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Promise from @BigLotteryFund of a wider conversation about digital inclusion and Accelerating Ideas

Originally published on 10/09/2015

My earlier post Digital Champions Consortium supported by Big Lottery Fund promises wider collaboration on digital inclusion went down well with BIG, and others, as you can see from the tweet/comments below it. Here's BIG's response …

@dgmcgillivray @davidwilcox Hello, good to read your post and thanks for your interest. We'll be sharing learning from the consortium ...1/2

> @dgmcgillivray @davidwilcox 2/ the upcoming months. Conversation not open in community yet, but v happy to get in touch when it does.

… so I tweeted a link to another post which I drafted a few weeks back, and shared with the Accelerating Ideas team. We agreed at the time that it would be best to wait until they announced the Digital Champions programme, and use that to generate some wider discussion. So today I suggested that as well as blogging, it would be a good time to open up discussion on BIG's new community platform. I tweeted:

@BigLotteryFund thanks. Here’s draft post I’ve shared with the AI team, and held until now @dgmcgillivray 1/2

> @BigLotteryFund 2/2 … keen to share the ideas on the platform. But cd just blog it for now if that’s easiest @dgmcgillivray

BIG responded:

@davidwilcox Blog would be great, but really looking forward to seeing you on the community; it will soon be perfect for this discussion!

I've been a bit obsessive about the previous lack of digital technology in BIG's programme's and the need for online discussion and knowledge sharing as you can see here from a summary of previous posts, so I'm delighted that things are now really taking off. The post I drafted a few weeks back - below - shows that there are now quite a few strands that could join up.

I think that the challenge will be to connect discussion on the community platform with twitter, blog posts and other activity. These days I find that it is quite difficult to get people to contribute to online communities, or even to post comments on blogs, so you have to do a lot of manual curating and connecting to capture and make sense of the conversations … as I'm trying to do here.

It's a lot easier to get some cooperation if people have met face-to-face, so I'll go back to one of my earlier ideas that didn't click at the time: Deep conversation needed on BIG’s Ageing Better community platform. How about asking people in for a coffee?

A bigger idea for @BigLotteryFund Accelerating Ideas

It looks as if the team at Big Lottery Fund Accelerating Ideas programme have three interesting opportunities: a range of innovative projects; the desire to foster co-operation between them; and a recent recommendation that digital tech should, where possible, be part of all BIG projects.

The team are asking for feedback and ideas, so here's one. Why not accelerate a bigger idea by joining up the opportunities? Here's the three strands:

First strand: BIG's explanation of the programme and an invitation to contribute:

We’ve talked to lots of different people over the past year about what they would like to see in a new approach to funding. The Accelerating Ideas pilot is the result of these conversations – testing out a completely new way of doing things. We hope that it will be an exciting way to help grow great ideas and projects to help people and communities. The theme for the initial pilot is an ageing society – so we’re calling on ideas and projects focusing on the opportunities and challenges presented by an ageing population in the UK. You can read more about what we are looking for and how to apply on the [UK Accelerating Ideas Pilot page]( on our website. This group is the place where you can get involved in discussions about how the pilot is going and about the projects that are applying – we want to hear what you think.

… and you can find projects on the programme wiki here. There's a really interesting spread around care, housing, choirs, museums, farming, learning through landscapes and more.

I've been in discussion with the AI team about the Maps, apps and storytelling idea, and can confirm they are indeed taking a refreshing and innovative approach. There's no initial application form - you send in a couple of pages, and may then be offered a chat with an adviser to guide development. A more formal proposal may then go to a panel, and if approved be developed in more detail. There's feedback from panel discussions on the programme blog.

Second strand: the team and panel members confirm in a blog post) that they are keen to see more connection between projects, openness in project development, and alignment with BIG's recent strategy.

The strategy - as I wrote here - is admirably brief, with some key principles. Chief executive Dawn Austwick wrote:

We also want to be more of a catalyst and a facilitator – recognising the feedback we got about our place in the funding ecology and civil society more broadly. It’s not our job to prescribe but it can be our job to link, to share, and to encourage. To be a network, or a central nervous system that people navigate around, finding fellow travellers, being surprised and intrigued by the work of others, sharing evaluation and impact stories, and so much more.

The strategy outlines three specific steps: the Accelerating Ideas programme, Awards for All, and the new online community.

Third strand: as I reported here, is a foresight report to BIG about Ageing in the UK which recommended:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

… and that proposal ends up with the AI team, as explained in this interview with Pete Bailey, head of knowledge at Big Lottery Fund.

So here's the big idea: look at ways in which the projects in the Accelerating Ideas programme can bring technology into their proposals, and make that common challenge something that helps integration and knowledge sharing:

  • looking at integration of tech into a project pushes you to create a framework with elements likely to be common to any project: understanding the needs of users and their pathways to services and other resources; mapping resources; looking at information and cooperation and the tools and support needed. Tech provides a common ground.
  • learning to use communication tools to share ideas between projects can be part of the process
  • sharing that process of discovery more widely again helps find common ground and understanding

I'll check in with the AI team to see if this make sense, and if so I'll follow up their invitation to get involved and post the idea on their online group.

It's still a bit difficult to find one's way around the online community, but it is a credit to BIG that programmes are becoming more transparent and engaging, and online community staff are very responsive to ideas for improvement.

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