Tag Archives: ageingbetter

BIG plans to host an #AgeingBetter online community. Open, closed, connected …?

Here’s an update to my past posts about the Ageing Better programme, with news that the Big Lottery Fund will be providing some support for online sharing of stories and experience. It emerged from an event for partnerships in the programme. I don’t know if there was much discussion in the room, but the news sparked some sharp responses on Twitter. That’s where people are talking about the issues. Will the new space connect or not?

Building a knowledge sharing network about Ageing Better from the ground up

In my last few posts I’ve promoted the idea of more digital innovation in the Big Lottery Fund’s £82 million Ageing Better programme, and ways to share knowledge and experience both among the 15 local partners and more widely.

After tweeting about my most recent post, I was rather encouraged by this response from BIG’s Older People account:

Hall Aitken, referenced in the tweets, are the consultants providing support to the 15 partnerships, and last week ran an event for some of them to get together for the first time since receiving confirmation of funding.

Earlier Shirley Ayres**, who perhaps does more than anyone to promote the use of social media and knowledge sharing in the field of social care and well being, tweeted about the event … “huge investment of public money affecting millions should be live streamed” … but to no avail that I could see. There were quite a few tweets, and I asked if there would be a round-up and report, but didn’t get any response.

Earlier this week there were a lot of interesting tweets with the tag #wellbeingconference from Ecorys, who are also working on Ageing Better. It looked as if there could be useful cross-over.

It is, of course, very welcome that Big Lottery Fund, consultants and others tweet from events … but it isn’t a substitute for well-curated resources and more organised ways to share knowledge. Unfortunately that wasn’t planned, as far as I know, with Ageing Better  … but maybe there’s scope for a DIY approach rather than waiting for a central response. (I’ll also check with BIG whether something is now being planned).

In a January 2013, in a report for the Nominet Trust on innovation in social care, Shirley concluded with the recommendation:

There is a need to explore the potential for developing a Community Wellbeing and Social Technology Innovation Hub which brings together all the organisations funding, researching and promoting digital technology innovations and pilots across the wider care sector. This could be an independent organisation or a new remit that falls to an existing one, however it could also be developed ‘from the ground up’ in a way that takes advantage of the very technology that it reports on. By supporting practitioners, researchers, funders and policy makers to share resources in ways that makes them highly discoverable, we could begin, now, to create this useful hub of knowledge. We could start simply by aggregating links using a shared twitter hashtag or social book-marking site (such as www.diigo.com); or we could look to bring together the available open source software (such as that which www.educationeye.org.uk is built upon) to bring together, catalogue and share this information as it is published. Either way (or indeed using a mixture of both), we need to create a better shared understanding of innovations in this sector.

The new Ageing Better programme makes Shirley’s recommendation even more relevant. I like the suggestion of a bottom-up approach rather than a new platform. It chimes with my thinking about social ecosystems, outlined in this paper. There I suggested a similar approach, with more emphasis on network mapping, plus some workshops:

  • Identify some key people active online who are interested in the topic
  • Invite those people to nominate others that they think would help share knowledge in the field. From this it will be possible to draw a first map of the ecosystem.
  • Outline the idea of building a social ecosystem – as a simpler version of this paper – including the different elements: mapping, resource gathering, ideas generation, workshops, online activity etc. Invite commenting and participation – aim to find some champions.
  • Produce a set of provocations to help focus the challenge
  • Look for opportunities to run workshops – and develop a DIY kit for running workshops. This would include a framework for workshop content, as above: people, organisations, activity, methods etc, and also for reporting the workshops.
  • From the network, identify content curators and bloggers who will act as social reporters to help make sense of content, and share.
  • At one or more points in this process, invite the emerging champions to face-to-face events to work out a vision of what we are trying to achieve, and who does what.
  • Look for opportunities along the way: will someone fund continuing socialreporting/facilitation; another organisation convene events; existing interests in the field pick up different elements of the work.

There’s more in the paper about how this ties into the work that Drew Mackie and I are doing on a Living Lab. There I write:

I’m using the term social ecosystem – or ecology – here as shorthand for the connected cloud of people and organisations, networks, content and tools that may be involved in sharing knowledge around a situation or topic, using a range of different media.

The Living Lab is an evolving programme of workshops and online social reporting activities, led by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie,  to explore how to use digital and other media in different settings – or ecosystems. In practice we often use a fictitious town called Slipham as the setting for the Lab, and then use insights to work “for real” on various projects.

The key elements in an ecosystem – which we simulate in Slipham – include:

  • The people with different interests, motivations, experience, and disposition and skills. Some will have a wide network of relationships, some less; some will share ideas openly, others not.
  • Organisations that may or may not have a culture of sharing, good or poor internal communications, hierarchical or networked structures.
  • Networks that define the relationships between people and organisations
  • Content in different formats and media: ranging from books and essays to blog posts and tweets; highly structured or snippets; formal or informal.
  • Types of exchange: conversational or formal; stories or documents.
  • Platforms for sharing: big public systems like Google, Facebook and Twitter that provide the platform for much exchange; closed systems within organisations; self-hosted systems.
  • Tools: social media and other tools that allow us to share content on platforms as well as face-to-face conversations, phone calls, paper-based communications, radio, TV.

I’ll check out with a few people in the field – including Shirley – whether it is worth putting some effort into this approach. For a start I think we could achieve a lot with some simple network mapping, assisted by my colleague Drew Mackie, agreement on hashtags, and some simple curation of content.

** Here’s a round-up of some of Shirley’s workTwitter accountand blog.

 

 

 

Why BIG’s #ageingbetter programme needs added digital innovation

A recent study prompted the headline that loneliness is causing as many deaths among the elderly as cancer, and another that loneliness is more deadly than obesity – so it is clearly important to explore and share ways to tackle the issue as rapidly as possible.

That’s why I hope Big Lottery Fund’s £82 million investment addressing social isolation and well-being among older people will make a substantial difference as soon as possible.

BIG is supporting 15 partnerships over five years in its Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme, and as I wrote the other day I think there’s a lot of scope to extend the impact. Another 15 partnerships were shortlisted, but didn’t get funding, while scores more expressed interest.

This piece isn’t to argue for more funding – but rather to start an exploration into the potential role of digital technology on two fronts. First in developing innovative approaches to services, and the ways people can use technology themselves to develop relationships. Second, in enabling sharing of experience among the partnerships, pioneers in the field, and others.

On the first point – innovative approaches to services – we gained some insights into the potential from a workshop Drew Mackie and I ran recently, and reported here, using a fictitious scenario. But what’s happening for real? The 15 partnerships are currently turning the vision statements that won them a place in the programme into detailed plans that will, hopefully, confirm full funding from next April.

The vision statements were prepared as part of a competitive process, which is now over. Could the partnerships now publish summaries of the statements? That would provide a first base for an exchange of ideas between partnerships and more widely.

At the moment it is difficult to find out who is doing what. There’s no central information point, so I did a lot of searching and came up with a list of links, which is here. It’s early days, so perhaps unreasonable to expect a lot of dedicated web sites (though Bristol has a good one, including meeting papers).

However, I do think it is easy to see that many lead organisations in the partnerships have a rather limited online presence … perhaps reflecting the general situation among voluntary organisations in this field. They are hard-pressed, the proportion of older people online is lowish, so it probably isn’t seen as a priority in normal circumstances.

Shouldn’t that change with this programme?

Which brings me to sharing experience. I don’t think that the specification for the support programme to partnerships – now being provided by Hall Aitken and Ecorys – emphasised the need for contemporaneous knowledge sharing. There are events, but these are infrequent and I believe limited to the 15.

At this point I should repeat a declaration of interest made in earlier posts. I did some preparatory work on asset mapping in the programme, and saw how meticulously the bidding and support have been organised. I’m just focusing here on what I see as missing elements: digital innovation, knowledge sharing, and generally more openness. Things may have moved on internally since I was involved, and if so I’ll update. My current interest is to see whether a social reporter – with others – can help make a difference. There’s already some discussion of these issues on Twitter, which I’ll connect to in later posts.

In its press release, BIG says “partnerships in the fifteen areas will test what methods work and what don’t, so that evidence is available to influence services that help reduce isolation for older people in the future”.

The release adds:

Throughout the Ageing Better investment, evidence will be produced to show the social and economic impact of a range of approaches. Ecorys, working with the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies at Brunel University and Bryson Purdon Social research, will measure the impact of the funding and share successes and lessons learnt so projects deliver sustainable improvements.

While that process is obviously important, evidence won’t be available for some time – and may not be entirely relevant for organisations outside the 15. They’ll be developing activities without the benefit of BIG funding. What seems to me important is to include sharing of what might be termed austerity innovation. As I wrote here, there’s going to be less funding in future.

What’s needed, I would suggest, is support for partnership organisations to increase their digital capabilities, and encouragement to share. Then to join this activity up with the many people  already active online in this field. We curated a lot of resources and contacts in this exploration for the Nominet Trust, into using digital technology for better later life. See in particular work by Shirley Ayres.

I’ve written a first draft here of a paper outlining how it might be possible to develop a social ecology to facilitate sharing, based on the principles we have been evolving in our Living Lab work. I’ll follow up on first steps in a further post.

 

 

 

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.

How BIG could digitally amplify the impact of its £82 million investment tackling social isolation

The Big Lottery Fund’s investment of £82 million in 15 partnerships, that are working to reduce social isolation, could spark innovation and benefits beyond the 200,000 older people immediately involved in the programme. However, to achieve that I think the programme deserves more attention than it is getting, and the addition of an innovative approach to promote storytelling and learning.

The programme was announced earlier this year, as a joint initiative with the Daily Mail, and a couple of weeks ago BIG confirmed which partnerships would be funded from the 30 shortlisted. Originally a much longer list of areas expressed interest, so it has been a highly competitive process. As BIG says in its release:

Currently, there are 10.8 million people aged 65 or over in the UK and this is expected to rise to 16 million over the next 20 years. Of those 10.8 million, 3.8 million live alone, and one million say they are always, or often feel, lonely. 17 per cent of older people have less than weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours.

More people are now at risk of becoming isolated as the population of older people grows, lacking contact with family or friends, community involvement or access to services. The Big Lottery Fund aims to encourage changes and improvements so older people are happier, healthier and more active, contributing even more to their communities.

That’s a major social issue, and as BIG says “partnerships in the fifteen areas will test what methods work and what don’t, so that evidence is available to influence services that help reduce isolation for older people in the future”.

The release adds:

Throughout the Ageing Better investment, evidence will be produced to show the social and economic impact of a range of approaches. Ecorys, working with the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies at Brunel University and Bryson Purdon Social research, will measure the impact of the funding and share successes and lessons learnt so projects deliver sustainable improvements.

Before going on I should declare a slight interest, because I’ve been marginally involved through sub-contract work in planning how asset and social network mapping may be used by partnerships to underpin the community engagement and asset based approach advocated by BIG, and summarised by BIG England chair Nat Sloane:

There are concerns about a ticking timebomb facing adult social care, but older people have a wealth of experience and skills to offer their communities. We need to tap into this – to help them help themselves and others living alone. Our Ageing Better investment will put them at the heart of the way the projects are designed and delivered to ensure that future generations of older people not only live longer but also live well.

There’s lots happening in the partnership areas already, with many excellent ideas hinted at in the information so far released. That makes me feel there is plenty of scope to share stories day-to-day about local projects over the next five years of the programme, as well as undertaking the structured assessment planned by Ecorys.

All partnerships are expected to put older people at the heart of their programme, both in guiding projects and acting as volunteers, and that provides a lot of opportunities for community and social reporting – which is, of course, one of my interests. However in this instance I would advocate that partnerships work with local social media enthusiasts to develop the necessary skills, and with people like my friend John Popham, whose blog details his work on digital storytelling and what others are doing in the field. I could list a dozen other people – like Shirley Ayres – who blend professional work with a personal commitment to sharing learning about social innovation using digital technology. I expect to meet quite a few at the Futuregov Expect Better event this week.  Perhaps nationally Globalnet21 could help with some of their excellent webinars and events, as well, of course as organisations like Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness.

The announcement of winners on September 8 received no significant coverage that I spotted – apart from making the lead in Tony Watts new Later Life Agenda newsletter. Tony’s OBE for voluntary work in the field is well deserved. Nothing in the Mail, and as far as I could see, little local coverage (I’m wrong on that – see update below). Nothing about the vision statements setting out the programmes in each area, that will now be developed into plans by the end of the year, and hopefully funded from next April.

I think BIG deserves more credit for the meticulous way in which the programme has been developed – and the partnerships for their innovative proposals. Even more I think it is essential that there is some way for people involved in the programmes to tell the stories of what is being achieved – and the challenges they face – to maintain their enthusiasm and inspire others around the country, beyond the 15 partnerships.

However, I wonder whether there may be a problem here for funders like BIG. They know the power of digital storytelling, use social media themselves, and increasingly fund projects enabling people to tell their own stories. They can issue press releases, and put out competitive contracts to promote programmes, and hook up with big media. All important – but not on their own enough to help foster the social ecoystem that releases the energy of local partnerships and people (who may not yet have the skills for storytelling) and also uses the amplifying capacity of people like John, Shirley, and Tony (to name a few … multiply that by scores).

What’s needed is the national equivalent of the local approach being promoted by BIG: look at the existing communication assets and networks in the field – and not just the big organisations but the freelances and volunteers. Set out some comms objectives, and invite people to pitch ways and means to achieve them by training, support, content creating, publishing to a range of media. Bring people together to build the human networks that will create five years of buzz in the virtual ecosystem. A modest investment in facilitation would yields much higher returns on the £82 million.

My suggestion would be to start this as soon as possible, so that partnerships can move from their competitive and secretive mode – imposed until now – into a more open and cooperative culture that will produce some cross fertilisation of ideas in plans now being prepared.

That would also help carry partner organisations and volunteers through the flat spot between January and April when full funding is confirmed, based on December submissions.

The obvious question is “how much would this animation cost” – but I don’t think it is the first thing to ask. That should be the same as the one partnerships are addressing locally: “how do we find out who is already doing good stuff in this field, and what would it take to encourage and support them to do more”.

Disclaimer: these are personal ideas, and do not reflect those of others I have talked to in the programme or elsewhere. I’ve drawn on inspiration from similar explorations I’ve worked on, including one with John for BIG on People Powered Change.

Update: I clearly wasn’t watching my Twitter feed as closely as I should in the week of September 8, when Hall Aitken – who are supporting partnerships – did great work in tweeting local coverage of the awards as it emerged. But there doesn’t seem to be any one place to find out details: the main Big Lottery Fund page about the programme has a latest news link, but it goes to a piece about Middlebrough, not the press release.

Further update: link now fixed, to the press release. There’s a list of the partnerships with funding. The Old People Twitter account @BiglfOlderPeop provides updates.

There’s now a Storify of the Twitter responses to the announcement.