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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

How to support community development and give London citizens a voice: build networks, use social tech #netwcity

5 min read

Yesterday's excellent event Call to Action: raising the profile of community development across London confirmed for me the important role of network building and the value of digital technology. John Popham has a Storify of tweets, with the promise of videos to come. Here's my thoughts on what action to take.

I contributed an update on Networked City, explaining that we are developing ideas at two levels:

  • The Living Lab simulation of a London borough as a way to play through how to to use social network mapping, tech, personas and local communications to build personal and community connections. download pdf
  • Exploring how to help build connections London-wide by networking existing networks, using both geographic and network mapping, and a range of communication methods.

The Living Lab attracted interest from quite a few people who are working on local projects, including Help on Your Doorstep. I plan to organise a workshop with my colleague Drew Mackie early in April to follow through - so do get in touch if you are interested. Contact details here.

I hope we can then plan together how to use various methods in the Living Lab "for real" in a London neighbourhood to help build connections, and support cooperation and collaboration.

As I pointed out yesterday, there's a great opportunity presented by The Way Ahead initiative which is led by London Funders, London Council for Voluntary Action and Greater London Volunteering. The TWA report on pragmatic co-production, which I've copied here for easy reference, recommends:

  • 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

That shows a strong alignment between TWA objectives and discussion yesterday about the need for citizens and groups to shape their own future locally, and develop a strong voice across London. The five TWA task groups will be reporting by the end of this month on how they see the TWA report ideas put into action. Yesterday Alison Navarro previewed recommendations from the voice and campaigning group, underlining the potential.

As an aside - at least one commentator suggests that community voice is now even more important with the appointment of George Osborn as editor of the Evening Standard - a paper I worked for as planning correspondent in 1970s. I can understand the concern. It's bad enough to have a proprietor with a political agenda, quite extraordinary to have an editor who is a sitting MP.

At the London-wide level, there were a lot of ideas yesterday about how to achieve greater sharing of ideas, learning, and collective action - including the development and implementation of a community-led London Plan by Just Space.

At this strategic level there was also interest yesterday in how network mapping and the use of online comms could support events and other activities. I think Networked City could help there. Rather than jump to any immediate solution I would suggest forming a communications group from interested people yesterday, and others in the Community Development Network London, who organised yesterday's event, and exploring options.

Maybe we need the Living Lab equivalent at London level - looking at the role of geographic and social network mapping together with online comms. This should include a role for interests.me, who gave a compelling presentation earlier in the week to the London Voluntary Sector Forum, and Justmap, whose goal is "to highlight communities assets and projects, connect actors campaigning for a fairer London and identify strategic cooperations".

Both interests.me and Justmap are core contributors to Networked City, and they were able to present their ideas, together with the Living Lab, at our event with the Deputy Mayor recently. I think we have a route to City Hall.

In summary my response to the call to action, in collaboration with Networked City:

  • Develop and test the Living Lab as a way to help citizens connect, and to build local community networks.
  • Explore scope for practical collaboration with The Way Ahead once task groups report
  • Set up a communication and networking group to look at options for London-wide campaigning, co-operation and collaboration.

Thanks to Matt Scott for organising yesterday's event, with Deirdre McGrath at LVSC. Matt's also in the lead on Networked City, so I'm hopeful about joining up while maintaining complementary agendas.

David Wilcox

Moving London from digital divide to digital connect - generating Networked City ideas for the Deputy Mayor @rydermc #netwcity

3 min read

Today we are meeting at City Hall to develop ideas for London's Deputy Mayor, Matthew Ryder QC, that will help address his brief for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement.

We'll be using insights and expertise assembled over the past two months of our Networked City exploration into networked thinking and digital tech.

We asked Team London, supporting the Deputy Mayor, to give us a couple of challenges to stimulate discussion.They suggested:

  • Digital connect, not digital divide – how can all communities be included in the use of new technologies
  • How can digital and traditional methods help City Hall improve community engagement so that Londoners can be more engaged and involved in policy development

We'll break into discussion groups after hearing presentations including mapping networks and communities; systems to enable community publishing and connecting; and a Living Lab simulation of a London borough. Details in our briefing document.

The groups will develop a gallery of posters to present to the Deputy Mayor. From that we hope to develop further ideas for collaboration among innovators, and with City Hall.

Other events today, organised by groups who are part of the Networked City exploration:

Living Maps seminar: Greening the Map, by Living Maps

Is green mapping just a means of create interesting data displays for enthusiasts or a real tool to help tackle our unfolding environmental crisis? We have invited two leading environmentalists to debate this question.

Mapping Urban Nature - Matthew Gandy.

Putting a new colour on the map - the development of 'green mapping' - Chris Church

Globalnet21: Ethics & Politics: Does Culture Lead & Parliament Follow.

Join us at this meeting with the Conway Hall Ethical Society where we discuss whether grass roots cultural change is more effective than change through Parliament in making a difference to our world.

The world is changing so fast that we often wonder if we can have any influence at all. Politicians also face this situation and often feel impotent in the face of global forces. Brexit was partly an expression of this frustration.

So can we effect change through politicians and Parliamentary politics or does real change happen elsewhere?

Putting a new colour on the map - the development of 'green mapping' - Chris Church.

David Wilcox

How network building and tech can support social action and integration in London - #netwcity event with the Deputy Mayor

2 min read

On February 22 we'll have the chance to discuss with London's Deputy Mayor how the Networked City ideas we've developed so far can support his agenda.

As you'll see here Matthew Ryder QC is responsible for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement.

He leads the promotion of active citizenship across London and makes sure City Hall uses the best methods for measuring levels of social integration.

You can sign up for the event here

On the day we'll recap on our previous events on January 10 and January 31, with presentations on our Living Lab and the practicalities of blending online and offline methods for network building.

We'll also be looking at how to combine geographic and social network mapping to provide a framework for connecting activists, projects and organisations.

Following group discussions, we'll create a poster gallery for the Deputy Mayor to review and respond to. That will help us shape the next stages of development.

Other events. There are two other interesting and relevant events in the evening of the 22nd, organised by groups who are part of the Networked City exploration.

Globalnet21: Ethics & Politics: Does Culture Lead & Parliament Follow.

Join us at this meeting with the Conway Hall Ethical Society where we discuss whether grass roots cultural change is more effective than change through Parliament in making a difference to our world.

The world is changing so fast that we often wonder if we can have any influence at all. Politicians also face this situation and often feel impotent in the face of global forces. Brexit was partly an expression of this frustration.

So can we effect change through politicians and Parliamentary politics or does real change happen elsewhere?

Living Maps seminar: Greening the Map, by Living Maps

Is green mapping just a means of create interesting data displays for enthusiasts or a real tool to help tackle our unfolding environmental crisis? We have invited two leading environmentalists to debate this question.

Mapping Urban Nature - Matthew Gandy.

Putting a new colour on the map - the development of 'green mapping' - Chris Church.

David Wilcox

Videos from our Networked City event including an interview with Harold Jarche - @hjarche #netwcity

2 min read

Here's videos from our Networked City event earlier this week, in case you missed John Popham's excellent work in providing a live stream.

Our keynote presentation was by Harold Jarche, international specialist in networks, social learning and leadership. Harold took us through:

  • the difference between different domains of activity: simple, complicated, complex and chaotic. Each requires a different approach blending networks and hierarchies
  • the importance of developing our personal capacity to manage knowledge
  • a model of different network types ... those for action, sharing practices, and connecting more widely
  • the roles of network weaving, facilitating and coordinating in building and supporting networks
  • the importance of trust
  • cities as physical nodes in multiple knowledge networks
  • making decisions in networks
  • the idea of value network analysis

In this presentation Harold starts at 1' 40", after my introduction. You can find a blog post here on the model of network types.

During our lunch break I was able to interview Harold on the key points.

Harold has just started one of his online workshops: details here.

If you want to stay in touch with Networked City you can sign up to an email discussion list or contact me david@socialreporter.com for an invitation to our Slack team.

David Wilcox

Follow us with #netwcity and a live stream about social good in a more networked London

3 min read

Tomorrow January 31st we are exploring how to make London a more Networked City - and how to use digital technology and network thinking for social action.

Discussion will range from how to help people better connect with neighbours, local activities and services, through to the sort of support systems we will need as funding is cut for community and voluntary organisations.

We have a few free places - signup here - and if you can't make it we'll be tweeting and also live-streaming some of the event.

Follow on Twitter, and a Live stream provided by John Popham.

The event is part of a wider exploration into making London a more networked city, explained in this background paper, and supported London Voluntary Service Council.

As I wrote here, our keynote speaker is Harold Jarche, international expert on networks, social learning and leadership.

We'll hear from Harold how learning and acting through networks is crucial in the world of work ... and how we can apply some models and approaches to civil society.

Here's a key post of his about principles and models for the network era and a series of posts categorized democracy

We'll also hear about

We'll review what networks already operate across London, and how to develop strong connections.

By the end of the day we should have a lot of ideas that we can take forward online, and develop for a further event at City Hall on February 22.

You can sign up to an email discussion list or contact me david@socialreporter.com for an invitation to our Slack team.