Groundwork UK, twitter and how about a map for funding applications?

groundworktwitter1.jpg

The image above is some of the feedback from asking my friends on twitter how Groundwork might use the service.   The group I was working with were a little surprised (“wow”) by the speed and quality of the input from a network tool like this – so to Laura, Michael, Jon, Dave, Alice, Katie, Paul and Charlotte thank you – even amongst your number there was evident support and affection for the major national community and environmental charity.

The session was a general get-the-juices-flowing-see-whats-possible-start-to-get-your-head-around-whats-out-there 90 mins and to that end I think the one clear factor that emerged was that a bit of rss is needed in Groundwork towers.
The group I was working with manage grants for one of the projects and have to record and evaluate what’s being achieved, so the possibilities of digital media in terms of capturing what happens and starting a conversation about applications etc are self evident.

The conversation that really aroused my interest though hapened at the end once most people had floated away.

What if you use something like google maps to publicly share every single application you get?  You put all of them on the web and tie them to a map.  Green for approved red for rejected.  How will this change the dynamic betwen the grant givers and the apl;licants?  Will such transparency improve the system or weaken it?

It got me thinking about social media and market forces.  My A Level economics teacher frequently told me that a perfect market means everyone has perfect information.  Imagine a market for funding bids where everyone who is applying knows about every aplication that has happened, where they took place, whether they were approved and if not why not.   Could that improve efficiency in the distribution of grants?

The folk in East Anglia might understand that their area is already saturated with approved grants – so seek support from another fund or change their plans.  Groups in Northumberland might see there’s a real opportuntiy because their patch is under represented. Those who write the applications can see exactly what others have been saying so it will give them a realistic level of confidence in their ideas.  Those who hand out the grants can be more easily held to account – or better still the minds of the public can be put to helping them constantly refine and improve their decision making.

Sit around it a conversation about the rights and wrongs of particular grant applications and you can begin (with careful nurturing of the online community) to crowdsource a sense of where people want to see their money being spent.

Now don’t expect Groundwork to do this tomorrow – or even at all.  It is a big cultural leap for any organisation and it may not be that useful or warrant the effort.  This was simply one of those conversations that went deep down into the possibilities and cultural impact of social media.  But I share it as an idea. What do you think?

7 comments

  1. dp says:

    I’m not sure I get the concept. This sounds like it might be any or all of several things. Is it about Groundwork staff getting input/feedback from mobile phone users? Is it about making Groundwork staff, process and projects more interactive through mobile phones and web applications? More importantly, *who* is this aimed at? Is it about getting applicants/participants (me, for example) to use Twitter?

    In each case, good things could come of these kinds of initiative, but I wouldn’t want to be frozen out of the dialogue or process just because I don’t have a mobile phone or am not web-savvy. Most of the people I know in this line of work haven’t got hi-tech gear nor the inclination to use it. So maybe it’s about interacting with a particular market segment. Giving it some clear limits would be important.

  2. Nick Booth says:

    There isn’t a concept yet, just a conversation to show the possibilities of certain tools and see what they might mean to the work the team is doing.

    If this post has a focus it’s just to ask you what you think of a mapping grant applications – taking the info a grant giving organisation has and making it all publicly available. How might that change the relationship between granter and grantee – if at all?

    As for the question of being frozen out – well thats a fair point but I would like us to be more proactive about helping people understand the tools and exploit them in a way that helps them. There remains a separate issue for a small group who will be excluded through access, but I think most of the digital divide is to do with attitude not access.

  3. dp says:

    I’m still not sure I understand that first bit. But moving on to the question of mapping, I would expect to have mixed feelings, particularly if the granting organisation were, say the Arts Council. It would be very useful to see what themes were emerging, and that might help position similar or different approaches. But it might also be depressing to see the number of competitors, etc.

    Your last point is provocative. I’d like to hear more on that. What small groups do you imagine this applies to? What is attitude cf. access?

  4. Nick Booth says:

    The first bit was simply a question on twitter t help the people I was talking to understand how the social web can help yo collaborate and solve problems fatser by having more brains on tap.

    As for the provocative point the digital divide can be portrayed as a problem of affordability but given the way fast internet is being sold as part of tv packages or mobile phone packages this is much less the case than it was just 3 ears ago. So whether people want to use the web to get information or share it is becoming much more a mater of preference than affordabilty.

    Some groups though are likely to remain at the “wrong” end of the digital divide for more practical reasons – the homeless are one potential example along with those for whom reading and writing is a problem. I’m sure you can think of other groups and please do mention them.

    However if we are interested in spreading digital literacy we should be positive about helping a very wide range of people appreciate that using the web in many different ways need not be beyond them. Organisations that work closely with community groups are well place to provide that “mentor” role where needs be. After all you can’t say if you want a telly until you’ve experienced TV. Likewise it’s difficult to now whether publishing on the web is your thing unless someone has given you the opportunity to have crack. I would prefer groups to do what you do – tell their own story, rather than remain unheard or reliant on others to tell their story.

  5. dp says:

    I’m going to have to respond to this in installments. I agree with the last paragraph, particularly about the proactive approach. I also support the idea that sponsorship/mentoring organisations are well placed to support community group development. But experience shows things happening the other way round: groups pick up the technology, government and civic quangoes follow. Blogging is a case in point. Even though a local civic sponsorhip organisation did provide web access as of a few years back, it was in a very controlled and pricey manner. Grantees wanting a web presence soon found ways to do it themselves, usually on the back of volunteers, without training or budget. That’s still pretty much the case. Putting it bluntly (and in a hurry), web access has shown its value, so where are the sponsors providing hosting, expertise and equipment? The same would apply to the kind of thing you’re referring to.

    Thanks for discussing this. gotta run.

  6. We’ve been trying to encourage people to report stuff to fix my street – http://www.fixmystreet.org – by setting up a local page called ‘fix my Leith’.

    Fix my street produces local feeds, so now we tweet every report that people make in Leith as a ‘Fix My Leith report’ on our Greener Leith Twitter account, and the last few reports show up on the Fix My Leith webpage.

    In this way, we hope to encourage more people to use the Fix My Street service, and encourage a wider conversation about stuff that needs to be ‘fixed’ in our neighbourhood. Before Twitter stopped supporting mobiles in the UK, it also meant (at least in theory) that service providers, councillors or other interested parties could get updates on their mobile. Sadly that part obviously doesn’t work anymore.

    In most cases, people seem to get some sort of a resolution to their problems, and this means that it should help to build confidence in the local service providers too. This said, I don’t think our local council appreciates that benefit yet!

    I’m not sure if that’s relevent to what Groundwork do, but it does show that you can use Twitter to encourage people to get involved in ‘local regeneration’ in its broadest sense.

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