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David Wilcox

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

11 min read

It's now a year since we launched the Networked City exploration, so I've pulled the story together on our wiki. Main points below.

We've reached the point where, together with Our Way Ahead, we have a set of proposals for Extending the Hub drawn on the one hand from The Way Ahead "official" research into developing a Hub for London, and on the other from our exploration into how to add more networked thinking, digital tech and self organising.

I hope we are on the same page, following some differences of opinion with TWA during the year.

I've submitted our proposals to the Hub advisory group, of which I'm a member, hoping that they may provide the basis for a common approach.

We are still working on the main idea of a Community of Practice, which I reported earlier. We held an initial meeting with a few enthusiasts, and will meet again face-to-face or online when we see how discussions go with the Hub advisory group.

The proposals are all rather theoretical at present, and we need some ways to bring alive the human reality of what's needed to help us become a better connected city.

I'm drawing inspiration from an excellent set of 10 blog posts about Connecting Well, by David Robinson, one of the most respected figure in London community development. David and Will Horwitz developed a blog, and later edited a book called Changing London, before the last Mayoral election. David writes on Medium:

I am worried that social isolation is rapidly becoming a modern epidemic and, in that regard at least, I am not alone. Our work on Changing London showed that social connection, and the lack of it, was the top concern for our largest single group of Londoners. Higher than housing or health or crime although, as many pointed out, it is not unrelated to any of these other issues.

Our work was small scale but the facts are clear: about one in five people, of all ages, say they are lonely, at least one in ten are severely isolated. This isn’t only about old people alone for days on end, it is also about support for the new parent, a warm network for the job seeker, integration for the recent arrival and a caring community for us all.

Strong relationships keep us all mentally and physically healthy, they make us feel more confident and more capable. They keep our communities safe, help us to cope, enable us to flourish, and make us happy. Connecting well is not the same as being “well connected”. It is not about the size of our address book. It is about the quality of our relationships and, whilst we may now network and transact more than ever, meaningful time together has been, and is being, systematically displaced by fast and shallow connections. We are becoming more atomised and automated, more comfortable with technology but less close to one another.

David says:

We have hollowed out the heart of our business with call centres, our high streets with cash points and self-service checkouts, our neighbourhoods with design that strips out interaction and our public services with carers commissioned for seven minute visits, retendered every three months. Fake relationships are as ubiquitous in 2017, and just as insidious, as fake news.

We have been here before. The agrarian and industrial revolutions disrupted social patterns and called for new ways of behaving. Social change followed but it took a while. Now we are again in that catch up phase. If the technological upheaval that has so changed and devalued relationships is the third revolution, then this is 3.2.

We can’t rewind the clock but nor should we accept a devaluation in the currency of relationships as the price of advancement.

He adds:

Banning or avoiding the technology or denying the overwhelming benefits of progress is futile and foolish. Instead we have to learn how to benefit from it in ways which don’t diminish our humanity but sustain and enrich it. We have to do things differently.

I think that could be a good starting point for our next phase of exploration. More in a later post. Meanwhile our Extending the Hub proposals are open for comment on a Google doc.

Networked City exploration

The Networked City exploration was started by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie on behalf of the London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC), and is now being led by Matt Scott with David and Drew and a group formed following a launch event on January 10 2017.

The Way Ahead

The Way Ahead initiative, led by London Funders, LVSC and Greater London Volunteering, produced a report in April 2016 on how to reframe support for London civil society. This report proposed:

a vision and system that puts London’s communities at the heart of the way we all work. From co-producing an understanding of need and how to tackle it with our communities, through to better sharing of intelligence and data, and making sure that civil society’s voice is heard in decision-making at a strategic level, there are recommendations for us all.

The TWA initiative then set up working groups, and held a conference to develop ideas in more detail. However, they faced criticism about lack of communication and little community involvement, and community groups and networks unhappy with TWA formed Our Way Ahead to press for changes.

The main recommendation in The Way Ahead report was for a London resource hub, and in November 2017 the City Bridge Trust announced first year funding of £350,000.

David Wilcox has been a member of TWA Task and Finish groups on Data Sharing, Triage and Connect, and Co-production - for which he wrote a report. He is member of the Hub advisory group.

Connecting Londoners

Connecting Londoners was formed from people in the Networked City exploration who wanted to put into practice ideas about mapping assets and networks, building networks and developing networked communications. We took the name from a report by consultant Steve Wyler, commissioned by LVSC, that made proposals for the Hub recommended in The Way Ahead report. We created a blog, and collaborated with Our Way Ahead on events.

Our Way Ahead

Our Way Ahead was formed by London networks and community groups as a response to The Way Ahead reports and development. The statement of purpose says:

Decisions have been taken in the name of communities without their involvement, poverty pervades ever deeper, inequality is rising, and lives have been lost as services fail those most vulnerable. Our vision is to ensure that grassroots communities have a meaningfully powerful agency in the response to issues that affect their lives. It is those at the level of grassroots communities, the direct burden takers, who are best placed to lead the push for change, and the OWA Planning Group seek to work in solidarity with them through the facilitation of critical dialogue and storytelling, mapping of community activity and the support of collaboration on campaigns among groups within like communities of interest.


We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level.

Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners have run a series of events together, and Christine Goodall is a member of the Hub for London advisory group.

Hub for London

The main proposal in The Way Ahead report was for a new 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 commissioned a report on the Hub from Steve Wyler, and an advisory group was established in November 2017 to develop details. Steve Wyler's report said:

The Hub “should act as a convenor and enabler, rather than direct deliverer, in effect delivering change through networks and platforms, rather than through traditional organisational and membership delivery methods".

In November 2017 the City Bridge Trust announced first year funding of £350,000 for the Hub, which will be run by Greater London Volunteering. LVSC has now closed - so the Hub will be the only major pan-London organisation. LVSC previous represented some 120,000 groups and organisations.

Connecting Londoners and Our Way Ahead have made the case to the Hub advisory group for extending the work of the Hub - with associated projects - to include development of local and pan-London networks. We based proposals for extending the Hub on Steve Wyler's report, and other working group reports, as well as our own work. In November 2017 we ran a "Hub game" simulation event at London Metropolitan University to play through the recommendations in the Wyler report. Following the event we proposed a Community of Practice to support extending the Hub.

Greater London Authority civil society strategy

The GLA is developing its own civil society strategy. OWA and Connecting Londoners have reported on developments and contributed to events.


  • David Wilcox @davidwilcox
  • Drew Mackie @admaque
  • Matt Scott @ourwayahead

David Wilcox

Updating ideas on Hub for London: might @nesta_uk and @theRSAorg help develop a new London Collaborative?

7 min read

Here's an update on the development of the civil society Hub for London, and some fresh ideas triggered by a visit to the RSA to hear Geoff Mulgan, NESTA chief executive, talk about his new book Big Mind.

The book is sub-titled "how collective intelligence can change the world" and there's a section on combining human and computer-based data and intelligence to help cities think better. We need some of that in London. More later on how and why.

Last month I reported on the game that we ran at London Metropolitan University to simulate how new arrangements might work to support citizens, community groups, charities - and anyone else aiming to do some social good.

The briefing document for the event explains how, after 107 years, London has lost the organisation supporting civil society groups, and how London Funders and others are planning a replacement resource Hub. At the same time City Hall is developing its own civil society strategy.

Over the past year a group of us have been pressing for more thinking about how to build networks to complement the Hub, and the use of digital technology to support these. Our Networked City exploration is documented here.

While acting as friendly critics, we've also put forward a lot of constructive suggestions, and I was glad to be invited on to the advisory group. The group has met a couple of times, and agreed that the main functions for the Hub should be data, networks, and voice and influence.

The group secretariat have now collated all the recommendations about the Hub, and I've been able to align these with ideas developed by Connecting Londoners and Our Way Ahead. Google doc open for comments here. It feels as if we are on the same page in our analysis.

Briefly, we are suggesting that the task is not just to design a new organisation, but also ways to build and support civil society networks at all levels, and across all sectors. That's entirely in line with the report on the Hub produced by consultant Steve Wyler.

I order to start development I suggested in a previous post that we should begin not with tools and structures, but with a group of enthusiasts and specialists who might become a Community of Practice.

We should start to demonstrate network mapping, network communications, outline a guide to networks, and experiment with different forms of organising through simulations.

This would inform decisions on staffing for the Hub, and how it would operate. Geoff Mulgan explained that sort of process much better in his talk, saying we may start on a route with one way of thinking, discover barriers, rethink our categories and models, and then rethink how to think. He calls this the three loops of collective intelligence.

At the moment much of the thinking about the Hub is in the first loop, focussed on an organisational model. We need to find a way to get to the third loop of network and systems thinking before embedding an old model in a Hub charitable company. I trailed some ideas on that last June.

In one section of the book Geoff writes about applying ideas of collective intelligence to cities, and reports on work he did in shaping development of the London Collaborative that brought together three tiers of government and other interests. It ended with a change of Mayor. Boris Johnson didn't get it.

With that notion in mind, and a brief but encouraging conversation with Geoff at the book signing, I bumped into a couple of highly knowledgable RSA Fellows in the bar: David Wood, and David Gurteen.

David Wood is chair of London Futurists, and their YouTube channel demonstrates the breadth of thinking about the future we should be apply to London.

Developing a future scenario was one recommendation from Steve Wyler that hasn't been taken up, and should be.

David Gurteen is a knowledge management specialist who can do all the tech stuff - but focusses on human conversations as the main way that we can cooperate and learn. He ran a conversation cafe for us last year. More here on David's cafes.

At the RSA I also met by chance Cassie Robinson, from doteveryone. Cassie's blog posts on Medium, like this one on Platforms as networks of assets, have aided my thinking about networks and platforms for London.

Next week I'll be connecting via Zoom video conference with Harold Jarche, who ran a terrific workshop for us last year on the theory and practice of networks, social learning and leadership.

Taking these chance encounters together with Geoff's talk - and the insights added by our host RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor - made me think that a Community of Practice is not perhaps what's needed. More of a mini-London Collaborative, or modest Think and Do tank, drawing on a range of inputs.

We should definitely invite Beth Kanter, an old and valued acquaintance who wrote yesterday in The Guardian about Digital technology as a force for social good. We exchanged tweets and Beth liked my earlier blog post.

So where next, after a day of such a excellent connections and ideas?

I wonder whether it would be possible to interest Geoff and/or Matthew in collective intelligence and network thinking for London's future.

I'm an RSA Fellow - as are five other people involved in Connecting Londoners and Our Way Ahead. I've referenced RSA work extensively on this blog, and also that of NESTA. They are currently running a Connected Communities Fund.

So far most of our work over the past year has been self-funded. We need resources - but also ways to connect our work on the practical challenges facing London communities with the work of think tanks like RSA and NESTA.

Talking about this to David Gurteen, he remarked that often innovation in systems comes from the edge. Unfortunately it can be lonely out there. I hope we can now gather some more friends.

David Wilcox

Why we need a Community of Practice for networking London civil society

4 min read

We are developing a Community of Practice for anyone interested in how to build networks to support London communities, following our workshop game at London Metropolitan University a few weeks ago. Background here on the event, and why action is needed. Details of our first meeting at the end of this post.

During an hour and a half workshop session on November 16, designed with Drew Mackie and Matt Scott, we heard about current plans for support systems focussed on a Hub for London; 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.

We had terrific support from community work students at London Met, who also took part in the workshop.

We negotiated how we could support each other with funding, endorsement, and sharing. And we decided who could deliver on the ideas.

We then captured our reports of the project ideas on video - and discussed what we had learned from the session.

The purpose of the event was to explore what sort of projects, networks and communications will be needed following the voluntary liquidation of the London Council for Voluntary Service. Our game was based on a report for LVSC about the replacement Hub for London, now being developed under the governance of Greater London Volunteering.

The LVSC report said that the Hub …

should act as a convenor and enabler, rather than direct deliverer, in effect delivering change through networks and platforms, rather than through traditional organisational and membership delivery methods.

Our workshop game provide a lot of insights in what will be needed, which we can add to the results of our year-long exploration into making London a more networked city.

At the end of the event we decided that the way forward was to focus on the people who could make this happen - community connectors, network mappers and builders, specialists in creative events, online communications and self-organising.

Rather think about how to build platforms, let's bring together the builders in a Community of Practice to learn and experiment together.

The event was a joint initiative between Connecting Londoners, Our Way Ahead and London Met. Christine Goodall and I represent OWA on the advisory group for the Hub, so we developed more detailed proposals for the CoP and presented those this week.

The advisory group decided to adopt three priorities for further development: Data, Voice - and Networks. We’ll be discussing details in the New Year.

Meanwhile we are inviting anyone interested in the Community of Practice to a first meeting at Outlandish in Finsbury Park at 6.30 on Wednesday December 13. If you like to come, please get in touch with Matt Scott - - so we have an idea of numbers, or follow up with me if you can't make it but are interested - We'll soon have an online community.

As well as creating a learning community, we hope to help each other make the case to funders for support for network building.

Thanks to my son Dan for turning the wiki pages written in Markdown into a Workshop report pdf using Pandoc and Latex. Something else for me to learn …

David Wilcox

New Hub for London gets £350,000 to support civil society - hopefully including grassroots groups

5 min read

The resource hub for London civil society now has £350,000 funding for its first year of operation, confirmed in a press release from the City Bridge Trust. The hub will be run by Greater London Volunteering.

As I’ve written extensively here, there are differing views on how the hub will, or should operate, and on November 16 I’m with others helping run a free open event to develop ideas that we hope will complement and enhance plans so far announced. Summary of the background here.

Last week I attended the first advisory group for the Hub, on behalf of Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners. I expressed concerns that the hub may be centralised and top-down, rather than adopt the networked, bottom-up-and-across, whole-system approach recommended in the main design report by Steve Wyler. That said of the hub:

It should act as a convenor and enabler, rather than direct deliverer, in effect delivering change through networks and platforms, rather than through traditional organisational and membership delivery methods.

That approach is also reflected in the objectives of Our Way Ahead:

We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level.

The Our Way Ahead network of networks are particularly concerned that grassroots community groups and networks will miss out in favour of well-staffed voluntary organisations and charities.

The 107-year-old London Voluntary Service Council, which was the only pan-London organisation representing some 120,000 community and voluntary organisations, was a partner in developing the hub proposals with GLV and London funders. However LVSC is now in voluntary liquidation.

Third Sector rather confusingly reported news of the hub as City Bridge Trust sets up voluntary sector support body for London. While City Bridge Trust has provided the funding, the work of setting up is being carried out by GLV. There is a shadow Board, and drafts of memorandum and articles and charitable objects, so far unpublished.

There is only one-year funding, so the Hub company will have to continue to fundraise and/or develop ways to earn income.

There will only be a small staff of chief executive, programmes manager, networks and development coordinator, intelligence coordinator, plus organisational support.

Here’s the main part of the press release:

New London hub announced to strengthen the capital’s civil society

A new charity support body, Hub for London, is soon to launch to strengthen the capital’s voluntary sector.

The City of London Corporation’s charitable funder and London’s largest independent grant giver, City Bridge Trust, has awarded £350,000 towards the new organisation which will bring together and provide support to the capital’s voluntary sector.

Hub for London will strengthen the charity sector in the capital by providing access to business, organisational, technical and enterprise support to civil society organisations, as well as online resources.

City Bridge Trust’s funding will secure the first year of operation for Hub for London which will be run by Greater London Volunteering.

Hub for London will allow charities to access and share data and information, training schemes and good practice. By building cross-sector links and partnerships, the Hub will mean voluntary and community organisations have a ‘voice’ within the on-going debate about London, its governance and the issues it faces. As well as helping London’s voluntary sector to access organisational support, the Hub will help organisations to work together and provide a platform for a number of voluntary sector networks, such as the London Safer Futures Network.

Membership will be open to any individual or organisation based in London.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the text, but there is a lot of emphasis on charities, while the vast majority of the groups in London civil society are not charities, don’t have staff and yet can certainly do with support.

The advisory group didn’t have sight of the press release before its meeting on the same day, so we ended up discussing various issues, including a possible name, which appear decided in the press release.

The guidance from GLV is that details are still to be worked out, and that statements so far indicate that while some functions will be central, a lot of work will be devolved to other organisations and networks.

While the group will only meet monthly, I was pleased that GLV agreed to set up an online forum for us, probably using Loomio.

I hope that there will also be a public communication system that reflects the commitment that membership of the new organisation will be open to any organisation or individual based in London. Steve Wyler went so far as to suggest the hub might become a coop.

If the hub is to be broadly-based and accountable to Londoners, then Londoners should be well-informed on its development and have a chance to make some input.

David Wilcox

Join us in a free workshop to explore @OurWayAhead for London communities

4 min read

Over the next few months decisions will be made affecting the support systems for Londoners in local communities and across the capital. On November 16 Drew Mackie and I are helping run a workshop at London Metropolitan University to play through some of the options. Here’s why.

It is an important time for London civil society. As I’ve covered in previous posts, the decisions will affect funding, communications, training and other services for some 120,000 community groups, networks and charities.

The umbrella organisation for these groups and organisations, London Council for Voluntary Services, has closed after 107 years, and we are in the final stages of a review of alternatives supported by London funders and called The Way Ahead. The Greater London Authority is also undertaking a review. Summary of the background here.

The favoured solution is a London Hub, incorporated as a charitable company based on Greater London Volunteering. As I wrote here, some London networks and grass roots organisations believe the solution is too top-down, and have set up Our Way Ahead as a network of networks.

We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level. The OWA Planning Group work collectively in solidarity with local campaigns to build a grassroots movement for social justice in London and the immediate hinterland of communities affected by the state of affairs London.

Together with Christine Goodall of the HEAR Equality and Human Rights Network I’ve been invited to join the working party advising on Hub development, on behalf of Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners. I’ll report further after a meeting next week.

Representation on the working group provides a welcome opportunity to put forward ideas on how the Hub can avoid being a top-down solution, and can help build networks and support the ethos of co-production and bottom-up action featured in the original TWA report, and subsequent recommendation from consultant Steve Wyler.

However, the issues are complex, and we believe they should be worked through at different levels in a creative session.

Here’s registration for the workshop, organised in conjunction with Our Way Ahead and London Metropolitan University:

We invite you to co-design ways we can share knowledge and support each other to achieve a socially just and sustainable London for the future.

We’ll bring together starter ideas from several sources: our exploration into Connecting Londoners, expertise from the Our Way Ahead network of networks, and the results of consultation by the Greater London Council on their civil society strategy.

We’ll build on proposals for a London Hub that resulted from The Way Ahead initiative, supported by London funders. Currently the plan is to fund and carry plans forward through one charitable company.

We believe that action and support should be owned and developed at all levels: from citizens and community groups, through borough-level agencies, to London-wide networks.

Achieving this requires a well-supported collaborative process, as recommended in the official reports. So far that hasn’t happened, so we are going to simulate what’s needed with a workshop game that prototypes a bigger exercise.

We’ll play through how to connect Londoners using maps of assets and connections, a blend of digital and other communications, new ways of organising, and stories about what works, and what doesn’t.

The results of the session - and our other work - will inform funding proposals and plans for further collaborative work. We hope you’ll join us in that as well

At present this is a self-funded effort, so we can’t do as much research and preparation as we would like. However, we hope it will be a demonstration to London funders and others of an approach that could be developed and extended before the Hub organisation is finally set up.

David Wilcox

How we can apply @thersaorg vision of Convening and Change from @RSAMatthew to London’s civil society

3 min read

The main theme of the address from CEO Matthew Taylor at last night's RSA AGM was Convening and Change - which further encourages me to think that the project a group of us pitched last week could contribute to the Society’s mission … and the RSA to ours.

In summary, I suggested at an RSA Ideas event that we could bring together some of the 8000 London RSA Fellows who are committed to social change, with community groups and networks developing bottom-up support systems to complement official centralised resources.

We are convening a co-design event in November, and developing online conversations and support. Here’s our work in progress document on the event structure, developed with Drew Mackie and Matt Scott.

I think our approach fits well with another theme highlighted by Anthony Painter, Director of the Action and Research Centre - think like a system, act like an entrepreneur - as well as past RSA work on Connected Communities.

What could be more systemic than co-designing civil society support systems? And we have certainly been entrepreneurial in developing a vision of London as a Networked City with modest resources.

Anthony was promoting the model of Cities of Learning - “an experimental place-based mobilisation of formal, non-formal and informal learning assets and resources”. That’s a good fit too. I think it will appeal to London Metropolitan University, who are hosting the event, and where I joined Matt last week to talk at the community work course he teaches.

The RSA has various systems for supporting Fellow-led projects, and I’ll follow up my initial enquiries about what might be on offer with a suggestion that we discuss how we can align with the ideas presented last night, as well as those of the community networks we are working with. I think there is potentially a good fit.

The full set of slides that I shot last night is here. I'm checking whether there is an official set, video, and scripts.


David Wilcox

City Hall hailed as potential champion for London grassroots action during consultation on #GLAcivilsocietystrategy. Now - how?

5 min read

Yesterday the Greater London Authority and its consultants asked a wide range of grassroots organisations at an event in Hackney how they would like to engage better with City Hall - and how the GLA might help in their work.

I think the GLA team, and their consultants TSIP and Collaborate should be pleased with the reception they got, and the ideas generated. They reinforced some of those aired at the event last week with the Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC, organised by Reclaim our Spaces.

People yesterday felt that that the GLA could be an ally in championing their work, convening interests from different sectors, acting as a broker and problem-solver when difficulties arose with other agencies, including borough councils.

However, people also felt that there was a lack of communication and transparency in current engagement processes, and it was difficult to see where opportunities lie.

What was needed was a continuing process of conversation and engagement, using a range of different methods. That process should not just be offered by City Hall on the basis of consultants’ reports and officer recommendations - it should be co-produced with grassroots organisations.

Those ideas, that I picked up from the discussion groups, broadly reflected the presentation of findings at the start from consultant Marion Brossard of TSIP. Here’s photos of the flip charts from discussion groups, and Marion’s slide deck.

The group that I was in, and helped facilitate, also felt it was important that the GLA helped develop systems by which groups in an area and London as a whole could find out who’s who, collaborate better, develop a strong voice, and engage collectively with other interests and agencies. That certainly relates strongly to mapping and network building that we’ve advocated through Connecting Londoners.

Here’s where the main challenge arises for the GLA, as I reflected after last week’s event: how to engage and co-design with maybe 100,000 grassroots organisations across London when the umbrella body that has represented them - LVSC - has just been abolished.

In some cases the intermediary could be the local Council for Voluntary Service … and people spoke highly of our host for the event, Hackney CVS. Some other CVSs may not have the capacity or inclination to take on that role. I didn’t hear many words of praise for borough councils, who have their own problems facing big cuts.

It may be that the new Hub organisation, planned by The Way Ahead initiative, based on Greater London Volunteering, will have a role. TWA have just set up a working group to develop details, probably based in part on this report from Steve Wyler.

We have a more immediate modest first step towards a solution. I’m developing ideas with Drew Mackie, Matt Scott and others involved in the grassroots network Our Way Ahead for a co-design event at London Metropolitan University on November 16.

There we will play through what might be involved in mapping, network building and communications at different levels of civil society to address some of the challenges raised in this consultation, and with The Way Ahead. More later on this blog. If you are interested, please drop a comment or contact us here. We aim to do some co-designing ourselves.


Consultants TSIP have circulated a summary of notes from the event for comment by participants

  1. Grassroots organisations to be taken seriously and acknowledged – particularly by businesses
  2. GLA to share their recommendations across strategies and stakeholders
  3. GLA to encourage transparent decision making to motivate engagement
  4. GLA to take input via trained listeners/champions/teams
  5. GLA to empower CVS’s (although some find engaging with them a struggle)
  6. GLA to be sensitive to the language used by less privileged groups
  7. GLA to be engaged with locals from the beginning of the process, and help to pay for it
  8. GLA to hold neighborhood meetings
  9. GLA to recognize and address inequality wherever possible
  10. GLA to learn lessons from the past (with particular reference to the GLC)
  11. GLA to address concerns that the Civil Society strategy is not a ‘hollow gesture’
  12. Where the GLA is providing funding/support they should have continuing face-to-face engagement
  13. GLA should co-produce best practice and knowledge sharing with grassroots organisations – supported with crowdfunding
  14. Assisting grassroots organisations to network and support each other
  15. GLA to create a way to co-produce solutions to grassroots organisation’s challenges – involving councils and CVS
  16. GLA to create a roadshow to help create awareness of grassroots work
  17. GLA to aim to be as transparent as possible, and create easy access to shared data
  18. GLA to work more effectively with corporates to close funding gaps/increase resources


David Wilcox

Pitching Connecting Londoners and co-design of civil society communications to an #RSAideas session

3 min read

Last night a group of us had a great opportunity to pitch Connecting Londoners to one of the regular RSA ideas events. There are some 8000 London Fellows, representing enormous expertise and connections in the city.

Quite a few Fellows are developing projects for social good - examples here. As I wrote earlier, RSA has done a lot of work in the past on connecting communities.

With Drew Mackie, Matt Scott, Pete Burden and other Fellows, I've been helping London community groups and organisations strengthen their networks, and capacity to develop innovative projects. Here's the pitch we made last night, with a couple of posters we presented. Nikki Wilson added support.

I think the ideas went down well, and we'll be following up with invitations to the event we are planning with Matt on November 16 at London Metropolitan University to co-design a networked approach to supporting London community groups and networks. More here later on that.

Thanks to Charlotte Bayley and Alex Blanes for excellent organising on behalf of RSA London.

Our pitch

We are suggesting tonight that we bring together two movements that could make a real difference to London civil society.

On the one hand we have a resurgence of interest in the way that Fellows can work together to share ideas and make a collective social impact for good.

Judy Rees has led a group of us in developing an online Fellows Forum. As you can see from the poster, Drew Mackie and I have mapped networks in the Forum, showing people’s connections and shared interests.

In addition, London Fellowship Councillors will soon invite Fellows to join in a network weaving initiative to build stronger connections between Fellows and projects.

On the other hand, London funders and others are developing plans for new support systems in the face of funding cuts, and the Greater London Authority is consulting on its civil society strategy.

However, London community groups and networks are not happy with the plans. They are urging a more bottom-up, networked approach - not just a central resource hub. Drew and I have explored what’s needed from the level of family, to neighbourhood and city. That’s the other poster.

So, in the RSA, Fellows are exploring how to support each other, as well as getting support from the centre. In London, community groups are similarly exploring mutual support to complement the central resource hub.

Why not join forces?

On November 16 we’ll be running a co-design workshop with Matt Scott at London Metropolitan University that will bring a lot of different interests together to envisage what a properly Networked City could be like, supported by digital technology. Not just a smart city, but one that is sharing and participatory. There’s strong parallels with our ideas for a more networked RSA.

In addition, we’ll be running an online forum, blog and wiki before and after the event, and planning more workshops. If you would like to join in, drop me an email. There will be more on our Connecting Londoners blog.

David Wilcox

Event with Deputy Mayor @rydermc and #reclaimourspaces opens door to co-designing community engagement … but with whom?

4 min read

Last night’s event at London’s City Hall might just open the way to much-needed improvements in the way policies are developed and implemented with community groups and citizens - if someone can help convene on our behalf.

We heard powerful but disheartening stories from community activists about the ways that councils and developers are failing adequately to engage with residents … or going back on agreements. That’s what the Reclaim Our Spaces Manifesto aims to address.

Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC explained that his brief for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement does not make him and his team a one-stop place for improvements. They can advise and support other departments … as well as meeting many interests to gather ideas.

During discussion of ways that community networks and the Greater London Authority could work more closely together I suggested better understanding on both sides would help. What’s it like as an officer trying to cope with so many different interests? Someone suggested mapping the civil society landscape as seen by City Hall, as well as that of community networks, as we have been doing.

Eileen Conn had already explained the highly successful engagement processes used by Peckham Vision - and suggested that now was the time to work with GLA on developing wider collaborative processes.

Matthew Ryder said he was open to those ideas, and I certainly found the four members of his team that were present receptive.

The challenge now is how to move things forward. Who can help convene community groups and networks?

Today is the last day of operation of the London Voluntary Service Council.**

LVSC is the collaborative leader of London's voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector enabling a co-ordinated voice to influence policy makers. We support the 120,000 organisations who provide a range of services and support to London’s diverse communities and empower the lives of Londoners.

LVSC is being abolished to make way for new arrangements being developed by The Way Ahead initiative, supported by London funders. As I’ve written here the plan is to establish a new London Hub, based on Greater London Volunteering.

However, while valuable in many ways it currently looks like a top-down model, rather than one that would embrace a more networked approach, as suggested here.

To be fair, the team developing ideas for the hub have opened discussion with the Our Way Ahead group about representation. There's a door open there for representation, but that's not the same as engagement and co-design. It is pretty low down on the classic ladder of participation.

There are maybe 100,000 community groups in London, as well hundreds if not thousands of networks representing local and london-wide interests, now without any strategic representation - unless I have missed something.

As Nicolas Fonty and I explained last night, we have made a very modest start on mapping geographically and socially some local and London networks. We are working with Our Way Ahead to explore how to do more.

One advantage of network mapping - explained here on our Networked City wiki - is that it helps understanding of who are the key connectors and influences in any ecosystem.

The vacuum created by the abolition of LVSC, with only a top-down Hub replacement, opens the way for some fresh thinking about engagement with London citizens and community groups. Who will lead the way? If not the Deputy Mayor and his team, then who? After last night's meeting I'm hopeful that they may rise to the occasion.

** The work that I, Drew Mackie and others have done in developing Connecting Londoners, and mapping networks, would not have been possible without initial funding from LVSC, and the tremendous work by Matt Scott in supporting that and development of Our Way Way Ahead. It's going to leave a big hole.

David Wilcox

Explaining to London's Deputy Mayor @rydermc how mapping can help connect Londoners and #reclaimourspaces

3 min read

We have a couple of exciting opportunities in the next few days to take forward the idea of building networks at different levels to connect Londoners and their communities.

Tonight I’ll be joining Nicolas Fonty of JustMap at City Hall to explore further with Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder QC how a combination of network and geographic mapping can build connections. We first ran a workshop with Matthew in February, and were encouraged by his interest.

This time we are supporting the campaign Reclaim Our Spaces, which is building a network of grassroots groups to protect London's community spaces. As their manifesto says:

By community spaces, we include community centres, music venues, libraries, pubs, open spaces and public spaces, youth centres, land for community food growing and street markets. Many community spaces across London have been lost in recent years and others are under threat of closure through a combination of austerity, privatisation and development pressure.

RoS has three main areas of activity:

Designing grassroots activities (e.g. “learning journeys”) enabling us to reach out to the many current campaigns in London and raising their visibility through tools such as the creation of a digital platform.

Supporting each other as a network of communities and community spaces, through sharing information, joint initiatives and practical solidarity.

Influencing the London Plan, and other strategies of the Mayor of London

Nicolas been working with RoS and Justspace to run collaborative workshops where Londoners can use their local knowledge to map places under threat, and also assets in their area.

I'm reporting the work that Drew Mackie and I have been doing to show how network mapping can build connections at the level of friends and family, neighbourhoods and across London. Here's our poster

Connecting Londoners poster

We believe that using a mix of traditional and digital methods to help people connect is important both for campaigns and community building.

Next week I and others will be pitching at an RSA Ideas event. There we'll explain 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.