User Tools

Site Tools


Urban Forum presentation

by David Wilcox April 1995

This presentation by David Wilcox at the annual meeting of the UK Urban Forum led to the first Communities Online conference at BT Centre in October 1995 and later to the development of UK Communities Online.

My background


  • Over ten years mainly Evening Standard
  • Writing about planning, housing transport, property

Few to many communication.

Consultancy and training

  • Helped design and set up development trusts
  • Worked on national support programmes
  • Wrote Guide to Effective Participation
  • Ran workshops, seminars, conferences

Few to few relationships.


  • Bedfordshire sustainable communities network
  • Glasgow economic development network
  • Community forests network

Many to many relationships.

Electronic networking

The scope for many to many communication.

Partnerships for tomorrow

Some loose definitions


  • People and organisations relating through locality or common interests. Stakeholders in a system.


  • Methods to give different stakeholders more or less influence in processes of debate, decision making or action.


  • A relationship for interests to decide and act together.


  • People and organisations exchanging information.


  • Millions computers communicating with each other.

The issue

  • Sustainable communities require collaboration
  • Current methods aren't working well
  • Can electronic networking help?

Partnership today

Fashionable because of:

External pressure for partnership

  • More agencies, less money
  • 'Tick the partnership box'

Internal pressure for participation

  • Fewer staff, new approaches needed
  • Fluid teams and workgroups forming

Greater commitment to 'community'

  • Meet real needs
  • Get closer to the customer
  • Develop capacity
  • Empower people


Rhetoric and reality

The gap

The good intentions

  • 'Give the community a say'
  • 'Create a shared vision'
  • 'Work through existing organisations'
  • 'Act as an enabler'
  • 'Develop a network'

The frequent reality

  • Participation is tokenism
  • Partnerships are dominated by the strongest
  • Networks don't get things done


  • 'Partnership' is almost meaningless
  • Can disempower community interests
  • Demands internal change first
  • Old activists become new bureaucrats

Can electronic networking help?

Frequently asked questions

What are the mainly forms of electronic networking? Bulletin Boards, commercial services, Internet. What do you need? Computer, modem and software. What does it cost? Free BBS - just the call. Commercial - maybe £6 per month plus phone plus timer charges. Internet - £10-£15 per month plus local phone charges. Who owns or manages? BBS - system operator. Commercial - major corporations. Internet - no-one. What can you do? One to one e-mail: all - with limits Many to many discussion groups: all - with limits Many to many mailing lists: Internet File libraries: all Hypertext pages: Internet What are the benefit? Speed, economy and informality of one-to-one e-mail. Minimum-cost mass-distribution of messages. Documents on tap, with ability to rework material. International, cross sector, professional communities. What are the snags? Very few people are online. Potential for information elitism.

Ways forward

National networking

  • First notice of events sent by email
  • Open mailing list allows shared comments
  • 'Virtual' task groups e-mail and swop files
  • All papers as files which can be downloaded
  • Internet site provides international access

A local network system

  • Workshops, seminars and conferences to map out the tasks
  • Small task groups to carry them out - face to face and e-mail
  • Report back events to set deadlines
  • A newsletter and information sheets for general use
  • E-mail and mailing lists for speed and economy
  • Internet pages as an electronic shop windowAn information system to organise - database etc.
  • Links to libraries for public access
partnerships/crn/uf95.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)