Tag Archives: cityoflondon

Techy lunch in the City shows community spirit of corporate lawyers

I’m a big admirer of the the techy tea party movement pioneered by Sharon Tynan for Age UK London and then developed nationally by EE and Age UK. There’s now a National Techy Tea Party Day – or you can organise your own, as I reported last year from Primrose Hill. My friend John Popham has extended the idea to a techy Christmas party.

The original format is simple – companies invite older people to their premises, rather than send staff volunteers out to do good things in the community. Or hopefully both.

Then there’s tea, cakes and some face-to-face – or shoulder-to-shoulder – learning about technology. These days that’s as likely to be smartphones and tablets as laptops, with the option to bring your own or use devices provide by the organisations.

Learning at lunch

I think that the informal, conversational approach of techy tea parties, where people decide what they want to learn about, is an important complement to more formal training courses – and useful to people who already have some tech experience and want to explore further. If you bring your own device, then what works at the tea party works at home too. Not always the case with courses. Social media surgeries are another great model.

So when I spotted two local events in the City of London Healthwatch newsletter I asked Sharon if I could come along … provided I promised to blog a piece or otherwise help out.

I’ve lived in the City for 15 years – after various moves around the Midlands, Surrey, Reading, west London and Brighton – and it’s my favourite. There’s more than 7000 residents among the 300,000 workers, and lots to do, not least at the Barbican Arts Centre which is cheaper and better than many West End venues. Cheapside is now a lively High Street, and more pleasant than most.

Although bankers, lawyers and residents co-exist fairly happily we don’t usually get invited to lunch … so I was particularly tempted by the offer of a Techy Lunch at global law firm K&L Gates. They have offices in One New Change, the big shopping and restaurant complex across the road from St Pauls.

Link to video

Sharon had introduced me to Alison Westlake, who organised the event for the City’s Age Concern . In the video that I shot at the lunch, Alison describes how useful the events are for residents, and Fez Abbas, from K&L Gates, puts the event into the context of the company’s wider commitment to service in the community, explained here.

The sandwiches and cakes were excellent, K&L Gates staff exceptionally helpful, and residents contributed their own insights about the online world.

Conversations at the event, about the difficulty of finding information even when fairly confident online, gave me an idea for some possible follow through. While the City of London Corporation has good general listing of services, attractions and events, they can’t cover the whole range of smaller groups and informal activities in and around the City.

In addition, there’s scope for bodies serving older people – and anyone else – to improve their information and communication. Age UK London is running a Tell Me campaign on this.

I’ve been developing ideas with colleagues for a Maps, Apps and Storytelling initiative to provide people with better pathways to their interests, develop stronger networks in a community, tell stories, and help develop conversations online and off. One aim would be to support initiatives to address loneliness and social isolation … which can be an issue even at the heart of the City.

I’ve had some great discussions recently about developing a project in East London, using a mix of radio, other technology and events, and possibly linking up with the City for support.

I’m now thinking that I should make a start nearer to home, and see whether a group of tech-savvy City residents – and maybe corporate volunteers – would explore how best to use tech with other methods to help connect people with local opportunities, services and sociability.

I don’t think we necessarily need to develop a substantial new local web site or forum. A recent report published by NESTA and Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism shows how difficult it is for the first generation of hyperlocal community sites to sustain their activity – not least because there are now so many source of information, together with DIY personal publishing via Facebook and Twitter. It’s as difficult to evolve hyperlocal digital business models as it is to keep local papers going.

The big challenge, in my mind, is how to make the most of existing local communications and resources, with an emphasis on making sense for different interests, connecting conversations, and helping people contribute. Adopt the principles of Asset Based Community Development in the digital world … join up rather than start up. I’ll see if I can gather any support for the idea and report back. If we can’t invent something appropriate both for the City and elsewhere, combining resident and business skills, where can we?

I’ll also be looking at what’s happening elsewhere. London can be complacent.

Keeping the City clean with a smartphone app

I often find that conversation about how citizens might use tech to help improve their neighbourhoods throws up the idea of reporting rubbish, graffiti and potholes online … and that may then lead to “do you know about FixMyStreet” and other good things from MySociety.

FixMyStreet is a really simple and effective text-based solution on the web, launched in 2007: enter the postcode, type in the problem, and FixMyStreet sends it to the appropriate place. FAQ here, with mention of a Nokia app.

Even better, however, if we could now have something able to use the full capability of mobile phones … so I was interested to see a tweet from my local council “Smartphone app keeps the City clean -  a new Youtube video: http://ow.ly/mprvN ” As you’ll see, the video provides an excellent walk-through of the app, and demonstration walk-around the City, by Adam Collins from the City of London Corporation Cleansing Services.

As LovetheSquareMile explains, you can use iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows apps, send photos of problems with added details, and get notification when they are fixed if you have registered with the site.

As the video mentions, you can use the app elsewhere, because it is a customised version of lovecleanstreets. There’s a Love Clean Streets Network, and they say you can use the app anywhere in the world, and they’ll make sure the report gets through. Impressive.

The City of London streets are generally exceptionally well tended, as are our many pocket-sized parks. The 11,000 residents benefit in part from investment to serve business and 330,000 workers. Most of those travel and live elsewhere, and having downloaded the City app will be able to report issues back home or in other world cities. Clever.

I’ll be looking out for more about the City, not just as an interested resident, but because my wife Ann Holmes was recently elected to the Court of Common Council. Here’s the official site, the Wikipedia entry, and the current excellent City of London Festival.

Update: Nigel Tyrell tweets from the City to say that LoveSquareMile and LoveCleanStreets were developed from LoveLewisham, launched in 2005.  More on report it in Lewisham here.