Tag Archives: NESTA

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.

NESTA provides a framework for innovation towards a better later life

View larger version of this graphic from NESTA
As I wrote earlier, we now have a good basis for looking at the range of ways in which digital technology and other innovations can help us in later life. Nominet Trust have supported both Shirley Ayres’ paper on how online innovations may enhance social care, and our own exploration summarised here. Last week NESTA launched an expanding Living map of innovation projects, and their report Five hours a day, about which more later.
I’m sure there’s more in prospect from other sources, because the costs – and oppportunities – of an increasingly older population make this an area of some interest for academics, policy makers and market analysts. As Shirley recommends in her paper, we need better ways of keeping up and with organising this expanding knowledge base, and she suggests as first steps:

  • Convene a roundtable for all the funders of digital technology to explore collaboration, sharing practice and a common approach to evaluating and promoting the outcomes and impacts of their investment.
  • Provide signposts which enable care recipients, their families and carers to find out what technology products and services are available, both through statutory services or to purchase independently.
  • Create, promote and participate in events that showcase innovations in care which could be adopted by local authorities, the NHS and housing providers.
  • Map all of the digital community hubs (however defined) which are available to ensure that people have access to local resources. This would also identify areas where there is currently no support available.
  • Benchmark levels of awareness about technology innovations across the care sector and work with key players to promote and share the benefits of innovation.

So – we need knowledge-sharing and collaboration among resource-holders, ways in which people can find and use what’s available – highlighted by John Popham and in our work – and also further work to translate research and ideas into action, and scale up successful projects.
Fortunately NESTA have produced a report by Halima Khan, entitled Five hours a day, that provides a framework for the way this might be done. (The five hours a day refers to the equivalent extra time added on to the end of our lives through increasing lifespans).

The report sets out a systemic approach that reflects another piece of work by Geoff Mulgan and Charles Leadbeater on Systems Innovation. It about how you can’t fix problems in isolation and within one discipline, how one solution depends on another, and so about the benefits of joining up ideas and solutions. The illustration of what it takes to make an “industrial” cup of tea brings that home.
In the Five hours a day report, Helima suggests the following vision for older people in a successfully ageing society:

  • to have a purpose – feeling useful and valued as an employee, volunteer, mentor, entrepreneur, employer, hobbyist or source of advice with a cup of tea. in a formal role, or informally amongst friends and family, inside or outside the labour market.
  • to have a sense of well–being – living as well as possible with health conditions, being physically active and emotionally resilient. it’s also about happiness, choice, control, intimacy and personal relationships.
  • to feel at home and connected to others – feeling at home wherever we’re living – in a care home, shared housing or in our own home. it’s about living where we want to live, being as independent as possible and also connected to a supportive social network.

The report touches on how this might be done in terms of product and service innovation; policy innovation; market innovation; and cultural innovation, using “people powered health” as an example. This might involve:

Alliances of key organisations that recognise the same challenge, rally around a shared vision, have influence across key sectors and an appetite for real change. these alliances should reflect, at their core, the insights, priorities and perspectives of current and future older people. And they should work hard to do this authentically, beyond the small numbers of the already–involved, to using creative ways to tap into the great variety of people who have a stake in this agenda.
Systematic experimentation to develop, test and scale radically improved solutions. Critical to this will be generating useful and appropriate evidence, focused on demonstrating impact in real situations. it will also require a strong understanding of which methods of experimentation are most appropriate to different stages of innovation. And relevant here is the role of clusters to systemic change; what are the key relationships between complementary innovations and how can they be leveraged to increase overall impact?
Policy innovation to transform the conditions for change, build on behavioural insights and apply social innovation techniques to policymaking. the aim should be to embed outcomes throughout the policy process, to create locally–relevant solutions based on sound evidence with local stakeholders, and to combine policy and delivery into an iterative process that achieves significant impact and avoids the weaknesses of the traditional policy/delivery split.
Innovation infrastructure including developmental functions such as institutions with the capacity, timescales and resources to carry through genuinely systemic change – whether that be in terms of political change, or orchestrating knowledge or mobilising people to change their behaviours at scale.
Local demonstrators which take a whole population approach to explore the impact of a set of interventions. this type of whole place intervention would create an opportunity to apply systems thinking to specific locations, building on existing local work and generating an evidence base for how to make change happen.

Halima adds:

We think we are part–way through systemic change on ageing and that change is needed on a number of different fronts to move forward – policy, products and services, markets and behaviours.
We think there are a number of different mechanisms that could be used to contribute to systems change – including using alliances to make significant headway on systemic issues through clusters of innovations, key pieces of developmental infrastructure and testing at scale in real places.
Nesta is already active in this field through our impact investment Fund, Ageing Well challenge prize, the ventures supported through the innovation in giving Fund and our practical programme on long–term conditions, People Powered Health. We also have previous relevant work including Age Unlimited focusing on older social entrepreneurs.
Our next step is to discuss and test further the ideas put forward in this paper and to prioritise our own areas of action – as an investor, innovation manager, centre of research and supporter of innovators.
We want to be part of the shift that enables us to adapt to an ageing population. We’d like to know what you think. Drop us a line at ageing@nesta.org.uk

I’ve quoted at length from the report because there does seem to be scope for joining up with the work that Shirley, our DTlater team and others are doing … and this requires better communication. I hope NESTA won’t mind me re-iterating how difficult it is to report and connect this sort of work when the main means of offering content consists of a fairly brief blog post and a lengthy pdf. It is a format that is used by other funders and agencies, and academics. Doing a cut and paste to extract material is tedious. There is relatively little coverage because the many ideas in the pdf can’t be individually referenced. The Living map is a much better format, if it could be extended to include other material.
If we are to promote systemic thinking and doing I believe we need to consider how to develop the social ecologies that would make this possible. Steve Dale is developing ideas in a series of posts.
We’ve tried making content accessible and re-mixable in our dtlater exploration by crowdsourcing ideas on a Google doc, using an ideas platform and social learning space, running a workshop, creating reference in Storify, then compiling a draft – as described here. The potential value of this approach is that chunks of content can be curated and used in different ways, and the process can help to build conversations and networks.
I’m calling this process social reporting, as a shorthand for the mix of content creation, facilitation, workshopping and curation that’s needed. I hope we can find some ways of keeping the process going now there is so much valuable thinking, and so many projects surfacing. One immediate task could be to cross reference the Living map work with the resources the Shirley Ayres and our team have located, and then follow through with some of the steps Shirley advocates.
However, I think we’ll only get a really innovative social ecosystem emerging if there’s a good content framework … and of course more investment in social reporting!
Update: part of the Cabinet Office announcement today on evidence centres for policy making included:

What Works Centre for Ageing Better
The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) is in the process of establishing a Centre for ageing better. BIG has been developing plans for this ‘centre’ in conjunction with groups of older people themselves, and other stakeholders including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Department of Health (DH) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Further details about this centre will be announced by the Big Lottery Fund at the end of March 2013. The plan is for this Centre to become a member of the What Works network, recognising that it will be delivering the ambitions of What Works in ageing better as part of its remit.

No more unsung heroes

Just recently, I seem to have heard the term “unsung hero” more than I had for some time. The most recent occasion was the article in Sunday’s Observer newspaper about that paper’s quest, in partnership with NESTA, to find “50 new radicals actively changing Britain’s communities for the better”. You can read more about that search on NESTA’s site here.
A key element of the work that David Wilcox, Drew Mackie and I have been doing with the Big Lottery Fund’s People-Powered Change programme over the past few months, has been to demonstrate that local heroes need no longer be “unsung” as it is relatively easy, cheap and straightforward, using low cost equipment and free social media tools, to tell the stories of local communities their groups, organisations, individuals, leaders and heroes. If, like me, you find so much of today’s mainstream media coverage to be negative and depressing, it is good to know that there are an increasing number of outlets for positive stories and nuggets of inspiration. I was recently present at a number of the Village SOS Roadshows which the Big Lottery Fund is running with the Plunkett Foundation, and the highlight of each of those events was an inspirational tale of how one community had driven through a successful project against the odds.
All this raises questions about our society’s values and the kinds of achievements it celebrates. Celebrities who are famous for being famous, talent shows which only promote those whose “talents” fit a carefully defined, and profitable, mould, and footballers who get paid millions for kicking a ball, are the icons which our current society celebrates. Being able to sing vaguely in tune on Saturday night TV or eat grubs in the jungle seem to be qualities which attract a lot more attention, and reward, than helping to make life better for local communities. And when mainstream media does turn its attention to such activities, it is often to mock, belittle or patronise those involved. Or, often, all three.
But there is reason to be optimistic that the rise of the internet and social media platforms is gradually changing this. Online phenomena such as TED talks, which showcases inspirational speeches on a variety of topics which never fail to stretch the mind; impromptu movements such as #riotcleanup, in which spirited citizens used social media to take to the streets and clean up their communities the morning after the summer’s riots; and the growing band of community-celebrating “hyperlocal” websites fostered by Talk About Local, among others, are all examples of how people are using the tools now available to tell the world their positive stories and mobilise others around their messages of change.
People-Powered Change takes a lot of its inspiration from the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) movement, explained in the video below by Cormac Russell. ABCD starts from the view point that communities are full of assets that can be exploited for positive change, and rejects the old-style philosophies that communities are full of problems in search of solutions. Similarly, we can use social media to enable communities to tell their positive stories, shake off the negative stigma imposed on them by years of knocking copy, and inspire people to take action in their neighbourhoods. Every neighbourhood has its local heroes, and they are far more numerous than most people would imagine. The days of those heroes being “unsung” should be in the past.

Social networks could help embed reciprocity says NESTA CEO Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan’s recent Edith Kahn Memorial lecture included some themes very relevant to the idea of People Powered Change, particularly ways in which the golden rule of “doing unto others as you would have done unto you” could be practically applied across society – whether amongst politicians, banks, commercial situations or daily life.
Geoff emphasised the potential for an explosion of innovation around platforms for giving – making social networks truly social:

So far social networks have generated vast wealth for a few, and have changed much about our daily lives. But they have done surprisingly little to change how social needs are dealt with. Quite what shape the new social networks will take remains unclear – but they have the potential to transform the giving of time every bit as much as networks have transformed retailing and so many other fields over the last decade.

Geoff is the chief executive of NESTA, one of the partners in ppchange. He was giving the lecture at the House of Commons for the UK volunteering and training charity, CSV.
After talking about choice architecture, and the way that commercial pressures shape the options we are given (citing bottled water for sale at airports and stations instead of public drinking fountains), Geoff went on to suggest that we need to embed reciprocity in our institutions and daily lives:

What if we paid the same attention to choice architectures for mobilising time as we do for consumption? What if we paid as much attention to choice architectures that reinforce the golden rule as we do for buying bottles?
What kinds of pattern would we see? I don’t think it’s that hard to imagine some very different patterns.
Imagine as much advertising and communication about how we might share our time as there is about goods.
Imagine that timebanks and carebanks became as visible as monetary banks, perhaps embedded in daily institutions – as the organisation Spice is doing with schools and housing – and imagine if they offered different kinds of accounts, where time given now might get you credits in the future.
Imagine far more networks like the Canadian model Tyze that surrounds a vulnerable older people with an online circle of support, informal and formal, friends and family plus doctor, to coordinate support.
Imagine more ubiquitous prompting to give – we’ve now followed countries like Spain in prompting charitable giving at ATMs and on tax forms, and there are many other places where similar prompts could be made automatic.
Imagine if every station had a digital notice board listing what community activities are happening that day or that week.
Imagine if instead of annoying cold callers selling insurance, once a week you were asked by email to take part in crowd-funding for new projects in the community.
Imagine the many tools now mainstream in business – like recommendation engines; tripadviser type sites – being mobilised for giving.
Imagine if all of the main creative industries – like computer games – found ways to integrate giving and sharing into fun.
Or a world where every employer at appraisal times asked – have you thought of using your skill for a voluntary purpose beyond work?
And imagine an honours system that was as local as national, with much more recognition for the people who give and share their time selflessly.
None of this is far-fetched and elements of all of these examples already exist.
Some – but not all – make use of new technologies that make it far easier to orchestrate giving and sharing. And there are now many examples worldwide of social network technologies being adapted to social needs – like Ushahidi in disaster relief, Kiva in loans, the collaborative consumption platforms like Couchsurfing, Freecycle or Buzzcar.
These are of great interest to me at the moment because NESTA is managing, for the Cabinet Office, the ‘Innovation in Giving’ Fund which will support creative ideas to take platforms for giving and sharing to a higher level.
We’ve received over 400 applications in our first round – all of whose video pitches can be seen online – and the sheer range and quality of imagination is breathtaking.
They are all confirmation that the internet has a great untapped potential to shift choice architectures in this way.
Social networks really are beginning to become more social.
And their promise is to embed different kinds of behaviour in daily life.

NESTA will be contributing more to this blog, particularly around their work on Neighbourhood Challenge.