How Made Open Tasmania is helping to create community change

My reflections from the BOFA Film Festival


Creating sustainable change within communities is not easy, especially at a time where austerity measures have hit the public sector really hard. But that’s why innovation is important.

Archive for November, 2015

How Made Open Tasmania is helping to create community change

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I heard an interesting saying this week: ‘God gave all the easy problems to the physicists’. This resonated with me because creating sustainable change within communities is not easy, especially at a time where austerity measures have hit the public sector really hard. But that’s why innovation is important.

Last week, I had the pleasure of travelling to Tasmania and meeting Owen Tilbury, director of the Breath Of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival and a marvelous innovator. Through the creation of BOFA, Owen has skillfully aligned the needs of communities and the demands of government at a neutral non-political meeting place – where everyone has left feeling good, and excited, about creating change in their communities and the region as a whole. So, to my first insight in this blog: Change can be inspired by the bright idea of a single person but it doesn’t happen overnight – it requires resilience, resourcefulness, selflessness, collaboration and great leadership.

The barriers to change (or “transformation” as we like to call it in the UK) are vast and many – lack of funds, resources, skills, time, will, support and so forth. Add to that a public sector culture of risk aversion, siloed working and accountability and you can begin to see why real sustainable change isn’t easy to achieve.

Not that we find it difficult talking about change in the UK – a quick Twitter search will often reveal words like ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation’ expressed as nouns, as though somehow people are a product of change rather than the champions of it. Not so in Tasmania, change is very much grounded in terms of what people can do and the actions they are going to take to make it happen. Owen presented a very simple formula for this on the first day of the film festival: Change = (D x V x P) > Barriers. D = Dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction with the current situation and the desire for better. V = Vision. Vision for a preferred future. P = Plan. Plan to achieve that future. His suggestion is that if the sum of D, V and P are greater than the barriers, then you can and will create change. It’s hard to argue with that.

Of course, this is not a formula that should be exclusively applied to the round tables of local government – nothing changes by doing things the same old ways as you’ve done them before. Change is a collective enterprise effort, whereby the needs of one partner cannot be forced onto others. What I have enjoyed so much about the BOFA Film Festival is that within an inspiring and deeply thought-provoking setting, Owen has established a middle-man position between grassroots community organisations and top-tier government bodies to provide a germinating environment for fresh ideas. I was truly privileged to be the keynote speaker at both the Creating Community Change and Creating Innovative Regions “BOFA In Action” sessions. And so, to my second insight, if you want to create change in communities and at a regional level, why not create an opportunity to celebrate what you have in common? In this case an inspiring film festival to spark meaningful conversations.

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a Film Festival 12,000 miles away because the Made Open Tasmania platform is also stimulating equal and reciprocal conversations between communities, businesses and government in true co-production fashion – turning ideas into action for the benefit of everyone. If the BOFA Film Festival is a meeting place for people to discuss change then Made Open Tasmania is the platform to extend those conversations beyond the physical boundaries and duration of a four-day event. Indeed, Owen believes that “the half life of the intention to make change after seeing an inspiring film is about 24 hours”, and so it is no wonder that BOFA are a key partner of Made Open Tasmania. Made Open, when implemented within a whole system for change, will significantly increase the half life of intention.

The Made Open ‘open innovation’ platform is, in a nutshell, a social network for community action. In my experience, communities (which includes businesses) are often where most of the energy for change comes from. It stands to reason, therefore, that if any authority wants change to happen, they must work with communities. Change is rarely, if ever, achieved by a single governing authority but via a partnership of people and organisations with a shared interest. So to achieve innovation in regions like Tasmania, all the good people of Tasmania need to do is share a common goal (e.g. “to be internationally recognised as an innovative region in a way that creates positive change in communities”) and then work together to make it happen.

And there summarises why Peter Murden from Central Coast Council made a connection with a small company from Cornwall, UK, some 18 months ago. He recognised that technology enables people and organisations to become better connected, and that the terms of engagement between councils and communities needs to change if they are going to, in Peter’s words, “make shit happen”. Fortunately for us, a whole load of other people in Tasmania agreed with Peter too; including Bofa, Central Coast Council, Anglicare Tasmania, Heart Foundation, Red Cross Australia (the founding partners of Made Open Tasmania) and now many others too.

With my small team in Cornwall, I have spent the last two years developing Made Open and, I can tell you, there’s nothing like self-funding a social networking platform (with a moderate grant from Superfast Business Cornwall) to put your business and well-being in jeopardy. However, this week, I have had the privilege of meeting people from all sectors and professions whose enthusiasm for Made Open and our long-term vision has been nothing short of staggering. During the festival a State Official made a beeline for me to express his full support for what we are doing and has offered to engage with key people and groups in the region. A Director from the Chamber of Commerce stopped me in the farmers market to ask if we’d be happy for businesses to get behind it. A local technology company has proposed to explore how they (running alongside Tasmania’s rollout of the National Broadband Network) can enable communities to become better connected. Skills Tasmania has seen new linkages for peer-to-peer collaborations and skills development – a key component of any thriving community.

I’ve met people who work and live in disadvantaged communities who have truly appreciated what Made Open has enabled them to do (my favourite quote: “Made Open gives people a voice and an opportunity to stand up. It lets people get back in the room together again.”).

There is no question that it takes a considerable amount of bravery to embrace a new way of working, so I want to say a huge thank you to Sharon Dutton and her team from Anglicare who have been the early adopters of Made Open and have been very patient with the system as we have ironed out the creases (fixed bugs!) and improved the user experience. The Red Cross in Tasmania are about to use it as an internal innovation platform – made easy now that groups can be made public or private.

Elaine Dyer, former CEO of Violence Free Waitakere and creator of a wicked video called Jade speaks up on the affects of Domestic Violence on Children has asked if they can pilot the platform in New Zealand to further their mission (no problem Elaine: http://newzealand.madeopen.co.uk). Similarly, Adam Mostogl, Tasmania’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, wants to pilot a bespoke platform for Young Entrepreneurs (no problem Adam: http://illuminate.madeopen.co.uk). I have also been told that Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Industry Innovation and Science and the Department of State Growth have shown an interest in what we are creating.

On my last day in Melbourne, I met with a former politician and local influencer who wanted to hear more about Made Open and the whole system approach we are piloting in Tasmania. It seems all eyes are on Tasmania at the moment and technology platforms like Made Open are very much central to peoples’ thinking on how to achieve impact within communities.

On the plane home yesterday, I had chance to reflect on the many amazing conversations I had in Tasmania. It struck me that, by comparison, the interest we have had in the UK has been akin to watching tumbleweed drifting down the street and I have been wondering why that might be. Perhaps it’s as simple as this: Change = (D x V x P) < Barriers. With so much pressure on UK local governments to save money, axe services, shrink services, tax, devolve, outsource etc, how many regions and councils in the UK are truly planning for a better future?

Whole system change?

Now, I love ideas but I prefer action. So, forgive me for making this a really long blog, but I’d like to describe the whole system approach we are taking in Tasmania and how Made Open Tasmania fits into that. Let’s be clear about one thing: the Made Open social network platform is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, maybe even the egg in the cake, but without the other ingredients very little will change. I have always understood this but failed so far in my efforts to communicate this to other organisations other than Tasmania and Monmouthshire (take a bow you guys).

There isn’t a council in the UK, maybe even the Commonwealth, that isn’t faced with a choice of working through its differences with communities, and towards commonalities, to deliver transformation. Sharon Dutton, a Community Worker at Anglicare, put this really well in her speech when she said, “We’ve been working really really hard but we’ve been working in isolation…and that’s no way to create change in communities”. Working in isolation sounds like a quick fix but in Australia, as in England, major forces can conspire against change; notably, that commissioning cycles often forces agencies into competition with each other.

The view taken in Tasmania is that there’s no room for competition when you’re trying to support a community and that’s precisely why Central Coast Council undertook a global search for a social networking platform that could help a group of people and organisations from different sectors to come together and solve a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration. This is what’s known as Collective Impact.

The concept of collective impact hinges on the idea that in order for organisations to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large-scale, they need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal (which we began to establish at the Bofa in Action sessions). The whole system approach that I have previously alluded to, therefore, is centred on all participating organisations (government agencies, non-profits, community members etc) working together towards a common goal in a mutually beneficial (equal and reciprocal) way. You can view more on Collective Impact here.

The Made Open platform acts as a catalyst for collective impact to happen and if you go on the Made Open Tasmania platform, you will see representatives from all the aforementioned organisations joining up and sharing ideas.

To me, this all makes complete sense and so, like I say, I have been reflecting a lot this week on why Tasmania appears to be leading the way. I certainly think it helps that Tasmania is an island; the people there have a strong identity, they can get on with things without too much interference, and they have an innovative brand and culture. But ultimately I think it comes down to how people view change. To some people, change is disempowering and is something they are recipients of. This is the major problem in UK Local Government whereby hierarchical structures mean that some people are responsible for everything and some people are responsible for nothing, giving rise to a disempowered organisation that lacks clear (and shared) purpose. To others, like myself, I feel that change is just something we make happen ourselves – don’t wait for the cavalry to come (because it never does) and crack on. If you want to know why Kathryn and I created the Made Open platform without any client, and scare resources behind us to do so, it is because we believe that change in communities’ lies from within.

Our dream was to create a social network that would enable communities to become better connected and draw in partners from government to work together for collective impact. Dreaming big is one thing – drawing people into your dream and making them also believe that you can make a dream a reality is another. But, last week, in Peter, Owen, Sharon, Ben, Kat, Adam, Olapi, Anton, Karl, John and many many others; I met an incredible crowd of people from a small island who are thinking big and creating a groundswell movement for change supported by government. It was a pleasure to witness and be part of.

Ref: http://tasmania.madeopen.com.au

“CVT Connect” begins to take shape

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Camphill Village Trust are a leading UK charity supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems. They provide a safe home, life skills and work opportunities to residents across nine urban and rural locations in England.

The aim is to create a web app that makes it easy for residents to collaborate, share thoughts and find information. It will also provide staff with a toolkit to facilitate group working and support individuals.

Kathryn Woolf – Director of Made Open said, “It’s inspiring to be working with the Camphill Village Trust and learn more about their work. Through a series of co-discovery and prototyping workshops with residents, we have designed a safe and easy to use web application that will support adults learning disabilities in new ways.”

The app will help people express themselves and overcome barriers to communication. It will be a simple and fun way to interact with others and organise day to day project activities – either independently or with their support workers.

Phil Gibson, Project Manager at Camphill said, “CVT are a long established charity with a reputation for supporting people through creative learning environments. We use the Learn to Lead model of co-production which gives everyone an opportunity to have a voice and get involved in community life. The app will make collaborative working easier and help ensure people we support have a strong voice in the future of the charity.”

For more information please contact:

Kathryn Woolf – Director of Made Open Communications
kathryn@madeopen.co.uk

or

Phil Gibson – Project Manager at Camphill Village Trust
philip.gibson@cvt.org.uk

Your Home Matters campaign

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As winter draws nearer and the cold weather sets in, our thoughts turn to those people who are living in unsuitable, damp and cold housing conditions. For the past few months, we‘ve been working with the housing team at Teignbridge District Council to design a campaign that raises awareness of poor living conditions and encourages people to take action and get help.

“Your Home Matters” will encourage people to speak out against poor housing. The aim is to make tenants and landlords more aware about the health hazards associated with living in damp, cold or unsafe properties.

Teignbridge Housing services want people living in the area to contact them for advice and guidance if they feel that their property needs improvement.

After consultation with local people and landlords, we have developed the “Your Home Matters” brand identity and a series of posters that will be displayed throughout the community. See some examples below. The council will also be using social media to communicate the key messages and directing people to their website for further information.

https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/improvingyourhome

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Managing community projects just got easier with Made Open

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In the run up to the launch of Made Open Tasmania (which we are super excited about!) we’ve been working hard to add new features to the Made Open platform. Working in collaboration with Central Coast Council and their partners (Anglicare Tasmania, Heart Foundation, Every Child Succeeds, Australian Red Cross & BOFA) we’ve added features that will make it easier for community groups and organsiations to collaborate. Users of the platform can now create and share local events, canvas opinion using polls and (from today) assign tasks to fellow group members.

Since we launched Made Open earlier this year, we have seen how charities and community groups have used the tool to find volunteers and gather material donations for projects. The addition of “Tasks” allows groups to organise themselves to make full use of these amazing shared resources. Project organisers can now assign “to do” lists to groups members or volunteers.

How tasks works:

Tasks

Members of a group can create task lists and assign tasks to other group members or themselves. When a user is assigned a task they receive a notification and are able to either accept or reject a task. Accepting a task adds the task to their individual to do list where they can work on it and mark it as complete when a task is finished.

Rejecting a task notifies the creator who can reassign the task to another user or leave it unassigned for other group members view and choose to take it on.

The list creator is able to delete, edit and reassign tasks at any point, and other members have the freedom to pick up tasks they like or pass on tasks they don’t like or can’t do. List owners and members who have been assigned tasks are always notified when a task has been updated, reassigned or marked as complete so the whole team knows what is going on.

These new features are now available across all our Made Open communities. Let us know what you think!

Visit our beta site here:

community.madeopen.co.uk