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Archive for December, 2006


Typically inspirational stuff at David Wilcox’s blog on his UsefulGames site – which seems to be an offshoot of his work on participation, technology and community networks.
Without playing games like this yourself it may be difficult to see how transformational they can be – how they break down barriers and enable everyone to share ideas and preferences.
Contrast this with more traditional techniques for brainstorming technology projects, or carrying out community consultation and you can see how it brings benefits beyond the immediate feedback. I was lucky enough to be amongst the first users of the games that David and Drew created back in 1999 [or before?] – and have used it myself in projects in the UK and in Hungary [in Hungarian].
It helps promote an informal setting that in turn helps create bonds and links which can be the foundation of networks, whether based on existing roles or helping to broker new ties. It’s also a great way of overcoming technical barriers and avoiding the dominance of the technically literate – as seen in Bristol’s Digital Challenge event.
Great stuff…

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I’m setting up a City Information Network meeting in Brighton in March so I’ve started thinking about what it will be and how to run it.
It will be a forum for people to discuss city information resources, something like an event we ran back in 2000 – see the notes on our website. This time I think we need to include information from the whole city, not just what we called community information, ie not for profit and charitable/community/voluntary and public.
This reflects the work we’ve done since then on theplacetobe.net which is one of very few cross-sector bodies considering local information issues in a practical way.
This is a growing area of interest often referred to as civic knowledge management.
In the internet age this means [to me] the concerted effort required to ensure the best quality information is available for and about a local community.

Healthy communities

As an example take the health of the local community and its access to information which may help maintain or improve their health.
To get the best quality information we need the Council to collaborate with the Primary Care Trust to provide information about health and social services in the area. We want the Argus to chip in with its features on health which provide accessible advice and pointers on a range of local health issues.
Then there’s a health section in ESCIS – a directory of local community information published by the Council and maintained by library staff.
And don’t forget information about health services in the area on the sites of the people who provide them – dentists, doctors, alternative therapists and more – just look at the 1,350,000 results when you put brighton UK + health into Google

A forum for informaton providers
So the City Information Network could provide a local forum to address a number of issues:
— what are the key health information resources which everyone in the city should know about?
— what do we think of their quality?
— how can the people providing these resources improve their information service?
— is it possible to the improve access to and the quality of the information services by working together?
— how can the p2b.net search engine and other shared information resources help improve the situation?

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I’m training to be a Business Adviser to social enterprises and spent yesterday looking at finances and funding options.
This was the best bit for me so far, on a course which I started in September and takes about 15 months to complete. It’s a broad ranging business advisers course with the specific skew towards issues about social enterprise. It includes on about seven days attendance and a lot of assessed work, including reflection on actual advice sessions.
I learned about the use of capital raised from investors and sources of some unsecured loans specially set aside for social enterprises.
As ever with these days I spent a large part of the day relating this to my work in SCIP, as well as other social enterprises I’m aware of.
One of the most striking things is the idea that an organisation needs to achieve a minimum size to be sustainable – anything from at least £250k turnover to keep running and be stable, to at least £1 million to win government contracts and not be too reliant on one supplier.
We talked a lot as well about how social enterprise is a favourite third way hobby horse of Government and supported equally by the Tories. Ed Milliband and the Office of the Third Sector is a big [ideological] fan and it’s seen as safer ground for public sector reform than allowing in private companies.
On a local level there’s a groundswell of interest, particularly being developed through the work of Brighton & Hove Business Community Partnership.
There is a lot of useful information around about social enterprises – one of the best places to start is Social Enterprise Coalition

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What is our website for?

I discussed this with Peter today because I’m trying to get to grips with updating and improving it.
It’s got lots of promotional stuff about services, but almost no useful information or links to resources for our clients.
So we started talking about adding it by having a ‘useful stuff’ section where we list top tips and link to the excellent ICT Hub KnowledgeBase.
Here’s a site that seems to have got it right
ESP Projects
It’s a not for profit ICT project in the north west [of England] – nice site – built in Joomla and with lots of handy hints on it.
Oh but on another note it has no rate card – which is another thing we need to sort out on our site….

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