Summary: There's currently no focus for discussion, and little cross-discipline networking, around issues of digital technology and living well. Could the public service Knowledge Hub provide an online platform - or would it be better to adopt a more networky light-weight solution like Slack.com?
We've now reached a stage in our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age where we can see how action is needed at three levels - policy and funding, local communities, and support for individuals. That's summarised here on our wiki.
At the same time there's very evident lack of leadership in the non-profit ageing industry to address the role of digital technology in developing new ways to deliver services, join-up local support, or help people benefit from personal technology.
The lack of any mention of tech in the new Centre for Ageing Better's strategy document provides startling confirmation. The Centre has been in touch with hundreds of organisations over the past year, but no-one seems to have mentioned the omission.
The Centre has provided an update on its consultation process, and says it will engage through meetings, and on Twitter, before strategy proposals go to the Board in the autumn, when the Centre will be fully staffed.
That's welcome - but with a new Government in place we really need discussion now. There's going to be pressure to reduce service costs through greater emphasis on digital in health and care, for example. At the same time there's lots of positive opportunities for individuals, and those providing support, to use technology. The private sector sees that as a market, as I reported earlier.
We have put together a proposal on how to develop local Living Labs that would blend new technology with well-tried methods to make the best use of local resources - an example of frugal innovation.
We've found support for these ideas across a range of interests - but ours is currently a voluntary effort, and it is difficult to join up conversations on Twitter and other networks. Who might act as convenor and catalyst?
I've written a lot about the Knowledge Hub on socialreporter, and it's potential for serving not just local government, and agencies, but also a wider civil society. At one point there was a threat of closure, but it is now developing a new momentum under commercial management. More here on its offerings.
Mary is enormously experienced and well-connected in the tech field - as you can see here - as well as being trustee of the charity, Social Care Institute for Excellence.
This set me wondering whether the Knowledge Hub might act a catalyst and convenor in the field of Living Well in the Digital Age. Mary wrote in her post - describing the Knowledge Hub:
Imagine a virtual place where people who work in the wider UK public sector could find and network with each other, collaborate and publish, share anything, create and join expert groups. A place where a public servant or health worker or councillor or local government officer or charity worker or trustee could find and connect with likeminded people, extend their professional and personal network and improve their own career prospects and build employability currency by sharing and showcasing their work with and to their peers. Imagine if they could create public or private groups, invite their colleagues into them and start some dialogue. What if it was a place where people could also manage their business network properly and turn it into a valuable professional asset. And maybe show off a little bit about the great work that they or their organisation have done along the way.
This sounds promising - particularly if it were possible to connect discussion on the Hub with social media and other hubs and networks.
An alternative - or perhaps a complement - would be to run an open channel on Slack.com which a small group of us already use for team discussions. You can see here how the blogging platform Ghost runs an open channel to involve people in development.
I'll check in with Mary on the potential of the Hub, and explore with the rest of our team what we might do on Slack. Thanks to John Popham for enthusing about the idea of using Slack.
It doesn't have to be either-or. Slack offers a host of integrations with other services. The issue may be whether the Hub does too.