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BBC collaboration helps network London hyperlocals

Today very big media (the BBC) met very small media (London hyperlocal bloggers and online community managers) and found they had something to work on together. It might be the start of something significant for local communities.

Their shared interest was that the London TV analogue signal will be switched off next month, starting on April 4. For most people it will be a simple matter of retuning their digital sets if they are using Freeview – but there are still many who will need equipment like a set-top box.

The get-together, in the BBC Council Chamber, was organised by Hugh Flouch of Networked Neighbourhoods

About 1.4 million people could be eligible for the BBC help scheme, which can include installation, advice, and follow-up support for 12 months. However, despite all the publicity, there may be some people who suddenly find their TV isn’t working any more.

Local web sites, like Harringay Online, run by Hugh and other local volunteers, have good connections in their neighbourhoods, as Networked Neighbourhoods research shows – and not just online. They are likely to know who’s who in local networks, and be able to get the word out in various ways.

We heard details of BBC plans from Liam McKay, Switchover Help Scheme Manager for London, and also from presenter Maggie Philbin, who has been spreading the word at events around the country. Then we got into huddles to come up with some ideas of our own, on how bloggers and BBC could work together. As well as local site managers, we had Matt Brown, editor of The Londonist, whose site has enormous reach throughout the capital. It all sounded very promising.

The bigger idea, as Hugh explains in the interview, is that BBC and hyperlocal sites both have a public interest role, and could work together more to deliver on that. BBC can’t always get to the grassroots … and while local sites definitely are grassroots, they need more nourishment to keep going.

The possibility of collaboration with the BBC, and other big agencies, could make it worthwhile for the bloggers and site managers to develop a network that could offer more more fine-grain communication locally. A London network isn’t a new idea, as Hugh explained, but this time something might be possible, particularly if the BBC could help out – perhaps by listing local sites at BBC London. There has to be something in the collaboration for both sides. Samantha Latouche explains more about the help scheme.

Maggie Philbin lives in Chiswick, and when she isn’t out evangelising the switchover help service, drops in to her local site to see what’s happening locally.

I go on to my local website chiswickw4.com at least once a day, and if I’m working from home it is slightly more, because there is something slightly addictive about checking out what’s going on. I know it doesn’t matter whether you have lost your cat or there has been some horrendous tragedy, I know the web site will cover it, and the forum will cover it. They are a really powerful source of local news and the place that you turn to.

“Sitting around this table today was this absolutely golden resource across London, of the people who know their areas. No matter how hard you try as a big organistion like the BBC you cannot know your areas as well as the people in this room. Tapping into this knowledge is really useful for the BBC – and I hope it can be reciprocal, and can go both ways.

I don’t think the London bloggers could have hoped for a strong endorsement – and if this interview is useful for a local site, you can get the embed code here. I would just be glad of a link back.

All posts Big Society

Nick Booth of @podnosh blogs #hyperlocal for the BBC

I’ve just caught up with Nick Booth’s blog on BBC online about very local web sites. Nick deserves the space, from his track record over the past few years of podcasting the stories of active citizens, setting up innovative social media projects, and running social media surgeries. More at http://podnosh.com.
He observes that “making media about people is a great way to establish relationships. Through interviewing people for a podcast two things happened, I established stronger relationships with them, but they also started connecting with each other. The simple idea of understanding each other better and, to a degree, sharing a platform.”

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Could the BBC co-design its new community services?

Here’s a try-out for socialreporter as collaboration co-ordinator, on the lines of “wouldn’t it be a good idea if…” rather than “here’s a problem, let’s stir things up”.
I wonder if it’s possible to organise a get-together between people interested in how new BBC services may support social action, local democracy and online communities.
It seems timely because the BBC is planning something substantial which could, for the first time, link their “professional” services to online material produced by citizen journalists and other local community media projects. Proposals will soon be put to the BBC Trust, which has to approve the plans.
Before that happens it seems to me important that all parties take a realistic look at what’s possible, and think out how to co-design something useful to local democracy.
The problem is that the community side of the deal may not hold up. Recently Charlie Beckett, champion of networked journalism, raised the issue of what happens if no-one comes … that is, the citizen journalists don’t materialise in the form the professionals hope. The BBC’s Robin Hamman offered some useful insights from the Manchester blogging experiment, including:

People don’t necessarily blog or post content about the topics, stories and events that media organisations might hope they would – and, in our experience anyway, rarely post about news and current affairs.

Now another media commentator, Martin Moore, has trawled through the Annex 8 of OFCOM’s Public Service Broadcasting Review similarly trying to work if there’s a future for local news, community and social action on the web. In Still waiting for local community web sites, he writes:

When it comes to local content – particularly community / social action, or news (outside major news organisations) there is, according to the report, precious little out there. There are exceptions of course – hyperlocal independent sites like Urban 75 (for Brixton) – but these are few and far between. ‘Local, regional and national sites’ the report says, ‘tend to have limited ambitions and low production values’.
And then there are the local newspaper sites. Unfortunately many of these are ‘heavily templated and homogenous between regions’ (p.38). Trinity Mirror is trying to break the mould slightly with its postcode project (e.g. see TS10 Redcar), though it’s unclear the extent to which this is a vehicle for news or for classified advertising (though you could argue this is the same for many local print papers).
It’s very difficult, in other words, to find successful examples of thriving local community sites (as compared to the US, say) and even harder to find examples of local sites performing the ‘watchdog role’ of the Fourth Estate (a role that appears conspicuously absent from OFCOMs definition of ‘public purposes’).
We already know that local broadcast news is in serious trouble (not least because OFCOM tells us it is), but going by this study it’ll be quite some time before local community sites can fill the gap.

So who might be interested in a get-together? I keep bumping into people from different innovative parts of the BBC who say, yes, interesting things are happening but it’s not actually in their department. … love to know more. The BBC Trust are thinking about how they might develop an online presence after their experiment in engaging with bloggers last year. I should think Charlie and Martin would be interested, and my friends at Involve, who specialise in public engagement.
On the local front it seems a must for Bristol, home to many excellent local e-democracy projects, led by Stephen Hilton and his team. The Connecting Bristol blog has hosted some lively discussion recently, and Stephen picked up on the BBC plans in The BBC, Democracy & The Internet – Job Done. As part of the discussion there I wrote:

Maybe the BBC will venture into networked journalism, as hinted in the Action Network closure statement.
I hope that the BBC Trust – who have to agree the plans – will give us a chance to engage with them online as well as running their traditional consultation process.

Professor Stephen Coleman, who was guest blogging, kindly responded:

David – I agree. The BBC Trust certainly ought to connect with the e-democracy community. I’m sure that there’s much valuable advice that you and others could offer them. The Centre for Digital Citizenship at Leeds University would be happy to set up a forum for such an exchange of views. Let’s see if we can take this forward in a way that will help the BBC to make the best possible plans.

Birmingham is another place with some online civic activity, and I do hope Nick Booth and Paul Bradshaw might be interested. They have been selected as the only UK finalists in the Knight News Challenge, a competition based in the US to develop and fund innovations in online journalism. Nick is a former BBC producer, and in his podcasting and blogging is one of my inspirations for social reporting. Paul is a City Birmingham City University lecturer whose Online Journalism Blog is another inspiration.
So there’s a start … and I’m sure there are plenty of other people potentially interested. I had hoped that the RSA would act as a convenor for this sort of project, but their journalism initiative sounds like a professionals-only affair. Maybe the Centre for Digital Citizenship could step in, perhaps with some of the other organisations? I think a good first step would be something fairly informal that allowed everyone to get to know each other and be, well, collaborative.
After that, wouldn’t it be exciting if the BBC decided to join in a co-design process with people trying to make community media work – rather than invent something top-down which may or may not work?

All posts citizenship

Costs of the BBC Action Network

BBC Action Network costs

As I wrote here, the BBC is shortly closing the Action Network, set up five years ago to support grassroots action. Tom Steinberg, founder of the mySociety, which produces tools for social action and e-democracy, has now established some of the costs of the BBC project through a freedom of information request – details. From the spreadsheet provided by the BBC looks as if it will be rather more than £1.3 million by the time it closes.

I should think that interest will now shift to whatever the BBC is planning next. The closure announcement said the BBC would:

… launch a new service which will give people access to all the BBC’s content across tv, radio and online on a range of topical issues. Many of these topic pages will reflect the same issues that have been central to Action Network, from healthcare and schools, to public transport and policing.
Each topic page will offer the latest news stories on an issue, including TV and radio programmes, while linking to the wider debate through people’s blogs, campaigns and websites.
Many of the Action Network guides and briefings will be moved across to the BBC News Online website and will be found in the new topic pages – and will continue to help people understand how political systems work and how to get involved.

It seems to me that the big question for the BBC – and BBC Trust who will have to approve the plans – is what sort of local online activity they can hope to see in future. As Charlie Beckett questioned recently in relation to citizen journalism – what happens if they don’t come? I hope the BBC, and the Trust, will feel it’s a good idea to co-design and prototype the new system with license-payer/citizens.

All posts journalism

BBC trails their version of networked journalism

Closing Down 170In confirming the closure of the Action Network, set up five years ago to support grassroots action, the BBC offers some hints about what’s coming next in their public service remit for “sustaining citizenship and civic society”. The announcement says:

… we will continue our commitment to help people engage in civic life and national debate with two new initiatives.
The first will be to launch a new service which will give people access to all the BBC’s content across tv, radio and online on a range of topical issues. Many of these topic pages will reflect the same issues that have been central to Action Network, from healthcare and schools, to public transport and policing.
Each topic page will offer the latest news stories on an issue, including TV and radio programmes, while linking to the wider debate through people’s blogs, campaigns and websites.
Many of the Action Network guides and briefings will be moved across to the BBC News Online website and will be found in the new topic pages – and will continue to help people understand how political systems work and how to get involved.
The second is a wider digital democracy broadband project, ultimately aiming to provide video of debates and speeches from our main institutions, information on your local and national representatives, guides to issues and the institutions, and easy ways for anyone to plug in and take part.

I explored what might be in prospect at some length recently at Designing for Civil Society after hearing of a BBC demonstration in Coventry that upset regional media people … and linked that to the closure of the Action Network. E-Government Bulletin – where I picked up the current closure statement – says:

Some press reports and analysts have been linking the demise of Action Network to the planned launch of a new, highly localised, customisable news and information service online by the BBC. However, a spokesperson for the corporation told E-Government Bulletin this week that the new local services were not intended to replace Action Network, and their launch was not related to its closure.
The plans would make use of ‘geo-tagging’ and map-based navigation to create service customised by postcode, similar to but more powerful than the BBC’s current ‘Where I Live’ news interface.
These plans are still in their early stages, but are expected to go before the BBC Trust for approval this summer, the spokesperson said. If approved, the service is likely to take at least another year to launch.

Whatever: the line in the BBC announcement about linking to other people’s blogs, campaigns and websites sound interesting. Maybe it is the BBC’s version of networked journalism.
The growth of blogs, social networking sites democracy sites like TheyWorkForYou and E-Petitions are cited as one of the reasons for closing Action Network

Although we’ve continued to update our site with new features, we now feel that the pace and innovation of online democracy means that our members can access a wider range of web tools, and have more control of their campaigns, outside Action Network.

Over on the BBC Internet Blog Andy Williamson, Director of eDemocracy programmes at the Hansard Society, guest blogs on Digital Democracy: Bridging The Gap, further supporting the BBC’s role.

Access and literacy are pre-cursors to digital adoption, but personal motivation through accessible, relevant and timely content is the key to staying connected. So when Mark Thompson talked about the BBC’s rôle in building digital democracy recently, the idea resonated with me. The BBC’s Charter makes it clear that it has a rôle to play. While it is just one piece in the jigsaw, the BBC does have the scale and trust necessary to mediate the democratic divide.

This all ties in with Cabinet Minister Tom Watson’s promises of support for online collaboration through third party sites, rather than new Government initiatives.

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How about celebrating the 20 year history of community networking and hyperlocal

The annual Talk About Local unconference #TAL15 on Saturday was a great opportunity to catch up with the world of local blogging, online communities and community journalism that’s now collectively known as hyperlocal.

As usual on these occasions Will Perrin, Sarah Hartley and Mike Rawlins did a great job of semi-organising the crowd into self-managed sessions about everything from WordPress plugins to crowdfunding, and “surviving the abusive relationship with Facebook”, and stimulating lots of energising conversations in between. Here’s Sarah’s round-up.

The event also prompted me to reflect that it’s now just 20 years since I and a bunch of other enthusiasts, inspired by earlier North American online pioneers, and the arrival of the World Wide Web, launched UK Communities Online as a network to support local digital initiatives, or what we called community networking … so please excuse a little digital nostalgia. Maybe 2015 is a good time to look at what was then, what’s now, and what might be next.

In 1995 I spotted, thanks to the Web, that the Morino Intitute was holding their second Ties that Bind conference at Apple HQ in Curpertino, and managed to blag my way to a fare and conference tickets. Thanks due to Kaye Gapen, and Steve Cisler.

You can read here a history of what happened over the next few years, including a launch conference in October 1995 at BT headquarters, and funding for network development from BT, IBM, the Department for Trade and Industry and others.

Tribute is particularly due to Richard Stubbs, Michael Mulquin, Kevin Harris, Dave Greenop and other pioneers who did so much of the early work. Michael became UKCO director. Terry Grunwald provided so much inspiration and experience from the US (and we must rehost the Making the Net Work site). I hope we might update all our stories – about which more below.

Although Communities Online didn’t survive as a network, I think it helped people explore what the Internet might mean to local communities, and to share experience in experimenting with different approaches before the days of blogs and other social media. I believe that we contributed to government thinking, and industry too.

I’ve put together below links to pages I wrote. Many external links are unfortunately broken, which shows how digital is not necessarily a good archive medium. Or put another way, if you want stuff to last, you have to maintain your own site. Even so, I’m afraid I lost some stories.

What’s perhaps most interesting is the sort of models for Community Internet we envisaged then … as expressed in a Manifesto which the BBC helped promote at the time.

Summary of a manifesto for local onine communities – 1999

  • Every citizen, regardless of their economic circumstances, should be able to share the benefits of the Information Age – including better communications, greater participation, electronic life long learning, and e-commerce. To achieve this they should have access to local community technology centres, plus public online forums and services to create an online community. The centres will provide technical support and help ‘on the ground’, the forums will be ‘virtual spaces’ for online communities related to localities.
  • Centres and online communities should be easy to find – signposted locally, and through a national gateway.
  • Public support should be available, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods, where the market is unlikely to provide facilities on a sustainable basis without public funding.
  • Development of centres and online communities should be piloted through pathfinder projects, with community participation.
  • There should be a network and support for the local champions and partnerships who will develop the centres and online communities.
  • A virtual resource centre should be developed to provide sources of advice for local champions and partnerships, and a neutral space online for discussion of the development of centres and online communities.

Long version of the manifesto

Quite a lot of this has come about. The Tinder Foundation has been particularly successful in developing and maintaining a network of local centres.

The people who gathered on Saturday at #TAL15 – and others – are innovating locally in ways we couldn’t dream of. Chris Taggart’s Openly Local map shows hyperlocal sites throughourt the UK and Ireland.

There is a Centre for Community Journalism and course at Cardiff University

I mentioned the manifesto and Communities Online to Will and a few other people at the unconference, and found some interest in discovering more about our collective history … and what we can learn from the journey.

We talked tentatively about a 20-year anniversary event, and re-gathering stories from the pioneers.

It could provide an opportunity to explore more fully what community-based models are most relevant today, to complement the local digital frameworks being developed by Government: see for example my reflections on the Grey Cells blueprint. My hunch that in future we’ll have to look at personalised approaches, as well as local sites, as I wrote here about Living Well with tech.

I’ll check whether others involved in 1990s, and now, would be interested in organising something, and if so hope to get an organising group together, ideally with TAL.

Meanwhile, if you are interested, please drop a comment, or contact me via david@socialreporter.com or @davidwilcox.

Talk About Local and #TAL15

Links from the Partnerships Online site

Other links

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The Cola Road Documentary and what’s next for Colalife

The RSA Great Room, with its James Barry paintings of The Progress of Human Knowledge,  was a fine setting yesterday for the launch of The Cola Road Documentary telling the story of the Colalife mission to deliver medicines to poor mothers in isolated Zambian villages. There was lots of learning for us – not least more on how the original idea of delivering the medicines in Coke crates has changed.

As you can see from the applause pictured in my panorama, and the tweets below, the film by Claire Ward was very well received, with further news coming through during the evening about Colalife being presented to the UN General Assembly as one of 10 breakthough innovations to save lives.

The original Colalife idea, that captured people’s imagination, was to use Coca Cola’s unique supply chain to deliver ant-diarrhoea medicines to save children’s lives. That has worked in trials, and the Kit Yamoyo won a Design Museum Product of the Year award. However, the real innovation proved to be designing a value chain that rewarded people all along the line, without necessarily using crates, as I reported earlier.

The change in design approach was highlighted by BBC global business correspondent Peter Day in a programme broadcast on Radio 4, and yesterday Peter chaired the panel discussion after the showing. Here’s his account of finding a better business story than he expected from the Kit Yamoyo award.

Later in the RSA Gerrard Bar I was able to catch up with Simon Berry – who created Colalife with his wife Jane – for an update on future plans, and also meet Ali who cycled from Cairo to Cape Town with Lizzie to raise money. Their story here.

As well as explaining how the Colalife programme now aims to move from pilots to national coverage, Simon highlighted the importance of social media in developing Colalife. As you can see from the Colalife blog, he has done an extraordinary job of openly chronicling the programme.

Here’s a selection of the tweets during and after the showing.

Earlier posts about Colalife

 

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The Cola Road Documentary and what's next for Colalife


The RSA Great Room, with its James Barry paintings of The Progress of Human Knowledge,  was a fine setting yesterday for the launch of The Cola Road Documentary telling the story of the Colalife mission to deliver medicines to poor mothers in isolated Zambian villages. There was lots of learning for us – not least more on how the original idea of delivering the medicines in Coke crates has changed.

As you can see from the applause pictured in my panorama, and the tweets below, the film by Claire Ward was very well received, with further news coming through during the evening about Colalife being presented to the UN General Assembly as one of 10 breakthough innovations to save lives.
The original Colalife idea, that captured people’s imagination, was to use Coca Cola’s unique supply chain to deliver ant-diarrhoea medicines to save children’s lives. That has worked in trials, and the Kit Yamoyo won a Design Museum Product of the Year award. However, the real innovation proved to be designing a value chain that rewarded people all along the line, without necessarily using crates, as I reported earlier.
The change in design approach was highlighted by BBC global business correspondent Peter Day in a programme broadcast on Radio 4, and yesterday Peter chaired the panel discussion after the showing. Here’s his account of finding a better business story than he expected from the Kit Yamoyo award.

Later in the RSA Gerrard Bar I was able to catch up with Simon Berry – who created Colalife with his wife Jane – for an update on future plans, and also meet Ali who cycled from Cairo to Cape Town with Lizzie to raise money. Their story here.
As well as explaining how the Colalife programme now aims to move from pilots to national coverage, Simon highlighted the importance of social media in developing Colalife. As you can see from the Colalife blog, he has done an extraordinary job of openly chronicling the programme.

Here’s a selection of the tweets during and after the showing.

Earlier posts about Colalife
 

Introducing Lobbi – with bold aims to change politics locally and globally

Downloading Democracy 2013 – Archived Live Stream from John Popham on Vimeo.

Earlier this week Lobbi, a new initiative promoting citizen engagement and action through social media, hosted a Downloading Democracy event in London. You can that see that it was a well-informed and lively affair from Mick Fealty’s excellent report, the live stream recording and Storify from John Popham.

As well as convening the event, Lobbi is developing a new online platform, outlined in this interview with Mick by the founder and initial funder of Lobbi, Hussain “Hoz” Shafiei.

As he explains on his Linkedin profile, and the interview, Hoz is “an Iranian by blood an Arab by birth and an Englishman by upbringing” with a passion to revive UK politics with an demonstration of what might also make a difference to other nations and cultures.

Hoz writes:

I returned to the UK in 2011 and decided to no longer work in a commercial industry and started on my journey to enhance global democracy. It is for this reason that I started Lobbi a project that will allow a real time connection between the electorate and their elected representatives….

Lobbi is an innovative and unique method of engaging the electorate to become re-enthused and involved with politics on a long-term basis. This is created through the ever-growing power of social media, with a Facebook/Twitter-esque interactive forum and information portal.

Lobbi provides the voting public with the means to discover current issues that affect them – instantly – via their smart phone, tablet or computer. In addition, they can get their own views across in the same way as they’d post on Facebook or Twitter. But more than this, it’s a two-way street, as politicians and elected representatives also interact, giving them a vital link to the public mood on a ‘real-time’ basis.

In short, Lobbi brings politics into the 21st century – and about time too…

You might ask, what’s new? I’ll come to that … but first, what’s not.

You can find a free event most months in London about how we need to revive democracy, and fairly frequent discussion of the role of the Internet.

We are still asking Is e-democracy now a reality? as the BBC reported in 2007, with periods of excitement around the role of social networks in the Arab Spring and the success of the Five Star Movement in the Italian election.

What’s certain is that we have plenty of online spaces for general campaigning, and specific systems for civic engagement, whether developed for citizens by mySociety or agencies like Delib.

Consumer Focus has sponsored a Digital Engagement Cookbook with 68 recipes, and Helpful Technology offers a Digital Engagement Guide of practical help and ideas.  For a wider perspective, just look at the programme for Personal Democracy Forum in New York next month. For advice on what’s worked or not, check in with Steven Clift who coined the term e-democracy in 1994 and has been promoting it globally ever since.

Steven is particularly informative on the hard slog of achieving an inclusive approach, which may come more by knocking on doors and using email lists than new social tech functions.

So how might Lobbi make a difference? At this stage I should declare an interest, because I’ve been engaged in discussions on a Lobbi Linkedin group over the past few months, and also invited to join a smaller group next week to help inform strategy. I’ve worked with Steve Moore, who is leading Lobbi development, on a number of projects, including in the early days of Big Society Network.

Steve is now developing Britain’s Personal Best (BPB) “which convenes thousands of organisations and millions of people to achieve a personal accomplishment over the course of one weekend each year”. He’s a man with the ability to carry though a big idea.

I don’t know what the Lobbi strategy will be. That depends in part on discussion next week. As Hoz indicates, a mobile-friendly system is under development that could, potentially, connect elected representatives in an area with citizens there, enable reporting of local problems to agencies, and encourage neighbour-to-neighbour cooperation. However, old hands in this field will warn that tech doesn’t do it alone.

Firstly, just build it … and they probably won’t come. Why should citizens embrace a new system  if they are happy with Facebook and its scope to create groups, pages and networks? Why should politicians and officials engage in a system that may not integrate with the ones they already have in-house?

Secondly, local politics and community action requires a blend of online and offline activity. That’s not just because a third of people may not be online – a point made by Chi Onwurah MP at this week’s event. Or that, in my experience, relatively few community activists are enthusiastic online activists. It’s also that getting things done, once you go beyond Clicktivism, involves building new relationships and trust, working through ideas and options, and making decisions in complex situations. Online isn’t enough for that.

Thirdly, if you do manage to get a lot of people online in the same place, you need to put a lot of effort into facilitation and site management. That’s a skilled operation.

The more ambitious you are, the more the costs and management issues increase. Where will the revenue come from, not just to manage and develop systems, but to fund the offline activity?

I suspect that in further discussions to refine Lobbi, those experienced in the field will suggest either focusing on one activity that current platforms and programmes are not offering – and do that really well. Or aim to connect some of the very disparate online activities currently underway. And to be agile – try stuff out small scale, revise and redevelop.

My hunch is that given Hoz’s passion, combined with Steve’s contacts and convening skills, Lobbi might do well by aiming to be as much a movement and community as a new platform. What was very evident at the Downloading Democracy event was the number of people who’ve been around the scene in the last six or seven years welcoming the chance to meet up for a chat. After a burst of activity in 2007-09, and the failed hopes for Big Society, we’ve rather lacked the social spaces to bring together social techies, community activists, new-style democracy advocates … well, forget the labels, I mean people who want to do good stuff locally using a mix of methods new and old.

At local level, there’s general accord that it makes sense – particularly in hard times – to go for an approach that makes as much as you can from the strengths of local people, projects, and buildings before developing new initiatives from scratch and seeking funds that might otherwise support existing initiatives. Map existing assets and networks, and concentrate on community building. Social technology can help in that process, as I’ve explored here and here.

Maybe there’s a couple of new angles for Lobbi: one focused, one more open.

First, if looking for a niche, consider focusing on how to digitally enable the enablers who help build communities. What help do they need in the personal use of technology, how can they help others, how can they enable their organisations. Go person-centric.

Second, take an asset-based approach nationally. Map who is doing what in this first, and aim to build connections both personal and technical. Use that knowledge both to advise and build kits for the enablers, and to create a strong community and movement for technology-enabled social action.

Hoz and Steve have been generous in bearing with the challenges that I and others have raised during earlier discussion, welcomed new ideas and connections, and remained determined to press ahead. With that sort of spirit, Lobbi could be a catalyst for a fresh approach to politics and local action.

As Mick Fealty puts it more eloquently in his report:

There’s a term in evolutionary biology called punctuated equilibrium which suits the uncertain times we are living in. The gist is that big changes in living organisms largely occur in short episodic bursts when their external environment undergoes some form of drastic change. In such terms, the current multiple crises in democracy is being driven by sudden and rapid technological advances in human communication.

The resulting uncertainty is a necessary precondition for the emergence of novel theories and practices for how we might functionally respond, both as collectives (nations, communities, sharers of a global environment) and individuals (politicians, priests and citizens). None of us really know where any of this is taking us, though we can see and feel seriousness of the deficits that arise as a result of the disruption of ‘business as usual’. There are no road maps.

When life isn’t business as usual, we need people like Hoz and Steve. If only to get me blogging about this stuff again.

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GlobalNet21 hub to boost Newsnet coverage

The Media Trust’s Newsnet is following up its commitment to feature a wider range of community media, on a number of fronts. Earlier stories here.

There’s an offer of five awards of £500 for “inspiring stories from across the UK of how community media, citizen journalism and community reporting have contributed to positive change in local communities”. A couple of interesting pitches are in the forum already.

In addition there’s a great demonstration of the potential of community media by Newsnet staffer Adam Perry:

I made a short video this weekend with Kirkbymoorside supporters of Safe and Sound Homes, a York-based charity that I volunteer for that works to prevent youth homelessness.  Supporters were holding a sleepout to raise funds and you can see the resulting video about their experiences here.  As well as the video my son, who has an interest in photography took the photos, and the weekend became a good example of using all the free tools we could find to get the message out to the community and to SASH’s supporters across North Yorkshire; Clare Usher from SASH put together a summary using Storify which you can see here.
During the course of the weekend I also had the good fortune to meet Kirkbymoorside resident and newsnet member Gareth Jenkins who runs The Kirkbymoorside Town Blog, and is setting up blogs for Helmsley and Pickering as well.  We didn’t get much of a chance to chat as the work for the sleepout took up most of the time, but I’m looking forward to catching up with Gareth very soon to find out more about the work he’s doing in these communities and the challenges of building an audience.

I posted a rather provocative piece in Newsnet forums following my post on this blog about the apparently narrow focus on citizen journalism … and I’m glad to welcome new developments, and a promise there from Alex Delany of improvements to the Newsnet site.

An even more interesting development could be the linkage with Globanet21, being launched on March 28 at an event at Channel 4.

Francis Sealey, Christina Wiltshire and supporters have built Globalnet 21 to a membership of 3,800 through a mixture of events and webinars and other activities. I took part in a webinar the other day on Strengthening Civil Society through social media, and was very impressed with both organisation and contributions. The March 28 event intro says:

Ensuring people have a voice in the public square of debate and discussion is vital in any democracy. We try to enable this through our meetings, webinars and podcasts.

We are now taking this one step further.The Media Trust has now invited us to become a Beacon Hub for their lottery funded Citizen Journalist project. This will link us to a Single Publishing Interface to enable those stories that members want to distribute more widely to be published to media partners (BBC, ITV, local and national press.) They will also be available on our own Blog Podcasting Channel and through the Media Trust.

At this meeting we will learn what it means to be a Beacon Hub and how our members can get their stories into the public domain whether they be blogs, photojournalism or podcasts. Not only will we find out about Beacon Hubs and the work of the Media Trust but also we will discuss Blogging and how this is an important tool of citizen journalism and Photojournalism and our plans for an Exhibition of this in May.

Adding:

We bring a special dimension to the work the Media Trust does by offering material through our members who are interested in the big issues of the present century, want to discuss them, give stories and case studies to illustrate them and create a socially responsible society that holds those who take decisions to account.

If Globalnet21 can encourage network members to post, it should provide a rich source of content for Newsnet.

Meanwhile, over at the RSA, we are discussing how digital champions and reporters can animate online networks for the 27,000-strong Fellowship. Maybe there will be a chance to share experience.