An extra bonus from the ABCD conference in Manchester last week was meeting two community mobilisers, Corrina Milner and Andy MacDermott, with their iPhone app for engaging with people in Milton Keynes.
Mobile apps are the little programmes that work on smartphones, and increasingly on desktop computers, to handle specific tasks. Initially they were for basics like calendars, databases, and email but now there are thousands of them.
Community mobilisers are out in the community hearing about people’s concerns and issues they want raised with the council and other agencies, and also picking up ideas for action. As Corrina and Andy explained to me, it can be difficult to capture a lot of conversations during the day and make sure that they are forwarded to other people, or gathered for future action.
The iPhone app allows that to be done through text or photos. Back in the office, the conversations captured on the iPhone can be reviewed in real time. Corrina explains that they find content can be categorised as ideas, interests, issues and also as impacts – when changes have occurred.
I was particularly excited to find the app in use because it confirmed a prediction that I reported the other day from Steve Dale, at a seminar on the Business of Collaboration, when he said that the future of online sharing is mobile, appified and people-centred.
I think that the development will interest Linda Quinn, the director of communications and marketing at Big Lottery Fund, who told me earlier she would like to see apps playing a part in People Powered Change. Andy says he can see a future in which residents are using the app for themselves – not just to report issues, but find solutions from others in the community.
Both Corrina and Andy emphasised at the end of our conversation that they believed that the community and voluntary sector should embrace new technology – not to replace face-to-face or telephone contact, but to complement and amplify it. There’s clearly scope for testing the app in other situations – so I hope BIG or other agencies might put it on the list of innovative solutions they wish to promote.
The app is not yet in the official App store, because some bugs need ironing out. Here are some screen shots of the app in action, I hope to get a more detailed specification later.