Blogs in other places … including digital trends in social innovation

You only have so many blogs in you – right?

I am currently blogging mostly on my work pages over at Nesta – you can see if you scroll down past the mugshot to a list of Alice Casey Blogs at Nesta which I guess I dont need to duplicate in full here – except for the one below as I think it sums up a wide range of interests I’m working on quite nicely on how people are using new tech to make a social impact.

Digital Social Innovation : 11 Trends to Watch

People are using digital technology to revolutionise how we make social impact and to develop useful new resources for everyone. We know this is happening in a wide range of ways but is often informal and community-driven which means that finding and supporting people who are delivering or expanding great project ideas is a difficult task as the field is not very visible. We’re trying to increase this visibility by crowdmapping this space.

If you or someone you know is working on projects in the areas below please let us know about them by adding them to the open crowdmap over at www.digitalsocial.eu You can read the detail and find more examples via the detailed article under each link.

  1. Crowdfunding is a great example of how online networks can disrupt the usual way of doing things, in this case; funding new projects. The number and type of platforms has grown in many directions, whether sourcing volunteer time alongside fundraising, providing public match-funding for community projects or creating revenue sharing for social enterprises.
  2. Crowdmapping became more widely known when it was used in disaster relief operations such as that after the Haiti earthquake. It showed how usefully social media and citizen reports could be to target relief more effectively by collecting this information rapidly for anyone to view on a live map. How to develop this for more ongoing citizen engagement and accountability is a live question.
  3. Crowdsourcing is a term that covers all kinds of ways in which information is gathered from a large crowd and used to create new insights. There are some exciting developments using crowdsourcing within top-down decision making processes in systematic ways to create direct engagement on governance.
  4. Sensor networks are becoming more common as sensor technology becomes cheaper and more widely accessible. They are particularly well suited for monitoring areas of common popular concern where it is difficult for an individual body to gather quality and quantity of information, for example citizen-led pollution monitoring.
  5. Open hardware is the creation of physical products through using digital processes. The social applications are hugely varied, from medical products to sensors to a wide range of tools and other devices.
  6. Data powers applications of many kinds, and the social impact applications of data are hugely varied, but they depend on the quantity, quality and availability of this data. In the detailed article you can read more about what big, open, linked data actually is and why it is so important for social impact projects.
  7. Open source code helps people to avoid starting from scratch when creating new projects. When your project is a volunteer-led initiative, it is incredibly valuable to understand more about how code sharing platforms like GitHub work.
  8. Open licenses help people to freely share any of the things they have created for others to re-use. Whether that is data of any kind, or content; knowing you are free to re-use and build on existing knowledge is an important foundation for digital social innovation.
  9. Citizen science describes a movement that unlocks new resource for research and analysis. The zooniverse platform is a great aggregator for examples of projects, whether getting the public to help classify cancer cells, or monitoring light pollution or using health data to understand chronic health conditions
  10. Open learning takes place informally in many ways online, for example using Wikipedia or Youtube to find out information or to receive instruction. However, there is an increasing movement towards making comprehensive online learning resources available for free or cheaply online and it is also fuelling all the technical and digital learning needed to make the most of all the opportunities that digital innovations offer, for example through free and open coding courses.
  11. Collaboration spaces like FabLabs and hackerspaces aren’t of course an entirely digital phenomenon, but we wanted to include them here because getting together face to face is still incredibly important to accelerating the new social applications that can come from digital technology. If you know where to look, you’ll find many exciting meetups to collaborate and develop new digital projects – or just to hang out.

The 11 digital social innovation trends above are the areas we found that seem to be particularly exciting and important to developing social impact through digital innovations. These trends overlap and depend on oneanother to create social impact – no doubt you can think of more! We are only at the beginning of realising what can be achieved through combining these trends to create entirely new ways of creating products and services with real social value.

Anything missing? Want to know more? Contact us via @digi_si or email Peter Baeck & Alice Casey to talk further about DSI and of course, dont forget to add yourself to our map. We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

– See more at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/eleven-trends-watch-digital-social-innovation#sthash.ENKYst9s.dpuf

Mozfest : Indicators for measuring the impact of news (part two)

So; as mentioned in the last post on here I have been thinking about understanding, simply communicating, and measuring impact in news.

I’m now going to delve a bit further into this; I’m paying particular attention to citizen-interest topics, social justice in all its forms; any stories penned by campaigning journalists, activists and citizen reporters as well as those representing ‘solutions’ journalism.

Mozfest measuring news

In my last blog I got to the basic doodle above after saying that a finely layered hierarchy (a pyramid) might not be useful to us to communicate impact as it quite a blunt tool and implies that change only happens in one way – ie. by climbing to the top of the hierarchy of ‘change’.  I do however think that we can still usefully group this information – so have grouped these basic categories in a simple way that can help us focus on the ‘type’ of change we want to see as a result of our online journalism.

Lets go into this a bit further.

I think we are looking at three groups within this simple impact measurement:

First group: 

1) People read it (Measured in pageviews, click throughs etc.)

2) People comment on it (Measured in quantity and quality of exchanges, sources of comments)

3) They share it (Measured in depth, frequency and diversity of share – eg. across many networks, to non-target readerships)

This first group is important because it represents broad reach and demonstrates a base of interest and potential network emerging from readership. It can of course help inform the content creator in a live way as to how their stories are being received. It could be seen as a proxy for relevance/interest of some kind or it would be being shared, commented on or even read.The challenge here is understanding the diversity of the shares across relevant indicators (are you breaking out of the echo-chambers of opinion?) and also the response of the reader to the content. (positive or negative). So far as I know there is no simple open source tool to help citizen journalists do this to ensure they are not just ‘talking to themselves’.

Second group:

1) They do something offline (Join a meeting in local area, attend a protest etc.)

2) They fund it – probably online- (though donations, crowdfunding, subscription)

The second group represents a step towards making specific change – so to me seems like it has a different quality of engagement; it has a cost in time or money to the ‘reader’. It is a form of journalism that has somehow become directed towards a common purpose, a specific action in a more ‘hands on’ way. The challenges here are measuring how likely the individual is to ‘convert’ into an active citizen on the topic in question and go on to construct a citizen-led response. Are there ways of monitoring this conversion process through integrating relevant platforms like meetup or crowdfunding sites into citizen journalism tools or dashboards. Is there a way of promoting action beyond ‘sharing’ in a more visible way? (eg. at the minute ppl have a set of sharing buttons on articles, what about addition of ‘do something’ buttons?)

Third group:

1) Decision maker interacts/responds to it (Measured by relevant actions/statements )

This is different from the other two as it represents a response, not an action under direct control of the reader. It represents impact on specific power dynamics. If the head of the company or government or whatever you’re writing about replies or changes their policy as a result, then you know you made a difference. In some ways it is perhaps more linked to ‘group 1’ – a sense of mass movement rather than a deep/constructive citizen led movement. To my mind both types of change are required – the one that people begin to build for themselves as represented in group 2, but the one that they lobby for against power as represented in group 3. 

The challenge here is who to target, how to be heard- and how to know if you are on the fringes of being heard by those in power who you want to affect. Are there ways of measuring readership by organisation that could help activists know when they are beginning to tap into relevant social networks of those in power?

It is clear that there is scope to develop some accessible tools for citizens and journalist activists to understand and target impact more effectively. Perhaps they are already being built somewhere? Let me know if you have found some and want to share!

Empowering people, and seeing something differently by mapping abandoned spaces

derelict abandoned buildings in detroit urban decay community empowerment

Credit: Luca and Vita : derelict abandoned buildings in detroit urban decay community empowerment

Creative commons images of abandoned houses in USA: Luca and Vita

Vacant buildings are a growing problem in many areas that have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Not only do these empty spaces look forbidding and gloomy, their presence can actually attract crime and vandalism, and kick off a spiral of decline which drives down house values in the neighbourhood, and is hard to break out of. I came across a neat project that is running in Louisville, Kentucky which is aiming to use these vacant spaces a catalyst for change instead of allowing their empty presence to begin causing more problems.

They are doing this in a low-tech but effective way – primarily through community conversations out on ‘front porches’ and using this up to date local knowledge to make more accurate maps of vacant lots than local government does. I’m really interested in two aspects of this:

1) this idea that local people can create better quality data than local government >Question: Where else is this true and how can it apply in other contexts? (Think Kaizen service improvement/Nissan but at the street level in municipalites of all kinds)

2) making this information visible and visual has empowered people to see potential and opportunities where before they only saw problems. Question: >what other ‘visualisations’ can lead to positive empowerment and action?

The very interesting Kibera project which I’ve mentioned before went a step further than Kentucky with its mapping work, in that it actually worked with local people to do GPS tagging and make new local information visible and shareable using an online map. this in turn enabled people to find opportunities for improvement within that shareable, visual resource, much like the Kentucky project and others.

Clear and visually appealing maps combined with GPS and community conversations could offer much more value and opportunity to do the following things:

  1. generate new possibilities, where before people felt weighed down by problems
  2. build local resilience by strengthening social networks/ increasing social capital
  3. create high quality, transparent evidence for change campaigns
  4. help maintain local economic value systems (see @WillPerrin on this in Guardian , though I think it could go further than this.)

We are now at a time when a significant enough number of people could* be potential contributors and analysts of this information, developing new possibilities and insights where before we just saw problems.

Please send me more information on any work you’re doing that crosses over with this. I’m really interested to hear about variations in approach, and also whether you think an online interactive platform PLUS a  lower level of offline work would be even more effective than the intensive offline work alone.

 *Am I right? Perhaps true of some communities more than others, but are those the ones who would benefit most?

 (Thanks to @fastcompany for highlighting Louisville story. )

Hometaping : Offline and online

Sometimes you just wish you’d thought of an idea first…

In the words of the Hometaping website:

“People think that only the talented or the beautiful should be able to make music. This is bullshit. Making music is something everybody can enjoy. And everybody has something worth making a noise about.

Hometaping‘ is a big effort to help as many people as possible to record an album of their own music in one month. It is a celebration of what happens when they do.

So if you can’t sing but do anyway, you are Hometaping. If you’re crap at the guitar but it makes you happy, you are Hometaping. If your saxophone makes you smile but your neighbours wince, you are Hometaping. If you’re convinced your songs are intricate masterpieces, you are Hometaping.”

Making a s hort album and posting it online, then showing up to play at a hometaping party (whether via skype from transylvania, or live in london) should sound rather terrifying. Somehow, the hometaping ethos kinda takes the fear out of the process – and makes it well, fun, to record your own music for the first time. Its not often that online hype and offline actions marry up so perfectly, but I think the team behind hometaping have hit the right note… its easy to join in, non-scary, and not too techie – but without the online streaming and uploading then the thing wouldn’t exist.

I think that too many campaigns or initiatives that use the web end up getting bogged down in making the tech too complex or the messages too official. You can learn alot from hometaping no matter what kind of community project you’re trying to run.

In fact, I liked the whole concept so much that I bought the company! Well, no, I didn’t but I did ask Basil, one of the people who set up hometaping to tell me (and all of you) a bit more about what it is.

Alice: Hello! Thanks for agreeing to tell me a bit more about hometaping…! The first question really has to be…..what is it?

Basil: We started out with the idea that making music is basically a pretty fun thing to do, if you want to do it. But that it can also be quite scary and quite difficult, especially if you’re worried that you’re going to sound rubbish. (Which you probably won’t.) So we wanted to create an environment where a lot of people were all making music in a specific period of time, which would hopefully make you feel like you were part of this community of ‘hometapers’ and hopefully make it a bit less scary.

Alice: So, where did the idea come from?

Basil: The idea of a group of people all undertaking a similar endeavour in a month has been around for a while. NaNoWriMo is probably the grandpa, where people try to write a novel in a month. RPM Challenge and NaSoAlMo ask people to do an album in a month, too. Pete (one of the four of us working on this project, along with Charlie, Josh and me) participated in NaSoAlMo and thought that it would be fun to set up a similar project but with a slightly different emphasis. So he told us the idea over breakfast and then we set it up.

Alice: How has it been received by people?

Basil: Well we had a lot of completed albums this year. They are absolutely brilliant. So that’s the main thing. But people also blogged and tweeted and YouTubed their process throughout the month, and then, best of all, people played live at the party at the end of the month, and dialled in to play live over Skype from all over the world (including Transylvania – awesome). So we were really happy with the response.

Alice: Why do you think it has it captured people’s imagination?

Basil: I think there is something quite nice about hearing music that was not made by popstars, and instead was made by friends, or by people you imagine are a bit like you. So maybe people liked that. And I think it’s quite nice that it’s not a competition. I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask them.

Alice:  Did you have a favourite this year?

Basil: It’s all brilliant. Some of it is witty, some is incredibly well-produced, some people have amazing feats of instrumentation, some people have mind-bogglingly good voices. Pete said that the idea that there is only a small number of people who can make good music has been destroyed by the sample of music up on the Hometaping website. I think that’s true. I’m currently listening to marigold and tmcw a lot recently. But it’s all brilliant.

Alice: Do you think that there’s room for a hmtpng regular get together, or do you see it as a one-off thing only?

Basil: I think it makes it quite special doing a big party once a year. But it’s always nice to to meet up in the pub now and then. Should we do that? I’m up for it.

Alice: Lastly, do you have any tips for potential hometapers out there?

Basil: Don’t worry about being rubbish, because you won’t be. And don’t worry about what people might think. They’ll almost certainly think you’re awesome. And tell your friends about it and get them to do it too. That makes it more fun.

Evaluating Service Design : Service design thinks #1

One of the things I did in my blogging break was to have the significant honour of kicking off the Service Design Thinks discussion series as put together by Nick Marsh, Lauren Tan and Jaimes Nel. I discussed the very glamorous and necessary issue of  evaluating service design processes, and then promptly ran off to catch a sleeper train to the Isle of Eigg. (Will update you on that one later!)

You can see the talk here:

Alice Casey – How was it for you?

Techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of user engagement

The four key points I made could really apply to any user-centred public service development that you might be thinking about:

  1. It’s never too soon to think about evaluation; (it helps you plan your end goals and the best ways to know when you’ve reached them)
  2. Involve people in the evaluation process; (user voice is authentic and powerful, it helps you to define success from different points of view)
  3. Appreciate the policy context; (try and understand how to measure success from a ‘national targets’ point of view then don’t ‘just do a survey’)
  4. Tell a compelling story, (its all about mixing qualitative numbercrunching and quantitative storytelling to make a powerful and persuasive evaluation)

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”


Iran Election : London Protest : Social Media

Iran Vote Campaign Waterloo Bridge London

I just met this group of young Iranians and supporters on Waterloo Bridge. They’re campaigning on the recent Iranian voting scandal and will be protesting in London outside the Iranian embassy this Saturday as part of the http://www.whereismyvote.org/ global day of action on July 25th from 1-4pm.

“The Global Day of Action is not affiliated with any partisan political agenda and is aimed at securing the internationally recognized rights of the Iranian people”

Interesting to see local groups getting active and handing out flyers in such a positive and friendly way, I think it really works well. I’d say that I’m far more likely to go along to something if asked in person rather than tweeted at, emailed or facebook-messaged. Social media is great, but sometimes having a chat is what’s really the motivator.

As it is, I’m off on holiday from tomorrow so can’t be there, so went to the website to find out more about what I could do online instead. Joining a Facebook group is not as good as turning up by any means, but its a way of showing support and keeping in touch with the cause, and other opportunities to act in real life. 

Aha! So that might be what social media is for….?

—- Newsflash! —-In ‘Other Inspiring Iranians I’ve met on Waterloo Bridge’, see my Ahmad Foroughi post from the time of the Obama Election – an awesome photo, and a sweet piece of social history!