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David Wilcox

Working groups publish reports on #TheWayAhead for London's Civil Society

1 min read

The Way Ahead initiative that aims to redesign support for London's civil society has now published reports from five specialist working groups, in advance of the major conference later this month.

The reports are on Pragmatic Co-production; Triage and Connect; Data Sharing; Voice and Campaigning; Consistent commissioning and funding. The reports are highly detailed because of the complexity of the issues, so I'm hoping that there will be an analysis and summary available from the System Change Group by the time of the event.

I was a member of three of the groups, and I know how much work those leading them put in. My thanks to the Triage and Connect group for referring to the Slipham Living Lab that Drew Mackie and I worked on, and the Co-production group for using some content from the note in did.

I've included background information on The Way Ahead in the post on the conference on June 22.

David Wilcox

RSA Networked Cities aim to make tech serve citizens - let's co-design with people and communities #RSACities

5 min read

The RSA has filled out its vision of a Networked City - launched at a recent event - as one that "makes the most of technology with citizens at the forefront".

I hope this approach opens the door to collaboration with London's Networked City exploration and with RSA Fellows who have expertise in the field. We could help co-design Networked Cities with citizens to ensure that they and not top-down tech initiatives are in the lead.

In Cities 3.0 - from data-driven to people-powered senior researcher Brhmie Balaram says that technology-driven Smart City solutions require rethinking:

Over the past decade, ‘Smart Cities’ have captured the imaginations of city leaders, urban planners, and tech enthusiasts. A Smart City was conceived of as a city that integrates information and communication technology (ICT) and the Internet of Things to help manage a city’s assets. With big data came the promise of greater control, enabling cities to cut down on costs, energy, and crime.

But while some cities, like Glasgow and Barcelona have used technology to improve public services, developments in Singapore and Rio have raised concerns about using sensors and cameras to track citizens and vehicles.

These sorts of examples have provoked critiques from the likes of scholars like Adam Greenfield about whether Smart City advocates are simply trying to turn cities into computers and assuming that urban planning can be reduced to algorithms. Concerns have been raised about the level of surveillance and the lack of transparency about how data is being used. In recognition that the use of technology can be disempowering for citizens of Smart Cities, the RSA is proposing a different way for cities to make the most of technology with citizens at the forefront.

Rather than the city as a computer, we should see cities as a network of people.

Whereas citizens were once passive bystanders to technology, in ‘Networked Cities’ the use of peer-to-peer technology means that citizens must actively consent to and participate in its use. Examples of P2P technology might include sharing economy platforms, crowdfunding, and citizen engagement tools such as Pol.is or Wazoku. These peer-to-peer platforms empower people through connecting them to one another through a network.

Smart Cities were critiqued because big technology companies were driving a top-down approach determined by the sort of technology they were producing, but what’s exciting about peer-to-peer technology is that the network is ultimately decentralised and distributed. The purpose of a network can be shaped, but there is a lot more scope for grassroots, bottom-up movements to emerge as well.

Brhmie adds that while P2P technolody is being used in 'Sharing Cities' like Seoul, for example, there it is usually focussed on a specific objective of sharing goods or services. The RSA Networked City vision is wider.

We envision that in Networked Cities, P2P technology would be embedded in systems akin to the technology of Smart Cities, but would enable a collaborative approach to problem-solving, as it has in Sharing Cities.

In Networked Cities, however, the goal citizens are working towards is broader than managing shared assets and resource; the ambition here would be to apply P2P technology to support inclusive growth. While cities have long been drivers of growth, in recent years they have also struggled with widening inequality, compelling cities to pursue a new agenda that rebalances social objectives and economic priorities. Under the banner of achieving inclusive growth, cities must find solutions to emerging problems of health, housing, the environment, ageing and other demographic change.

At the RSA, we’d argue that Networked Cities goes beyond simply rethinking the Smart City or Sharing City in terms of the tools or technologies that we use, or how we engage citizens, because we are also redefining the problems and challenges being tackled. The Networked City is about more than managing public space and population growth or enabling resource efficiency; rather it takes into account wider social challenges that cities are confronting in their pursuit of a more equal society.

The RSA programme "will bring together P2P technology platforms like Airbnb and Beam with inclusive growth stakeholders like Core Cities" - but so far there hasn't been any mention of citizens and community-based networks.

As I wrote earlier, I think that's where the London Networked City initiative could help. This may be through our partner the London Voluntary Service Council, umbrella for 120,000 London groups and organisations, and connections with The Way Ahead initiative that is rethinking London's civil society.

However, we shouldn't restrict the linkage to London. Over the past three months I've been part of a group of RSA Fellows developing an online forum that now has 680 members. We'll be extending our reach through the forum and other systems to more of the RSA's 28,000 Fellows around the world.

Introductions on the Forum already show that the Fellowship has enormous expertise to contribute to RSA projects, and there's recently been some discussion about how to explore some practical collaboration. The Networked Cities project seems an ideal route, so I'll follow up on encouraging conversations about that which I started at the event.

You can see a recording of the public Cities 3.0 event here

David Wilcox

Can progressive tech give us Politics 2.0 - or are we retreating Politics 0.0? Webinar video @GlobalNet21 and @dw2

2 min read

Globalnet21 ran one of their best webinars yet last night where London futurist David Woods gave us his view of a Better Future through Progressive Technology and Digital Transformation.

You can view the video here. David starts about three minutes in, following Francis Sealey's intro. The quality is great because Globalnet have started using Zoom - also my current favourite for one to ones and small groups.

David echoed some of the points made by Geoff Mulgan recently about the way that technology can increase inequality. Add the dimension of changing influence on politics through control of online media and it becomes scary.

David posed the question - can we move towards Politics 2.0 enabled by Web 2.0 ... or are we moving back to a Politics 1.0

He then offered us some ideas on how we might harness the benefits of technology for a better political future.

David's ideas are highly relevant to the meeting this evening on What do you want from the general election, organised by Democracy Matters, Community Sector Coalition and LVSC.

I'm due to make a contribution, and I'm glad to have so much I can refer to.

David Wood has agreed to develop his ideas further with Networked City - so definitely more soon. Meanwhile:

David Wilcox

Exploring how we can contribute to @thersaorg Networked City - adding the citizen and community dimension #RSACities

4 min read

The RSA Networked City initiative - which I wrote about here - got off to a great start last week with a public event and follow-through workshop.

I was particularly interested in how our London Networked City exploration might contribute to the RSA programme … and also how we might benefit from that, since I and others involved in London are RSA Fellows.

The RSA initiative was promoted as Smart City plus Sharing City … with a mix of technology apps and platforms for social, economic and environmental benefits and ways to support cooperation and collaboration.

I think we can contribute by promoting the importance of citizen participation and community building. I tweeted during the public event:

At @thersaorg event on Networked Cities = Sharing City + Smart City. Should be + Participatory City. Otherwise excluding

and received some encouragement

Think David Wilcox's point from audience hits the nail on the head - need more than digital inclusion to involve everyone

— Sufiya Patel (@sufiyapatel) May 18, 2017

We are developing the idea of Connecting Londoners as I've summarised in this note.

We are exploring three linked challenges as services and funding are cut, and the ways that people communicate are changing rapidly:

  • how will Londoners in future find out where to get help for themselves or their families in times of need; find local activities that interest them; share or sell items or services; find opportunities to volunteer; campaign for or against change in their community … and organise projects?
  • how can individuals, groups and organisations make use of the Internet - together with other methods - to cooperate and collaborate more effectively?
  • how can we ensure that those most in need, and most vulnerable, are not excluded by these changes?

... with a range of practical initiatives including mapping, communications, and co-design.

The day after the RSA event I was pleased to hear Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of NESTA, emphasise the importance of both bottom-up and top-down development, as I reported here. Geoff said:

What we have learned - contrary to many expectations 30 or 40 years ago - is that most of the dynamic of digital and indeed the knowledge economy, through most societies, is that it widens disparity, it widens inequalities.

adding:

It is important not to lose sight of that small and sometime very big P political side of what is being talked about - but it requires that the bottom-up and top-down link. It is no good enough just to fetishise either - just fetishising because they are grass roots, if they don’t get access to power and money, any more than it is good to fetishise top down, command and control or directive.

It is when the two combine that you get profound and lasting change in this space.

I think we can build on the previous RSA work on communities, as I said here, and provide a practical testbed in London to apply past experience and new ideas.

RSA could certainly help us by convening joint events, sharing development ideas and hopefully opening some routes to funding. We could apply for some project support through the Catalyst fund.

I found some support for cooperation at the RSA workshop, so I'll explore further and report back.

I'm also sure there's a lot more to be learned from the NESTA Digital Social Innovation programme, and from Cities like Barcelona, as I reported here. London will shortly have a chief digital officer, so I think we should prepare to pitch ideas there. Meanwhile, as Geoff Mulgan said during the DSI event, it is people not clicks that change societies.

Most of the profound change associated with digital technology moves at the speed of culture as much as it does of technology . Most of the things we are talking about here that really matter require changes to how people think, how they feel, how they behave as well as hardware and software.

The networks we need to build for a Networked City are human ones, as much as tech.

David Wilcox

Why digital social innovation requires both bottom-up and top-down - more lessons from #DSInext @Nesta_uk

3 min read

Nesta have provided a full recording of the digital social innovation event that I wrote about here, and it is worth scrolling right to the end to hear chief executive Geoff Mulgan's closing remarks. You'll find them at 7hours 44 mins of the recording.

In the course of his review of the day he makes some profoundly important points about inequality heightened by digital developments, the importance of more skills and capacity in civil society organisations, and joining bottom-up and top-down. He said:

What we have learned - contrary to many expectations 30 or 40 years ago - is that most of the dynamic of digital and indeed the knowledge economy, through most societies, is that it widens disparity, it widens inequalities.

It creates fantastic pockets and hubs of amazing activity in London or Barcelona or Berlin or Copenhagen but actually the distance in terms of life opportunity, income and so on tends to widen, so it is really important that we focus again and again on the social dimension and don’t just celebrate the digital.

We have got a few priorities which are really just about bringing civil society up to speed on what is pretty normal in much of business - and huge, but really quite mundane tasks just around basic skills, basic tools, in the literally millions of civil society organisations across Europe that aren’t using them, and aren’t getting the benefit of them. We need stronger campaigns, institutions, and help to raise the base level.

There is a very big picture in much of what is being talked about today, a very different view of how a state should operate, genuinely with citizens at its core, not just at the end of the line of provision … a very different view of an economy that is genuinely collaboratively enhancing humanity rather than the opposite.

It is important not to lose sight of that small and sometime very big P political side of what is being talked about - but it requires that the bottom-up and top-down link. It is no good enough just to fetishise either - just fetishising because they are grass roots, if they don’t get access to power and money, any more than it is good to fetishise top down, command and control or directive.

It is when the two combine that you get profound and lasting change in this space.

I've pulled the quotes out both because they are, hopefully, an indication of the way that Nesta might prioritise further work in this area, and specifically because they support the way we hope to develop our model of a Networked City.

I'll explore that in the next post about the RSA Network City initiative that I wrote about here.

David Wilcox

Lessons from @Nesta_uk digital social innovation programme #DSInext confirm change depends on cultural shift not just clicks

6 min read

I came away today from NESTA’s digital social innovation event with three main thoughts: there’s lots of exciting projects our there … but they aren’t doing as much good as we hoped … and why can’t we be more like Barcelona?

The event was to launch a report on What’s next for digital social innovation (DSI), following a major research programme, about which lots here:

Big advances in technology – such as the open source and open data movements, low-cost hardware, crowdsourcing and internet of things – provide new ways of delivering public services and delivering social impact in fields as diverse as healthcare, education, democracy, environment, transport and housing. They are particularly well-suited to empowering citizens, involving them in their communities and engaging them in civic action.

We use the term digital social innovation (DSI) to refer to the growing movement of people, projects and organisations using digital technologies to tackle some of society's biggest problems.

We believe that DSI has the potential to dramatically improve the way our public services, communities and businesses work.

There are a lot of projects: the website for the DSI European network features 1890 organisations and 1070 projects, many of them relevant to our exploration into making London a more Networked City, and Connecting Londoners.

But DIS isn’t doing as much good as we hoped, as the report honestly says:

  • Despite this activity, there are relatively few examples of DSI initiatives delivering impact at scale. The growth of DSI is being held back by barriers at the system level and at the level of individual projects.
  • Projects and organisations involved in DSI are still relatively poorly connected to each other. There is a pressing need to grow strong networks within and across countries and regions to boost collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
  • The growth of DSI is being held back by lack of funding and investment across the continent, especially outside Western Europe, and structural digital skills shortages.
  • Civil society organisations and the public sector have been slow to adopt DSI, despite the opportunity it offers them to deliver better services at a lower cost, although there are emerging examples of good practice from across Europe.
  • Practitioners struggle to engage citizens and users, understand and measure the impact of their digital social innovations, and plan for growth and sustainability.

The report has a set of recommendations, including these key points

  • Invest in and enable DSI approaches within existing civil society organisations. Private and public financial support for DSI should not only focus on startups and grassroots organisations, but also on improving digital maturity in established civil society organisations and supporting DSI initiatives within them.
  • Enable peer learning and the spread of best practice.The European Commission should continue to invest in peer learning and knowledge-sharing initiatives, both online and offline. This must happen not only between practitioners but also between funders, policymakers and investors.

These proposals reflected recurrent themes through event: that coming up with digital solutions to social challenges is one thing, but getting adoption by organisations in the field of social good is another; and that encouraging people to share what they have learned is difficult.

And Barcelona? Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer for the City, wowed everyone with a presentation of their Digital City plan, which you can see here. You may be able to find Francesca at 2hrs 48mins in the recording. The plan covers:

A City in Common
Technology for social change and public sector innovation

  • Develop a public, open and distributed citizen data infrastructure
  • Launch an open standards data collection platform
  • Implement strategies to involve citizens, businesses, communities, organizations, universities and research centers
  • Public administration digital transformation and innovation

Democratic City
Technology for a participatory, collaborative and transparent city

  • Develop and standardize new models of participation in digital environment
  • Technological citizenship sovereignty and digital rights
  • Create a XXI century education and training for life and work
  • Bring emerging technologies closer to citizens to foster a modern, conscious, active and participatory society

Circular City
Technology for a new, more sustainable and efficient urban model

  • Address with sustainability criteria, the most urgent urban problems
  • Reduce the digital gap between the different neighborhoods
  • Share and provide collective access to resources through democratic governance
  • Stimulate the culture of invention and technological innovation

Creative City
Technology to promote invention, entrepreneurship and social innovation

  • Boost a more efficient, transparent and strategic use of public spending
  • Promote public administration innovation, within SMEs and Cooperatives
  • Stimulate the Barcelona network for digital social innovation
  • Foster a more pluralistic digital economy and make a new urban innovation model

Hopefully inspiration for whoever is appointed London's Chief Digital Officer

In concluding remarks, Geoff Mulgan, NESTA chief executive argued for more lobbying to secure funding for digital social innovation - and also urged patience. It is people not clicks that change societies.

Most of the profound change associated with digital technology moves at the speed of culture as much as it does of technology . Most of the things we are talking about here that really matter require changes to how people think, how they feel, how they behave as well as hardware and software.

The day's mix of inspiring examples, and realism about what it takes to being about social change in cities confirmed there's lots for Networked City to learn from the DSI programme and NESTA's other research and project development. But how to bring it into play?

As I wrote yesterday, I'm hoping for cooperation with RSA because of the Cities 3.0 programme.

I hope that NESTA might also be interested because our approach to Connecting Londoners - explained here - could be way to explore how to combine top-down and bottom-up. As Geoff Mulgan emphasised, both are needed to create real social value.

David Wilcox

Discovering how our work on Connecting Londoners can benefit from @thersaorg research into communities #RSACities

4 min read

As I reported here, RSA staff are developing a Networked City initiative which I hope offers scope for collaboration with our Networked City London project.

We didn't know about each other until recently - and that prompted me do a quick scan of past and current RSA research, publications and projects by both staff and Fellows that might also be relevant.

The search revealed a wealth of useful content about Connected Communities and other topics from the Action Research Centre and other sources.

It's particularly relevant as we shift our attention to Connecting Londoners - as I've summarised in this note.

We are exploring three linked challenges as services and funding are cut, and the ways that people communicate are changing rapidly:

  • how will Londoners in future find out where to get help for themselves or their families in times of need; find local activities that interest them; share or sell items or services; find opportunities to volunteer; campaign for or against change in their community … and organise projects?
  • how can individuals, groups and organisations make use of the Internet - together with other methods - to cooperate and collaborate more effectively?
  • how can we ensure that those most in need, and most vulnerable, are not excluded by these changes?

I've dropped examples of RSA work into a Google doc which you can view here and pulled out the main links below to offer a taster.

As Paul Vittles reports here, a group of us have been developing an RSA Fellows Forum. That's already providing some new opportunities to connect Fellows and staff.

RSA senior researcher Brhmie Balaram has kindly invited me to a workshop following their public launch on Networked Cities and offered to join in discussion on the Forum.

Meanwhile here's a few of the RSA resources about communities that I found.

Connected Communities and Citizen Power

Public services and local government

Inclusive growth commission

Fellow-led projects - a few examples

London as a city of communities, by Matthew Taylor

A city of communities? In a set of essays about London 2050 Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, argues that the capital’s strength will depend upon its communities and their connections. So, in 2050 ...

Every community would have a story about how its own internal social capital makes it stronger, more resilient and creative but also how it is a doorway to the world with street neighbours helping each other reach out to both geographical and non-geographical networks of people around the world.

David Wilcox

Now @thersaorg defines Networked City as Smart City plus Sharing City - with a launch event this month #RSACities

4 min read

It's encouraging for those of us developing the idea of London as a Networked City that the RSA think-tank has the same idea.

Later this month RSA is running a public event on Cities 3.0 with the line 'We've had 'Sharing Cities' and 'Smart Cities' - what's next for the evolution of the city?' Their answer: Networked Cities.

Modern cities are having to face up to a whole host of wicked problems like demographic change, inequality, housing shortages, homelessness, environmental degradation and access to public services.

So-called Sharing Cities emphasised the importance of peer-to-peer platforms and collaborative resource stewardship, whilst Smart Cities focussed on the power of ICT to make assets and services more accessible to all. But is there an ideal hybrid of the two that recognises the strengths of each?

The RSA envisions Smart Cities evolving into ‘Networked Cities’, re-imagining the use of technology to emphasise a human-centred approach to problem-solving. In recognition that the use of technology can be disempowering for some citizens of Smart Cities, Networked Cities seeks to enable citizens to reclaim power over technology, encouraging the use of P2P technology to address collective challenges. Whereas citizens were once passive bystanders to technology, in Networked Cities they are now actively participating in its use to achieve a shared goal of inclusive growth.

I'm particularly interested because I'm one of 28,000 people around the world who are RSA Fellows. That's not as grand as it used to be when William Shipley and some distinguished Londoners founded the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce 260 years ago in the coffee shops of Covent Garden. These days all applications are welcome, and I would encourage you to consider joining, not least because a group of us are developing an online Fellows Forum. Our London Networked City is already on there as a project.

I checked in with the RSA Networked City lead, Brhmie Balaram, who proved keen to share ideas at and after the event. I'm hopeful we can find some ways to cooperate. RSA has access to top-level thinkers and research, excellent events and publications, and some 8000 Fellows in London.

Here's some of the ideas we can bring:

How London can be a more Networked City
A background paper for our launch event on January 10 2017, including a summary of The Way Ahead initiative, models for cooperation and collaboration in the networked age, the development process for our exploration.

Supporting co-production
A note for The Way Ahead group on co-production, covering models for engagement, cooperation and collaboration, and the idea of local ecosystems. January 2017

Connecting Citizens
A paper summarising an approach to using digital technology, network thinking and self-organising to address three linked challenges: how people can find opportunities and services, and develop new relationships in their local communities; how to develop civic infrastructure when existing systems are reducing and new approaches are needed; supporting community connectors in their role of making connections and building relationship in local communities, and online

Slipham Living Lab
We can use a fictitious but realistic place - the London Borough of Slipham - as a Living Lab to explore how to improve the ways in which people connect with local services, organisations, and opportunities in their community. We can also work together in the Lab to find out what support organisations need, and what is involved in putting ideas into practice. To do that we’ll have a background map of existing connections, some characters and organisations, and some challenges to meet. The Lab could then be developed - subject to funding - as a “for real” co-design toolkit for local people and organisations.

David Wilcox

Conference on #TheWayAhead will reveal funders' ideas for supporting London civil society

5 min read

Next month the organisations who fund some 120,000 London voluntary organisations, social enterprises and community groups will reveal key ideas for supporting future action for social good.

At a conference on June 22 the London funders and their partners will invite discussion on - among many other things - plans for a resource hub and systems that provide information, advice and training to underpin their funding and the work of front-line groups and projects.

The conference will hear the conclusions of a research programme called The Way Ahead, undertaken with partners London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) and Greater London Volunteering (GLV).

The conference announcement says:

Working together with Greater London Volunteering and LVSC we will be holding a highly participative event for all stakeholders to come together and move our vision forward. Over the course of the day you will: catch up on progress made across all sectors since the formation of the working groups in November; hear from stakeholders on what 'The Way Ahead' means for them; explore the opportunities and challenges for your organisation, area of interest or stakeholders; contribute to how recommendations are taken forward as practical action; and get involved in future activities.

The context is bleak: local council are cutting funding, demand for services is increasing, and traditional support systems like local Councils for Voluntary Service, together with LVSC, GLV and other London-wide networks are stretched and in some cases may close.

We shouldn't expect any detailed news on funding from the conference - but the recommendations on support systems are just as important when organisations and groups have to do more with less.

I've digested recommendations and background on The Way Ahead:

In recent months five working groups have filled out the initial Way Ahead recommendations to address the challenges of funding cuts and increased demand for services. They have looked at Pragmatic Co-production, Triage and Connect, Data Sharing, Voice and Campaigning, Consistent Commissioning and Funding - and will be reporting to the conference.

One of the key recommendations is for a resource hub:

A London Hub, working with specialist support, should develop standardized resources where possible, which can be customized and delivered locally. The London Hub could be made up of a network of organisations or be a formally constituted body.

LVSC and a consortium of Councils for Voluntary Service - that support local organisations - have each commissioned their own consultants to develop a response to the idea of the hub.

As I reported recently, LVSC have published the report by consultant Steve Wyler.

London needs a new organisation called Connecting Londoners, says a report on how to support action for social good - whether that's undertaken by charities, agencies, public bodies, companies, local groups or citizens.

Connecting Citizens would have four main functions: improving the system of support, gathering ‘real-time’ intelligence about London’s community life, promoting positive change, unleashing the resources of civil society – in all cases working with and through other agencies at local, borough, and London-wide levels.

I’ve been a member of three of the five Way Ahead groups, and I know the amount of work that has gone into their reports, and the wealth of good ideas in them. I hope the group reports will be published soon, so everyone has an opportunity to digest and comment before the conference.

It would also help if we had the CVS report, and ideas from The Way Ahead system change group who met recently to review the work of the groups.

The event is billed as a stakeholder conference, so it's not clear at this stage how wide the invitations will go. I'll check and update.

The previous public Way Ahead event last November produced recommendation for a major communication and engagement programme, but that never materialised.

Steve Wyler said in his report for LVSC:

While there has been some criticism of the Way Ahead report and process, the discussion now appears to be moving into a constructive phase. Stakeholders consulted have a good understanding of the main themes in the report and generally support them. There is widespread agreement that things need to change, to deliver better to Londoners and to civil society in London, and to promote the practice of co-production, and there are indications that some agencies are accepting the need to make changes in their own practice.

My sense is that the various agencies and funded organisations involved are now developing a strong set of ideas, but very few community groups or London citizens know anything about The Way Ahead. This stands in contrast to a key idea in The Way Ahead proposals for 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.

Meanwhile, I will follow up shortly with some ideas from our work on Networked City that could be fed into the mix.

David Wilcox

Connecting Londoners organisation needed for civil society and action for social good: response to #TheWayAhead @lvscnews

6 min read

London needs a new organisation called Connecting Londoners, says a report on how to support action for social good - whether that's undertaken by charities, agencies, public bodies, companies, local groups or citizens.

Connecting Citizens would have four main functions: improving the system of support, gathering ‘real-time’ intelligence about London’s community life, promoting positive change, unleashing the resources of civil society – in all cases working with and through other agencies at local, borough, and London-wide levels.

The report is the first substantial response to The Way Ahead project, led by London Funders. This aims to reframe support systems currently provided by local councils for voluntary service and organisations like the London Voluntary Service Council and Greater London Volunteering - also partners in TWA. All are facing funding cuts.

LVSC and partners have published the report as an interim response to the idea of a London Hub, in the TWA report. It is written by Steve Wyler an independent consultant who was chief executive of Locality until three years ago.

The summary of the new report says

While there has been some criticism of the Way Ahead report and process, the discussion now appears to be moving into a constructive phase. Stakeholders consulted have a good understanding of the main themes in the report and generally support them. There is widespread agreement that things need to change, to deliver better to Londoners and to civil society in London, and to promote the practice of co-production, and there are indications that some agencies are accepting the need to make changes in their own practice.

More work will be needed to develop a picture of what success might look like and to produce a simple and compelling story of change. The Way Ahead project as a whole will need to lead to actions which can make a difference (including ‘early wins’), should seek out the ‘willing and the brave’, and while generating disruption must also build on the best existing practice rather than feel the need to start from scratch. A strong and simple brand, which can be applied not just to a London Hub, but also to others engaged in common endeavour, will be required.

For LVSC and GLV (and others affected by the withdrawal of London Councils funding) timing will be challenging, with the new financial year fast approaching.

My recommendation is that a two stage approach is taken: 

  • The first stage (April to September 2017) would be for GLV and LVSC to model fresh forms of collaboration, in the spirit of the Way Ahead, working with and through others as much as possible. This stage would also work towards the launch of a new entity with a working title of ‘Connecting Londoners’. 
  • The second stage (October 2017 onwards) would see the new entity up and running. This would not simply be a continuation of LVSC and GLV under another name, but would rather provide a platform for new forms of multi-agency collaboration for the benefit of London’s civil society. It is proposed that ‘Connecting Londoners’ would initially have four key functions: improving the system of support, gathering ‘real-time’ intelligence about London’s community life, promoting positive change, unleashing the resources of civil society – in all cases working with and through other agencies at local, borough, and London-wide levels.

The report says "a provisional direction of travel is needed to build a sense of shared purpose" and gives two contrasting examples:

It is 2027, and cities across the UK and internationally are looking to London as an example of how to revitalise civic life....

In every neighbourhood across London we have our local community resource agency, an attractive, lively and out-going sharing space, where people from all walks of life come together to give and to get: to enjoy each other’s company, to share ideas and plan actions to help themselves and their neighbours and improve their neighbourhoods..... Health and social care have changed out of all recognition, Londoners are much more likely to get a social prescription in the community than a medical prescription or end up in hospital or in care, and people are better off as a result... More and more services are now designed and run by local people... Many people now own community shares, in projects they care about... Behind all this stands a well organised network of borough-wide resource agencies, stimulating volunteering, helping community action and organisations get going and run themselves well, bringing in additional expert help from the council, the NHS, businesses, specialists, linking communities of interest right across London .... Then there’s ‘Connecting Londoners’, gathering real-time intelligence from across London, co-ordinating London-wide efforts, helping to shape London-wide policy and investment, stimulating investment and innovation.... All of this makes up the ‘Connecting Londoners’ project, and we know that any agency or initiative that carries the ‘Connecting Londoners’ brand is good at what it does.... London’s community is being reborn and revitalised from the bottom up....

Or ...

It is 2027, and cities across the UK and internationally are looking to London as an example of how to revitalise civic life...

A whole host of London agencies – voluntary groups, councils, the GLA, and business partners have created a powerful new ‘Connecting Londoners’ agency. Digital platforms have generated the ability for people, wherever they live or work in London, to find out what contribution they can play to London’s civic life, as volunteers, as social activists and campaigners, as donors, allowing them to meet virtually and in real time, and take action for themselves and for their community of choice.... Londoners have access to an amazing on-line compendium of resources, but also real people to speak to at the need of a phone, or experts who will come out and meet you and your group and help you get things going, for free or a very modest fee.... London’s business community has really bought into all this – incentivising their workforces to play their part, sponsoring a host of exciting activity, celebrating success in a big way.... ‘Connecting Londoners’ is producing compelling evidence about how people are connecting with each other as never before across boundaries of place, class, age, gender, race, and London is now acknowledged as the first truly socially cosmopolitan city...

The introduction to the report says it should be read as work in progress, subject to amendment as further soundings are taken with stakeholders, as discussions continue, and as additional insights and idea emerge, rather than a full or final assessment of how the proposals set out the Way Ahead report can be achieved.

I'll review the report in greater depth and write more later this week. I'm not sure the two scenarios are necessarily contrasting ... but glad we at last have a thoughtful analysis of The Way Ahead as the basis for discussion.

The Way Ahead: establishing a London Hub