David Wilcox May 2018
Networked City is a loose framework within which people, projects and organisations can learn how to use mapping, network building, data and technology for community and social benefit.
We began the Networked City exploration in December 2016, initially funded by the London Council for Voluntary Service. The context was proposals from London funders and partners, called The Way Ahead, which stressed the importance of a community-based approach, and co-production, in plans to support civil society. Our aim was to explore how network thinking and digital technology could help. Details below.
Over the past the 18 month our group has included at various times David Wilcox, Drew Mackie, Matt Scott, Barbara Brayshay, Nicolas Fonty, Pete Burden and others. It is currently self-funded, and what follows has been achieved with an initial investment of £5000 by LVSCV.
Recent developments are summarised in this progress report April 2018. Overall:
The Networked City exploration was started by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie with Matt Scott, on behalf of the London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC), and is now being led by a group formed following a launch event on January 10 2017.
The Way Ahead initiative, led by London Funders, LVSC and Greater London Volunteering, produced a report in April 2016 on how to reframe support for London civil society. This report proposed:
a vision and system that puts London’s communities at the heart of the way we all work. From co-producing an understanding of need and how to tackle it with our communities, through to better sharing of intelligence and data, and making sure that civil society’s voice is heard in decision-making at a strategic level, there are recommendations for us all.
The TWA initiative then set up working groups, and held a conference to develop ideas in more detail. However, they faced criticism about lack of communication and little community involvement, and community groups and networks unhappy with TWA formed Our Way Ahead to press for changes.
The main recommendation in The Way Ahead report was for a London resource hub, and in November 2017 the City Bridge Trust announced first year funding of £350,000.
David Wilcox has been a member of TWA Task and Finish groups on Data Sharing, Triage and Connect, and Co-production - for which he wrote a report. He was a member of the Hub advisory group until February 2018.
Connecting Londoners was formed from people in the Networked City exploration who wanted to put into practice ideas about mapping assets and networks, building networks and developing networked communications. We took the name from a report by consultant Steve Wyler, commissioned by LVSC, that made proposals for the Hub recommended in The Way Ahead report. We created a blog, and collaborated with Our Way Ahead on events.
This group is now superceded by the proposed Community of Practice.
Decisions have been taken in the name of communities without their involvement, poverty pervades ever deeper, inequality is rising, and lives have been lost as services fail those most vulnerable. Our vision is to ensure that grassroots communities have a meaningfully powerful agency in the response to issues that affect their lives. It is those at the level of grassroots communities, the direct burden takers, who are best placed to lead the push for change, and the OWA Planning Group seek to work in solidarity with them through the facilitation of critical dialogue and storytelling, mapping of community activity and the support of collaboration on campaigns among groups within like communities of interest.
We want to build accessible digital community platforms, research and map grassroots community activity, to facilitate collaboration, strengthen local platforms and spaces for action and build the voice of those at the grassroots level.
Our Way Ahead and Connecting Londoners have run a series of events together, and Christine Goodall of the Human Rights and Equalities network represented OWA on the Hub for London advisory group until February 2018.
The main proposal in The Way Ahead report was for a new resource hub.
A London Hub, working with specialist support, should develop standardized resources where possible, which can be customized and delivered locally. The London Hub could be made up of a network of organisations or be a formally constituted body.
LVSC commissioned a report on the Hub from Steve Wyler, and an advisory group was established in November 2017 to develop details. Steve Wyler's report said:
The Hub “should act as a convenor and enabler, rather than direct deliverer, in effect delivering change through networks and platforms, rather than through traditional organisational and membership delivery methods".
In November 2017 the City Bridge Trust announced first year funding of £350,000 for the Hub, which will be run by Greater London Volunteering. LVSC has now closed - so the Hub will be the only major pan-London organisation. LVSC previous represented some 120,000 groups and organisations.
Connecting Londoners and Our Way Ahead have made the case to the Hub advisory group for extending the work of the Hub - with associated projects - to include development of local and pan-London networks. We based proposals for extending the Hub on Steve Wyler's report, and other working group reports, as well as our own work. In November 2017 we ran a “Hub game” simulation event at London Metropolitan University to play through the recommendations in the Wyler report. Following the event we proposed a Community of Practice to support extending the Hub.
The Hub has now advertised a Networks Partner post where responsibilities reflect many of the ideas developed and discussed during the Networked City exploration.
The GLA is developing its own civil society strategy. OWA and Connecting Londoners have reported on developments and contributed to events.
Proposals were developed with Connecting Londoners and Our Way Ahead, and presented to the advisory group for the Hub for London.
We discussed these ideas further at an event of March 27 2018, and created a map of potential CoP members. We will shortly invite them to join our forum and develop CoP plans further.