Tag Archives: ppchange

Update from the Media Trust’s Newsnet

The other day I wrote briefly about developments in the hyperlocal field, with news of the Institute of Community Reporters and Saturday’s Talk About Local conference. I checked in at the Media Trust’s Newsnet, and enquired about latest development in their project, which I’ve written lots about in the past. It is a communication flagship of the Big Lottery Fund People Powered Change programme.

The always-helpful marketing director  Gavin Sheppard provided a very full update, which I’m delighted to quote here:

Hi David, interesting piece – totally agree with Gary’s views about the difference between citizen journalism and community reporting, and actually supports our view, I think, that it’s not as much what it’s called that matters as what people are doing and why it matters to them.

We’ve been focusing more on community reporting and community media and as you know will be supporting innovation in these areas with some inspiring voices grant awards via the newsnet forums.

We’ve also been appointing more beacon projects, some of whom we’re working with intensively to help amplify what they’re doing locally and all of whom are great reference points for anyone interested in how this kind of thing is manifested in different communities.

We’ve launched a programme to support beacon projects with equipment and have been providing bespoke training and mentoring locally (Adam has a blog of some of the people he’s worked with). We’ve continued to increase the number of newsnet members, who are starting to use the online resources to develop their own local projects.

We’ve increased the number of UK360 community news shows to one per week and have had a great response from the 60 communities who have featured in the show as well as from viewers (“Having taken the time and effort to produce a short film that we believe is a cut above the usual community production, we looked around for other outlets that might help us to get our message across and were surprised to discover UK360 – a series with high production values that was already broadcasting on Freeview”) and even the Daily Mail (who say “This thoroughly worthwhile weekly magazine brings community stories to life”).

We’re also broadcasting London360, which is focused on untold community stories in the capital and is made by a team of volunteer young journalists, as well as a wealth of other community content through Community Channel online and on TV (Here’s the TV schedule), including our new Arts360 strand which aims to engage young people in arts and cultural reporting.
Community Newswire, which we provide in partnership with The Press Association, is up to full capacity and has already distributed more than 4,000 community and charity stories into the mainstream local, regional and national media around the UK. We’re going to start geo-tagging that content and making the feed more widely available also.

We’ve launched Local360 in beta at communitychannel.org, which currently contains stories from newswire, UK360 and London360, but which will start to include community reporter content from around the country uploaded via newsnet. This feed is being made available to other platforms and we plan to make it available to anyone who wants it, either for their own consumption or for publication on their own local sites etc.

We’re working with Will Perrin and his teams to further develop the newsnet resources and find our next round of beacon projects, and are supporting this weekend’s unconference. We are also working with Jacqui and her team at the Community Media Association to provide more outlets for their great content and with NESTA as a partner in their Destination Local project as well as a number of partner projects, such as the Village SOS events, at which we’re providing community media workshops.

Next steps for us are to get the Local360 content feed working well and finding new outlets for it, perhaps working with partner organisations to surface the content in innovative new ways, increasing the number of beacon projects and providing more support to them as well as highlighting them as an inspiration to other communities who may want to pursue community media, and supporting other organisations with resources, content and outlets to amplify their work and bring it to new audiences and increase their reach and impact locally.

With Newsnet focussed on links to mainstream media and TV output, as well as supporting beacon projects; accredited training from PVM, and Talk About Local’s growing network and hands-on support for sites, there’s a rich of complementary activities in the hyperlocal field.

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.

Social reporting insights from an exploration for BIG

Big Lottery Fund have now reported on plans to evolve their England programme, with some generous references to the work John Popham and Drew Mackie and I did last year.

I’ve posted on their plans at socialreporters.net - How BIG aims to be a more engaged, open and social organisation. Also copied below.

We spent three months exploring and blogging openly about how BIG might be more than a funder, ran a workshop to bring together people we met along the way, and did some network mapping. It seems this has influenced the development of BIG’s future programme in some small but significant ways.

In addition, it yielded a few useful lessons and inspirations for social reporting, as I mention at the end of the earlier post. Here’s further thoughts:

  • The first is that “explorations” are something a social reporter can offer to a client as an alternative to research and consultancy – if you have a client like BIG that is prepared to take the risk and be a little innovative.
  • However, online exploration isn’t enough: the real buzz came from the workshop we ran at the end of the process, where BIG staff were able to meet some of the people we had talked to.
  • Although you can start with a quest, you don’t know where it will lead – and often the most interesting stories arise by chance.
  • The value to the client may come as much from the introductions as from content. We were able to say to people in government and other agencies “I think BIG would be interested in that” – and vice versa.
  • If you blog openly as you go, there’s a good chance you will spark other connections. And you don’t have the chore of writing a report at the end that may or may not be read and acted upon.

Maybe there’s nothing really new in this. Some researchers conduct open processes, some journalists share their contacts and work in progress. Lots of people run creative workshops, and do social network maps.

I’m just re-assured that it seems to stack up as part of the portfolio of services that a social reporter may offer, along with reporting events, and helping people learn how to use new ways of communicating and connecting.

So – how to get paid as a social reporter? Events, explorations and enabling.

Here’s my post from socialreporters.net:

Linda Quinn, Big Lottery Fund Director of Communications and Marketing, has provided an update on how BIG will evolve its England programme after a year of People Powered Change.

Linda kindly acknowledges that some of the new ideas draw on the explorations last year documented on this blog. Linda writes:

This included a workshop with some of those people with ideas and a shared interest in this area, informing a paper to our England Committee on future ways of working.

The Committee supported the paper and as a result we are 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.

In her post, Linda highlights:

  • Recognising that encouraging beneficiaries of funding to tell stories and be more sharing has to be reflected inside BIG too: so they have set up BIG Connect as an internal network.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Linda adds:

In a future world I’d love all our evaluations and grant management to be socialised so that stories and impacts are available to the armchair auditors, enthusiasts and others working in similar areas – this very much reflects the open data work we blogged about here at our joint event with NCVO andNominet Trust. Such a social approach not only shows the impact of National Lottery funding but also provides an opportunity for projects to promote and showcase what they do, share and inspire others.

We’ll also develop our focus on some place and people based initiatives that strongly reflect People Powered Change. For example, our Big Local Trust investment recently announced a further 50 areas that will receive at least £1million for local communities (around ward size) to decide how they wish to spend that money over a ten year period. This is taking decisions out of central committees and into local communities and giving them the space and time to make those decisions.

People Powered Change informs a way of working that will develop overtime and we’re keen to continue to hear what others are doing, where we can share and where we can learn. And talking of sharing, you may recall that in March last year we also announced a number of awards under People Powered Change. These were to UnLtd’s, ‘Big Venture Challenge,’ Young Foundation’s ‘Building Local Activism’ project, Media Trust’s ‘Newsnet’, NESTA’s ‘Neighbourhood Challenge’ and Your Square Mile. We’ll be publishing a blog from each of these over the next week or so updating on their activities, investments and learning.

Looking back on the work that John Popham, Drew Mackie and I did for BIG, I’m naturally delighted that it proved useful in helping develop some ideas for their programme. We were given a pretty open brief by Linda and deputy director Shaun Walsh, and encouragement to follow up ideas as they emerged. It was a social reporting exploration – and the reverse of a carefully-planned research and consultancy project.

In the event a lot of useful stuff came up by chance … perhaps because of “strategic opportunism” as James Derounian said over here “putting yourself in the place and way of likely useful links to take forward projects etc.”

The post about internal communication Linda mentions – Sharing outside means first sharing inside – arose because I bumped into Tom Phillips at an innovation event in Kent and shot an interview. I went to the event because it was organised by Noel Hatch, and I knew it would be interesting … if not in what way. I got lots of other interviews too.

The post about BIG staff inventing Biglopoly, referenced by Linda, came from an outside source who was working with BIG on the Big Local programme. BIG staff then readily produced their own excellent video explaining what they did: I was really just the story-spotter.

On reflection I think that the 50 or so blog posts that we generated served several purposes:

  • They provided an exploration of the landscape of people powered change, and some insights and ideas for BIG to dip into.
  • They informed the workshop that we organised, bringing together many of the people that we met, providing an opportunity for them to share more ideas directly with BIG staff.
  • They also provided some further stories to share with Shaun over a coffee at several points during the exploration.

Being engaging, open and social is more about attitude than mechanisms, and Linda and Shaun set the style in taking a risk with a social reporting exploration. We just found and told some stories to help things along.

 

More rebranding of citizen media as “journalism”. Sigh

The Guardian voluntary sector network has an interesting provocative piece headlined How citizen journalism is setting the local agenda which goes on to say:

Hyper-local news, websites and blogs are inextricably linked to cohesion and engagement within communities.

Adding in a caption:

Many local bloggers and writers may not recognise themselves as citizen journalists, but they are telling their story and connecting local people.

The first point is supported by the Networked Neighbourhoods research by Hugh Flouch and Kevin Harris, though not cited in the piece.

Mandeep Hothi, also writing recently for the Guardian, has a nuanced view – as I’m sure do Kevin and Hugh – about the role of social media in communities. Mandeep wrote:

Our experience suggests that social media is not the shortcut to higher participation that we all hoped it might be. On the websites and social networks we helped residents set up, the numbers of people who are engaging in conversation with each other is quite small. It varies amongst sites, but the highest is around 10% of network members.

If you read both studies, they show how complex is the role of new media in the local communication ecosystem, that’s made up of many informal and formal relationships, enhanced or disrupted by the effort of newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, websites, Twitter etc

… which is why I bridled got cross about the Guardian piece’s second point, which implies that local online writers and bloggers should be branded (whether they like it or not) as citizen journalists. Some may like the label, other may feel that “journalist” is not currently a term that engenders a lot of trust among citizens, however unfair that may be to the majority that do an honest job.

The Guardian piece is written by Gavin Sheppard, marketing director at the Media Trust, who are running Newsnet, supported by the Big Lottery Fund as part of People Powered Change. I’ve written lots before about Newsnet and its role in networking civil society, including an early challenge on How helpful is journalism for People Powered Change?

After citing the excellent work of the Preston blog in a campaign, Gavin writes:

The Poynter Street residents, like many communities across the country, may not recognise themselves as citizen journalists, but they are telling their local story, connecting with others and harnessing support for local people. They are reflecting many of the qualities of citizen journalism. This dedication to the local community deserves to be nurtured and supported and can benefit from learning, connecting and sharing with others.

My challenge is on two fronts. First, that while mainstream journalism is essential for democracy, challenging powerful institutions, bravely reporting from wars and disasters … and keeping us amused … the news values of conflict, crisis, celebrity aren’t necessarily helpful to collaboration and community building, which is important in civic life. Thanks to Nick Booth of Podnosh for highlighting this a few years back.

So while it is hugely important that some bloggers, like those in Preston, take on – and sometimes improve on – the reducing role of local papers in running campaigns and holding councils to account, “journalism” is only a part of the community media that we need.

Some bloggers and users of social media in local communities want to call themselves citizen journalists, and hopefully take on the best aspects of journalism in being inquisitive on behalf of others, and “speaking truth to power”. Fine …. but to what code do they operate in the way that they report? And are they just a loud voice in the community … the equivalent of those who can dominate public meetings? Some are hugely ethical, collaborative, supportive of others … some less so. As journalists they don’t necessarily “connect local people”: that’s more of a role for community organisers and builders.

We need a discussion around citizen journalism in parallel with that about mainstream journalism. We know mainstream journalism has to be, in part, about making money for the proprietors, balanced with a societal role. What are the equivalent tensions in citizen journalism?

At the same time, the majority of those using social media in an enormous variety of ways for social impact do not choose to call themselves “journalists”. I explored this wide use of social technology with co-authors Amy Sample Ward and Andy Gibson in the NESTA-funded publication Social by Social a couple of years ago.

So my second point is that trying to brand citizen media as citizen journalists is unhelpful. If people “may not recognise themselves as citizen journalists” it’s not for the Media Trust to say that they are.

I think that Newsnet – which is funded £1.89 million by those of us who buy lottery tickets – could both play an important role in this discussion, and help amplify the work of those using community media. Adam Perry is indeed blogging about that on Newsnet.

If Newsnet is going to stick to supporting “journalism” then we need some other ways to connect and amplify the use of social media for local social good … as I rambled on about here: The challenge of networking civil society.

Although Newsnet was funded by BIG last year, and “launched”  five weeks ago, it has yet to carry any news: their “single publishing interface” is still promised (see comments). The site is currently simple a set of blogs and forums within the Media Trust site (see discussion).

So yes, let’s applaud the best of citizen journalism, but not put easy branding above some very complex substance.

Disclosure: I worked for Big Lottery Fund last year exploring their role as more than a funder.

Note to self: there’s another potential client gone. That’s the problem with being a social reporter … the critical journalist in me keeps breaking out.

Media Trust launches Newsnet site and network

The Media Trust have launched their site for Newsnet, which aims to be “a UK-wide hub of community reporters, citizen journalists and local storytellers, providing them with the tools and skills to get more from their local news, as well as learning from the experiences of others.

“The aim is to improve the quality and reach of these stories, through increased sharing amongst communities and distribution to mainstream media outlets, including Community Channel’s UK360 magazine show, which will broadcast some of the best community news stories”. read more »

Media Trust offers some answers on Newsnet

Earlier this week the Media Trust announced some new developments in its £1.89 million Newsnet programme, and Civil Society Governance reported:

The Media Trust describes newsnet as “the UK’s first online network of community reporters, citizen journalists and local storytellers”. The online portal aims to provide local people with a platform to connect and tell their local stories, as well as find resources and share ideas. The ultimate aim is to support community cohesion at a local, regional and national level.

This caused some upset with others in the community reporting field – as I reported here, with some of the backstory. The upset was partly about the claim to be first, and partly a feeling that the Media Trust should be doing more to collaborate with existing networks. Gavin Sheppard, Marketing Director at the Trust and Community, came back with a long comment, and the offer of an interview.

read more »

Ask the Media Trust about Newsnet

My previous post about the Media Trust’s Newsnet raised some issue about the extent to which they are willing to partner with other organisations in the field.
It brought some comments, including one from Gavin Sheppard at the Trust, copied below, who also offered an interview.

I wondered how we could do one before Christmas, since I’ve just left London for the hols. Could the Trust shoot some video, if I and others came up with the questions? No problem, said the in-house filmmaker Adam Perry … usually in Leeds, but currently in London.

So here’s some starters, mainly gathered from conversations with others … and reflecting their concerns. Do add your own as a comment or tweeted @media_trust

* The Trust is very good at partnering with major media interests and sponsors – could that now extend to other community reporter organisations and networks?
* You are offering to partner with local reporting sites – but does that mainly mean promoting their content?
* Local sites are struggling to survive. Are there any deals you can broker that will help with sustainability?
* Would you join in a workshop to develop some joint approaches?

Gavin writes:

Media Trust’s belief that citizen journalism can go some way to filling the gap left by a diminishing local media is underpinned by research we commissioned from Goldsmiths Leverhulme Research Centre last year. Whilst we believe that our project is the first to bring together diverse resources and citizen journalism platforms and connect them with the mainstream media, we are certainly not claiming to be the first to support citizen journalism. Media Trust itself has led projects that create and distribute community content for many years.

The work that People’s Voice Media and many others have been doing in this area is testament to the need and effectiveness of citizen journalism. Our approach is to work with diverse partners, we hope including People’s Voice Media community reporters, to help them connect, share and access resources. Our role isn’t to prescribe a particular approach to community reporting, by way of a formal training programme such as that offered by People’s Voice, but to facilitate debate, innovation and inspiration. We are also adding a large-scale aggregation and distribution layer, using our Community Channel online and TV platform and our media partnerships, including with Press Association, to increase the profile of the wonderful community reporting that’s going on around the UK. We have spoken with People’s Voice Media, for example, about showcasing their content and would be very happy to consider it in the future, as we would with any other community or charity organisation. Our new UK360 programme, the second episode of which was broadcast last week, is dedicated to community stories produced locally.

Our approach is entirely focused on collaboration. The first example of this is our partnership with a number of beacons around the UK, including John Coster’s Citizen’s Eye in Leicester, rightly praised as a centre of excellence in citizen journalism. And we are delighted that John has agreed to chair our own advisory board on this subject. Adam, Alex, Sean, Jocelyn,myself and others in our team are spending a great deal of time touring the UK to identify partners and collaboration opportunities – anyone who would like to contribute, or who feels we might contribute to their work, whom we’re not already speaking with, please get in touch and have a conversation.

This partnership approach has been actively encouraged by the Big Lottery Fund, and is reflective of their approach to engagement, most recently led by some terrific work by David Wilcox and co in bringing together the People Powered Change partners. They have also been rightly keen that our partnerships extend to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and over the last few months my team and I have visited all of the countries and have agreed some great partnerships.

In context of this partnership approach, we accept that our choice of phrasing as “the first” is unfortunate. Whilst we believe our approach in its entirety to be unique, we wouldn’t pretend to be the first to support citizen journalism. Quite the opposite: if Goldsmiths hadn’t identified citizen journalism as having such potential, we may never have taken this approach.

Gavin Sheppard
Marketing director, Media Trust and Community Channel

Transition gives us the best of ingredients for networking

I’ve just posted this over on socialreporters.net, where John Popham and I are helping the Big Lottery Fund explore the future of their People Powered Change initiative as a networked space for local projects and national partners to share experience and learn from each other.

Among networks that help local projects share experience, with support but not dominance from the centre, the Transition Networkstands out as one that blends the best of event facilitation, online systems, and how-to advice. I think it’s a model that People Powered Change should look at for inspiration.

Today the network announces really innovative developments on several fronts, with an inspiring Transition Companion book about creating local Transition projects, a directory of the ingredients and tools to do that, and a set of cards that help people play through the methods.

The role of the network is “to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organise around the transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions”.

At their recent conference, which I reported here, Transition founder Rob Hopkins gave a preview workshop and explained how the companion is based on pattern language. Here’s an interview from the conference with Charlotte Du Cann, who is also leading a social reporting project in the network.

The previous Transition Handbook (pdf here) took people through a 12-step process of setting up a local project – and I find groups love that sort of apparently simple approach, until they find that it isn’t a simple sequence. The process of building a group, developing ideas, learning new skills, working with the local council, starting on projects has to be crafted to the local situation.

Back in the 1970s Christopher Alexander worked with a group of other architects to develop the book A Pattern Language as a way of expressing the relationship between spaces, buildings, and their components. So – if you want this sort of house, it may need that sort of setting, and this set of rooms, which may require that sort of furniture. It’s all about what works with what.  Christopher and Rob met up, as Rob reports here.

Rob has used the inspiration of pattern language to recast the handbook as a companion, using ingredients and tools as an easier-to-understand version of patterns, with lots of examples of the creative activities local groups engage in during their development. Local groups create the recipes appropriate for them.

My friend Ed Mitchell, who manages the online side of the network, has worked with his web team to turn the ingredients and tools into a directory around the five main stages of development: Starting out; Deepening; Connecting; Building and Daring to dream. Within each there are ingredients (for example, Measurement, Visioning, Building Partnerships, Celebrating, Storytelling), with links showing where other ingredients may be relevant, and what tools are appropriate (for example, Energy Resilience Assessment, Finance, Volunteers).

Each ingredient has summaries of the Challenge it aims to meet, a Description, and Solution … rather like the original pattern language … together with longer content.

Translation the Transition companion to an online environment a really impressive achievement. Ed and I have discussed the potential of pattern language in the past, and I’m using some of that thinking in game development with Drew Mackie … however, Ed has now made it a reality online.

Transition has also given us a download of the set of cards, beautifully designed by Marina Vons-Gupta. The book, the web, and the cards are are an integrated set of resources that – as far as I know – are unmatched for this sort of purpose. Anyone know of anything similar?

I have the book, can browse the site, and will now download the cards, and report further. I just wanted to get something up here quickly, as context for the interview I’m doing shortly about People Powered Change developments.

For those of a technical disposition, the Transition site is built in Drupal … and I’m delighted to see that Ed and the team have some additional funding from the Nominet Trust to create a Projects Sharing Engine. Ed writes:

“We now have an 18 month project to start to bend some virtual boundaries and build some bridges between Transition Initiative websites, enabling their visitors to read and add to the projects directory all from the comfort of their own local websites”.

The Transition Network approach is to encourage local groups to develop in their own way – using some centrally-created ingredients and tools – and then use the Transition framework to share their experience. The website aggregates the local content, rather than simply broadcasting centrally.

The Transition approach is different from that adopted by the BIG Village SOS project, for example, which has a centralised system. There’s no right or wrong – it depends on the context, and what you are trying to achieve.

I think Transition can go for a decentralised system because there is a strong set of Transition principles and ingredients that will inform local development, and the content that flows from local groups. They are committed to sharing.

The many projects funded by BIG, who may share experience through People Powered Change, do not at the moment have anything in common but the BIG funding. Most of them probably don’t have any web presence … so it isn’t possible to get a feed from them.

I think what will be needed at the start, if BIG want to move forward, is a combination of the sort of social reporting project that Transition is piloting, combined with the local online training and support provided by Talk About Local. But that’s just a couple of the ingredients, and over the next month or two we’ll be looking for more.

Playing the game of saving Slapham community spaces

The Community Matters annual conference last weekend gave Drew Mackie and I a chance to test out a new workshop game that we hope will help local groups plan take over and run community buildings – or improve the ones they have.

This is particularly challenging when councils are disposing of property in order to reduce costs, when local groups face cuts in funding – yet the demand for community services is increasing. Our workshop produced lots of conversations about the realities of people powered change. We started talking about buildings, staff, finance … and ended up focussing on community and collaboration.

There’s lots of excellent guidance and inspiring stories of groups creating very impressive spaces, both urban and rural: see for example the work of the Asset Transfer Unit, the examples at The Place Station, and the Big Lottery Fund Village SOS initiative. read more »

Your Square Mile unveils plans powered by millions of members


Six months development work by the Your Square Mile programme came together yesterday with the launch in London of a new website to support local action, new pledges of cross-party support, and plans to create a citizens mutual organisation with millions of members.

You can catch up on the background to Your Square Mile on my earlier post here, including a talk though the site by YSM managing director Jamie Cowen.

Today at 1pm Jamie will engage in a live chat online hosted by Our Society here.

At yesterday’s launch we heard support from both Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and Tessa Jowell, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, and from a couple of the 16 pilots YSM that has been supporting. YSM is a partner in the Big Lottery Fund People Powered Change programme, for whom I am doing some work. read more »