One of the most enjoyable things I’ve been involved with this year has been helping to design and launch the UK Catalyst Awards. Led by the excellent Dan McQuillan of Make Your Mark, alongside Colman Getty, Polecat and Unltd, and supported by NESTA and BERR, the awards (inspired by the Council on Social Action) set out to discover leading examples of social technology being used for positive change in communities.
I hope you’ll agree that the shorlist is incredibly inspiring and that you’ll take time out this week to have a browse. My questions;
1) How can we use amazing examples like these to inspire others?
2) How can we connect these organisations with the resources they need to grow?
3) How can we trigger the mass media to carry more stories about the inspiring and interesting work that these organisations are doing on a daily basis?
The world’s first virtual disability nightclub. Based in SecondLife, the internet-based virtual world where people can interact, play and do business, Wheelies has become a meeting point for disabled users to connect and discuss developments in disability issues. Founded in 2006 by Simon Stevens, an independent Disability Consultant and Trainer who has cerebral palsy, Wheelies has supported over 5,000 people in over 30 countries and its membership continues to grow.
An online forum which gives patients and carers the chance to share their stories about local NHS services, making it easy for the public, government and NHS to review them. NHS patients and carers have great ideas about how services can be improved but feel their feedback is not always heard.
This scalability of the web gives patients more power to improve the NHS and also means that managers and staff can hear easily about ‘front line’ stories. More than 7000 people have posted comments or ranked a service and over half a million pages are viewed on Patient Opinion per month
An integrated online car-sharing solutions for councils, businesses, hospitals and community groups across the UK, to encourage and enable more efficient use of car journeys. The Liftshare system was the first of its kind anywhere in the world; it cuts congestion and CO2 emissions, brings people together and saves the average car-sharing commuter around £1,000 a year. Since October 2001, Liftshare has provided over 1,180 car-sharing schemes and succeeded in recruiting more than 235,000 members
School of Everything
School of Everything matches up would-be learners and would-be teachers, unleashing unused skills in local neighbourhoods. From active retired people, to teenage whiz-kids, to hobbyists in their garden sheds, there are people who could gain satisfaction, confidence – and, in some cases, a new career – from passing on what they know. It is this vision of a bottom-up learning system that inspires the School of Everything team.
A website that ‘nags’ individuals or businesses into doing small things that help them make their lifestyles more sustainable. Each month members (nearly 7000 so far) are nagged to go online where they are taken step by step through a different low-effort, high impact action around themes such as food, energy or fashion. Unique software tracks what people are doing, measures the calculable impact, and visualises it on the UK map.
A new form of web-based employment, allowing people to find bits of work which they can do in between unpredictable commitments in their life, such as childcare, starting a business or studying. After registering you can choose the hours you are available to work and your hourly rate. Employers then log on and select staff according to their needs. So far users have included supermarkets, non-food retailers, leisure companies, caterers and the NHS. So far, just over 650 people have worked the Slivers-of-Time way, and many have found a job as a direct result.
South Witham Broadband Ltd (SWBB)
A not-for-profit company that provides broadband internet and wifi for local individuals and businesses in South Witham, Lincolnshire as well as surrounding villages. It was set up in 2004 after the large internet suppliers decided that it wasn’t worth the investment to provide these villages with broadband internet. The residents disagreed and decided to do it themselves! The company is run by volunteers and democratically owned and governed, with every user becoming a member. It offers an 8 Megabit service to a 20 sq mile radius and an ADSL service to those within the area and further a field.
A social networking site administered by its users where young gypsy travellers can network, blog and share media such as podcasts and video content amongst their peers. This is a group which are often marginalised and misrepresented by the UK’s media. Savvy Chavvy (Chavvy being the old Romany word for ‘youth’) is an online cultural space with more than 1250 members that gives a voice to young travellers to help to change how their community is perceived
Imagine the voting technology seen on X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing grounded into the community enabling the residents or members of social groups to vote on local topics, involving them in the decision making processes and facilitating consultation with governing bodies. LocalEyes enourages local residents to solve problems with local solutions, with the help of new technologies. The village pilot project has led to a Going Carbon Neutral group being created, reusable bags being introduced into the local shops, and one third of local residents subscribing to an organic food box.
The Wiki Project
An wiki enabling young refugees and asylum seekers to upload stories of migration using digital media. Through a drama that they construct, their collective stories unfold – much like an animated comic book! Blogs, forums also allow viewers to interact with the participants and discuss their stories. Wiki’s are often used to create collaborative websites and online community resources, with Wikipedia being the best known example. The young participants gain skills in digital technology, creative expression & language skills so they gain confidence integrate into their communities.
An online learning community using social technology to connect young people around the world., transforming pupils into global citizens. Since its launch in January 2007 Rafi.ki has engaged over 800 secondary schools in 87 countries. Rafi.ki acts as a ‘partner finder’ for schools and uses video and audio conferencing, email, instant messaging and forums. It can be accessed at school or at home and allows pupils and teachers to interact with their peers all over the world. Students can also create interactive web pages about themselves, their school and their work.
Where Is My Public Servant? (WIMPS)
A website run for and by young people in Northern Ireland. It has two aims; to increase their civic involvement and to help politicians and other public servants to be more accountable. The site uses the latest in web2.0 technology to support young people in addressing real issues of social importance in their communities. Video ‘hotseats’ are interviews conducted by young people with leading political figures. WIMPS is widely recognised by politicians and political parties in Northern Ireland as a key vehicle for engaging with young people. WIMPS has over 600 registered users and gets over 12,500 visits a month
An innovative media platform facilitating direct conversations between the public and those with power or fame. It connects residents with councillors, constituents with MPs, shareholders with the board, fans with celebrities and learners with experts. Yoosk uses the wisdom of the crowd to gather and sort the most important questions users want to put to public figures, enabling them to reply directly using video or text. Yoosk users can comment on and rate those answers, as well as build communities of news enthusiasts around local or national issues.
Plings is about Places to Go and Things to Do for young people. It is about positive activities like youthwork, or sports training or community involvement. Our philosophy is to “fish where the fish are” with Plings – so rather than build one website or print 10,000 (out-of date) leaflets – we build data feeds and channels to help organisation put information in, and young people, parents and communities get information out. Stockport council put a Plings Calendar on their website and Manchester council put Plings out via Bluetooth. People are encouraged to feedback via Flickr, blogs, phones, or even in person!
Big Art Project / Big Art Mob
Big Art Project / Big Art Mob explores the whole area of Public Art in depth – just how public is it? how much influence do people have over what lands in the middle of where they live? what role can art play in improving people’s local environment? This web / mobile / tv / on the ground project has captured over 5,000 art works for posterity and discussion in the first year Organisations have used it to spotlight their campaigns (e.g. Save our Sculptures, Sheffield Cooling Tower Campaign).and 6 large scale commissions are happening as a result of the initiative, right across the UK – one larger than the Angel of the North
Danny Bull & Charley Brinton
A place where people can get to know their neighbours and local area; to chat and exchange ‘local knowledge’. The site aims to build a supportive and safe community network on the internet and outside your front door, and has over 4000 registered users who regularly chat and meet through the site. You can view profiles and add your own, chat about local amenities, browse through classifieds, find a reliable tradesman or a good babysitter. Like a cross between Loot and a chat room, you can also buy and sell in the online marketplace, from motorbikes to second hand clothes.
Launched in July 2007, Harringay Online was set up to connect the residents of Harringay so they might share information about the area, create opportunities to shape it and ultimately build stronger local online and real world connections. The site has co-ordinated a number of campaigns on key local issues such as the proliferation of betting shops, housing problems and traffic levels.It has just got Haringey Council to agree to the idea of a vision-based charter for the area. Many residents feel more connected with the area and with each other as a result of the website and a social group which meets every month and has a growing membership has been set up. The website has authored a number of articles about the local area on Wikipedia.
Kirsten Hemingway Arnold
A web-based tool allowing people and businesses to apply and recruit for interim, part-time, job-share and flexible assignments, so they can accommodate their various commitments such as child care or hospital appointments. The web site is different in that the people who become members keep a space on LifeWorklife rather like a social networking site – but with employment as its central aim. Since launching a test version last month it has helped a disabled user become economically independent and made an economic impact for users ranging from working families to students.
Harnessing Westminster Council’s own wifi, FreqOUT is an innovative programme of wireless and emergent arts/education projects. It explores the potential of wireless technology to engage socially excluded young people living in areas which fall in the top 20% most deprived neighbourhoods nationally. So far 358 young people with multiple barriers to learning have used technologies such as mobiles, bluetooth and mini radios to discuss and create responses to current issues. FreqOUT! aims to increase young people’s opportunities for work and further education through involvement with pioneering technology, and exposure to other community members.
The Freeconomy Community
The Freeconomy Community is a skill, tool, space and land sharing website to build closer, stronger communities through the power of sharing. Freeconomy is about sharing the skills you’ve learnt and learning those you haven’t. By mapping other members who are within 10 miles it makes it easy for members to locate one another in their communities and means that people develop new relationships with people who live near them. It has over 5,000 members and there are over 1,000 vetted skills and over 700 types of tools on the site No money changes hands for this skills exchange as people share simply for the love of it!
A community film and vodcasting project that challenges young people to make films that raise awareness and campaign for change on behalf of local community and wider social issues they feel passionate about. They upload, share and broadcast these films to a wider audience via an online community newsroom called the Boom Room. So far 250 youth clubs from across Britain are up and running on the project and ten kick-off BOOM! film-production training events have taken place around the country with more than 500 young people (aged 16-25) participating.
A European-wide community promoting inclusive entrepreneurship, bringing together practitioners and policy makers around social entrepreneurship and local development The wiki promotes an open source shared approach to improving policy by linking the actors on the ground with the policy makers. It has developed a vast amount of case studies and had 26,000 users in first four months. The online tool to bring in user responses to business support initiatives has is being used in over 20 cities and regions including Wales, Asturias, and Northampton.
Enabled by Design
Enabled by Design is developing an online community to support those looking to make adjustments to their lives, be it as a result of disability, injury or personal identified need. The ultimate aim is to make independent living more accessible through the use of clever modern design. The website will bridge the communication gap between users and designers, to encourage discussion and collaboration to produce practical yet stylish gadgets. It will also provide an opportunity for people to air their views, talk through ideas and hopefully find some answers! A prototype was developed at the recent Social innovation Camp and the project is securing early stage funding.
Groups Near You
Local online groups have been shown to make a real difference to the local community aspects of people’s lives – whether it’s discussing crime, finding out about local restaurants or campaigning to their local council. However there is no eBay or Craiglist in the local online community world, instead there’s a myriad of google yahoo, Facebook groups and email lists. Unless someone tells you about a group directly, they are all but invisible. GroupsNearYou.com solves this problem by letting people map the locations and details of groups they know about and help people find ones relevant to them.
Kids Of is a platform to provide information, communication and help to millions of adults who support aging parents while juggling career and family needs. It will enable users to help each other overcome the steep learning curve on practical problems like on how to find free taxis or homecare for elderly parents. The site will allow kids of older people to join local groups based on their parents’ communities to find other kids of older people in that locality and share information and recommendations. They will also be able to create secure personal spaces to share contact details and health updates with family. The project has seed funding and is currently conducting user research and building the technology platform.
The main Catalyst Awards site is over here. The Awards will be announced on the 24th of July.