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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

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

Join us to discuss how Londoners can connect and influence development of the city

2 min read

We have a few free places for our cafe conversation session on Thursday afternoon, July 20. Here's the flyer.

We'll be discussing "How can we connect Londoners so that they can have a greater influence over the future development of their city?"

I know it is going to be a great event because of the topic on the one hand, and on the other because it will be facilitated by David Gurteen.

It will be chance to learn how David uses an apparently simple framework for an event that enables some rich conversations. It will be a lesson in itself in how to help people connect - and I'm sure that the insights generated will give us fresh ideas about how to influence London's development.

More here about David's Cafes, which he has now run in 32 countries.

Among those attending will be key people from initiative to reframe support for London civil society, and from the recent community-led response .

I hope we'll develop some shared ways forward, drawing on the TWA conference and last week's OWA event.

The cafe will be from 1pm to 5pm July 21 at LVSC, c/o Voluntary Action Islington, Conference room, 200a Pentonville Road, N1 9JP.

Please let Matthew Scott know if you are coming or tweet me @davidwilcox

David Wilcox

Joining up the dots to show #OurWayAhead

5 min read

Yesterday's event about building stronger London communities was a terrific success, both for the content and in providing insights into where next for Connecting Londoners and other initiatives.

There were some great presentations, and lively open spaces discussions around these topics.

  • What good qualities do we have in common and how can we make these good qualities more common and stronger
  • Hate Crime Bystanders
  • To create a performance machine/system that demonstrates the shared/skills and abilities of us all but also highlights and showcases the way forward
  • How can we improve access for deaf and disabled people across all of London
  • No more asking - taking back power and voice
  • Could London have its own currency to share skills and resources LETS link London
  • Supporting vulnerable young people (mainly care leavers) transitioning into independence - building foundations, emotional support etcetera solid understanding acceptance of the self
  • How can we make sure that everyone legal rights are respected? - so they can challenge decisions by public authorities - so they can get expert advice and representation with the right way ahead - so rights have meaning, and value and justice is not just rich man's law
  • Let's mobilise for mental health
  • What is happening to our community assets? centres, youth clubs, libraries, parks allotments? How can we keep them going? How can we resource them?
  • Access for deaf and disabled people in London is a postcode lottery. How can we create an equal pan-London approach to accessibility.
  • What can universities do to contribute?
  • How to encourage the huge variety of the people in London to listen and understand each other and so build peace and happiness.
  • To create new accessible media that gives a genuine voice to communities for the social and economic regeneration of communities
  • Hostile immigration policies - communities and resistance
  • Physical spaces for the voluntary sector to meet
  • Why aren't we talking about food and living space?
  • Planning for Greener London - air-quality, community energy, green space, sustainable city
  • Quality of life and well-being - coping, creativity, identity, social, physical
  • Is it all about austerity rather than government priorities - i.e. segregation/institutionalisation versus inclusion
  • Minorities and Brexit - are you thinking what I'm thinking and what can we do about it?
  • We have the Mayor of London and the young Mayor in local areas. Why not have a disabled Mayor?
  • how can government spend money differently to promote community inclusion rather than segregation
  • Systems thinking what people say what matters or journeys
  • Digital inclusion

John Popham livestreamed the event, and I'll hold off further reporting of the content until recordings are available, and we have worked our way through the flip charts.

At the start of the day Drew Mackie and I handed out a printed basemap of connections of some London organisations and groups, and invited people to add their own group or organisation, if not on the map, and draw in further connections.

Drew then transcribed the sheets into the Kumu software we are using to build the map online.


We are still tidying up the map, but we know that we added some 100 new nodes. Here's how it looked on screen at the end of the day


What was evident from conversations - and confirmed by the mapping - is that London has a huge and diverse range of community talents and assets - but they are not very well connected. People may know about those groups and organisations in their particular field, and some central organisations, but not those in associated fields who might be helpful.

One of the ideas floated at yesterday's event was creating a strong movement for community groups. That didn't really catch on because, I think, there were so many diverse challenges to talk about, and there's much to do in building connections and shared purpose.

That's where I think Connecting Londoners can help, both through the initial projects we are developing - outlined here - and extending and deepening the mapping.

I'll update in a day or so on how we could do that, but briefly we can construct a survey into people's projects, interests and capabilities, and their communication preferences and willingness to share. That would give us the basis for planning how to strengthen networking, and the "network ourselves" approach I outline here in writing about How to move TheWayAhead into the networked age by Connecting Londoners .

We could do more to join up the dots - or rather, help people do their own joining up. The planning group for Our Way Ahead is meeting next week, and I'm sure there will be a wealth of other ideas from that.

We'll also be able to generate more ideas at a Cafe conversation on Thursday July 20, facilitated by David Gurteen There are only a few places available, so please get in touch with me directly if you are interested: Cafe details here

Update: Here's a brief report on the mapping exercise

David Wilcox

Why #OurWayAhead will be #GoodforLDN civil society

5 min read

Today some 180 people passionate about the future of London communities are getting togther to share ideas about how to organise social action and support local groups in the face of funding cuts and major social challenges.

A few weeks ago London funding organisations and their partners held an official event on how to support civil society organisations, as part of The Way Ahead initiative.

Our Way Ahead Organisations

There were many excellent proposals, but some activists at that event argued that there wasn't sufficient recognition of the role of grass-roots organisations. In a short time a group of networks, supported by Matt Scott of the London Voluntary Service Council, organised their response - Our Way Ahead. We are meeting this afternoon at London Metropolitan University from 1pm with a started scheduled for 2pm.

There will be lots on Twitter, if you follow , and John Popham will be live streaming and doing interviews. I'll be helping with that, and also working with Drew Mackie to create a living map of London networks.

Matt Scott and researcher Matt Pugh have created a basic network map of key London organisations and networks in London civil society, and we'll invite people to add their organisations and connections.

Network map

Drew Mackie - who is working with me and Matt on the Networked City initiative - will then update and display the emerging map on the wall - all being well. I'll report later.

We'll also be tweeting with the tag , because at our planning meeting we agreed that we needed a London dimension to tweets. I suggested Good for London because I remembered that back at the start of our Networked City exploration I wrote:

Let’s talk about to make sense of civil society, a networked city and

Signups are going well for our event tomorrow about London as a networked and neighbourly city, creating a Living Lab to help reframe civil society, using tech to support social action.

It’s about all of those things, and I suspect each idea resonates with different interests. I think that’s a problem, and we need an idea and a tag everyone can understand. How about ?

Behind the rather abstract terms I’ve been using so far in these posts is the idea that we need to rethink how people and organisations doing good cooperate and collaborate in the networked age, where the Internet is changing so much about the way we lead our lives, and the relationships, interests and activities we can develop.

I was looking for a term, a tag, that embraces the broad idea of action for social good - whether by individuals, community groups, charities, public agencies or social businesses.

That is a key idea in the official The Way Ahead reports

We begin with three beliefs: first, that a thriving civil society is good for Londoners; second, that in order to achieve a strong and vibrant civil society, just like any other sector, civil society organisations need access to appropriate support, as well as a ‘voice’ within the debates about London; and third that London faces both challenges and opportunities which mean we need to rethink how that support and voice is best provided to civil society in London.

The Way Ahead proposes a system that puts London’s communities at the heart of the way we all work. It begins with co-producing an understanding of need and how to tackle it with our communities, through to better sharing of intelligence and data across all sectors, and making sure that civil society’s voice is heard in decision-making at a strategic level.

I think people in Our Way Ahead agree with that ... and I hope that might be a tag that can be used to bring together "official" ideas and ones developed today. There's lots you can do with Twitter to gather ideas, spark conversations and build networks if you agree a tag. I'm interested in how far we can get. If we need it, I'm happy to offer which I've registered.

I think the benefit that Our Way Ahead will bring to The Way Ahead is a street-level perspective on what life is like in London today, and what can be done by citizens and community groups to support and complement more official actions.

Summary of previous posts, and other references here

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, 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: