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David Wilcox

City Hall is commissioning work to develop a London civil society strategy for #TheWayAhead. Spread the word.

6 min read

The Greater London Authority is commissioning £15,000 of consultancy to help staff develop support for civil society on the lines proposed in The Way Ahead report:

The request for proposals was tweeted by London Funders - who are leading development of the The Way Ahead - the day after their major conference, so the TORs weren't, as far as I know, formally discussed on the day, which seems a pity.

The Terms of reference for the scoping of a Civil Society Strategy for London are on the official web site, in summary, but I haven't seen coverage elsewhere. Submissions have to be in by July 12.

This is important work and more people deserve to know about it ... whether to pitch or comment on the approach. So please retweet. (And apologies to GLA if TORs has been widely circulated ... I just could find anything on Google).

Here's the document linked in the tweet, and here are the key elements.

The GLA wants to develop a strategy for London’s civil society, working with civil society partners to develop this, and, indicating our response to the recommendations contained in The Way Ahead report.

This report has been a landmark proposal from London’s civil society. We now need a more detailed analysis of some of the options within this and support to help us set out what we will do to support London’s civil society. We expect this support to include some work with internal GLA teams and some external stakeholder engagement to test our thinking as it develops.

A proposed vision and a structure

  • An overarching vision of the role the GLA has to play in the infrastructure of civil society in London, both as convenor and active participant
  • A proposal on the most appropriate structure(s) and methods to convene civil society leaders and groups to tackle the big issues facing London (e.g. via a ‘Mayor’s Challenge’ model), cutting across geographic/sectoral boundaries

Building on the recommendations made in the Way Ahead on;

  • Working with London Councils/Local Authorities and others to develop commissioning frameworks and promote and reward good practice which allows access to contract opportunities for civil society organisations.
  • Supporting and promoting innovation and models of best practice for civil society organisations, and for civil society ‘infrastructure’ and creating networks to enable knowledge sharing and best practice to emerge
  • Setting out the way in which the GLA can work with cross sector partners to gather data on the sector and share it in the most effective way possible, including mapping of the sector

Development of voice and regional support;

  • An exploration of the mechanisms that can be used to ensure that London grassroots organisations can have a say and be involved in policy production and having their voices heard
  • Working with partners to refine recommendations about the way that cross borough and local activity can be supported by sub-regional or regional bodies

There's more helpful detail in an appendix. Overall, it is a challenging brief which would be difficult to tackle unless you have been closely involved in The Way Ahead.

I'm glad that GLA are now engaging with civil society issues, and guess there may be some internal reasons for it taking so long to do so. However, I fear that this work may fall into the same trap as The Way Ahead - failing to match community rhetoric with an appropiate process.

The strongest recommendation in The Way Ahead is for Pragmatic 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.

Adding:

The Review Team contends that pragmatic co-production should cover a continuum of activity that includes:

  • communities identifying for themselves, with support if needed, what their needs are
  • funders, the public sector and civil society’s understanding of need being based on what communities identify for themselves
  • communities being enabled to change their own lives for the better
  • communities shaping solutions and responses to opportunities
  • communities shaping services delivered by others, whether these be public sector or civil society services
  • communities advocating and campaigning on their own behalf, with support if needed

The biggest criticism of The Way Ahead process has been that while the report emphasises a bottom-up approach, the process has been top-down. This has led community-based networks to organise their own event to develop Our Way Ahead on July 12, and activist Richard Lee to comment:

When we look at The Way Ahead Change documents, and the proposals for the hub, do they actually also include these community voices, these activists, those doing things voluntarily, those who are part of small community groups? They don't, and I’m not alone in thinking this.

There are other people in the room today who equally feel we cannot give consent to these documents as they stand.

The GLA TORs do contain quite a lot about engaging with community interests, and mention a range of methods. However, as someone who has done a fair bit of community engagement work, and become rather disillusioned with traditional consultancy approaches, I know that there is a big difference between what agencies and consultants consider effective engagement and what works on the street.

If the GLA and London Funders really want to build a strategy and structure to support civil society they should follow the recommendations of their report and co-produce it with Londoners, community groups and organisations.

Together with others who will contribute on July 12, I have plenty of ideas about how this might be done - in association with GLA staff, and consultants dealing with the complex issues of commissioning, for example. But we can't, within a couple of weeks, put together a team to deal with such a challenging undertaking, and I'm not sure I would want to try.

The TOR brief is comprehensive. Unfortunately is also excluding. More follows tomorrow on how to address that.

Previously:

David Wilcox

How #TheWayAhead for @LondonFunders is becoming #OurWayAhead for Londoners

3 min read

Last week's official event about The Way Ahead for London's civil society, organised by London Funders and their partners, was followed by a less formal workshop on Friday including representatives of key networks supporting Londoners.

Our Way Ahead flyer

The concensus echoed discussion at the official event about more community input, and the words of community activist Richard Lee that I reported:

When we look at The Way Ahead Change documents, and the proposals for the hub, do they actually also include these community voices, these activists, those doing things voluntarily, those who are part of small community groups? They don't, and I’m not alone in thinking this.

There are other people in the room today who equally feel we cannot give consent to these documents as they stand.

So on Friday people decided that as well as pressing for changes in plans to develop a London resource hub, and the support systems for front line organisations, they would develop their own ideas, initially at an event on July 12.

London networks

An OPEN event to build voice, agency and grassroots infrastructure at a time of crisis and division.

Aiming to network and contribute to a wider movement that is democratic, sustainable and genuinely supportive of each other.

Includes storytelling, open space, testimonies and presentations from community organisations.

Time to reflect and plan action:

Brexit, Austerity, Grenfell...so many more

Let’s share our experiences, agree common purpose and plan for collective action.

At The Way Ahead event project officer Geraldine Blake said:

I liked Richard's point that we change the tone of of the Change Plans to make sense of them to frontline community organisations and activists. That’s absolutely something we'll feed in.

I'm very very keen to be part of the event in a few weeks and feed that in to The Way Ahead Change Plan. What we want is the strongest possible plan that means something to all the people that need to be involved in actually making it happen.

So there's a real chance of bringing together work on The Way Ahead from the past year with further ideas developed on July 12, and afterwards. I'll follow up with some ideas on how we might do that.

Recent blog posts:

Reference

David Wilcox

Voices from the Tower may change tone of #TheWayAhead for civil society, as well as much else

6 min read

Yesterday's event about The Way Ahead for London civil society offered more detail about the formal plans for a resource hub, and other support systems for community groups, organisations and charities.

However, the emotional tone was set by reflections at the start and finish on the Grenfell Tower disaster.

At the start Geraldine Blake, project officer for The Way Ahead, expressed our deep sympathy for the individuals, families and communities affected, and admiration for the extraordinary effort of volunteers.

I think we all immediately brought to mind both the horror of the burned out tower, and the news images of volunteers rapidly organising to provide support when, it seemed, official bodies were unable to respond.

Photo Eastern Eye

Photo Eastern Eye

Wasn't that the best of "civil society"?

Two overlapping themes emerging from conversations. Yes, on the one hand the efforts of individuals and small groups generally outweigh those of organisations and charities in London, even if they usually have a lower profile.

On the other hand the community centres, sports halls, other facilities and services used by volunteers are an essential part of the civil society infrastructure now under threat from funding cuts. That’s the dual challenge being addressed in The Way Ahead: maintaining what people called the plumbing and connective tissue as well as inspiring and supporting the individuals and groups. But is the balance right?

One of the recurring criticisms of The Way Ahead process, as I wrote here, has been poor communication and engagement with Londoners and small groups.

At the end of the event, Richard Lee, cordinator of the campaigning network Justspace again referred to Grenfell Tower, and I asked him to reprise his remarks for me.

As you can hear in the interview, Richard argues that the tone, and maybe the substance of The Way Ahead documents, should be changed. (Links to documents in this post). He says that the part of civil society that really came forward in the wake of the disaster were activists, small community groups, and people who wanted to take part purely as volunteers.

People felt humbled looking at this and seeing how this part of civil society really took charge in providing for the needs of the people there.

When we look at The Way Ahead Change documents, and the proposals for the hub, do they actually also include these community voices, these activists, those doing things voluntarily, those who are part of small community groups? They don't, and I’m not alone in thinking this.

There are other people in the room today who equally feel we cannot give consent to these documents as they stand.

Richard refers to an event on July 12, organised by Matt Scott, with Richard, me and others, when there will be an opportunity to contribute fresh ideas. He calls for space in The Way Ahead process to both reflect on the implications of the disaster, and incorporate these ideas.

An open event for people active in their community to network and build alliances for collective action

As part of this event we will explore how community groups and Londoners can influence ‘The Way Ahead’ agenda and proposed London Hub.

I then talked to Geraldine Blake, project officer for The Way Ahead, who explained the substantial consultation processes that informed development of the documents, adding:

I liked Richard's point that we change the tone of of the Change Plans to make sense of them to frontline community organisations and activists. That’s absolutely something we'll feed in.

I'm very very keen to be part of the event in a few weeks and feed that in to The Way Ahead Change Plan. What we want is the strongest possible plan that means something to all the people that need to be involved in actually making it happen.

Geraldine said that this is a moment when the value of civil society has become very clear, and we need to capitalise on it for longer-term benefit. It is also important to recognise the value of locally-rooted organisations in joining things up.

In my next interview, Matt Scott suggests we must go deeper on engagement and create spaces where people can set out their own stories, and build much stronger networks and coalitions. He said that today was made up of quite formal presentations and complex table discussions. The event on June 12 will provide conversation space during an afternoon and evening, and hopefully start to mobilise a different part of civil society. Most community groups are small, and would not walk through the door of a formal event.

The Way Ahead is a fantastic opportunity to get the sector where it should be in London, because we have a desperately low profile - and I'm keen too do a different kind of event with different kind of conversations

Previously:

David Wilcox

Another hope for #TheWayAhead at today's event - a communication programme to inform and engage Londoners

6 min read

I'm glad that yesterday's post about the need for a more networky approach to The Way Ahead plans for a London resource hub gained some tweets and comments - see below the post. Thanks all.

I'm now off to the conference, and hoping that one of the issues to be addressed will be communications and engagement. I find relatively few people know about The Way Ahead, and that formal reports are, ahem, less than engaging. However, there may have been lots of activity I don't know about, and new plans for comms. I'll report back, and also continue to check out The Way Ahead website.

Here's what I posted in December 2016 after the last event

This Storify of tweets compiled by Superhighways, and a photo report, show the breadth of discussion at last week's event on the future of London's civil society **.

The event was organised by London Voluntary Service Council, Greater London Volunteering and London Funders to take forward their report The Way Ahead - Civil Society and the Heart of London.

Effective action could involve everyone from individual citizens to groups, charities, councils and business. The big challenge now is not just understanding and explaining the report, but offering ways for people to play a part.

As I wrote earlier, I'm working with LVSC on how Londoners can in future better connect with each other, engage in local activities and find support.

Drew Mackie and I will be looking at ways in which people and groups can develop their personal and community networks, using a range of methods including new technology.

We hope this will make a useful contribution to The Way Ahead - and so I was glad to join in the communications group at the event, led by Steve Wyler.

Communications

Here's notes I've transcribed from the photo report:

  • recognising different phases - e.g. currently a development and engagement phase
  • comms will matter throughout implementation
  • development phase likely to continue beyond March 2016 - urgent point about producing a succinct and tailored set of propositions that sets out The Way Ahead recommendations for different stakeholders (e.g. messages for business will be different from those for frontline groups)
  • communication needs to be more than broadcast, needs engagement and enabled contributions (some could be to thematic groups, but also need something beyond this - website but visuals not just text, plus online networking forum)
  • roadshow events, either on local areas http://www.connectinglondoners.blog/2017/heres-hoping-thewayahead-plans-for-a-london-resource-hub-be... thematic issues, to talk to people about what this would mean in practice chairs of theme groups and system change group need to model new forms of communication
  • need system of communications that work well for frontline volunteers, activists and others, not just digital and not just those already in the room

The group report on peer-to-peer learning was very relevant too:

  • leadership and learning important as it underpins everything in The Way Ahead
  • need to be proactive in developing our leadership programmes underway, but information not being shared between people and organisations
  • need sector-specific opportunities, but important to have cross-sector work to learn and grow (e.g. time banking between people and organisations)
  • need to recognise that competition can stand in the way of sharing ideas

The communications recommendations apply mainly to The Way Ahead programme, while peer-to-peer learning is about what happens next. In addition we had a useful discussion about the realities of day-to-day communications in community and voluntary organisations, and the need to offer a mix of methods from face-to-face through phone calls and print to online.

As well as external communications, there will first be the challenge of facilitating conversations between the five thematic groups now established:

  • Co-production
  • Data: collating, analysing and sharing data about the needs and strengths of Londoners
  • Triage and connecting: local, specialist and regional support organisations
  • Voice and campaigning: civil society needs to be fully engaged in decision-making on London- wide issues,
  • Consistent commissioning and funding for support

The main recommendation in the The Way Ahead is to promote and develop co-production, by which the review team mean:

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.

All this suggests to me that The Way Ahead will only succeed if everyone concerned - from funders to councils, groups and organisations, and citizens - can talk to each other about what's involved in making their London a better place to live.

This involves creating some communication systems that embrace new and older methods, internally and externally.

I know that The Way Ahead team will be launching a new web site, and planning other forms of communication.

At the moment The Way Ahead reports are pretty heavy pdfs, so I think a simple explainer would be a useful start, covering for example:

  • What is civil society
  • How does it operate
  • What isn’t working - for citizens, organisations, funders
  • What changes are coming - whether through funding cuts or external forces
  • What are the key ideas in The Way Ahead
  • Who needs to be involved in co-production and other changes
  • What might be involved in making changes

... which would lead to "here's what part you might play".

At the end of the event facilitator George Gawlinski remarked that for change to happen The Way Ahead needed to be a movement.

If so, the challenge is not just how to promote the messages of The Way Ahead - but how to offer people ways to get involved, in terms that make sense to them. The event last week provided the energy and insights to do that.

** The Way Ahead report offers this definition:

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

David Wilcox

Here's hoping #TheWayAhead plans for a London resource hub become more networky

3 min read

Further ideas for a resource hub to support London civil society have been circulated to those attending tomorrow's major conference on The Way Ahead. As I explain below, I think it is one of the most challenging issues in the programme.

Previously The Way Ahead published the recommendations of five working groups, as I reported here. The Way Ahead web site also has reports on the hub from consultants advising London Voluntary Service Council, and local Councils for Voluntary Services. The latest ideas aren't on the site, but since they are widely circulated I've taken the slight liberty of uploading them. Here's all the links

The Way Ahead is in part a response to cuts in funding which mean that many support services at local and London level are under threat. One of the key issues is how far support can be centralised in a hub, and how far it should be decentralised in CVSs and other organisations.

I've contributed to some of the working groups, as well as working with LVSC on the idea of Networked City, which aims to bring more network thinking and tech into The Way Ahead.

A month ago I drafted some ideas on how to rethink the notion of a hub as a network - or lots of linked networks. I didn't publish them at the time, but now seems a good opportunity to throw them into the pot.

Here's a radical option for a London civil society Hub - build a network of people and projects

I've included this provocation:

The risk is that the Hub will be designed on a business-as-usual model that reflects a political compromise between the existing organisations struggling to maintain their existence in the face of funding cuts. There will be a new organisation, or consortium, with representatives from existing ones that will develop its own mailing lists, newsletters, web site, events, training courses, publications.

This centralised or consortium hub will get some start up funding - but it will probably have to generate more by fund raising and developing services in competition with existing organisations. People won’t share their knowledge because they are in competition.

So far the latest hub proposals are not much more than a shell charitable company effectively merging LVSC and Greater London Volunteering, so there's plenty of opportunity to take a networked and decentralised approach. There's some mention of that in the proposals, and I'll be listening out tomorrow for more.

Either way I'm certain we'll get some radical, bottom-up ideas at a event on July 12.

An open event for people active in their community to network and build alliances for collective action

As part of this event we will explore how community groups and Londoners can influence ‘The Way Ahead’ agenda and proposed London Hub.

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.