Tag Archives: innovation

Catalyst awards promote web for good


A new set of awards to promote the use of the social web to meet social needs was launched this evening in London with the backing of the Prime Minister … and I think they could help make a real difference to the way new technology is used for good.

Award schemes can too often be much hype and hoorahs up to the launch, then little action afterwards. Winners find the money doesn’t go far, and the contacts made don’t turn out to be that useful after all. The UKCatalyst Awards have been designed as a two-stage process in which projects first compete, and are then given support.

The Minister for the Third Sector, Phil Hope, was at NESTA to give the awards a formal send off, and was full of enthusiasm for the potential. Dan McQuillan of Make Your Mark, who are organising the awards, explained how they will work.

As you can see here, the award categories are more interesting than usual too, including the Shock for Good Award, Chalk and Cheese, and David and Goliath.

What was just as interesting as the awards was the cluster of people involved in the “web for good” field. As I wrote recently, there’s a lot happening in London at present, and a real sense of joining up and thinking through how to ensure ideas and projects are supported.

Phil Hope emphasised the aim of the awards is to bring to the fore good projects, and make connections. Dan McQuillan is one of the team who ran Social Innovation Camp, all now thinking how best to support not just the winners, but the other projects developed there. They and other have been talking to NESTA about how to draw on their wider experience of innovation processes to achieve this.

Despite keeping to the fruit juice I’m feeling a bit too weary at present to draw out all the strands I picked up tonight, but will be able to do more in working with Steve Moore and others on a digital festival planned in London on July 2 and 3, supported by Channel4. We aim to make development of the Festival another way to do some joining up. More soon when we get the web site up.

I think the Catalyst awards are important because they are just that – ways of bringing together good ideas, good people, innovative technologies. It all felt good – which is a great start towards doing good. How cheering to be among optimistic people in difficult times.

More video, shot on phone, here, here and here. Still haven’t figured a way to get better sound …hope you get the flavour anyway.

Can social innovators join up, innovatively?

There’s a growing buzz in London around tech-enabled social innovation, with its champions circulating at events like UKGovwebBarcamp, Social Innovation Camp, Tuttle Club, and last night at minibar.

The buzz should heighten on July 2-3 at a major 4Good event sponsored by Channel4 and others. More details promised soon. There’s also new set of UK Catalyst Awards backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown:

We’re looking for inspiring stories of people who help their community by using social technology in new and exciting ways. Can you or someone you know show how technology is already enabling people around them to connect with each other in new ways and do good things?

We’re especially interested in ideas that other people or groups might be able to use for themselves. With the right support, could your idea be reused throughout the country – or even the world?

The community you help might be people in your area, or people you know through your hobby, interest, work or any other connection. It might even be people you didn’t even know before you started!

You might have used an existing social technology or product in a new way, or you might have created a new one from scratch.

What excites me about the current round of developments is that they are not stuck in any one sector … people are coming together from Government, business, social enterprise and nonprofits. However, that means they don’t have a home. There is no one blog or web site … they are distributed (like so much of the Net these days).

In some ways I see a division between the new wave of tech-enabled social innovation and the traditional nonprofit tech crowd. There are quite a few personal connections – not least these days through Twitter – but not a lot of linking up with groups like Circuit Riders, as I found at their conference.

There was an attempt last year at the Newman Arms to set up a group loosely based on the US Netsquared community and conference, but that hasn’t moved forward as far as I know. I think it is partly because many of the social innovators are doubtful whether traditional charities are really up for it, or even broken as Dan McQuillan puts it.

Loose networking, and trying to organise without organisations as Clay Shirky has promoted, is all very well until you have to develop a business model, find backers, decide legal structures, agree leadership and so. You need at least some Organisation Lite at the project level … some way, as Dan says, of getting structure without losing passion.

That question is now emerging more strongly at the networking level: how to join up the various events, awards, projects without replicating the sort of civil society institutions that many social innovators are trying to escape.

Maybe we need a MetaCamp to figure it out.

Social media, creativity, and open collaboration

The University of Westminster asked me a while back to contribute to their Creative Juice seminar yesterday, and I was in a slight panic last week when I realised I needed to talk to a mix of designers, freelances and academics about social media and creativity.
I didn’t really have much fresh to pull out of my on-screen experiences: I’m not a web developer. Then it dawned on me that I had three areas of innovation and creativity that I could draw on, and which might be different from other presentations.
The first was the Social Innovation Camp, which I written about here. Six projects chosen from eighty, then teams of social activists and geeks working to develop creative solutions over a weekend.

The second was the co-design process undertaken by Ruralnet to develop a distributed online community, using blogs and other tools. Creativity came from opening up to their partners and those using the system – and asking what they wanted.

Thirdly I could talk about how workshop games – like those developed here and here with Drew Mackie – may be used to simulate in a few hours the process of defining a situation and its challenges, choosing tools, and playing through how things may work out for those using the system.

The point I was making throughout was that we now have a host of social media tools, with many potential uses and benefits, that we are trying to apply to complex situations in organisations or across networks, where people have very different levels of skills, and communication preferences. It’s pretty impossible get things right from “on high”. You have to find ways to engage with the many different people involved, and create with them … not just for them.

Anyway, I put together a set of slides, which you can see here, and promised a follow-up blog post with some links … which is this.

Early in the presentation I suggested that people took a look at the excellent set of blog posts by Michele Martin at The Bamboo Project, aimed at helping people develop their personal learning path with social media. At the end I recommended Beth Kante’s blog as an example of personal creativity using social media.

I hope the presentation and discussion worked for people yesterday. I prefer doing more interactive workshops, but I’m grateful to the University for the invitation. As usual I don’t really know what I think until I write it down – or in this case present. It helped me realise the underlying linkages between creative events, games and co-design. Later today I’m off to hear more about games at an event organised by Johnnie Moore. Knowing Johnnie, that will undoubtedly be creative.