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PPChange

From September 2011 to January 2012 David Wilcox and John Popham developed this blog as part of our work with the Big Lottery Fund, exploring the future of their People Powered Change initiative. The initial brief is here. Thanks to those we have interviewed, and to our guest bloggers, James Derounian, and Noel Hatch.

Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, has now posted some further thoughts to guide discussions, and invited people to pitch in with more ideas.

Here are links to all our earlier posts, to provide some background and ideas that have emerged so far. Latest at the bottom of the list.

New media and networking for People Powered Change - introductory post

Your Square Mile National Summit - reporting the Birmingham event

Paul Twivy and David Robinson at the YSM Summit - interview

Your Square Mile plans – and a live chat - interview with Paul Twivy, CEO of YSM

Voting leads to engagement – when it is about money - interview with Richard Edwards on participatory budgeting

Ideas, research, action from a Knowledge Portal and online discussion - about the new portal funded by BIG

People Powered Change in Dudley – Joining up the strands - collaborations towards developing Our Society

You can’t get practical experience from a book. Or online. – interview with Richard Edwards

Reporting events and games – including saving Slapham community spaces - report of Community Matters workshop

Can new local councils offer Power to the People? - report about the potential of local councils for London

Closing the triangle to explore the idea of #netfunders - making networked connections, personally and as a funder

Transition gives us the best of ingredients for networking - new Transition Network resources link a guide, cards and online content

Can people power bring the internet to remote communities? - the Can’t Get Online week, and how the lack of Internet bring people together

Secret ingredient for community engagement: a slice of pie - food is great way to start conversations, and news of Community Lovers Guides.

Innovating through BIG’s People Powered Change - interview with Linda Quinn, BIG director of communications and marketing, with a vision for People Powered Change

Social reporting through the social silicon valleys - guest post from Noel Hatch on collaborative events form residents and council staff

Making sense of localism for academics and activists - guest post from James Derounian. How can we bridges thinking?

The future of online sharing is mobile, appified and people-centred - report from seminar

Social networks could help embed reciprocity says NESTA CEO Geoff Mulgan - online can help neighbourliness

How Charitable Trusts and Foundations can use Social Media - event report and interviews with Toby Blume, CEO Urban Forum, Peter Wanless, CEO BIG

Moving from join us, join in, to join up yourselves - different network models and a move to peer-to-peer sharing

Trust people to tell their own stories of how they use BIG grants - guest post from William Perrin on hyperlocal blogs and online communities

BIGGING up People Powered Change? - Shaun Walsh of BIG invites ideas about People Powered Change

Updates after this post:

Building Local Activism for People Powered Change - the work of the Young Foundation

Manchester leads with the ABCD of community building - report of event with Forever Manchester, Cormac Russell and Jim Diers

Media Trust invites people to join Newsnet for citizen-led media - interview with Adam Perry

SHINE 2011; Social Enterprise, Story-telling and Change - report from John Popham

Now there’s an iPhone app for community engagement - developed in Milton Keynes

The many models for People Powered Change - we need to understand the different models before design ing ways of sharing

Kent Connects shows the way to smart solutions and a social app store - report from Discovering Solutions Camp

Sharing outside means first sharing inside - Tom Phillips suggests Yammer as a good way to start conversations within organisations

How sociable events can help build networks and connects ideas - Tom Phillips reflects on different network models and the role of events

Ideas from our exploration of People Powered Change - some of the ideas we may discuss at a workshop on December 1

The challenge of building a sustainable knowledge hub - an honest assessment from KnowHow Nonprofit

UnLtd: It’s all about people-powered solutions - news of the Big Venture Challenge

Community Sector Tales from Urban Forum - Toby Blume gives an update of their storytelling project

The community engagement iPhone app in detail - how the Milton Keynes app described here works

The 3-legged stool: Student energy to fuel People Powered Change - James Derounian reports from a conference on the potential

Developing People Powered Change ideas: the workshop - briefing on the workshop on December 1

Reporting from the People Powered Change workshop - presentation and videos from the December 1 event

Food for thought?…More like A Feast! - Linda Quinn, director of communications and marketing at Big Lottery Fund reflects on next steps after the December 1 workshop.

First beacon hub plus innovation centre for Newsnet - Media Trust provides an update on their £1.89 million plans for community news network.

No more unsung heroes - people can tell their own stories with social media

Why community groups are more energy waves than organisational matter - physics and complexity theory may give us insights into the way groups operate

SocialReporters and People-Powered Change: Time for Reflection - John Popham offers some highlights

People love Thornton Heath (and others places too). Here’s how and why - reporting from a celebration day for community connectors

Micro-mapping shows the richness of local life - research by Third Sector Research Centre reveals many small societies

Introducing Biglopoly: planning how to spend £1 million for real. Big Lottery Fund staff developed a game to help groups plan how to invest funds

Generating Collective Excitement and Momentum. John Popham applauds the leadership of BIG chief executive Peter Wanless in using social media and other methods to broker new relationships.

Helping BIG staff become social reporters David Wilcox worked with BIG staff to report an event in Wickford with the local MP and BIG CEO Peter Wanless

How BIG aims to be a more engaged, open and social organisation. Big Lottery Fund plans for the future

How BIG aims to be a more engaged, open and social organisation

Linda Quinn, Big Lottery Fund Director of Communications and Marketing, has provided an update on how BIG will evolve its England programme after a year of People Powered Change.

Linda kindly acknowledges that some of the new ideas draw on the explorations last year documented on this blog. Linda writes:

This included a workshop with some of those people with ideas and a shared interest in this area, informing a paper to our England Committee on future ways of working.

The Committee supported the paper and as a result we are developing a number of ideas which we hope will make us a more engaged, open and social organisation. I also hope it will help us support projects to share their stories, inspirations and ideas.

In her post, Linda highlights:

  • Recognising that encouraging beneficiaries of funding to tell stories and be more sharing has to be reflected inside BIG too: so they have set up BIG Connect as an internal network.
  • Crowdsourcing ideas in how best to map where funding goes and the impact it makes, drawing on people’s willingness to swap and share experience.
  • Support for projects to tell, share and learn from stories including surgeries and games.
  • Testing ideas on the use of social media with projects funded under the Silver Dreams Fund and the Jubilee People’s Millions.

Linda adds:

In a future world I’d love all our evaluations and grant management to be socialised so that stories and impacts are available to the armchair auditors, enthusiasts and others working in similar areas – this very much reflects the open data work we blogged about here at our joint event with NCVO andNominet Trust. Such a social approach not only shows the impact of National Lottery funding but also provides an opportunity for projects to promote and showcase what they do, share and inspire others.

We’ll also develop our focus on some place and people based initiatives that strongly reflect People Powered Change. For example, our Big Local Trust investment recently announced a further 50 areas that will receive at least £1million for local communities (around ward size) to decide how they wish to spend that money over a ten year period. This is taking decisions out of central committees and into local communities and giving them the space and time to make those decisions.

People Powered Change informs a way of working that will develop overtime and we’re keen to continue to hear what others are doing, where we can share and where we can learn. And talking of sharing, you may recall that in March last year we also announced a number of awards under People Powered Change. These were to UnLtd’s, ‘Big Venture Challenge,’ Young Foundation’s ‘Building Local Activism’ project, Media Trust’s ‘Newsnet’, NESTA’s ‘Neighbourhood Challenge’ and Your Square Mile. We’ll be publishing a blog from each of these over the next week or so updating on their activities, investments and learning.

Looking back on the work that John Popham, Drew Mackie and I did for BIG, I’m naturally delighted that it proved useful in helping develop some ideas for their programme. We were given a pretty open brief by Linda and deputy director Shaun Walsh, and encouragement to follow up ideas as they emerged. It was a social reporting exploration – and the reverse of a carefully-planned research and consultancy project.

In the event a lot of useful stuff came up by chance … perhaps because of “strategic opportunism” as James Derounian said over here ”putting yourself in the place and way of likely useful links to take forward projects etc.”

The post about internal communication Linda mentions – Sharing outside means first sharing inside – arose because I bumped into Tom Phillips at an innovation event in Kent and shot an interview. I went to the event because it was organised by Noel Hatch, and I knew it would be interesting … if not in what way. I got lots of other interviews too.

The post about BIG staff inventing Biglopoly, referenced by Linda, came from an outside source who was working with BIG on the Big Local programme. BIG staff then readily produced their own excellent video explaining what they did: I was really just the story-spotter.

On reflection I think that the 50 or so blog posts that we generated served several purposes:

  • They provided an exploration of the landscape of people powered change, and some insights and ideas for BIG to dip into.
  • They informed the workshop that we organised, bringing together many of the people that we met, providing an opportunity for them to share more ideas directly with BIG staff.
  • They also provided some further stories to share with Shaun over a coffee at several points during the exploration.

Being engaging, open and social is more about attitude than mechanisms, and Linda and Shaun set the style in taking a risk with a social reporting exploration. We just found and told some stories to help things along.

 

Summary of our People Powered Change exploration so far

Over the past couple of months John Popham and I have developed this blog as part of our work with the Big Lottery Fund, exploring the future of their People Powered Change initiative. The initial brief is here. Thanks to those we have interviewed, and to our guest bloggers, James Derounian, and Noel Hatch.

Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, has now posted some further thoughts to guide discussions, and invited people to pitch in with more ideas.

Here are links to all our earlier posts, to provide some background and ideas that have emerged so far. Latest at the bottom of the list.

New media and networking for People Powered Change – introductory post

Your Square Mile National Summit – reporting the Birmingham event

Paul Twivy and David Robinson at the YSM Summit – interview

Your Square Mile plans – and a live chat – interview with Paul Twivy, CEO of YSM

Voting leads to engagement – when it is about money – interview with Richard Edwards on participatory budgeting

Ideas, research, action from a Knowledge Portal and online discussion – about the new portal funded by BIG

People Powered Change in Dudley – Joining up the strands – collaborations towards developing Our Society

You can’t get practical experience from a book. Or online. – interview with Richard Edwards

Reporting events and games – including saving Slapham community spaces – report of Community Matters workshop

Can new local councils offer Power to the People? – report about the potential of local councils for London

Closing the triangle to explore the idea of #netfunders – making networked connections, personally and as a funder

Transition gives us the best of ingredients for networking – new Transition Network resources link a guide, cards and online content

Can people power bring the internet to remote communities? – the Can’t Get Online week, and how the lack of Internet bring people together

Secret ingredient for community engagement: a slice of pie – food is great way to start conversations, and news of Community Lovers Guides.

Innovating through BIG’s People Powered Change – interview with Linda Quinn, BIG director of communications and marketing, with a vision for People Powered Change

Social reporting through the social silicon valleys – guest post from Noel Hatch on collaborative events form residents and council staff

Making sense of localism for academics and activists – guest post from James Derounian. How can we bridges thinking?

The future of online sharing is mobile, appified and people-centred – report from seminar

Social networks could help embed reciprocity says NESTA CEO Geoff Mulgan – online can help neighbourliness

How Charitable Trusts and Foundations can use Social Media – event report and interviews with Toby Blume, CEO Urban Forum, Peter Wanless, CEO BIG

Moving from join us, join in, to join up yourselves – different network models and a move to peer-to-peer sharing

Trust people to tell their own stories of how they use BIG grants – guest post from William Perrin on hyperlocal blogs and online communities

BIGGING up People Powered Change? – Shaun Walsh of BIG invites ideas about People Powered Change

Updates after this post:

Building Local Activism for People Powered Change – the work of the Young Foundation

Manchester leads with the ABCD of community building – report of event with Forever Manchester, Cormac Russell and Jim Diers

Media Trust invites people to join Newsnet for citizen-led media – interview with Adam Perry

SHINE 2011; Social Enterprise, Story-telling and Change – report from John Popham

Now there’s an iPhone app for community engagement – developed in Milton Keynes

The many models for People Powered Change – we need to understand the different models before design ing ways of sharing

Kent Connects shows the way to smart solutions and a social app store – report from Discovering Solutions Camp

Sharing outside means first sharing inside – Tom Phillips suggests Yammer as a good way to start conversations within organisations

How sociable events can help build networks and connects ideas – Tom Phillips reflects on different network models and the role of events

Ideas from our exploration of People Powered Change – some of the ideas we may discuss at a workshop on December 1

The challenge of building a sustainable knowledge hub – an honest assessment from KnowHow Nonprofit

UnLtd: It’s all about people-powered solutions – news of the Big Venture Challenge

Community Sector Tales from Urban Forum – Toby Blume gives an update of their storytelling project

The community engagement iPhone app in detail – how the Milton Keynes app described here works

The 3-legged stool: Student energy to fuel People Powered Change – James Derounian reports from a conference on the potential

Developing People Powered Change ideas: the workshop – briefing on the workshop on December 1

Reporting from the People Powered Change workshop – presentation and videos from the December 1 event

Food for thought?…More like A Feast! – Linda Quinn, director of communications and marketing at Big Lottery Fund reflects on next steps after the December 1 workshop.

First beacon hub plus innovation centre for Newsnet – Media Trust provides an update on their £1.89 million plans for community news network.

No more unsung heroes – people can tell their own stories with social media

Why community groups are more energy waves than organisational matter – physics and complexity theory may give us insights into the way groups operate

SocialReporters and People-Powered Change: Time for Reflection – John Popham offers some highlights

People love Thornton Heath (and others places too). Here’s how and why – reporting from a celebration day for community connectors

Micro-mapping shows the richness of local life – research by Third Sector Research Centre reveals many small societies

Introducing Biglopoly: planning how to spend £1 million for real. Big Lottery Fund staff developed a game to help groups plan how to invest funds

Generating Collective Excitement and Momentum. John Popham applauds the leadership of BIG chief executive Peter Wanless in using social media and other methods to broker new relationships.

Helping BIG staff become social reporters David Wilcox worked with BIG staff to report an event in Wickford with the local MP and BIG CEO Peter Wanless

How BIG aims to be a more engaged, open and social organisation. Big Lottery Fund plans for the future

BIGGING up People Powered Change?

In this guest post, Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, opens up a conversation about how BIG might develop People Powered Change. This builds on some exploratory work started a few weeks ago here and calls on others to share their learning, experience and insights on how BIG can help develop supportive networks and supportive ideas.

How does a national funder, supporting community projects with as little as £300, maximise the impact and learning from its funding? What support and networks could a funder enable to help people and projects help themselves? What is the next social innovation or intervention that a funder could intelligently make that would support communities in these aims?

From March this year we (Big Lottery Fund) identified ‘People Powered Change’ (PPC) as a platform to build, accelerate and extend new and different approaches to develop great community-led action already underway across England. The announcement was accompanied by grants to UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge; Your Square Mile; Young Foundation’s Building Local Activism; Media Trust; and NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge. Ten months on, we’ve asked them to contribute to this blog, to help share some learning, insights and considerations that will help us address the questions I’ve outlined above and inform our approach to PPC.

The roots of our thinking behind PPC lie in Asset Based Community Development, which Jim Diers explains with a little more authority here. This approach is about focusing on the opportunities, strengths and the ‘latent power of communities’ building on the assets they already have.

[Deep breath...] We believe that every community facing problems contains within it people and groups who can step forward as the solution. We want to use our resources, and belief in communities, to unlock and inspire community action across the nation. We want to help people to share and celebrate their work, and learn from others that are doing it for themselves – whether this is through on-line spaces or meetings.

But we recognise that we can’t do this alone. There are some amazing people, stories and groups out there who are already doing some inspiring stuff. And as Linda Quinn explains here we fund thousands of projects every year who are making a real difference in their communities with great ideas that others could learn from, share solutions with or be inspired by.

But how do we help harness that learning? How do we help broker those connections? How, as a funder, should we/could we support people and projects beyond our grant investments? And what about those we don’t fund?

Will Perrin of Talk About Local helpfully starts to flesh some of this out in his earlier blog here.

Will’s blog is a useful prompt. We believe that People Powered Change is about more than just funding. It should be about an intelligent funder that proactively engages and facilitates conversations across communities, people and experts. Creating supportive connections, it is about making BIG’s activity and engagement more ‘social’ so that learning and conversations have greater reach so that we maximise the use of social media, for example, as a means of sharing best practice and sourcing creative ideas.

Or in other words supporting those wider conversations and hearing what’s being said.

This is a lot easier to write about than to do in practice and so part of the purpose of this blog is really a call for thoughts and ideas, what’s already happening and working that we can learn from? Notably:

How do we develop a communication network that could join BIG, partners, groups and others so they can share stories, support and engage with each other?

Where are some of the gaps that need to be filled? What might the helpful funding interventions be that would support communities in these aims?

Over the next few weeks the funded partners I outlined above will blog with updates on their project progress and reflect upon some of their learning so far that will help inform some of this future thinking.

But we want to share this with others so others can share with us their ideas so do feel free to contribute either in comment or via twitter using #ppchange.

There’s a summary of earlier posts here.

Moving from join us, join in, to join up yourselves

I’ve used this diagram a few times in the past to start conversations about the move from hierarchical structures to more networky ones – including a couple of years ago, where Clay Shirky was talking about the changes that membership organisations need to make. Sending out newsletters and central event invites won’t pull in the subs when people can use social networks to organise for themselves. The organisations won’t survive.

I’ve used the diagram more recently to talk to people about the sort of online and face-to-face sharing space for social innovation that People Powered Change might become in fulfilling the vision set out here by Linda Quinn for the Big Lottery Trust (BIG). Increasingly people use social networks for knowledge sharing, and in addition Geoff Mulgan argued recently that they are one good way to help embed reciprocity in our society.

The idea of helping people share peer-to-peer, and not through a hub, chimes with the remarks reported here by John Popham from Toby Blume of Urban Forum, and Peter Wanless, of BIG. Both are chief executives in the new mould, using social media themselves and encouraging staff to do the same. While John was reporting Toby and Peter’s presentations, I was hearing at the Business of Collaboration seminar that organisational adoption of social media and networky behaviour won’t happen without that leadership. I also heard that the future will increasingly be mobile, with content delivered through apps, not conventional web sites.

So – it is possible to argue, at least anecdotally, that becoming more networky is important for individual learning, social cohesion, and organisational survival. People Centred Change, and communications.

At the moment a lot of organisations still work in model 1. Command and control structure, bureaucratic procedures, limited sharing outside the organisation, formal collaborations, restrictions on the use of social media. This still applies in some big organisations in the community and voluntary sector … and funding regimes don’t help. When you have to compete furiously with other organisations on the landscape for grants and contracts there’s pressure to keep things to yourselves. Your funders are probably hierarchical too… so everything chugs along as normal until the grants and contracts dry up and you find that the people you were serving are finding they can get along without you. Am I exaggerating? Not much, I think.

All this applies in strength when looking at knowledge-sharing. It is very difficult to maintain traditional knowledge portals, with high editorial overheads, in a sector that doesn’t expect to pay for services, grants are increasingly scarce, and where advertising revenue is unlikely to be available. But how about model 2, where a number of organisations might collaborate to provide complementary services? That’s already on the horizon for People Powered Change, with initial partner investments made in Your Square Mile, Media Trust, Unltd, and Young Foundation. There are earlier posts on my personal blog.

The challenge is going to be to expand from model 2 into model 3 – where people are making their own connections peer-to-peer as well as with some hubs. The joining-up in the peer-to-peer network comes partly from hubs, but also from sociable events designed for developing and sharing innovative ideas, like this and this, and also I believe by developing the practice of social reporting. We need network builders as well as networking people.

While it is possible – in theory – to design the move towards model 3, in practice it is really difficult unless the people involved have some personal experience of networked communications and networky ways of doing things. It can seem like a foreign country – and the leadership of people like Toby Blume and Peter Wanless is important to give people confidence. The Transition Network, as I wrote here, is a terrific example of central support that helps to build local projects – not own them. The book, the Networked Non Profit, by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, is an essential read. However, when learning to swim there’s no substitute for getting into the pool – and so as part of our work with BIG we are exploring how to pilot some peer-to-peer communication, probably using Google Plus. I’ll report later … well, actually, some of it will be open so you’ll be able to see how we get on. The best networking often involves food – so I wonder if Tessy and Laura would run a Pie Lab for the pioneers. The best ideas are often the simplest.

Can new local councils offer Power to the People?

One theme in our reporting about People Powered Change will be around the structures within which people can have influence and make decisions.

Your Square Mile – which is one of the partners in ppchange – invites people to become members of the mutually-owned organisation, and has said it aims to foster the development of thousands of local democracies as more people join YSM and engage in their communities.

But what about more traditional democratic structures? As I wrote the other day over on my personal blog, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) – which represents parish and town councils – argues that that “if local people are elected by their community to influence and make decisions that will affect their own area, it will have significant impact on improving lives throughout the capital”.

NALC are using the slogan Power to the People.

In their media release of October 17 NALC suggest the engagement of people after the recent riots, in helping clear up their neighbourhoods, could be supported by new, small, local councils.

The creation of new local councils in London would give communities a voice and this in turn could help address some of the underlying causes of the recent London riots. Local councils have already been created in urban areas such as Leeds, Birmingham, Bradford and Milton Keynes and have helped address social issues caused by deprivation by providing community leadership and brokering relationships with Government at large.

Localism and the Big Society have been much heralded and discussed by the Government and the Prime Minister himself, prompting much debate from Whitehall to town and village halls. What better way to ensure local ownership of decisions, control of assets and to get people involved in their area than to genuinely give power to the people.

Until recently Londoners were not able to campaign for the creation of local, neighbourhood-level councils like those in parishes and towns elsewhere. Their “local” is the borough.

On Tuesday evening I went along to NALC’s Create a Council event, where we heard from several people about the possible virtues of additional smaller councils that would have powers to raise money and control some local services.

I talked to David Drew, who is chair of Andover Town Council, together with Justin Griggs from NALC. David explained Andover now has a five year plan, a programme of consultation on developments with local people, and more powers than previously available to decide the direction the town may take.

Justin says local councils could put people in the driving seat in London, and bring a greater sense of community to the capital.

One area considering whether to go for a local council is Harlesden, where campaigns have already brought many improvements and the creation of the Harlesden Town Team. I talked to Leroy Simpson, chair of the team, about the possible benefits of a new local council.  He felt it was one option that would give people more ownership and governance over the improvements that they have achieved.

Not everyone agrees that more councils would be good for local engagement.

There was a lively Guardian-hosted online discussion last week on whether local democracy is in crisis, where Will Perrin, who left a senior civil service job in Whitehall to set up Talk About Local, promoting and supporting hyperlocal websites, was scathing at the start of the debate:

Local engagement structures are jarringly out of touch with the communications practices and life pressures of the modern citizen. Possibly only the courts and parliament have a greater whiff of the C19th about them.

In Kings Cross we have used a very basic website for many years now to help people access, understand and engage with local politics to make their area better. It’s run by citizens following things they are interested in and the council takes part. We discourage party political slanging and bad behaviour. http://www.kingscrossenvironment.com/

Will argues that tinkering with structures won’t make much difference: you need to follow where people are going, and for many that is online. He and others agreed that neighbourhood plans and budgeting are going to be an important focus for local discussion and decision-making. As I found the other day, talking to Richard Edwards, participatory budgeting is one way to both engage people on local issues and increase voting.

Later this week I’ll take a look at the Transition Network, that “supports community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and happiness”.

As Leroy said in our discussion, what’s important is looking at the options for greater people-powered influence, and deciding what’s appropriate in any community. Fortunately there are now quite a few.

Thanks to Fred Garnett for camera work with my iPad. I was using an iRig mic, which works well in noisy situations.

If you couldn’t make it to last night’s London event, there’s another one for up to 30 people on November 29 – sign up here.

You can’t get practical experience from a book. Or online.


After chatting with Richard Edwards from Manton Community Alliance, at the Your Square Mile launch, about their success with participatory budgeting, we turned to ways in which people could share ideas and experience of what’s working in their community.
As Richard remarked, it has to be more than exchanging leaflets at a conference, and even if you are engaged by someone else’s bright idea, there’s a lot more involved in actually making things happen.

Richard believes that there is no substitute for learning by doing: people can’t learn project and community development from books, and have to build up their confidence and skills through on-the-ground experience. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a scheme by which people could spend time at each others’ projects working side-by-side in order to develop practical experience?

This led us on to talking about mapping the assets and expertise that we have, in order to make best use of these in facing new challenges. Increasingly that is done locally, and is the basis for the practice of Asset Based Community Development, as explained by Jim Diers at a People Powered Change seminar in June.

However, if we are going to share knowledge nationally, we need to do some national mapping. As part of our work with Big Lottery Fund we’ll make a start on mapping the national networks and online spaces. While it may then be easier for people to see who is doing what, and to connect online, in Richard’s opinion they’ll need to make the physical trip to achieve some real learning. As he said, we have the skills and experience … we need to unlock the potential.

Is there a case for funding the people exchanges as well as the technology-based connections?

Voting leads to engagement – when it is about money

Getting a high turn out for local elections is tough … and usually even tougher for public meetings. Why bother – does it change anything?

On the other hand a lot of people will be interested in how money is spent in their neighbourhood. Could you link the money, voting and engagement?

It seems so, from a conversation I had at the recent Your Square Mile launch with Richard Edwards from Manton – an estate of some 6500 people in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Richard works for Manton Community Alliance, which since 2006 has used participatory budgeting as a way to involve people in decisions about the future of their area. You can read a case study here.

As Richard explained, there’s nothing like walking down the street, and seeing a tag on the new litter bins showing that’s what you voted for, to demonstrate it is worth the effort.

Last year one in four people were involved in voting – and the secret of success has been to tailor the method to individual preferences, including knocking on doors, holding small group discussions, or using Facebook.

Richard says: The key thing is you have to suit your engagement method to people’s life style – if you don’t do that they are not going to take part.

The budgeting process has led to an increase in voting in local elections, and also shown an increase of people’s involvement in the area in some way, from a very low base to over 60 percent.

After listening to Richard I wondered whether a similar process might be appropriate on a wider scale. Why shouldn’t it be applied by the Big Lottery Fund, who supported Your Square Mile, and who grant millions of pounds each year to local groups?

I find that they do, as you’ll see from this link to the Big Decision page.

Channel 4 is following The Big Lottery Fund as it asks the British public how they would spend £10 million of lottery money. The results of this nationwide debate will help directly determine which projects or charities will benefit from a huge cash injection. You can follow the discussion on Twitter #C4BigDecision

What does this country need the most – more recycling, better educated youngsters, stronger community spirit or new investment in science?

If you were in charge of spending £10 million of lottery money to ensure it reaches the places and people who need it most, where would you spend it? Post your comments below.

On the page you can see video clips about five Millennium themes, and a real time discussion about people’s preferences.

The funding for Manton’s participatory budgeting runs out at the end of this year. I vote for them and other participatory budgeting projects to get some continuing support.

UpdateThe People’s Budget is a new campaign on participatory budgetting supported by the PB UnitChurch Action on Poverty, New StartJoseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Urban Forum. Blog posts from Toby Blume and Julian Dobson.

Your Square Mile plans – and a live chat

I’ve just posted this interview about People Powered Change partner Your Square Mile on my personal site. Our Society is today hosting a live chat with YSM MD Jamie Cowen


Six months development work by the Your Square Mile programme came together yesterday with the launch in London of a new website to support local action, new pledges of cross-party support, and plans to create a citizens mutual organisation with millions of members.

You can catch up on the background to Your Square Mile on my earlier post here, including a talk though the site by YSM managing director Jamie Cowen.

Today at 1pm Jamie will engage in a live chat online hosted by Our Society here.

At yesterday’s launch we heard support from both Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and Tessa Jowell, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, and from a couple of the 16 pilots YSM that has been supporting. YSM is a partner in the Big Lottery Fund People Powered Change programme, for whom I am doing some work. Read more »

Paul Twivy and David Robinson at the YSM Summit

Today’s Your Square Mile summit – reported here – heard a wide range of presentations from national organisations as well as those involved in local projects. Knowing that these were all being video’d, and will be available later, I took a different tack and invited YSM chief executive Paul Twivy to pop outside and have a chat on camera with long-time friend and adviser David Robinson OBE.

David co-founded the East London-based Community Links back in 1977, and has enormous experience both locally in Newham, and on national bodies. He gave the closing presentation at the summit, with a strong endorsement of YSM.

In the conversation you’ll hear Paul and David talk about the need to make connections between communities, and encourage people to share and adopt ideas across communities for creative local action, and much else.

There’s a good joke from David about a young child being told that the Equator was an imaginary line on the map, and hearing “lion”. We are too fearful of imaginary lions patrolling the borders between our communities.

Both Paul and David agree on then importance of the involvement of business – and that it is often and small and medium size enterprises who have most to contribute because they are closer to the community.

The recent riots may have offered a warning to bigger brands that while they have local presence, and large numbers of customers, they would be wise to develop stronger affinities with their local communities.

I hope to feature more from the Summit next week, including a presentation from YSM MD on the new digital platform, mentioned here.

Update: the new Your Square Mile site is live, and I’ve posted an update and interview with Jamie Cowen, YSM MD on my personal site.