Access Dorset TV (ADTV) is developing a virtual high street where a team of citizen journalists will help disabled people, older people and carers share opinions share opinions and experiences, provide each other with support, and also review products and services.
I’m mentoring the first group of projects at Our Digital Community, a new programme helping social and community enterprises to use digital technologies. My role is to help with stakeholder engagement, about which more later.
All the projects are really interesting - as you can see here – in either developing a new digital product or service, or adding digital to their existing activities.
The challenge that the ADTV project is addressing, explained here by Jonathan Waddington-Jones, is that the day-to-day lives of one in five people in Dorset are limited by disability. That’s some 70,000 people – with a similar proportion in the population elsewhere.
While there are a wide range of support services – some already provided by Access Dorset and partners - more could be achieved if people had better ways to explain the challenges they face, help each other, and promote useful products and service. Much of that can be done online.
ADTV is moving the concept of an online support community further forward by recruiting volunteers from within their membership to act as citizen journalists, with training from Bournemouth University. They will create short films for the ADTV site, and also help with blogs, polls and reviews.
Whether it is called citizen journalism or social reporting, I think that this intermediary multi-media role is potentially important in any online community or network. The ADTV project should help us understand the range of skills and tools needed to serve a diverse community with different levels of online access and literacy, and connect with agencies and suppliers.
At present the Our Digital Community projects are developing pitches to potential sponsors and funders, supported by programme leader Marc De’ath and mentors Simon Bottrell, Christian Alhert and Peter Brownell.
ADTV has a prototype system, with early funding from the Office for Disability Issues, and is now looking for a partner to help develop user stories, test the value of the approach, and document outcomes. This will lead to a functional tech specification and more detailed development programme.
My focus with the ODC programme has been on how projects can best inform, consult or co-design with a range of different interests. To help with that Drew Mackie and I have developed a simple game with a deck of cards containing ideas for engagement methods. I’ll post the cards and instructions when we have made a few revisions.
I’ve been enormously impressed with the vision of Marc and ODC co-founder Annemarie Naylor since I first met them a few months ago, and more recently with the input from other mentors. The biggest buzz is from engaging with such a diverse range of inspiring projects.
The main lesson from me is that designing stakeholder engagement for an enterprise – rather than, say, a public agency – sharpens the nature of the offer. You have to think not just about your vision of doing some good, but what real benefit you are offering to someone in inviting them to respond with feedback, ideas or creative input. It’s the old principle of what’s-in-it-for-them not just for-me.
With that in mind, ADTV research suggest that they can offer business sponsors some potentially good returns if they position themselves in one of the zones in the virtual high street.
Currently disabled people have a spending power of £80 billion nationally, (£6300 per head). Applied to the County of Dorset, it would indicate that the spending power in Dorset is £945M.
If ADTV can demonstrate that their virtual high street offers benefits to users and suppliers – and also potential savings to support services – it could scale and replicate nationally.