Tag Archives: games

How to organise ideas about digital tech in later life: invent some characters and tell their stories

Peter Farrell asked this key question, commenting on an earlier post about the many reports on digital technology and later life, and the innovative projects featured on NESTA’s Living Map:

If I was an older adult, or a carer or someone working with the community  and with limited or no ability with technology or social media how would I know about these resources?

Fortunately another post popped up on the Living Map site that crystalised one possible solution that had been at the back of my mind: tell stories, and then add ideas to those. Here’s that NESTA post:

This short animation tells the story of Charlie and Marie, a couple ageing in the UK today. It visualises the significant events in their life after retirement and how they interact with different state services at these times.

The aim of the animation was to stimulate new and more holistic ways of thinking about older people and their experience of services, amongst local government and partners – who may often operate quite separately from one another.

The animation is based on 10 ethnographic studies and a series of interviews with older people around the UK. It was developed by the Young Foundation as part of their Ageing Well Innovation Series in 2010.

Now here’s my suggestion.

In the workshop that we ran last October as part of this dtlater exploration, our highly creative gathering invented some characters, told their life stories, and then mapped onto those some of the ideas that we had gathered earlier. You can see the results here, with the ideas organised around stories at strategic, intermediate and personal levels. It was an incredibly rich set of insights, which we used to inform the provocations and themes synthesised in our final draft.

We achieved that in an hour or so – and we could do a lot more now with the additional ideas that we have gathered, and those on NESTA’s Living Map.

One of the most creative storytellers was Geraldine Bedell, reflecting her various skills and roles as journalist, novelist and editor of Gransnet. Some of our most interesting online content then came from a forum that Geralidine ran on Gransnet – summarised here. Shirley Ayres had lots to add from her work and passion for sharing, as did others in the room.

Wouldn’t it be fun to re-run a workshop – ideally with some of the Gransnetters, plus NESTA, Nominet Trust and Big Lottery Fund who are establishing their own Centre for Ageing Better?

At this point in my thinking I mentally connected with another exploration we are about to relaunch, into how community enablers can use digital tech as part of their work in supporting local groups, building networks and improving local life many creative ways.

As you can see here, Drew Mackie and I created the fictitious town of Slapham for a workshop where we invited 20 people to invent characters and choose digital tech and others methods for community enabling. I have no doubt there are (or certainly can be) lots of older people in Slapham – so why not run our dtlater workshop there? Virtually, as it were.

Slapham Neighbourhoods by socialreporter

We could invent some characters – perhaps drawing on the Young Foundation and other work about peoples’ lives – locate them in their local networks and support services, pitch in some challenges and ideas for action, and then create the stories of what happens. That could provide insights on several fronts:

  • identifying ideas and information that is around now that we could offer to people seeking help: Peter’s question
  • the range of issues that need to be addressed overall in a person’s life
  • then how some systemic innovations might be developed on the lines advocated by NESTA in their recent report
  • … and it would be an icebreaker for Shirley’s idea of a roundtable for funders (referenced here)

The Living Map could then accompany a series of stories about characters, and the resources they are using, which whom people could identify. We could even run a version of Slapham as a multi user game, given some development work. I’m sure NESTA know people who could collaborate on that.

I should say that these workshops around the use of digital media in communities aren’t new. Here’s a reference to one of the first that Drew and I ran, back in 1999. Sometimes innovation is a matter of refreshing old ideas in new contexts, and doing some joining up. I believe that’s one way socialreporters can help.

Update: I love the ways stuff just turns up. Here’s IBM evangelist and social media super-enthusiast Luis Suarez on storytelling and Solutions for An Ageing Population in the Era of Open Business.

Introducing Biglopoly: planning how to spend £1 million for real

At one level this is a story about a game to help community groups decide how to invest £1 million over 10 years in their neighbourhood. At another it’s about how an organisation – Big Lottery Fund – found the in-house skills to create a very successful method for community engagement, and then tell us about it. First the background:

I’ve been writing a lot recently about how communities may achieve more if they start with local strengths rather than problems, and then immediately jump to the need for outside help. Tessy Britton has developed a Social Spaces game that helps people understand what they can do themselves, when to get help, and what is really challenging.

The same idea of appreciating your assets can be applied to organisations too. There’s a rather good book on it called No More Consultants – we know more than we think.

Big Lottery Fund (BIG) favours asset based community development, as I reported here – and staff in East Midlands have taken the idea in-house. Faced with the challenge of helping community groups think about how to use the support on offer from BIG, they too decided a game would be good, and set out inventing their own. In this instance, there is money on offer: £1 million over 10 years … so Biglopoly was born.

I heard about Biglopoly from Ben Lee at the National Association for Neighbourhood Management. They are working with the Community Development Foundation  on the Big Local Trust, that is distributing an endowment of £200 million to 150 areas over the 10 years, and he put me in touch with Kelly Hart, Regional Development Manager in the East Midlands.

Kelly sent me an impressive package including game rules, facilitators guide, card examples and photos from sessions. At that point I wondered about a trip to interview Kelly and see more of the game … but then thought I might suggest a bit more DIY. Could BIG staff please do their bit of social reporting, and send me a report? Here it is, with the video they shot in-house. No more consultants … or social reporters!

Kelly writes:

Big Local is a new way of thinking for distributing our funds. In the first four East Midlands Big Local areas many people imagined the concept to only be a £1 million grant pot for the local community groups to apply to. But this money could be so much more and could potentially bring in more money to reinvest in the community through methods such as loans or investment in social enterprises. It could also encourage lots more community engagement and help people to make a big difference in the area they live. We wanted to show Big Local areas how they could use their £1 million to make a long-term difference, as well as demonstrate the difficult decisions they may have to make.

We like to think that here at BIG and in the East Midlands regional team that we are creative when it comes to our work and we like to try new ideas to get our key messages across in a more enjoyable way. So after a team brainstorm (with tea and biscuits!) Biglopoly was created just in time for its first outing in Sutton on Sea, Lincolnshire at an East Midlands Big Local network meeting.

The game helps the players to understand that in order to spend £1 million some kind of plan or strategy is required. Not everyone on the panel or in the community will see things in the same way or make the same decisions. We had four games going at once at the network meeting and every team was making different decisions (sometimes after very long debates) which impacted hugely on their monies going forward – could they last longer than 10 years with extra income made? But it also showed the difference they made in their communities each time they received different amounts of community stars.

The game was fun and brought our programme alive making the community members see what they would be going to potentially encounter in the next ten years. The Community Development Foundation thought the game was so good it was rolled out at all the other regional networks and we hope it has provided our first wave of Big Local areas with an insight into what they could potentially achieve with their £1 million.

We are keen to develop the game and use for other programmes and general support for organisations looking to apply for our funding but also to help with community development in communities across the UK. So feel free to contact us with ideas or with similar games and activities you are delivering or working on so we can share learning and enable communities to make a difference.

You can reach Kelly at kelly.hart [at] biglotteryfund.org.uk