Tag Archives: biglotteryfund

Update on Living Well in the Digital Age 2

Over the past few months I’ve been blogging at mediablends.com about my exploration, with Drew Mackie, into Living Well in the Digital Age, and been rather remiss in failing to provide an update since April – so here goes.

The most interesting recent development has been that the Centre for Ageing Better – initially slow to recognise the importance of digital technology – has now caught up, with the welcome announcement of a Digital Initiative and recruitment of a digital manager. More here

In addition, the Big Lottery Fund, which supports the Centre with a £50 million endowment, is promising to explore how digital technology could play a bigger part in the community projects that it supports. More here.

BIG has also announced £2 million of funding for a consortium to train and support hundreds of digital champions. The consortium – One Digital – is promising cooperation with others in the field. More here

We ran a workshop in July to explore how best to take our ideas forward – report here – and then things rather died during the holidays. My next step is to check in with the new digital manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, when appointed next month, and see if we can link the exploration to the Centre’s digital initiative.

Two reports promote people-led local solutions – Big Lottery Fund strategy and a Locality campaign

Two launch events today promote more local control and citizen involvement in the delivery of services and the development of community projects.

  • Locality, through its Keep it Local campaign, is pressing for more public service contracts to be let to local organisations, instead of large private sector companies. They quote research promising big savings, and well as more responsive services.
  • The chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, Dawn Austwick, has launched a strategic framework Putting People in the Lead, saying “we want to start with what people bring to the table, not what they don’t have; and from the belief that people and communities are best placed to solve their problems, take advantage of opportunities, and rise to challenges”

Locality is, in part, arguing on behalf of its 500 members, some of whom supply local services under contract and would like to do more.

However, I think there is a very valid argument more generally for local contracting, because it it will be increasingly important to make the most of local assets and relationships as public bodies face more cuts.

There’s a rather good 2012 Locality essay here by Jess Steele on new-style regneration.

New regeneration will be driven by local people as agents of neighbourhood change, connected through solidarity networks, with the state and market as enablers. It will focus on the fine grain of the lived neighbourhood, abjuring all silos and proactively weaving new fabrics of ownership and responsibility for the built and social environment. It will work within its means, finding new ways to unlock resources and capture value. It will encourage and reward the grassroots virtues of thrift, impatience and sociability.

That doesn’t work so well if a lot of the resources for local delivery are controlled centrally, and directed to standard formulae.

Locality have also been playing their part in realising local assets, and building networks, with their 5000-strong programme of community organisers that has supported around 1500 new community projects and actions over the past four years. The programme has been funded by Cabinet Office as part of the original Big Society vision. A new legacy organisation – Community Organisers Ltd, or CoCo – will launch this summer.

The Big Lottery Fund framework is admirably short, with the emphasis on some key principles and general statements about the way the Fund will work as an enabler and catalyst as well as grant-maker. Dawn Austwick writes:

We also want to be more of a catalyst and a facilitator – recognising the feedback we got about our place in the funding ecology and civil society more broadly. It’s not our job to prescribe but it can be our job to link, to share, and to encourage. To be a network, or a central nervous system that people navigate around, finding fellow travellers, being surprised and intrigued by the work of others, sharing evaluation and impact stories, and so much more.

There are three specific first steps:

Accelerating Ideas: a pilot programme providing a flexible route to funding for innovative practice that can be adopted and adapted more widely to grow its impact.

Awards for All: new test-and-learn pilots are underway to simplify our open small grants programme.

Digital Community: a new function of our website which will begin to put digital at the heart of our grant-making. The community will enable people and organisations to network, collaborate and communicate, opening the Fund up to our stakeholders.

I know that these ideas have been some time in development, from work John Popham and I did for BIG on People Powered Change back in 2011–12. I don’t know if our input made much difference, but Shawn Walsh, Linda Quinn and other staff were very responsive to the ideas we were reporting, and Linda’s blog at the time foreshadows some of today’s directions *.

As I wrote earlier BIG have already soft-launched their digital community, which you can see here in test mode.

There’s a blog post about the Strategic Framework but as yet comments are not enabled (see correction**). However, Dawn is inviting responses on Twitter @DawnJAustwick.

BIG are currently interviewing for the post of Digital Community Manager, so there may be more scope for online engagement when that post is filled.

We certainly need somewhere to discuss how things will play out locally in the face of another round of austerity, which looks likely whatever the government, and pressure on local government to save money through digital services.

More ideas later on what it may take to blend digital into people-powered local developments, and help realise Jess’s vision.

* More recent, and extensive, consultations about strategy were carried out last year: Your Voice Our Vision

**  commenting is open on the post about the strategy once you join the site. Obvious really – apologies.

Big Lottery Fund soft launches online community – and advertises an interesting job

The Big Lottery Fund has opened up an online community platform that’s been under development for some months, judging by earliest message in some of the forums, and news trailed here. The Welcome says:

You’ll be able to network with other people, learn about previous projects, get expert advice and share your knowledge.

There are online spaces for countries, programmes, projects and groups. I’ve been particularly interested – as discussed here – in a platform for knowledge exchange on BIG’s Ageing Better programme, and that’s now available here.

I haven’t spotted any formal announcement of the online community , although BIG is advertising the post of Digital Community Manager. I gather that’s a replacement, rather than new job, and the site is currently being used for some live testing.

I’m interested in the development strategy, because the usual wisdom – see Feverbee’s excellent resource – is that this should be a carefully managed process from the outset.

I hope there may be a blog post explaining the process, and inviting enthusiasts to give feedback and ideas. I think one of the challenges/opportunities will be to engage people who currently use the various BIG twitter accounts and tag streams, and connect with BIG blogging, which tells some great stories. There is some blogging here.

My hunch is that success will also depend on internal engagement, and whether BIG staff are able/encouraged to join in. That would make it an attractive way to get guidance on funding, and tap into the enormous knowledge resources that BIG holds about projects. I found some encouraging posts from funding managers.

Either way Digital Community Manager is going to be an interesting job.

I’ll hold off further comment until I’ve had a look around, and take the positive view that it is really good news BIG has created the space, and is hopefully open to input on how it develops. Hope to see others in there too.

Update: just spotted this strap line “Welcome to our online community – Test phase! Help us improve by signing up and feeding back!”

Deep conversation needed on BIG’s Ageing Better community platform. How about asking people in for a coffee?

Update at the end of this post confirming the online community is likely to be launched within a few weeks, and that it will be public and open to anyone interested. I’ll be promoting the idea of additional networking to the Age Action Alliance via their Digital Inclusion Group.

Following my Storify of tweets yesterday about the Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better online community, Paul Webster helpfully responded “a conv to watch”. But how to keep the conversation going?

Some really important issues were raised by Paul, Shirley Ayres and Alastair Somerville, following Ken Clemens picture of the announcement sheet at an Ageing Better event. Backstory in these posts.

  • Is there a general strategy for digital engagement and innovation in the £82 million programme?
  • Will the knowledge sharing platform be closed, for programme leaders only?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to connect with conversations already taking place on blogs and other social media?
  • If a new system is planned, wouldn’t a networking tool like Yammer be better?
  • Will the winning submissions from partnerships be published, so we can see what is being planned?
  • Shouldn’t the programme be setting standards for transparency, online learning and public debate?

And all that in a few messages of under 140 characters.  Far more cogent than I see in many forum-based online communities.

The issues are particularly important – as I’ve argued in more detail in this paper – because the knowledge-sharing and innovation challenges faced by the Ageing Better programme typify those of competitive,  centralised, big-spend approaches. It seems crazy to focus so much money on 15 areas (among many more who expressed interest) and then spend so little effort on helping those beyond the privileged few learn from the activity. There’s also the question of how much learning from well-funded projects will be relevant in the leaner years ahead?

The difficulty in holding a conversation about these issues is, I suspect, compounded by BIG’s role as a funder and inevitably rule-bound organisation. On the one hand anyone in receipt of BIG funding, or hoping to get some, will be wary of wading in.

On the other hand, BIG has to be seen to be scrupulously even-handed and cautious … particularly after the little difficulties about funding for projects related to Big Society. (However, I do recall that there were attempts to question, at the time, whether those investments were such a good idea … more open conversation might have helped avoid later embarrassment:-)

I should declare some further interest here, since I led a small team carrying out an exploration for BIG into directions their People Powered Change programme might take, back in 2011-12. That involved a lot open blogging, tweeting and a creative event. So I know that BIG is open to conversation within an appropriate format.

I don’t think anything so substantial is needed to get things started. Nor do I think online exchanges should be in the lead. Maybe something like a David Gurteen Knowledge Cafe? If the Treasury can host a discussion on How can we more actively share knowledge, BIG could host its own. David has even produced a tip sheet on how to run a Cafe yourself – though I know it will be best if he facilitates.

So the answer to the challenge of how to keep the conversation going could be as easy as “pop in for a chat and a cup of coffee”. And tweet it as well.

As a small contribution to the online chat I’ll also be posting shorter pieces over on this Known blog that I hope will more easily integrate posts and social media comments.

Update: just after I pressed the button to publish this post I got a tweet from BIG’s Older People team following up my earlier requests for a chat saying one of their Ageing Better managers would be in touch soon. That’s really encouraging.

Further update: the chat was very helpful in confirming that the online community will be launched within a few weeks, and that it will be open and public. I felt, from our discussion, that there was acceptance of the value of strengthening digital innovation in the programme through links with a range of interests in the field. I’m sure BIG will be make their own connections – and I said that additionally I would report to the Digital Inclusion Group of Age Action Alliance with a proposals to complement the new platform with some bottom up network building – as outlined here.

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?

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.

Building a network for People Powered Change

Over the past week the partners in Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change initiative have provided some updating posts about their work, on BIG’s blog.

This was promised as part of the evolution of PPC, which I wrote about earlier, referring there to the work I and colleagues did on the process. It was part of BIG’s exploration of how to be more than a funder, and as Linda Quinn, Director of Communications an Marketing puts it BIG is: “… developing a number of ideas which we hope will make us a more engaged, open and social organisation. I also hope it will help us support projects to share their stories, inspirations and ideas”.

On the communications front BIG is setting up an internal comms system, and experimenting with social reporting from events. In addition they are:

  • Crowdsourcing ideas in how best to map where funding goes and the impact it makes, drawing on people’s willingness to swap and share experience.
  • Providing support for projects to tell, share and learn from stories including surgeries and games.
  • Testing ideas on the use of social media with projects funded under the Silver Dreams Fund and the Jubilee People’s Millions.

The posts on the BIG blog are from Your Square MileMedia TrustUnLtdNESTA and the Young Foundation. They mainly focus on the work they are supporting on the ground, as a result of BIG funding. It is all fascinating stuff, and I hope we’ll see more, whether on the BIG blog or on their own sites.

In my mind it sparks the possibility that BIG could extend its own “sociable organisation” approach to helping create a more sociable network for People Powered Change. As part of our work with BIG, Drew Mackie did some quick network mapping at the workshop that we ran. You can see one of the resulting maps above, showing who knew who and who worked with whom.

Drew also asked what resources organisations held, and you can see those in this online map, by mousing over the nodes.

The map is just a snapshot of relationships and resources at any time, and doesn’t say anything much about the strength of relationships or collaborations that may, or not not, be evolving.

BIG is a strong supporter of the idea of Asset Based Community Development in localities, though which the aim is to nurture and build on resources, rather than just identifying problems and seeking more funds. Or if you are seeking more funds, showing that you are making the most of what you have.

I hope BIG and partners won’t mind me suggesting that there could be scope for doing the same with the People Powered Change network that we surfaced through mapping at the workshop. It might be achieved through:

  • some more systematic mapping (there wasn’t much time at the workshop)
  • further blogging from those on the network, to let each other and all of us know what they are doing
  • some way to aggregate feeds (perhaps creating a river of news on the lines Dave Winer sets out here)
  • some sociable events
  • ways to promote better internal communications ….

… and hey, I find I’m repeating many of the ideas that Linda and colleagues are already exploring for BIG.

How much more powerful it would be if BIG could become not just a more social organisation, or even a networked organisation, but one that is catalysing a really active network for People Powered Change.

We looked at different network models as part of our work with BIG, using the diagram of this general example representing a shift from a hierarchy through more of  cluster towards a mesh. As Tom Phillips mentioned at the time, the nodes can  be created by sociable events … so that part of BIG’s programme will certainly be helpful.

If the network developed, it could be the strategic movement that would support the one-the-ground developments reported by PPC partners – not just through their individual organisational efforts, but by drawing on the strengths of the network as a whole.

It may well be that some of this is happening already, and if so early examples would be great topics for further posts from BIG and partners, or others in the field.

One great example is the work of the NESTA Neighbourhood Challenge programme, which funded 17 local projects under PPC … reported here by Alice Casey. Each neighbourhood was asked to blog about their work as it developed, and so maybe there’s potential for a PPC network in miniature emerging already.