovation hub – or perhaps social innovation learning space – because their funding and research is now so extensive, and shows the potential for connecting across different fields.
We found a lot of similarities in lessons from both the earlier Digital Edge exploration – about young people and technology – and the current #dtlater exploration. In fact, it became evident that for much of the time we were talking about digital technology in life … not just young life or later life.
The issue of how to share ideas and knowledge also figured strongly in another exploration about People Powered Change for the Big Lottery Fund.
How powerful it would be if Nominet Trust, NESTA and BIG got together to explore what is the most appropriate model for knowledge sharing that is sustainable and leads to practical benefits top-to-bottom – from policy to projects and personal use of digital technology.
It may well be they are doing so already – and if so, here’s another important connection, that would help ensure the work is grounded.
During last year Nominet Trust funded our other social reporter John Popham, with Nick Booth and Lloyd Davies, to take the Trust’s Our Digital Planet exhibition around towns and cities, showing people the potential of digital technology and hearing first hand from them what would make a difference to their lives. John has now written about plans for phase 2. An Our Digital Planet tour could be a great way to showcase the collected projects and gather more.
So – the potential is there, but adhoc sharing isn’t going to be enough on its own. It will need to be underpinned by a model for sustaining activity that involves facilitation and curation as well as good technology. Maybe even social reporting, of course