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Parkrun : Running in Parks together

4 May

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 :/

The Power of The Visible : Open up for Social change

28 Jul

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.

Groupon for public services or social good?

27 Apr

Groupon : An awesome name for an awesome idea…

First of all, it does what it says: It is a ‘coupon’ for groups. People join up to the groupon site and get sent special offers by email Eg. a half price holiday or spa visit. If a certain number of them ‘group-on’ to the offer by signing up in principle to pay for the product/service then the company will provide the product/service at a hugely discounted rate.

The Groupon concept has some great features which could be applied to a public service or social context. I thought I’d write a just a few up below for you to think about.  I was wondering if anyone had come across similar incentive schemes or group buying in the public/social sector that I should take a look at?

Peer referral

The idea that you need to get a group of people around the offer before it goes ahead means that peer referral is strongly incentivised. This enables the groupon concept to grow virally and reach deeply into friendship or interest networks.

If you applied this to public services you could reach people that public services can find it difficult to reach in order to promote take-up of training or healthcare offers.

Targeting niche markets

You could use groupon to match user groups with very specific needs with tailored/bespoke offers made up of both financial and NON financial benefits. For example, those living with long term conditions in a particular geographic area might form a group to network AND buy support services at discounted rates. Those with rare conditions who feel isolated can be matched with others to purchase discounted specialist treatments that they need AND to provide peer support.

Pipeline for ‘new social services’ 

Services like Cool2Care http://www.cool2care.co.uk/ which provide specialist carers to families with disabled children could stand to gain through being able to better understand and plan for demand for the service by creating a pipeline of demand when people sign up to take on their offer. Personal budgets could be spent on this type of care OR cautious investors could be attracted to make investment once the provider has been able to demonstrate a strong market for their service.

Just a few ideas to explore…be interested to hear your thoughts.

Hometaping : Offline and online

20 Dec

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.

What can we learn from Murray’s Friendship Graph?

20 Aug
  • Murray: Now, we’ve known each other for quite some time in the professional realm. I’d like to push things forward in the Friendship realm.
  • Conchords: What’s the Friendship realm?
  • Murray: Well, you’ve heard of a realm – yeah?
  • Conchords: Er, yes.
  • Murray: Well, this is like a friendship one; a group of people basically getting together, calling each other friends…Look at this.
  • Conchords: What’s this?
  • Murray: A friendship graph; look along here on the x axis – that represents time passing, on the y axis here, that represents the different levels of friends. Okay? We’re starting up here with friends, down to workmates, colleagues, strangers (which is pretty  much everyone I’ve noticed) …and then enemies.

 We’re pretty comfortable navigating our social relationships by classifying them more or less in the same way as Murray rather bluntly describes. Up until 5 or so years ago   it has been very easy for people to segment their ‘realms’ and to vary their behaviour according to whether we’re in the company of ‘friends, workmates, colleagues, strangers or … enemies’.

However, now social media usage has become so widespread, with 26million Facebook users in the UK , many of us are increasingly faced with the quesiton of how best to communicate consistently and with integrity across ‘the friendship graph’ and how best to draw together a fragmented online and offline identity across a wide variety of social networking platforms, including the office, the pub and your living room sofa. 

 The thing is that many people seem to be a bit confused about how to get the most out of the new networks available without compromising traditional ones.  The key to making social media work for you lies entirely in your own hands, through taking pro-active control of the online networks that you use and the way you use them:

 If you get it right, then people will be able to engage with you online in one persona that pretty much reflects the real, offline you in all your rounded and lustrous glory. If you get it wrong, as many of us do, then it could well be a case of coming over as someone with a split personality, or maybe just giving us all TMI. People don’t want to be dragged up the friendship graph by force of your ‘fab nites oot!!!’ Facebook album! As you can see from the Conchords’ efforts, you might end up jettisoning your ‘workmates’ into the ‘strangers’ realm before you know it.

 

Evaluating Service Design : Service design thinks #1

4 May

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.”


#rebootbritain : social by social and interactive charter

8 Jul

I went to the NESTA Reboot Britain conference on Monday afternoon. My top two ideas to watch were:

1) Social by Social : New book/website looking in a practical way at how social media offers opportunities for social change. Check out the link. Sponsored by NESTA and written by David Wilcox, Andy Gibson, Amy Sample Ward and Nigel Courtney and Clive Holtham of Cass Business School.

2) Interactive Charter : Tim Davies and Paul Evans were joined by Tom Watson MP and Jeremy Gould to launch a charter for developing and improving how social media is used in a government context. Again, they can explain it far better than me over at the website linked to above!

The point is that both of these ideas have something in common that is very important to me, namely – a way of looking beyond what happens online into practical ‘real world’ application and culture change. If social media is going to make a real difference to the way we operate our social and governance systems, then we need more practical projects like these to lead the way forward. Let’s move from rhetoric and discussion into more piloting and learning.

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