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 : measuring the impact of news

A couple of weekends ago the glorious Mozfest happened in Ravensbourne college right next to the  02 dome in London. If you haven’t been before you should, (to Mozfest I mean). You’ll find awesome people and atmosphere, something tech related for everyone to get involved in from all the makers activities to the open badges work, and an array of surprisingly nice crustless sandwiches. All well and good I hear you say – but what hsa this to do with news? Well, the Mozfest folks look at journalism as one of their areas for development – and this is my personal area of interest – I beelined it up to the top floor to find out more.

Why is measuring impact of news so important?

We could answer this in a number of different ways. In a way, at the heart of it this is about power and learning. If you control media (or you control your own consumption of media) then in a way you reduce diversity of opinion and stories you are exposed to ; and you could argue that reduced exposure to alternative viewpoints therefore reduces learning and collective understanding. We now use so few sources, increasingly so few websites to get our news -in effect tailoring our own customised ‘agreement’ channels to view our online world. We can easily create our own lens to view the world, one which provides little challenge to our own views and assumptions about the world. Its easy and perhaps more comfortable to live in a news echo chamber, or perhaps to block out the ‘news’ from our online experiences completely. When in theory there is more content available then ever this poses a big challenge particularly to campaigning journalists bloggers and citizen reporters. Aspirations are including but not limited to the following:
1. How to be read by a lot of people (understandably where a lot of focus goes but possibly as important I think are the following three…)

2. How to be read by diverse groups whose opinions you want to shift

3. How to be read and responded to by decision makers who can affect change

4. How to inspire direct action-taking by readers.

The journalism fellowship folk from Knight Mozilla there were working on many related questions, one of which was around what ‘impact’ actually looks like and how we go about helping many diverse and often under resourced journalists operating in widely ranging circumstances to define and to measure impact.

We started with a pyramid sketch on the day:

pyramid news impact

with the intention of giving a hierarchical value to measurable indicators. Pyramids are unhelpful in the long run but can be a good place to start visualising value and frequency as they tend to expose what doesn’t really work in a hierarchical approach – you read more thoughts on it here from Jessica Soberman – noting that as ever the reality is more complex. The challenge is to know to know which combination of variables are important/valuable, at which frequency under which circumstances- so, after our initial pyramids were created I went back to drawing board after meeting and tried boiling down to this crude set of first level definitions that can be combined and drilled into to suit multiple purposes.

Mozfest measuring news

Mozfest measuring news

Where to go from here? We need to add some more specific, measurable indicators and ways of easily tracking them in a dashboard to assign value or weight to the article and try and help journalists target their work more effectively.

I am going to try writing those up next so if you have any thoughts please drop me a note or add a comment below.

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. )

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.

Apps4Good : Mobile apps for social good

I heard about the work that CDI Europe (Centre for Digital Inclusion), have been doing with their AppsforGood project and was v.excited to go along to the launch event a couple of months ago.

It was great to see groups of young people being supported to create their own mobile apps to create a range of useful and hopefully sustainable services, and at the same time gaining skills and confidence to talk about technology and entrepeneurship.

My personal favourite was ‘stop and search’ an app for young people to use and give feedback on stop and search actions carried out by the police.

Check all of the ideas out for yourself.

Read about it in the Times Online.

Catalyst Awards : And the winner is…

Catalyst Awards

Catalyst Awards

 

Am just back from the rather brilliant Catalyst Awards  – designed to encourage innovation around social technology for community benefit. There were some really fantastic projects nominated as finalists including:

 

 Rafi.ki  a global citizenship project which partners schools across the world, facilitating connections through the wonder of social tech.

LocalEyes, which provides a platform for citizen voice from a grass roots level up, and aims to connect people at a very local level. (And which was commended for future potential.)

BigArtMob which simply uses interactive mapping to build up a map of public art across the UK

 Yoosk! – an innovative question answering facility which connects public figures with citizens

EnabledbyDesign – an online community whose ultimate aim is to make independent living more accessible through the use of clever modern design

I just wanted to highlight these few catalyst finalists who didn’t scoop one of the main prizes as I thought they were also brilliant ideas. Check out the award winners here.

The only bad point about the morning was having to climb five floors in high heels cause the lift was being held for ‘a senior cabinet minister’ AKA the PM…. Poor plebian Casey.

However, he made up (a bit) for this great inconvenience by chipping in with a decent speech about the future of social innovation and also mentioned future work focusing on the Criminal Justice System.

It all sounds very positive etc. and am looking forward to the follow up at Chain Reaction later this year.

Cquestrate : Opensource Climate Change Solutions

Yes, Cquestrate.

No, not a typo.  Cquestrate is the new and innovative open source approach to tackling Climate Change using an idea developed by Dr George Manos and Tim Kruger

… and a very simple-sounding idea it is too:

First, you heat limestone to a very high temperature, until it breaks down into lime and carbon dioxide.

  • Then you put the lime into the sea, where it reacts with carbon dioxide dissolved in the seawater.
  • The important point is that when you put lime into seawater it absorbs almost twice as much carbon dioxide as is produced by the breaking down of the limestone in the first place.

This process then apparently has the effect of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Aha – yes. Well, I have absolutely no idea about this idea – they could actually be writing anything up on the webpage and I’d believe them so am feeling somewhat useless right now as a contributor to the development of a solution to climate change… Oh, but hang on a minute, (smirk smirk) why has nobody thought of this before – “if its that easy…”

… well, the site explanation actually then continues onward by answering the very question about to drop from my smug yet woefully uneducated lips :

One of the questions I often get asked is: if this is so simple why hasn’t it been done before? The idea has been around for a number of years. It was first suggested by Haroon Kheshgi in 1995, but it was considered uneconomic as the process uses a large amount of energy. What we are interested in doing is using stranded energy to drive the process.

Aha- well, that explains it. Its all down to stranded energy.

Well, I think it sounds like a wonderful idea – a bit of open sourcey, crowdsourcey goodness… if only I knew more about stranded energy and limestone…. hm.

Thank goodness for scientists! Please forward on this post to people who know what stranded energy is!