Summary: lots of energy in our Digital Networking event this week, but where next? A networking of freelances, or a networked campaign for #ageingdigital? The challenge lies in joining up, rather than starting up something new.
We covered topics and issues related to ageing, and the organisations that support older people, some positive and some negative. The delight and benefit from discovering what the Internet can offer on the one hand … and on the other how many organisations in the field are slow to adopt digital tech, and so fail those they serve. Here's my opening remarks based on our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age.
John Popham gave examples of the power of stories to engage, and the way that historic videos on YouTube, 70s music, and the reach of Google Earth can connect older people with personal history and interests. It's that rather than “computer training” that overcomes “why bother”.
Paul Webster told us about the way that he and Miles Maier have been supporting organisations through the Connecting Care project. Drew Mackie described using Kumu network mapping software in Croydon and elsewhere to reveal the relationships between local resources and services, and how stronger networks can benefit service users.
After these starter presentations we split into groups to share ideas, moved to the Age UK cafe for further chat, and then to the Marquis Cornwallis. Thanks to everyone who came, and contributed such energy, and to Age UK for hosting.
Although #ageingdigital was the topic around which we gathered, discussions about mapping social ecosystems, using personas in service transformation, and using social media to challenge bureaucratic organisations had much wider application.
So where next?
As I mentioned on the day, a group of us are discussing possible funding for a local pilot that brings together maps, apps and storytelling on these lines. In September Age Action Alliance will host further discussions around the use of technology to combat social isolation and loneliness.
Should we run another open event and/or develop further networking online? We could extend the network map created by Drew Mackie that shows the connections between people at the event, and their interests. That would help promote networking between people with similar interests - whether maps, apps, stories, co-design or organisational change.
I've personally found “ageing” a useful convening topic through which to explore the personal benefits of technology and the potential for stronger communities and more effective orgsanisations. Unfortunately relatively few people in the “ageing industry” are similarly engaged … and of those that are, most tend to be freelances struggling to find the next job or fundable project. Maybe we need the ageingdigitalfreelances networkers network.
It's clear there's much to do … but is there enough energy and funding to make a real impact? I'm attracted by the idea of a socially networked campaign: map who's who, and where resources lie; brainstorm key topics and ideas; cluster people around the hot issues; use a mix of social media and meetups to move ideas forward; show policy makers and funders there are more possibilities than those usually offered by larger organisations in the field. Start-ups are fine for innovation, but we need join-ups too.