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

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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. )

Parkrun : Running in Parks together

Ever wanted a bit of motivation to increase the frequency of your so-called “regular” (actually annual) jog? I need all the help I can get, believe me….

In fact, my entire exercise routine is more imagined than actual; for example, this morning I have been ‘doing yoga’ which has so far consisted of rolling out my yoga mat on the living room floor and looking at it in a vigorous fashion over the edge of my teacup.

Exercising ‘to keep fit’ just isnt my motivating factor – going to the gym just doesnt do it for me. After much study and failed effort to motivate myself, I realised the following factors work for me:

1) Arranging activities with people (so I feel obliged to show up)

2) Having some mild form of competition (so I feel obliged to actually ‘do well’)

3) Very very easy to do, and nearby (so I dont make some excuse to myself and cop-out)

Park run should then be perfect- its about local people getting together with sponsors to organise weekly timed runs together. It is run by volunteers as a social enterprise and organised through an online system where you can download your own barcode and then enter a timed 5k run near you.  The barcode logs your time, and then you get an email letting you know how you did afterwards… and all for free.If there isnt already a run near you, you can work with parkrun to set one up!

Nice, simple use of online tools and offline goodwill of enthusiast networks…!

Now, I just have to get there by 9am on a Saturday :/

Mad 2012 : 7 billion people : (The worlds most inspiring photo)

Speaking to young innovators and social entrepeneurs in Hong Kong at MaD 2012 conference. A fantastic experience to meet young people with ideas and projects to change the world for the better – one step at a time! PS. Carl Sagan is awesome.

The Power of The Visible : Open up for Social change

Imagine this; a driver is stopped on a provincial road in India. They are asked to pay a ‘fine’ for some unspecified infringement of the road traffic laws. The men asking are dressed in police uniform and one seems to be carrying a weapon. They’d like the fine to be paid right now, in cash please. Much is left implied and unsaid as each party searches the other’s eyes for an understanding of the real nature of this transaction. The driver pays the ‘fine’ and is permitted to carry on travelling down the road. The driver is pissed off, but hey, this is normal – and its just the way things work round here – and what can one pissed off driver do about this stuff anyway?

Well, there is something that people can do now, they can speak out, and make these hidden transactions, the ‘bribe economy’ visible through initiatives like the India-based www.ipaidabribe.com . The site enables people affected by bribery to write about their experiences in public and to track the incidence of bribery in an open and transparent way, it aims “to tackle corruption by harnessing the collective energy of citizens.”

You can report on the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of the bribes made, and the  reports add up to provide a snapshot of bribes occurring across any given city. They make formerly covert activities visible so that individuals who are sick of corrupt practice can build a stronger case for change, together, from the ground up.

And this idea of making things visible as a form of power and a force for legitimacy of experience can be brought to other contexts. One of the most powerful online tools out there is the interactive map. Geography and place bring things to life for people, and if you are not on the map then you’re not part of the ‘visible’ geography – you are part of a hidden world with little legitimacy as a home and a place to live. This is the case for many slum dwellings.

Take the example of Kibera in Kenya – Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, was a blank spot on the map until November 2009, when young Kiberans created the first free and open digital map of their own community.

Map Kibera has now grown into a complete interactive community information project with the additon of Voice of Kibera – a portal for citizen reporting and community advocacy which has the map at its heart.

The Map of Kibera “has steadily emerged as a powerful tool for not just locating place, but also for influencing the social, political & economic spheres in Kibera and beyond.”

What else that is hidden or covert can be made visible through social media to make a real-world change? If you’re intersted in reading more check out this blog from Giulio Quaggiotto who works on Knowledge Management at UNDP Europe and CIS. There is much more that can be done through using these online tools to make a real-world difference.

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.

Goodgym: A smarter social service

You might remember me mentioning the marvellous Goodgym a while back when the project won the Social Innovation Camp weekend ideas pitching session. Yes, this is the project I almost fell into a canal for.

The concept is very simple –  it matches two differing needs in order to provide a different kind of social service.

The idea of GoodGym is to provide isolated or immobile older people with regular human contact and to provide motivation for younger, mobile people to run and get fit.   The Good Gym aims to make it easy for people to channel the energy used up as part of their exercise routine  toward a wider social good. 

I was very pleased to see that Ivo and the team were featured on BBC London News spreading the word about the project. Check out Goodgym on the telly! Excellent to see things going from strength thanks to lots of wonderful project leaders and volunteers’ time.

The project is currently piloting live throughout Tower Hamlets right now and looking for people to get involved there, as well as inviting expressions of interest from further afield.