A thank you letter to our Made Open partners

Thank you

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A thank you letter to our Made Open partners

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Over the last two years, we’ve been on a journey of discovery and co-design with our clients, their partners and our extended Made Open community network. Together we have been exploring questions such as: “How do we harness the strengths within communities?”, “How will we incentivise community action?”, “What role will Made Open play?” and “How will we measure social impacts?”

As many of our followers will know, our vision is to empower and mobilise people for (social) good. We believe that everyone has the opportunity to contribute something to their community, no matter how small or large. Collaboration is the key to tackling societies more complex challenges.

So, as we prepare to launch the Community Exchange (a unique feature to the Made Open platform that enables people to earn and trade community credits by exchanging goods and services with others), we would like to pause for a moment and extend our gratitude to the people that are helping turn our vision (and their visions too) into a reality. Without you, Made Open simply would not be possible. Thank you.

Your ongoing support has meant that we have been able to learn more about the communities we serve, make continuous improvements to our software and refine our proposition to local government, charities and community leaders. We are grateful for your willingness to co-design and, indeed, invest in new platform features; allowing all of our partners to explore innovative approaches to community engagement.

So what have we learnt over the last two years? We have learnt that innovation isn’t an easy path. We have learnt that doing new things requires positive energy, collaboration, bravery and a can-do attitude. We have learnt that, collectively, our clients are great investors – since they all have a genuine and vested interest in achieving social value.

With that in mind, we’d like to say a special thanks to:

  • Matthew, Will, Owen and Jude from Monmouthshire County Council
  • Dom and Di from Bristol City Council
  • Carolyn and the team and Knowle West Media Centre, Bristol
  • Peter Murden from Cradle Coast Authority in Tasmania & Owen Tilbury from BOFA
  • Simon and Sarah from Torbay Community Development Trust
  • Mark, Kristian and Simon from Devon County Council
  • Fiona from Exeter CVS
  • Tracey and Lee from Age UK Cornwall
  • Laura and Erin from Raising Films

As our Made Open partner network continues to grow we plan to host regular physical and online partner meetings. There will be a chance too for everyone to share learnings and prioritise future Made Open developments. Finally, keep an eye out for our new Made Open website where we will (some might say finally!) begin to articulate what we do and how we do it more clearly.

New project with Croydon Council

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We are delighted to have been selected, alongside our strategic partner Perform Green, to evaluate social value practices with Croydon Council. Over the next four months, we will explore what social impacts have been achieved by Croydon Council (and the effort that has gone into various initiatives) since the launch of the Social Value Act in 2012.

Croydon Council is strongly committed to social value, being one of the first UK councils to have placed social value high on its political agenda. Such efforts have led the Council to create the internationally renowned Social Value toolkit for commissioners and receive numerous accolades including Social Enterprise UK’s “Social Value Leadership Award for an Organisation” in April 2017. Indeed, many of their successes can be attributed to the Council’s belief in continuous improvement. This evaluation provides the Council and their partners with an opportunity to pinpoint their successes and failures, and renew efforts.

Robert Woolf, Director of Made Open, said: “Achieving social value is at the heart of what we do and why we do it at Made Open. We will work closely with Croydon Council, their business and VCSE partners and a number of communities in Croydon to portray an accurate account of social value through the changes experienced by people. We look forward to this challenge and being a critical friend.”.

This review comes at an important time for Croydon Council. With communities and councils needing to be more unified than at anytime before, it’s vital that Croydon Council’s social value practices aren’t simply regarded as an exercise in commissioning public services. Achieving social value is about creating positive changes that people inside organisations and communities feel they can be a part of, contribute to and take the lead on. As Sarah Ireland, Director of Commissioning and Improvement at Croydon Council, explains: “This project will help us to capture and evaluate the social value that we have delivered to date, so we can use the good practice and learning as an organisation to make additional improvements, measure impacts and become a leading commissioner of Social Value. But not only that, this review also focuses on what more we could be doing to empower positive change in the borough, by listening to the local communities and businesses that work with the Council and understanding the things that they care most about”.

Bringing different experiences and skills to the table, Made Open will be supported by Perform Green with whom they share offices with in Bristol. Barney Smith, Director of Perform Green and interim CEO of Bristol is Open, comments: “Our partnership with Made Open is based on a principle that change will only occur if people and organisations in the community care enough about a problem or opportunity to act upon in. It’s terrific to see that Croydon Council have embedded social value into the core of their everyday business and we look forward to evaluating their impact so far.”

This evaluation research has already started and will be completed in October 2017. It is expected that the evaluation will lead to a renewed action plan and the commissioning of an online measurement tool.

Made Open were shortlisted and invited to tender for this project from a rosta of 16 suppliers to the CCIN. The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network is a national network of 22 local authorities committed to transforming the way they work with communities. Their work recognises the need to define a new model for local government built on civic leadership, with councils working in equal partnership with local people to shape and strengthen communities. www.councils.coop

Discussion Rooms are live!

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We’ve recently launched a new online collaboration feature on the Made Open platform where members of private groups can create video discussion rooms and share files. Group leaders can also embed ‘widgets’ such as Google calendars, videos and media files within their group dashboard.

We’ve just launched a new feature on the Made Open platform. Members of a group can now create video discussion rooms & share files. Community group leaders can also embed ‘widgets’ such a Google calendars, videos and other media files within a group dashboard.

Currently being tested by the Raising Films community, this is a small but significant development to Made Open as, for the first time, action teams can upload and download files that are important to their community-led projects in a private environment.

Talking of communities, we have co-developed this guide with our partners in Australia. Community-Led Impact Partnerships (CLIP for short) has been designed to help communities take the lead in fixing problems and embracing opportunities, following a three stage process.

We will be talking about this more soon but, in the meantime, please feel free to review our guide and download resources. The CLIP process is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Community Exchange progress update

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After years of dreaming and planning, we are at long last developing the Community Exchange – a new feature on the Made Open platform where individuals, groups and organisations can trade earned or donated credits for community-based services (aka timebanking) and goods. This includes the ability for users to earn credits from “impact volunteering”, and also pledging money and materials that meet community needs.

The Community Exchange opens up a world of possibilities around how communities and community-based organisations can respond to requests for help and services from the statutory sector; for example.

Here are the headlines:

  • Any user (individual, group or organisation) can add an Offer or a Request to the Community Exchange unless the exchange in restricted (in which case only approved users can).
  • Any user can view the Community Exchange. The Community Exchange stream is a list of Offers and Requests that can be filtered.
  • Users will be able to donate unwanted credits to a Community Pot – which can be passed on by the site admin to more vulnerable users (primarily people who don’t have the ability initially to earn credits).
  • Users will be able to view and manage their transactions via the user dashboard. “Manage Exchanges” will be a list of all a users Offers, Requests and Trades.
  • The CMS will undertake major changes – primarily enabling the site admin to customise their Community Exchange to meet their exact requirements (e.g. turning off goods, creating sub-categories, approving users etc).
  • Site moderators will be able to download a full CSV report of key Community Exchange stats (e.g. Hours added, goods added, credits earned and spent).
  • Verified users will be able to add goods and services to the Community Exchange without the need for moderation.
  • Site admins can set the value of credits relative to hours and money. Our recommendation is that 1 hour = 1 credit = £7.20 (national minimum wage).
  • Admins can set the starting amount of credits for new users and donate credits from the community pot to a user. Users can also donate their credits to any other user.
  • We will introduce a new ‘hybrid’ account for organisations. This works like an individual account but with the same functionality of groups. Users can choose to sign up as either an individual or an organisation.
  • We will refresh the left hand navigation to make sure users are clear about what is within each section (for example: add an offer / add a request buttons will now be self-contained within the Community Exchange area).
  • We will enable users to earn credits for pledging time, money or materials. These credits can either be spendable via the Exchange or used purely as a ‘social score’ on a users profile.
  • All of the following can be turned on/off within the CMS:
    • The ability to allow users to exchange goods.
    • The ability to allow users to exchange services.
    • The ability to allow users to earn credits from “volunteering”.
    • The ability to allow users to earn credits from pledging money.
    • The ability to allow users to earn credits from pledging materials.
  • We will collect demographic data from volunteers at a project level, which can also be downloaded as a CSV file.
  • The site admin can view live volunteering hours including: new members, members interested in volunteering, members involved in volunteering, hours pledged, hours volunteered, volunteering opportunities added.

These new features represent major functionality that will enhance all our existing platforms.

Supporting community volunteering through Made Open

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In partnership with Bristol City Council, our most recent update to the Made Open platform enables community groups and organisations to advertise their volunteering opportunities; in so doing making it easier for volunteers to access citywide volunteering opportunities in just one place. Volunteers can draw attention to their availability and pledge directly to the projects that interest them. Groups and organisations can badge themselves as ‘looking for volunteers’, link to the volunteering opportunities on their websites and even embed a bespoke volunteering activity onto their website. The platform allows volunteers and organisations seeking volunteers to connect.

This update has resulted directly from working with Bristol City Council’s neighbourhood team and their partners in the voluntary sector to look specifically at increasing impact volunteering in the city. Like many local authorities, the challenge facing Bristol City Council is not only increasing the number of volunteers but increasing how often people volunteer and coordinating them around shared goals. The Bristol quality of life survey shows that in one calendar year, 52% of people volunteered at least three times; however, not enough people are volunteering on a frequent basis (only 27% of the UK population say they took part in volunteering once a month – ivr.org).

Bristol City Council want to change that and we have been working with them and their partners to explore how the Made Open platform can help to remove some of the barriers to volunteering.

We want to make it easier for people to access opportunities across the city and volunteer their time.
Dominic Murphy – Chief Service Officer, Bristol City Council

Overcoming barriers to volunteering

Our own research has revealed many challenges to volunteering; for example, limited diversity for volunteers with a variety of skills and experiences, lack of services that integrate Employer Supported Volunteering schemes into the community, limited awareness of the benefits to volunteering as well as the difficulty in finding opportunities that suit people’s skills, location and availability.

Many small local charities and community groups have told us that they struggle to find time to add opportunities and promote them online, which is often why people can’t find relevant opportunities on national sites like Doit.org.

The main difference with Made Open is that we have added a volunteering listing and matching service into an existing social networking platform. The result is a place online where people can learn about local issues, chat in public or in private groups about the things that matter to them, and volunteer to the causes they feel passionate about.

How does it work?

You can watch a full overview of the new features here.

Individuals can now:

  • Tag themselves as being interested in volunteering.
  • Search groups with volunteering opportunities (filtering by location, interests and skills needed).
  • View a list of volunteering roles for each organisation / group.

Organisations can now:

  • Create a groups profile and tag themselves as looking for volunteers.
  • Add the skills they are looking for and the volunteering opportunities.
  • Link to an existing website with their opportunities.
  • Create their own list of volunteer opportunities enabling people to pledge.
  • Search through a bank of community members who are interested in volunteering.

What’s next?

These new features are just the first step towards our bigger vision for supported volunteering. We plan to empower volunteers by reversing the traditional volunteering model and allowing people to offer their skills and time (e.g. “I am a designer with a passion for preventing homelessness in the city and I can offer two hours per week). Offers will be added to a “Volunteer Bank” where organisations can bid for their time.

We will also be adding incentives through a “Community Exchange“, where people earn credits for community action and trade credits for rewards in a local marketplace.

For more information about how Made Open can help support community action, please contact Robert or Kathryn on 01872 862 547.

Success at Venturefest South West

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On 5th October, Kathryn pitched the Made Open platform to investors at business at Venturefest South West – a leading conference for technology businesses based in the South West. Although we didn’t come away with investment on the day, we were delighted to win a membership prize with Set Squared and look forward to working with their experienced business team and associates in the new year to help Made Open grow.

CVT finalists at national care awards

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We’re delighted that CVT Connect (the digital application we co-produced with adults who have learning disabilities), was nominated for ‘Best use of technology’ at the 3rd Sector Care awards earlier this month. Hosted by Esther Rantzen, members of the GOT IT team were proud to be recognised for their work.

As a national charity and support provider to adults with learning disabilities, Camphill Village Trust are committed to personalisation and co-production. They strive to enable people to create positive relationships and be active in their community.

It has been a privilege to work with residents and staff at CVT, and co-produce a web application that enhances the way they support people in their communities. CVT Connect is simple to use, and gives people a safe place to make connections, share ideas and access project resources. Since we launched earlier this year, it has been great to see residents developing the skills and confidence they need to use digital media safely.


Volunteering in Bristol

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We’re excited to announce that the Made Open platform is supporting Bristol’s city-wide volunteering strategy. New functionality will enable voluntary sector organisations and community groups to share their volunteering opportunities in one place, whilst enabling volunteers from across the city to advertise their availability and skillsets. Our new widgets feature will also enable requests for funds, volunteers, resources or ideas to be embedded into any third party community website.

The aim of this platform in the first instance is to create an active social network that brings people together around shared goals and encourages action through volunteering.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about our work with Bristol City Council and their partners.

Share your community project with a Made Open widget

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Made Open widgets can help charities and community organisations increase social action from their own websites.

Our new Embed feature allows anyone to take a question or project page from a Made Open platform and insert it into their own website.  This feature has been requested by voluntary and community sector organisations who already have their own websites, but would benefit from the discussion, crowdsourcing and volunteer pledging features offered by Made Open. Visitors to a website with a Made Open widget, will now be able to join a discussion or pledge volunteering time, money or materials to a project.

How does it work?

It’s as simple as embedding a Youtube video in your blog, and includes two very simple steps:

  1. Copy the embed code from the activity page
  2. Paste the embed code into your website, blog or Facebook page*

* With the help of a handy Facebook app. Find out more by reading our how to guide

It really is that simple, the video below shows how we’ve embedded a widget into this post:

The widget below shows how it would look within another site.

So why are we so excited by this? Where’s the value?

Made Open is a platform that has been created to help organisations build engaged, active communities across the world.

We know that engaging communities in social action is big challenge. Just because you are passionate about about something, doesn’t mean that others will feel the same, so it’s crucial that the leaders of social change make use of existing communication channels and groups to engage their communities – they need to reach out people in different places and from different walks of life.

Being able to tap into local networks and groups that people already trust is critical to getting people onboard with community action. Made Open widgets offer a powerful tool for engaging online visitors, allowing information and activity to be disseminated throughout the community.

Widgets enables the same discussion or project page to be shared in numerous places online – a community website,  a council website or even someone’s Facebook page! This gives opportunities for more people to pledge time or resources to activity simultaneously across these different channels.

Made Open Widgets are a great way raise awareness and inspire community action. Why not give it a try via community.madeopen.co.uk

You can use the one click sign up if you have a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or google account if you don’t already have an account.

Made Open in 250 words

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We were recently asked to describe Made Open in 250 words. Within this word limit, we had to write about our company: what problems we solve, the demand, the potential for growth, the expertise behind the business and how innovation sets us apart from the competition. Tricky hey?

This challenge, although daunting at first, helped us focus on describing what we believe to be the most the important aspects of Made Open:

“Society is under pressure. Local governments are struggling to meet rising demand for public services with diminishing budgets. Simultaneously, we are witnessing the fragmentation of communities and the extended family. This conundrum requires a new approach – one that mobilises citizens to support each other and change their world. Made Open is a solution to the challenge of building effective communities. A social network that enables people & organisations to unite around shared goals & create better places. The platform harnesses underused community assets; for example, volunteers, materials & money. Made Open is, in the words of Sir Tim Smit, for “anybody that’s doing good stuff”. It provides a space to submit ideas & crowdsource resources for local projects.

In the last 18 months we have secured software licence agreements with councils in Wales, England & Australia. These pioneering local authorities are working together to help us develop a platform that suits collective needs.

Made Open is a feature-rich, scalable solution compared to the largely singular-focus of competitor platforms. It can quickly be configured for any customer in any region. Open API’s enable modules to be embedded into third party websites.

We now have exciting opportunities for our next product upgrade “The Community Exchange”- enabling members to exchange their earned credits for rewards donated by others. Our co-founders have 15yrs experience running a profitable service design business tackling social challenges. Their work with citizens, business, government and public sector bodies across the UK has helped shape the digital platform.”