Community action in Monmouthshire Posted December 17, 2015 by Philip Merrifield It has been over a year since Monmouthshire Made Open was launched. During this time, we have been learning about how our digital platform fits into the wider Monmouthshire Council community engagement processes and working with staff to develop new features that meet their needs. So what has changed and how has it helped residents to get active across the county? Activity on Monmouthshire Made Open We’ve had a look through the website and picked out some of our favourite activities that have popped up on the site over the last year: Winter Warriors: The UK has already been battered by Abigail, Barney, Clodagh & Desmond this winter, and with more bad weather due this project looks to recruit local volunteers to help others in isolated communities if snow falls this winter. Winter warriors pick up your shovels! Digital inclusion Monmouthshire Voices is a project run in Monmouthshire to empower people with disabilities and older people to have their say on the delivery of local services. They have started a discussion on Monmouthshire Made Open around digital inclusion with some great ideas already. Community food plots A lovely community garden project that has turned a old piece of unloved, overgrown land into a ‘pollinator’s paradise’ for the whole community to use. The owners are asking for volunteers to help maintain and use this plot and have already reached their volunteering targets. Micro volunteering day Before this question came up from a member of the public, we had never heard the term ‘micro volunteering’. According to the question micro volunteering can be described as “easy, no commitment actions that benefit worthy causes that can be completed generally in under 30 minutes”. Sounds great doesn’t it? Not only did the question teach us something new it also received some really interesting ideas. Learn It, Cook it, Live it One of our favourite examples of a project from across all of the platforms, this project was looking for volunteers and equipment to develop a community kitchen in Abergavenny, and teach young people and adults cooking skills to help them gain qualifications. These are just a handful of the great activity that has been happening on Made Open Monmouthshire over the last year, there are are a lot more interesting projects to support or discussions to be had. New features: Since launch we’ve been busy working on a whole host of features to improve the platform. Here’s a quick look at the features we’ve added to Monmouthshire Made Open over the last year: Groups: Monmouthshire users can now create groups. Groups are spaces for people with a shared interest to come together and discuss ideas in a private space. Groups also means users can share ideas and start projects that only group members can get involved with. Events: Users can now create events, inviting people to join, managing attendees and, through integration with Eventbrite, allow users to book places upfront and even pay for ticketed events. Polls: Community questions allow users to discuss ideas and share thoughts but sometimes you just want to canvas an opinion in a way that can be quantified. Polls is a new feature that enables user to poll other members on anything from number of hours they spend sitting during the day to how child friendly they think a city is. Tasks: The latest addition to the Made Open feature list is the ability to project manage your team by assigning and monitoring tasks. Now when that amazing community project gets the support needed users can use task to help them manage volunteers. The future: So what does the future hold for Monmouthshire Made Open? Together, we’ll be pushing forward with the development of the platform next year, improving usability and building new, more powerful features for the site. The important thing now is to encourage more people to use the platform. Monmouthshire are in many respects already ahead of the curve in starting to use Made Open as a way to empower their citizens. In a recent blog, Fast Company reference the 10 big trends of 2016 as outlined by Global Design Firm JFord. No. 6 on the list is “Governments will embrace digital technologies to improve how they serve the public“. We believe Made Open can be an important digital technology for community development. What needs to happen now is to further integrate Made Open into the Council’s processes (something we are working on), reach out to the public and build trust in Made Open as a platform that enables people to create real change in their communities. If our second year together follows a similar pace of growth, we will be well on our way to achieving that end goal.