My Building Democracy Application – Taking it Old School

Sorry that’s not the title of the Application, just a reference to the ethos behind it, ie. how can we merge “Old School” offline social technologies, with the “New School” to ensure no child left behind (sorry took the schooling metaphor too far). You get the jist

Title: Community Bridge

Description: Bridging the gap between Online and Offline communication at local level, ensuring that everyone in a community has a voice

What will your project do?

We will design and test a series of tools integrated into a simple system that allows locally relevant information to flow from Online to Offline and vice versa.

These tools will ensure that Offline constituents and communities are kept informed of information that is relevant to them, that they may not previously had access to, and ensure that Online constituents and communities do not polarise debate simply because their existing tools are more readily available. The tools will ensure that everybody has the opportunity to comment in a shared forum whether they are online or not.

These tools will compliment both existing projects, Social Enterprises, and other proposals submitted to Building Democracy platform.

Some examples of what forms these tools and systems would take are outlined below.

Online to offline tools

Editorial content arranged in conjunction with local press
Leaflets
Newsletters
Posters
Word of mouth – Events, evangelists
Paper petitions

Offline to online tools

Syncronising local noticeboards with local sites – photographs taken weekly of local shop windows and noticeboards
Text responses and comments – mechanisms for feedback given on offline content
Group events, where opinion taken, converted to online by group secretary
Feedback by mail
Motivated information migrators – ie. people who take the offline data and put it online.
Syncronised input platform

These are incredibly basic technologies, they have to be in order to be readily accessible and usable by offline communities. The key is building a system that allows and encourages feedback and response to information broadcast using these tools, and syncronising that response with online systems of monitoring consensus.

At the same time we should attempt to use the monitoring of this engagement, to “channel shift” offline community groups to having some online representation.

The purpose of the first set of tools is to generate an awareness of activities by groups online, motivating these groups to promote themselves and their activities by offline means
will generate an increase in group members.

The second set of tools allows for conversation flow from offline to online. This would be managed by the communities themselves, simple things like
text voting and comments on opinion polling, text indication on desire to attend event (could recieve reminders), but also more simple than that – live events where the publics opinions are logged. It’s all about educating the groups correctly so that their processes cover those who may not have access to online methods of communication.

It’s all about creating feedback mechanisms and systems in the real world, and providing easy to access feedback points

What will the benefits be?

Presently there are a number of community engagement tools being proposed, both on this website, and allready in existence (for example http://www.localeyes.org, who I have been in communitcation with), however all of these existing platforms do not have a system of engaging the community in the real world. This means that a large part of the community (that which is in most need of assistance) is in danger of becoming marginalised by such activities rather than assisted, with their voice being denied as others are promoted. 35% of the community who do not have access to the internet are in danger of being ignored. Furthermore, online communities reach and effectiveness are dependant on awareness, offline awareness at a local level would be a far more effective manner of directing traffic even for those who are already online. Offline tools are far better at generating ambient awareness.

Who will you target?

We will target local groups in the UK, first working in partnership with one or 2 to test feasibility of tools, focussing on areas and locations where internet access is poor. We will then make our tools available to both communities and existing platforms, allowing them to use the tools freely ensuring widespread use and feedback into a shared system. This will leverage communities and enterprise to spread the system, as well as ensuring that post design there is no overhead required.

How long will your project run?

6 Months

Is your idea linked to a particular town or region?

I have identified test communities in Sheffield, Wales, and Bristol.

Are there similar or related engagement programmes? If so, how will your project complement these?

Every engagement programme is related, we are all striving to achieve broadly the same ends, and the sooner we recognise this the better. This programme has been specifically designed to address a missing piece of the engagement puzzle. However with respect to specific collaborators/complementary programmes please see below for a list.

http://www.localeyes.org – a digital tool for every man, woman and child to VOICE themselves within their communities and social networks.
http://www.mysociety.com
http://www.buildingdemocracy.co.uk/fund/2008/08/groundswell.html
http://www.buildingdemocracy.co.uk/fund/2008/08/engagement-on-t.html
http://www.buildingdemocracy.co.uk/fund/2008/08/uk-citizens-pan.html
http://www.buildingdemocracy.co.uk/fund/2008/07/ideas-for-my-co.html

All of the above represent means of digital engagement, my proposal complements this, by providing access to the offline community as well as online communities. Any means of online engagement proposal will benefit from the ability to bridge the gap between online and offline activities.

An explanation of how you will work in partnership with others (if applicable). Please make sure you have their permission.

These tools and processes will be designed to be easy to adapt, and templates and processes will be made readily available to all. Where a “technology” element is required, these tools will be made available anybody who wishes to use them.

We are at present already engaged with LocalEyes, however any tools generated by the project will be available to other projects as it is recognised that it is not in the communities benefit to only make tools available for one access point.

What kind of assistance would you like from others?

Talk to me, let’s identify shared goals, and then work our a means of collaboration.

http://www.jaycousins.wordpress.com
jaycousins on twitter

What will happen with your project once the Innovation Fund grant is complete?

By this time, the tools will be embedded shared processes, responsibility for spread and evolution will be passed to the social enterprises and communities benefitting from their use.

How will you share the results of your project? For example, you may publish a guide for others to replicate your project.

I think this is addressed sufficiently above, the tools and processes are all designed to be shared, spread and replicated easily.

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