Author Archives: david wilcox

Exploring EC1

Update: I’ve started a Connections blog about EC1 linked to articles in the EC1 Echo. Topics include plans for a Business Improvement District in the City Culture Mile, and proposals for a community forum.

After a few years focussed on networks and network mapping, through the Networked City initiative, I’m now complementing that with a deeper exploration of how we can use geographic maps and other digital tools to engage with our neighbourhoods.

I live just south of Smithfield, so I’m concentrating on Clerkenwell to the north and on Farringdon. There’s lots happening in the Clerkenwell community – well documented by our community newspaper the EC1 Echo.

The City of London has established Culture Mile – running east and west through Smithfield – as its cultural zone, and there’s plans to move the meat market to Dagenham Dock. That won’t happen for a few years, but in the derelict western end of the market the Museum of London has started work on a major project to move from its current site on the edge of the Barbican.

All that prompted me to think about how to map past, present and future of the area. You can see work so far at Exploring EC1. I’ll report developments here, and on a blog linked to that.

Networked City in practice: maps, apps, games and a model for Commons

The ideas that a group of us have developed around Connecting Londoners and Networked City are bearing fruit, with a two-year Big Lottery-funded programme, models for creating local Commons, plus more games and an app designed to help community connectors. Below is an update that I’ve posted to the Networked City wiki.

The big news is that Drew Mackie and I will be working with the HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network, plus three other networks, to help them map their membership and use digital tools to support campaigns. The innovation will lie in also supporting peer-to-peer connections between network members, so enabling grass-roots and user-led groups to self-organise.

Underpinning the work is a model that animates network maps with a communications platform, which can be co-design through workshop games.  We’ve been very fortunate  to benefit from pro bono support for a Commons co-design app  from Founders and Coders. More on that here.

When taken with local development work in Barking and Clerkenwell, and discussions on civil society infrastructure, what’s merging is a model that might offer some commons elements neighbourhoods, networks and national collaborations.

Update from Networked City

HEAR Mapping and Networks for Solidarity and Campaigning

We have a practical outcome from the Networked City exploration. Drew Mackie and David Wilcox are working with four equalities networks, on a two-year programme funded by Big Lottery.

As project leader Christine Goodall says, the aim is to “co-produce with small and user-led equality organisations in London a system that uses digital tools to build and strengthen their networks, enable better connections for collaboration, campaigning and solidarity, and enhance their voice and influence”.

“The project will also have a key aim of sharing learning throughout the project, building a repository of resources that will be made widely accessible”. More here.

Games, apps and maps for the Commons

We are developing the idea of “Commons” as environments for conversation and collaboration, with games to enable the design and development through the use of maps, apps, stories and self-organising. We are building on earlier Living Lab games, and now have a prototype app through pro bono support from Founders and Coders More here.

Mapping the Commons

In Islington we been working with The Peel Institute on their Connecting Clerkenwell programme, and then on various forms of mapping to display local heritage. You can see a Google Earth flyerover, Story Maps and a gallery, with 360 photos and video on this demonstration site.

Hub and platform model for the Commons

Our work in Clerkenwell, and before that with the Thames Ward Community Project in Barking, provided inspiration for for a model of mapping, communications and storytelling to support local action. The draft model is here.

People Power Platform

David Wilcox is a part of a group that has met twice to discuss models for civil society infrastructure, following the Civil Societies Future report. As I blogged here in January Steve Wyler proposed the idea of a People Power Grid, which chimes with our Networked City ideas. In subsequent discussion Platform was favoured more than grid. There’s scope for joining these ideas up with last year’s Social Power Report from the Sheila McKecknie Foundation, and the Compass 45°change pamphlet.


Latest posts from Networked City

Here’s the latest posts from the Networked City blog. See earlier posts for more about our development – or the Networked City wiki.

Networked City development

I’m currently writing for a new Networked City blog which complements our NWC wiki and NWC forum

Networked City is a loose framework within which people, projects and organisations can learn how to use mapping, network building, data and technology for community and social benefit. We are developing a network and communities of practice.

Recent posts at Networked City

Smarter London Together starts on the road to people-first design. Can it also lead to strong civil society?
The Mayor of London, and chief digital officer Theo Blackwell, launched the Smarter London Together roadmap after a listening exercise, with more emphasis on the “people first, technology second” philosophy urged earlier by organisations including Doteveryone. Could this extend to support for civil society organisations?

Hub for London appoints CEO
The Hub for London, set up by Greater London Volunteering and London Funders to create new support systems for civil society, has appointed Margaret Cooney as its first chief executive.
Margaret is currently Director of Development at vinspired the volunteering charity for 14-25 year olds, and has previously worked for Spacehive and the Big Lottery Fund.

New Hub for London role to develop civil society networks and civic tech
The Hub for London responsible for developing new systems to support charities, social action groups and community organisations has advertised a post to support and develop networks, and apply digital tech for communication and collaboration. I think it is fair to say that the responsibilities outlined in the recruitment pack reflect many of the ideas developed during the Networked City exploration, in discussion with the Hub Advisory group. That opens up opportunities for collaboration with a range of people and organisations involved in recent events and discussions about mapping and network building.

More posts on the blog

Our first year exploring how to make London a more Networked City

Over the past year I’ve worked with Drew Mackie, Matt Scott and a host of other people on an exploration into how we can use network thinking, digital tech and self-organising to support London civil society.

Our aim is to help introduce innovative ideas and practice into The Way Ahead official plans for the new Hub for London, following closure of the umbrella body for some 120,000 groups, networks and charities.

We have set up the Connecting Londoners group, and collaborated with Our Way Ahead, a network of London networks and community groups promoting community-based approaches to support systems.

Our biggest event recently was a simulation game workshop at London Metropolitan University where we heard about current plans for support systems focussed on the Hub; adopted roles from concerned citizen to network leader and council officer; reviewed challenges and ideas from a consultant’s report; developed further ideas, and then chose methods and actions to carry them out.

The main idea to emerge from the workshop was developing a Community of Practice for people who want to take forward our ideas. We’ve combined that idea with others from The Way Ahead, and we are now discussing where next with the advisory group for the Hub, of which I’m a member.

I’ll continue blogging about Networked City at Connecting Londoners.

Explaining to London’s Deputy Mayor how mapping can help connect Londoners and #reclaimourspaces

As I reported earlier in the this update, I’ve been working with community groups and networks to develop ideas for a more networked approach to support for London’s civil society.

Last week I was able to pitch some of those ideas, developed with Drew Mackie,  to Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC. There’s a full report here on the Connecting Londoners blog, together with background on the Reclaim Our Spaces campaign who organised the event.

We produced a poster summarising why we believe network connections are needed at different levels.

This week I and others will be pitching at an RSA Ideas event. There we’ll explain further how we’ve been working with the Our Way Ahead initiative to map London networks.

Our idea is that we should run a participatory process to co-design the way in which different levels of networks can join up with the proposed London hub. Background here and more in a further post.

Looking for ideas at @LDNCommMedia summit on how community media can help in Connecting Londoners. Here’s our headlines.

Originally posted on Connecting Londoners

I’m going to the London Community Media Summit later today, hoping to have some useful conversations about the role of local blogs, news sites, online communities and radio in Connecting Londoners and making London a more Networked City. It provides a good nudge for me to write some headlines summarising where we at, with reference links and notes.

In summaryConnecting Londoners developed from an exploration into how to make London a more Networked City. We are pitching ideas at London Funders, City Hall and others about how to introduce more network thinking and digital technology into current plans to reframe support for London civil society.

Our most recent piece: How to move TheWayAhead into the networked age by Connecting Londoners

Reporting on London civil society

Networked City and Connecting Londoners

Recent blog posts

Main sites and briefing notes

I’m sure the summit will offer a refreshing take on media, both community and mainstream. It’s now nearly 40 years since I was a planning reporter on the London Evening Standard, and 20 since I helped start UK Communities Online. I’ll be looking for new ideas and inspiration for a few more years.

Updates on Networked City – and the RSA

I’m currently blogging over here about the London Networked City exploration, and also about the RSA’s own Networked Cities initiative.

In addition, I’m  helping start a Fellows’ Forum for the RSA, and have put together some history of past RSA online initiatives on a wiki about OpenRSA.

London as a #networkedcity gains support at first event. Now here’s the plan

Update: there’s now a wiki containing background on the Networked City exploration and an archive of posts from the Networked City blog

First published on

We had a terrific meeting at Newspeak House earlier this week, which I trailed as the launch of the London Networked City exploration. I wrote previously:

The exploration we are launching tomorrow, with the London Council for Voluntary Action, aims to complement a much bigger exercise by London funders, LVSC and Greater London Volunteering.

That initiative, called The Way Ahead, was prompted in part by the fact that traditional ways of doing good through charities, voluntary organisations and community groups face funding cuts by public bodies, who now focus on contracting.

In addition the future of organisations like LVSC and GVA is in doubt. Fresh thinking is needed on the way that the whole system operates, from individual citizens working with others to improve neighbourhoods and support each other, to borough-level councils for voluntary service, and London-wide networks of interests and support.

The next steps for Networked City are to plan further events on January 31 and February 22, develop task groups around specific topics, and set up a blog and wiki and other tools.

I’ll post more shortly, including signup details for the January 31 event.


Here is the background paper we circulated for the event. It explains the relationship to The Way Ahead initiative in more detail, offers some models for thinking about civil society, and describes how we’ll use the fictional but realistic London borough of Slipham as a testbed for new ideas.

In the last post I pondered  or  … and on reflection  wins out for now. We do of course think it will be really good…

Thanks to Matt Scott who led the way on Wednesday, and everyone else who contributed so much energy. We’ll be in touch more directly as well.

For other information please drop a comment here, email or DM @davidwilcox


Help us co-design a Living Lab to show #thewayahead for London’s civil society

Recently I’ve been writing at about a major initiative from London Funders, called The Way Ahead. Here’s some reference to TWA. The aim is to rethink how community and voluntary organisations are supported in future – not just through funding, but by infrastructure organisations like councils for voluntary service. The original report contained no significant reference to the role of digital technology, and there is  currently no budget for engagement and communication with Londoners, as I reported here. Here’s a proposal that might help on both fronts. Originally published on

Word cloud of post

The organisations that fund London’s community groups and charities, and support volunteers, are exploring how best to make the capital a better place to live and work at a time of big funding cuts and population growth.

Here’s how you can contribute ideas, in a modest way, on the role of technology and network thinking in enabling citizens to play a part – something so far missing from future plans. Read on for some background and our ideas for a Living Lab …

… or signup here for our January 10 event

In summary: we are going to develop the fictional London borough of Slipham, showing the relationships between citizens and organisations.

network map of slipham

Then we’ll play through how a mix of new approaches can help them create a better life in the digital age. It will build on a workshop we ran with the Centre for Ageing Better

The Way Ahead – Civil Society at the Heart of London – a report from London Funders – emphasises that Londoners and their communities should be at the heart of any future plans, through processes of co-production:

Co-production is where Londoners work with those in power, and each other, in a way in which all voices are heard equally in developing a shared understanding of need and in crafting solutions to make London a better place.

But as I reported here the funders and other organisations face a challenge in explaining civil society**, and moving from high-level ideas towards practical ways of putting co-production into practice. In order to work, co-production has to engage citizens, businesses and public bodies as well as community and voluntary organisations.

One further issue is that there was no significant mention of the role of digital technology in The Way Ahead. That’s now recognised, and there is a group working on data sharing. In addition, as I wrote here, Drew Mackie and I are working with one of the partners, the London Voluntary Service Council, to explore how people can use new methods for social action.

This could range from people using their smartphones to connect with friends, family and other interests – and groups and organisations – to campaigning and organising, and to the sort of innovations listed by NESTA and the Nominet Trust.

Digital technology, and the networks it enables, are important to the civil society organisations themselves. It may put them out of business – as has happened in so many other areas. As one group, the Community Sector Coalition wrote recently in a position paper:

The Voluntary & Community Sector as a collection of national bodies is over. Ministers and policy ‘think tanks’ have largely concluded that they can do without it, that social action can be generated through other means. We are proposing to embrace that shift towards independent action: increasingly a new generation is using digital technology, demanding and influencing change and which takes place increasingly outside of the voluntary sector and formal coalitions.

Clusters and groupings can mobilise almost instantaneously to take collective action. In such a world we don’t need a sector, an organisation or even an alliance of organisations to move forward: we only require, the spaces, platforms, networks and technology to mobilise and take action.

There is an issue about the infrastructure to support this new direction. But the agenda cannot come from Government – it has to be a critical and reflective eco-system, created by us all acting together with a shared and emergent vision. This is something we have to do for ourselves and our suggestion is to focus on building networks, alliances and active critical spaces. We propose we do this together in a non- hierarchical way. We can co-ordinate our own organising by working together, neither above nor below one another.

This provocative scenario may overstate the ability of people to self-organise – but it’s interesting that it comes from people rooted in the community sector – not technology futurists.

It seems to me there are three challenges for The Way Ahead: explaining the idea of “civil society” to those outside the community and voluntary sector, and engaging them in change; bringing technology and network thinking into the mix; and demonstrating how people might “co-produce” creative solutions locally in future.

One way to do that would be to develop a local demonstration in a London borough. But that would take years to organise – and The Way Ahead will be reaching conclusions in a few months.

So instead we are develop a simulation, which we call a Living Lab. We have created the basis for the fictional London Borough of Slipham, with characters, organisations, and a map of relationships. We are assembling a menu of ideas for making Slipham a great place to live and work – if the various interests will cooperate and collaborate to co-produce some solutions.

You can see here how we ran a Living Lab workshop in May with the Centre for Ageing Better to play through ways to help older citizens connect with services and opportunities in Slipham.

On January 10 we are inviting anyone interested to join us in planning how we can further develop and run the simulation, with several aims.

  • to show what civil society means by creating a cast of characters and telling the stories of their lives in a fictional by realistic setting
  • exploring what challenges and opportunities they will face – and how digital technology, together with existing well-tried methods, can help
  • engaging London funders in the discussion, to help them consider where they might invest in future
  • creating a model for co-designing local solutions that could be useful in later phases of The Way Ahead.

We have organised an event on the evening of January 10 at Newspeak House, designed to brief people interested in social tech for good on our plans. We’ll explain the simulation, and invite some ideas on how it might work.

Here’s one scenario we might look at – connecting older people, those with disabilities, and others with special needs and interests with new opportunities.

If you are interested, but can’t make it on the 10th, drop a comment on this post, email me at or tweet to @davidwilcox. I post here later other ways to engage online, and news of other events.

We’ll also be experimenting with an online version of Slipham, with a network map, and presence for groups created with the system. We hope to work with the five theme groups working on The Way Ahead. I’ve already been to three, and terrific ideas are developing.

What’s in it for anyone who gets involved with the simulation? One idea we are considering is setting up a coop to develop Slipham, so that we can bid to sponsors and funders on two fronts: to enhance the simulation, and also to back “for real” innovation we may have for using digital technology and network thinking in civil society.

How will it turn out? We don’t know. That’s the challenge and excitement of co-production.


** The Way Ahead report offers this definition of civil society:

Civil society is where people take action to improve their own lives or the lives of others and act where government or the private sector don’t. Civil society is driven by the values of fairness and equality, and enables people to feel valued and to belong. It includes formal organisations such as voluntary and community organisations, informal groups of people who join together for a common purpose and individuals who take action to make their community a better place to live.

Globalnet21 and London Futurists are organising a very relevant event on Ethics and the Digital Age on January 11 2017.

  • Should the widespread disruptions of the digital age alter our conceptions about morality and ethics?
  • Which ethical principles from previous eras should we continue to uphold (perhaps with extra urgency)?
  • Are there new considerations and realisations that we would want to inform our decisions about the future of technology and the future of humanity?
  • In such discussions, what should our starting point be?

You can find out more and register here