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.
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.
- Why BIG’s #ageingbetter programme needs added digital innovation
- Paper on social ecosystems, with further references to social reporting explorations and Slipham games