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

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.

Adding:

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.

Contacts

  • David Wilcox david@socialreporter.com @davidwilcox
  • Drew Mackie drew@drewmackie.co.uk @admaque
  • Matt Scott ourwayahead@gmail.com @ourwayahead

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