There's no sign that any organisation will take forward the Joined Up Digital initiative for technology and older people, despite six months investment of time and/or money in the first phase by the Centre for Ageing Better, New Philanthropy Capital and Age Action Alliance. Fortunately a new option is emerging.
As I reported here, the Big Lottery Fund turned down a £50,000 proof of concept proposal from NPC that also included plans to develop the emerging network of more than 40 contributors.
Following the decision, there's quite a few “let's not waste it” messages on the JUD online network, and continuing support there for the key concept in the bid of:
Exploring the role of "conduits" in helping older people use digital technology, or using tech themselves. These may be friends and family, or people in frequent touch with older people.
That focus on conduits and connectors was part of a bigger vision to explore and consolidate how digital technology can support individuals, groups and networks in local communities - building on experience of the past 20 years.
But unfortunately further development of a collaborative, networked approach, without immediate funding, doesn't appear to fit the plans of the partners, or other organisations involved. No criticism intended - it's just what happens in our bidding-dominated culture when resources are scarce.
So what we have is a lot of knowledge gathered during the first phase, a valuable range of contacts, goodwill, and a framework for action developed and tested at a highly-successful workshop in May. I know because I worked on the first phase, although I wasn't involved in the bid.
In addition the Centre for Ageing Better has drawn on the first phase of JUD to develop a proposal that goes to their Board next month:
Deepening our understanding of the capabilities and motivations of people in later life who are not currently benefiting from digital, and what would help them to overcome key barriers to sustained uptake.
… and is commited to ensuring that digital solutions are integrated with future work.
I think there more scope for joining up assets and people from the first phase, with others not yet involved, and hopeful connecting with the Centre's continuing work in the field.
So here's a fresh idea, sparked by discussion with a number of people, and in particular Mervyn Eastman whose Sharing Passions proposal for a cooperative network was the big hit of the May workshop. See previous post and full report of the event
Why not invite anyone interested in the core idea of Joined Up Digital - quoted above - to join a network, constituted as a coop. Those already involved in phase one might wish to donate the knowledge and ideas already assembled.
We would then meet and develop plans online for a mix of voluntary cooperative learning, and project proposals to a range of potential funders and sponsors. I personally think that would work best through a network of linked project teams, each responsible for their own pitches, rather than the higher-risk approach of one big proposal - which failed last time. Sharing Passions in East London would be an early pilot.
I hope we could develop an open source approach towards sharing ideas and working together, in the trusted context of a coop. That would start with any further development of the idea being public and open to anyone interested.
We would need mentors, and the initial support of one or more organisations in tune with this approach.
I wonder if it would appeal to Coop Digital, where Mike Bracken, the former head of the Government's Digital Service, is leading an amazing open transformation of the Cooperative Group digital services. Just read this initial blog post - and subsequent ones - to see the talent they have, and ponder what might be possible if a fraction of that were applied in a social setting.
There’s a good fit with principle seven of the Cooperative Group which states:
Concern for Community: Co-operatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members
… so I hope we might connect in some way.