Category Archives: games

Using digital technology and asset mapping to tackle social isolation – without special funding

I’m sure that the 15 partnerships supported under the Big Lottery Fund’s £82 million programme to tackle social isolation, which I wrote about earlier, will produce excellent projects over the next five years – but how about the other areas that pitched but did not get funding?

And what sort of projects may be developed in future when public sector funding will be even tighter than it is today, as the retiring head of the home civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake pointed out the other day?

Drew Mackie and I used the opportunity of a seminar about social media, community and local local government, run by LGIU and Globalnet21, to explore that recently. Thanks to Francis Sealey of GN21 for the opportunity. Do take a look at the other GN21 excellent events and webinars.

We used the setting of our fictitious town of Slipham, recently the subject of a workshop in Southwark on how to develop digital participation programmes in the face of austerity. Here’s the challenge our 20 workshop participants faced:

In Slipham a partnership of local organisations recently failed in its funding bid for a five-year programme supported by the Big Lottery Fund to combat social isolation among older people in the town.

However, the Slipham partnership has decided to turn the rejection into an opportunity, and develop an “austerity innovation” programme that focuses on local assets and global knowledge rather than external funding. To do this the partnership will:

  • broaden the scope of the programme to cover anyone challenged by loneliness, or aiming to enjoy living alone.
  • research and map local resources and networks that can provide ideas, support, activities or funding – and build relationships to make the most of these.
  • help people and organisations use digital technology and innovative approaches to meet their needs and interests.

The partnership is running co-design workshop sessions in which they will develop their new innovative programme to address the broad challenge:

How can we help Slipham people and organisations use technology to help tackle loneliness and/or support living alone.

You can see a full report of the workshop here, with downloads of materials. The format was similar in part to the Southwark workshop: we started with some Slipham characters and organisations, and discussed in groups which project themes might be appropriate to address their needs and aspirations. For example:

  • Help people use full capability of smartphones and tablets to connect
  • Make tech learning sessions social events
  • Build the capacity of community groups to use tech
  • Develop a network of volunteer digital champions
  • Recruit social reporters to amplify and connect face to face events
  • Support community sharing of services online

Slipham characters The groups developed project briefs, and then exchanged these. At this point we introduced another dimension – a social network map of Slipham. The map showed the original partnership organisations, and also more than a dozen others. As well as the map we produced a table showing the assets each organisation held – premises, skills, equipment, membership, funding.


We asked participants to review the map and assets held by organisations, and consider what new connections would be helpful in developing projects. We also offered a set of method cards that provided ideas on how to both build the network and develop projects.

The idea of introducing the network map was to simulate the process of asset and network mapping that may be undertaken by partnerships to underpin asset based community development. I think the session was useful in providing a framework for conversation around these points:

  • any plans to use technology should start with people who may benefit – as we explored with Age UK London earlier this year
  • in any area there are far more skills and other resources than evident until you start to research them
  • bringing the assets into use with any new projects will involve building new relationships

I hope that we may be able to run a similar workshop “for real” with some of the partnerships or other organisations exploring how digital technology can be used to help tackle social isolation, and support programmes for well-being.

The Campaign to End Loneliness ran what looked to be an excellent event in July –  Technology: will it ever be a ‘fix’ for loneliness? As well as producing an extremely useful report and video, they provided these summary points:

  • Treat technology as a useful tool that should be used alongside a range of other things to combat loneliness: non-virtual relationships are still vital
  • Remember that older people want from technology is what we all want: our interests and needs do not just change overnight when we turn 65
  • Recognise that people aged over 65 are as just thirsty for new technology as you are, but some confidence building might be needed at first
  • Try to focus on the benefits of a technology if introducing it for the first time: don’t describe the service, describe the outcome that it will bring
  • We need more funding to make kit and training cheaper (and therefore less of a barrier) but we can start to talk and do more to raise the value of technology at the same time

I used some of the insights from that work, as well as the exploration we did for Nominet Trust into digital technology in later life, to inform our workshop design. The Campaign to End Loneliness workshop provided some examples of specific technologies that could be used in projects, and these and other ideas could form the basis for planning development “for real”.

Declaration: the winning partnerships are being supported by Hall Aitken, and I made some early contribution to their work on asset and network mapping. Ideas here are my own.  Follow @HallAitken for updates on the programme.

Playing through council plans for digital participation in the face of cuts

Summary: How we used a cast of fictitious characters and organisations to help a London borough plan its digital participation strategy in the face of austerity cuts.

Over the past few years Drew Mackie and I have used fictitious characters and organisations as the basis for our workshop games, with successful explorations of how digital tech can be used by community enablers, nonprofit consultants, older people and other groups. Recently we’ve coalesced these into Slipham, a place with all the social and civic challenges that we hope digital tech might help address.

We are using Slipham as the testbed for our Living Lab explorations into how to combine a number of techniques, including network mapping and storytelling as well as games. Recently we were delighted to help Southwark council design a seminar for officers, members and local organisations on digital participation. As part of that we created a new and not-unrealistic scenario:

The London borough of Slipham faces major cuts, and the council, community and voluntary sectors have decided to form a partnership to explore how greater digital participation could help everyone in tough times. Top priorities, themes and ideas emerging so far include:

  • increasing people’s chances of getting a job or training through great tech skills and confidence
  • supporting activities for health and wellbeing, including combatting isolation and loneliness
  • reducing costs of running services through greater use of online channels
  • increasing effectiveness of groups and organisations through tech-supported productivity
  • improving collaboration and partnership working across council and other sectors
  • cutting time on meetings through greater use of audio, video, and online methods
  • using online methods to give a voice to the most vulnerable
  • developing online fundraising to help groups facing cuts

To do this a core group of Slipham digital champions are staging a creative planning session that includes some external advisers. They are looking at the assets in Slipham that could be better used, and networks that could be further developed. They are also researching innovations elsewhere.

Some 60 people spent two hours working on the challenge in groups.

  • First they selected some characters from the persona cards we had created (enlivened by Drew’s cartoons), chose a theme to address and some organisations that might collaborate, and created a brief for a possible project.
  • Then the groups exchanged briefs, and used cards with suggested activities and methods to create a project plan. That provided inspiration for possible projects that the people in the workshop could develop “for real”.

You’ll find a full report of the workshop here. In planning the workshop we used the card-based organising system Trello, and afterwards I loaded up all the workshop materials.

Trello is a terrific, free system for organising anything. Imagine a virtual wall of Post-it notes – but with scope to add images, links, checklists, discussions on the back. You can keep boards personal and private, make them public, or use in a team. Here’s a few bookmarks about using Trello.

I’m exploring two further developments with Trello:

  • how we might create cards on Trello and print them off for use in workshops. Currently we do that in Pages.
  • whether we could use Trello for a simple online solitaire version of the game

If you are interested in a game session, and/or further development, do get in touch.

Huge thanks to Kevin Dykes, Cara Pottinger and Southwark colleagues for the opportunity to run the game, and joining so enthusiastically in designing and helping run the session. We’ll be staying in touch as workshop participants and others develop projects triggered by the session, and other work Southwark is doing.

Previously:

 

 

 

How our workshop game confirmed all digital adoption is personal

This week some 50 people joined us in exploring how older people, or indeed anyone, might be encouraged to engage with digital technology and the Internet – without a screen in sight. Instead we used bits of card, flip charts and a lot of animated conversation. The aim was to start conversations around the research we carried out for Nominet Trust last year into technology in later life, and hopefully spark ideas for ways forward.

Drew Mackie and I ran the workshop, that I wrote about earlier, as part of the launch event for the Wealth of the Web report from Positive Ageing in London (PAIL) and Age UK London. I think people enjoyed themselves, and we gained some useful human insights to add to those in the broader scoping report written by Ben Donovan.

The challenge for the session was how to offer people online opportunities, digital devices and support when everyone’s interests are different. The Government wants more people online for their own benefit, and to digitise public services, but one size doesn’t fit all.

So Drew used his iPad mini to create some wonderful cartoons of Alice, Jenny, Faisal, Eunice, Sam and other characters who we introduced to groups in our workshop. Their first task was to fill out our starter description of their character, identify the main life challenges and opportunities that they faced.

 

Above: Jenny’s initial character card, and the expanded description from the group

We then offered the groups a deck of 18 cards with some online activities that might help. Each of the cards had a brief description of a possible activity, and then on the back we gave two or three examples of web sites or tablet apps that could be useful.

Some of the cards we offered to groups. You can see all of them here.

We asked the groups to describe what devices their character used at present, what key challenges and opportunities they faced, and to choose three or four of the cards. After that we asked how the life of their character might be changed if they adopted the ideas on the cards, and then to consider which device might be most appropriate – desktop or laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, smart TV or games console – and what sort of support might be useful. Would they, for example, benefit from access and training at the local library or online centre, if that were available, or get the help and encouragement they needed from friends and family?

Groups identified challenges and opportunities, possible online activities, and then described the difference they might make.

The aim of the workshop sequence was to emphasis that technology is not the best place to start. First consider the individual, their attitudes, interests and skills – and then what online activities might be beneficial. At that point you can look at the range of web sites, apps and other options available, what devices and support might be appropriate. We did all of that in an hour and a quarter. Your can find the workshop materials that we used, and the flip charts generated, here. We’ll have a transcript, and more detailed instructions, later. Update: transcriptions here, thanks to Age UK London admin volunteers

The discussion brought home to me several key points:

  • People may be fearful, with some justification, of the risk of going online. Can you trust sites with personal information? Guidance and support on that is essential.
  • The process and costs of getting personal access are confusing. It is difficult to compare different home broadband and mobile broadband offerings, and  monitor usage.
  • Even those with computer skills may find upgrading to a new machine problematic, because much will have changed.
  • Tablets like the iPad and Tesco Hudl are increasingly attractive because they are more intuitive to use, and the apps provide a quick route into useful activities.
  • Organisations offering access and support may find it difficult to keep up with the move to tablets. Help is just as likely to come to come from friends and family.
  • At the same time, libraries and centres are enormously important for social learning and support.
  • “Techy tea parties” run by Age UK London with corporate sponsors, and their Micommunity intergenerational learning programme have been very successful.

Overall I believe that the key message was that all digital adoption is personal. Whatever the broad policies and programmes in place, everyone is different. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s not just a choice between laptop or tablet, smartphone or smart TV. It’s about what apps may be useful, and how to move from one to the other. It’s about how to develop the digital literacies to live in an increasingly technology-dominated world.

Drew and I are really grateful to PAIL and Age UK London for the opportunity to try out the game, and to everyone who took part.  The game is part of a proposal to Nominet Trust for a Living Lab of games and online resources for the Life Transitions challenge. I’ll be writing more later about that, and other possibilities for taking forward the momentum we achieved at the workshop. If you are interested in applying the game to your work, do get in touch.

Meanwhile TalkLondon, the discussion forum for the Greater London Authority, have an item on the event which we’ll be expanding. Any comments welcome below too.

Update

A social reporting game for community builders

Recently Drew Mackie and I ran a training workshop about social reporting with community builders at Forever Manchester, as I trailed here. In practice it was more of an exchange of ideas, insights and triggers for further exploration … which is how we hoped it would turn out. We learned a lot.

I won’t attempt a detailed description, but want to share some of the materials we used, partly because they relate to a further exploration I’ll write about in my next post. I also want to mention a couple of interesting developments we’ve seen since the workshop.

Briefly, we gave a presentation about how we saw social reporting supporting community building, with a strong focus on mapping and building networks. Slides here.

Social reporting workshop

Then we played a new variation of the Social by Social game. We invented a fictitious place to give us a context, based on Slapham, which we have used in another game.  We developed some challenges, reflected on how community builders might address them, and then used a set of cards to consider what tools might be relevant.

Social reporting game cards

I need to have a proper catch-up with Gary Loftus and the rest of the team in Manchester. However, at least two of the tools are in use. Gary Stanyard tweeted how he and the team are using the YeD network mapping software, also used by Drew, to draw both social and ideas connections. They are now avidly sharing ideas for development.

The community noticeboard n0tice.com is now in use in Great Lever.

We didn’t really know at the end of the workshop where our initial exploration would lead. Just what approaches and tools may be useful depend very much of local circumstances, and the particularly skills, equipment and disposition of the community builder. I’ve absolutely no doubt that the Manchester team will find lots of innovative applications – because of they bring such diverse experience, skills plus much enthusiasm to the work, and have great support from their organisation. They have started a blog here.

The day in Manchester was one the recent events that convinced me it is worth starting a more detailed exploration of community building, organising, enabling … networks … and how digital technology may help. That’s in the next post. Meanwhile, do drop a comment or get in touch if you are interested in a workshop.

 

A game to realise community assets

Since running a workshop game on Saving Slapham community spaces at the Community Matters conference, Drew Mackie and I have been working with staff there on a more sophisticated version about business planning and community assets.

The narrow focus is on how an organisation or social enterprise can continue to develop services and activities in the face of cuts in grants. We have built on an earlier business planning game to create a set of props that include:

  • The fictitious scenario of the town of Slapham, with its various groups and agencies
  • Profiles for different organisations, including their current activities, staff and legal structure
  • Ideas for business activities they take on to generate revenue
  • Cards indicating risks and opportunities that may crop up along the way


The game is designed so that it can be played “for real’ by substituting data from actual organisations, and there is scope for using a spreadsheet linked to more detailed business planning.

The wider and in many ways more interesting scope lies in using the game – as we did at the conference – in prompting groups to think how they can work collaboratively with others in the town to share accommodation and other resources. This is highly relevant at a time when Big Lottery Fund and others are promoting asset based community development: here’s how it is working in Thornton Heath for example.

We are still developing the game materials for a test run next week, and I’ll have more after that.

Meanwhile, I mentioned the game to Gavin Barker, who had blogged enthusiastically about the conference version, and who I knew does a lot on mapping community assets.

Gavin has now added his own ideas in a blog post here on how geographical mapping could be added to the game … or rather to a further development of the game, since the Community Matters version has a tight brief.

As we were sharing blog drafts and emails around this, I spotted the first newsletter from Spacehive, which is an online platform that enables local groups to pitch their projects for funding. This can certainly be one of the business development ideas to include as options for organisations in the game … but could perhaps play a bigger part in promoting collaborations.

Drew reckons that we need some social network mapping in there too, since collaboration depends very much on the building of trust and relationships. Seeing who know who, and who holds what resources, is an important starting point.

Overall we are getting to the point where we can see the Slapham scenario and props as the basis for a virtual lab to test out different sorts of games. We are also working on an upgrade of the social media game.

The orginal conference session developed because Community Matters kindly asked if I would keynote at the conference … to which I said I would much rather run a workshop. In the event Drew did most of the work, and while some of the props were a big rough, the session was a big success because the pieces of card and maps were good enough to spark some conversations … and release the knowledge assets held by those participating. Much more useful than any presentation that I might offer.
If you are interested in the gsame, do drop a comment or get in touch here.

Playing the game of saving Slapham community spaces

The Community Matters annual conference last weekend gave Drew Mackie and I a chance to test out a new workshop game that we hope will help local groups plan take over and run community buildings – or improve the ones they have.

This is particularly challenging when councils are disposing of property in order to reduce costs, when local groups face cuts in funding – yet the demand for community services is increasing. Our workshop produced lots of conversations about the realities of people powered change. We started talking about buildings, staff, finance … and ended up focussing on community and collaboration.

There’s lots of excellent guidance and inspiring stories of groups creating very impressive spaces, both urban and rural: see for example the work of the Asset Transfer Unit, the examples at The Place Station, and the Big Lottery Fund Village SOS initiative. read more »

Presenting to myself on collaboration and social innovation

Here are some slides I developed over the Christmas holiday, not for any specific event, but just to clear my mind and provide a framework for thinking about social innovation and collaboration. I often don’t really know what I think until I write it down, and after making notes, drawing mindmaps, downloading a few iPad doodling apps, I hit on the idea of producing a presentation to myself.
(I suggest clicking view on Slideshare and then full screen because the notes are a bit small).

Towards the end of last year I was getting a bit sluggish on two fronts … what I wanted to blog about, and what sort of projects I wanted to do. And how to link the writing and doing.

I spent a lot of time last year writing about Big Society, and more recently Our Society, on this blog and also here and here. I’ve continued to do some social reporting at events, run workshop games, floated ideas like the social app store, and become increasingly convinced of the importance of developing networks blending face-to-face and online. read more »

Media coaches game a digital neighbourhood

I’m at the EuroMeduc conference in Bellaria, Italy, which is proving a great opportunity to meet a range of teachers, researchers, librarians and policy people interested in media literacy … which is helping people gain access, understand and use different media.

I’m contributing by running a couple of workshops using a version of the social media game developed earlier in the year with Ed Klute, who runs a network for media coaches around Europe. The coaches work part time in schools, libraries, and public services including police and health to help their colleagues use Internet tools and other social media. They are at the sharp end of media literacy – as Ed says, it no good having lots of policy and programmes if people in the classroom can’t deliver. First-hand support may be better than courses. read more »

Playing the Social by Social Game

socialbysocial

Full size image here

The Social by Social Game really took off at Net Tuesday this week when some 20 participants invented a south London borough, created a set of project ideas for better health, happiness and the environment, and then went on to plan how social technology could yield these social benefits. All within 90 minutes. read more »

Fun unconferencing at SHINE09

I had great fun at the SHINE09 unconference for social entrepreneurs last Friday and Saturday, first with a little light social reporting and then helping run the Social Collaboration Game, which I wrote about earlier.
The social reporting was light for me because there were far more video cameras around than last year, and much more Twittering… but I did do a few interviews including a particularly interesting one with Ben Metz, leaving Ashoka after three years as UK director. We talked about some of the issues raised at the UK Carnegie Trust seminar on civil society associations. He hopes to see the rise of mutualism.
I’ve blogged a full report of the game here, including downloads of the cards we used. Briefly, about 40 people for two hours inhabited a fictitious borough rather like East London in 2010, developing project ideas for neighbourhood renewal, mixing in some social tech from the cards ideas, and pitching to the the new Tory Minister for Civil Society (otherwise Cliff Prior CEO of Unltd) and council leader Jess Tyrrell (of conference organisers Germination).
There was a flurry of excitement on Twitter when Cliff announced a new empowerment fund developed from refunds of MP’s expenses …. but unfortunately it didn’t survive game end. Unless …