The Big Idea – unleashing the power of talking in London

April 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

team_picture_large - talk to me London x160The Big Idea: reducing loneliness and isolation through launching an annual Talk to me London Day to encourage people to speak to complete strangers.

Hello! I’m Ann Don Bosco FRSA. Along with fellow co-founder Polly Akhurst, I run Talk to me London, a not-for-profit that seeks to find ways to get people talking in London. Polly and I started Talk to me London because we believe in a world where people should feel able to talk to each other.

It can be hard to connect in a big city like London. It often seems like everyone is in a rush and it can be tricky to strike up a conversation. We think this is not only a shame but that it’s also having a detrimental impact on our society. We see incredibly high levels of isolation with over 25% of Londoners say they feel lonely often if not all of the time.  We see London voted as one of the most unfriendly cities in the world. And we see people brush past each other and not see each other as humans. It’s because we’ve lost our sense of commonality – our community.

We want to change this. And we want to do it through talking.

We believe in the power of conversations. One conversation can make you happier. It can inspire you. It can make you understand another point of view or it can just make you feel a little less alone.

We believe in the power of conversations. One conversation can make you happier. It can inspire you. It can make you understand another point of view or it can just make you feel a little less alone.  Talking is what makes us human and what enables us to connect to each other. We want to harness its power to make London a better place. We’re raising money for a Talk to me London Day in August 2014. The day aims to put the importance of talking and its link to broader social issues such as well-being and community connectedness on the agenda. On the day we’ll use badges, stunts, events, flash mobs and public art to encourage Londoners to chat to people they don’t know.

Talk to me LondonSince launching our Kickstarter campaign just over a week ago, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had so far. We’ve been featured in Time Out’s blog and Kickstarter’s global newsletter.  And just today a controversial piece written about us in the Guardian has prompted many people to express their opinions on the subject of Londoners not talking to each other. We’ve also received messages from all over the world, such as this one: “I love this. I’ve never even been to London, but I backed this project just now. This is a problem in many cities across the world, and it would be wonderful to start changing our culture.”

We’re now close to reaching our initial Kickstarter target, but ideally we want to reach it as soon as possible and surpass it so we can show how many people are behind this idea – and to prove to our cynical Guardian commentator that Londoners really do want to talk! With more money, we can make the day bigger and better, and truly London-wide.

We have the RSA to thank for helping us get our project of the ground. We worked with the RSA’s Connected Communities team to run a pilot project, Talk to me SE London Week, and we’re now being supported with our crowd-funding campaign through the RSA Catalyst scheme.

How you can help

What we need now is for you to join us. Show that you believe that the power of talking can make us happier, less alone and more connected. Please help us make Talk to me London Day 2014 a reality by donating and sharing our Talk to me London Kickstarter page with your friends. Thank you!

Ann Don Bosco FRSA
@talktomelondon
Visit the Talk to me London website

Visit our campaign on the RSA crowdfunding page

 

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture through grants, expertise and crowdfunding visit our webpage.

The Big Idea… More than just coffee!

March 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

mark ashmoreHello! I’m Mark Ashmore FRSA and I founded Future Artists where we work under the motto “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”. I wanted to introduce you to a project that RSA Catalyst is helping me to crowdfund which I think totally epitomises this phrase, so hang on to your hats while I take you on a journey to a wet and windy city in the North West of England…

What if a coffee shop was able to generate £100,000 a year in grants that will enable a community to grow – enabling exploration of the arts and sciences, benefiting health and well being, and being a space to meet, share and create…? That’s our dream, and with your help, we can make this a reality…

Most high streets are full of identikit shops, repeated formula, and the same repeated sequel. When the Manchester rain beats down on its work force and the icy chills of the northern wind blows in, the high street offers little escape. For some, Starbucks and Costa Coffee’s bohemian commercialism is as offensive as the Manchester wet season itself!

The Home of Honest Coffeehonest coffee

Future Artists presents to you the ‘Home of Honest Coffee’, a brand new concept that we’re hoping to bring to the Manchester high street this summer. Introducing a coffee shop that’s designed to truly serve the community, not just with delicious fair trade coffee and locally produced snacks and treats, but also with opportunities for business start-ups and encouragement for network growth. Would you like a brownie with your cappuccino? Or maybe a sandwich? How about a business grant? The Home of Honest Coffee will run as a co-operative charity with profits being donated to schemes set up in the city, giving local creative and educational groups and start-up businesses the chance to thrive and develop in an otherwise unaccommodating economy.

We are fortunate in Manchester to be sharing our city with many forward-thinking ethical companies who are creative in their ways of giving something back to the community. All too often, however, these alternative venues and businesses are shoved to the quirky backstreets, overshadowed by the tax-avoiding giants. Why should the high street be dominated by corporations who care far more about their own profits than the wellbeing of the communities they inhabit?

The power is in every one of us, as we stroll down the high street, to choose where we spend our hard-earned money.

Leading up to this project, we have researched our market by hosting a variety of pop-up events in the centre of Manchester. These have included a street art exhibition, and an honesty café in which customers were trusted to sort their own payment and change. Following the success of these, our ambitions have raised and we now intend to take on the city high streets with something a little more permanent. We want to really make an impact by delivering a high street coffee shop that has community support and local improvement at the forefront of its mission. In order to achieve this, however, we first need a little bit of help and support ourselves.

The Home of Honest Coffee Crowdfunding campaignHow you can get involved

We are hoping to raise capital through Kickstarter and have so far been delighted with the amazing positive responses we’ve been receiving from the general public. Please find our campaign on the RSA crowdfunding area and see how you can get involved.

If you like our idea and would like to see it succeed, help us spread the word! Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or just talk about us with your friends or family over the dinner table. Our mission is to prove that we can choose what kind of world we live in; the power is in every one of us as we stroll down the high street choosing where to spend our hard earned money.

In addition, to help with our expansion we’re looking to significantly increase the building and catering expertise we have as part of the project team, so if you can share even just a few hours, please do get in touch on the ‘Contact me’ button on our crowdfunding campaign (click on the image to the left).

Join us for an honest cuppa and vote with your brew!

Mark Ashmore FRSA

www.futureartists.co.uk
@futureartists
Visit our crowdfunding campaign on the RSA crowdfunding area

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” – Frank Zappa


To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

Read the RSA’s 2020 Retail report Shopping for Shared Value which argues that building a future retail model which coordinates corporate operations to maximise local social and economic impact will become a key competitive advantage in a decade in which traditional physical stores are set to experience transition and disruption 

The Big Idea: women entrepreneurs and the Secret Pillow project

March 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The Big Idea: Through the making and selling of the Secret Pillow – a blanket that folds up into a pillow - Fritha Vincent FRSA shares the secrets of entrepreneurship with women.

I work with groups of women in India who have completed basic job skills training in tailoring and sewing. I run workshops on how to make a charming product called the Secret Pillow – a blanket that folds up into a pillow. On behalf of the women, I sell their Secret Pillows on the world market, achieving an excellent profit margin. For a relatively low risk and for sizeable gain, women get a kickstart to financial independence, as well as experience what it feels like to be successful, creative and independent.

group x 1000My vision for Secret Pillow Project is simple – I want women’s groups worldwide to have the opportunity to make and sell Secret Pillows. My focus is on women who without this opportunity would struggle either financially or otherwise to start up an income-generating business on their own. I am clear with the women that Secret Pillow Project will not offer them a constant stream of orders and that with their new resources and new perspective they need to diversify and create new income streams.  This is already happening with the first group I worked with in India.

This project is about women doing business with women and about consumers buying something because they really want. Neither the way I deal with women nor the way I sell will be heavily influenced by the social cause behind the project.  My aim is to work with the women’s groups long term to support them to produce set collections that can be sold on the Secret Pillow Project online shop (coming soon!) and in top department stores and boutiques. The sewing techniques will be a subtle celebration of the women’s heritage and culture. I have proven that consumers in the West desire the Secret Pillows; our aim has always been that the Secret Pillows are of the highest quality and good enough to compete with top brands.

Fritha and coNext steps

I have a busy couple of months ahead. I am about to launch a crowdfunding campaign aiming to get 500 Secret Pillow orders. Thanks to RSA Catalyst I got some great help from RSA Fellow, Stephen Parkes. He was a great source of advice to me and the project and he has kindly said, “Secret Pillow Project is a unique and exciting concept. It was pleased offer marketing advice on Fritha’s Kickstarter campaign strategy.” With the resources the campaign generates I will dedicate time to scaling up this project over the next year as well as delivering beautiful Secret Pillows to my campaign backers. I will fly to Kenya to run my first workshop with African women and am excited about the diversity of fabrics a new continent will offer. I hope during my Africa trip I can celebrate the success of the crowdfunding campaign.

Get involved 

There are two ways you can help me. First, back my Kickstarter campaign by finding my campaign on the RSA Curated Area on Kickstarter and become the proud owner of a Secret Pillow.  Secondly get in touch with me if you know a charity working with a women’s group who might be interested in getting involved with the project. This could be either here in UK or overseas.

Contact me at fritha@believeyoucanmakeadifference.co.uk or through our Facebook group. Thank you for your interest in the Secret Pillow Project.

Fritha Vincent FRSA

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

The Big Idea: using the free cultural resources of a city to create a university

February 24, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The Big Idea: This University is Free (IF) is a new project co-founded by Jonny Mundey FRSA offering free humanities courses to young people priced out of today’s higher education market, by using London’s cultural wealth in innovative ways.

Jonny Mundey Photo (3)Late last year I met my colleague and soon-to-be IF co-founder Barbara for a coffee. Our meeting was billed as a routine catch-up but by the end of our talk we had posed ourselves a question it proved impossible to ignore: what if you could use the free cultural resources of a city, the web and shards of donated time from academics to create a series of free undergraduate-level courses? The IF Project was born.

The principles that have driven the project from day one are that an education in the humanities is an education that should be available to all (not just a luxury for the sons and daughters of the wealthy) and an education worth having, with the capacity to enrich young people’s lives and benefit society as a whole. In short, why shouldn’t the inspirational liberal arts education Barbara and I enjoyed be within reach of all school-leavers and young workers who wanted it?

There is clearly a demand for free self-driven learning: mass open online courses (MOOCS) have been expanding at a furious rate. Unfortunately, a lot of students abandon on-line learning. What they are probably missing is the college-type experience of debating and learning with and from fellow students; the fun and excitement of studying.

The IF project uses London as a giant lecture-hall, guiding students to free events relevant to our introductory short courses in subjects such as history, philosophy, music and the visual arts. It also brings together a network of academics and thinkers to lead weekly workshops, lectures and seminars with IF students.   So far, we’ve forged partnerships with academic organisations such as Gresham College (which offers free lunchtime and evening lectures of the highest academic quality); recruited professors from top universities to offer free lectures; and connected with youth organisations who work with the young people who have been priced out of the current loans-based education market.

The IF Summer School  

In May we are running our first course - a four-week humanities Summer School taking in history lectures at the Gresham College, visual arts experiences via the V&A’s standing collections and discussions around free concerts at The Festival Hall. We will use the Summer School to test out the logistics of IF and seek feedback and advice from our first students on how to expand the idea into something much bigger.

Get Involved with IF

We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign (as of yesterday!), supported by the RSA, to raise funds for the IF Summer School. We would be hugely grateful for anyIF help in spreading the word.

We would also love to hear from Fellows and contacts interested in being involved in the IF project. To expand we need to connect with volunteer academics who can provide, say, one lecture a year. We need academics and thinkers and post-graduate students who love their subjects and want to talk to and enthuse new students about what they are doing in seminar sessions. We want to hear from organisations who can donate space for seminars and lectures. We want to form close links with cultural institutions sharing our aims.

Just as we have been inspired by the community of UK “free university” projects along the way, if we succeed in London, we hope others will copy the IF model.

Jonny Mundey FRSA

www.ifproject.co.uk
@thisuniisfree
contact@ifproject.co.uk
Visit our crowdfunding campaign


To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

The Big Idea: Educating girls, one tampon at a time

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The Big Idea: Auntie Daisy is a new service that delivers sanitary towels and tampons discreetly through women’s letterboxes every month. 100% of profits go to Camfed - a charity educating and empowering girls in Africa. Matt Lill FRSA is the co-founder of Auntie Daisy.

When my partner Claire lived in Tanzania and taught English to young girls, she noticed how some of them would often miss school at certain times of the month. Without access to sanitary protection and without proper toilet facilities in schools, some girls in Africa can miss a whole week of lessons every single term – just because of their period. This leaves them way behind, which is just not right.

One evening many years later, Claire told me about the girls she met and the problems they faced. My brain automatically turned to my background of working with social enterprises, and a few glasses of wine later Auntie Daisy was born!

Matt Lill x1000

Matt Lill presenting Auntie Daisy at a recent RSA Engage event

Auntie Daisy is not just about supporting girls’ education with our profits. We want to hit a chord with women in the UK by relating to something they use every single month.

We aim to inspire women to change their shopping habits ever so slightly, and buy their sanitary products through Auntie Daisy. By buying social, they can have a direct impact on girl’s lives in Africa and help Camfed educate more young women of the future.

The RSA Catalyst grant has been fundamental in getting Auntie Daisy off the ground. We invested the funding in the packaging for our boxes, which will be hitting women’s letterboxes soon. The boxes look amazing and hopefully women who receive them will agree and enjoy opening them each month.

As well as funding, the RSA has provided us with some invaluable advice from its fellows, including those with expertise in marketing – essential for helping as many women as possible to hear about Auntie Daisy. We have also received a lot of advice and encouragement from other fellows we’ve met, including at the excellent recent #RSAEngage event (and I don’t say that just because I was speaking at it!). We look forward to meeting more inspirational fellows over the coming months.

As for next steps – well to be honest as a new business everything’s a next step at the moment! But we definitely have some exciting times ahead. The first thing we want to do is find out what women really want when it comes to their periods. Together with Mumsnet, we’ve launched a survey about women’s monthly trends and habits. The responses will help ensure that we’re offering the best service we can, that appeals to women and gives them one less thing to think about each month.

Auntie Daisy needs you!

Auntie Daisy provides convenience, discretion and a contribution to a cause for our customers – we want to get these messages out in front of as many women as possible. We think that one way to do this is through partnerships with established women’s networks.  Accordingly we would be grateful for advice from anybody who has held a senior position in such a network, or negotiated such a partnership, to make sure we get our pitch right, in a way that will be valuable for both sides.

RSA Fellows can help Auntie Daisy get it right from the start – please take the survey and pass it on to any women who might be interested. If you think Auntie Daisy is a service that could work for you, please visit our website and sign up. Again, please pass the link on to any women you know. You can also show your support and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

We’re really excited about what the future holds for Auntie Daisy and we strongly believe in everything it stands for. But we’re always very open to more suggestions and ideas. Please do get in touch at info@auntiedaisy.com – we look forward to hearing from you!


Matt Lill FRSA

Follow @AuntieDaisyUK 
Visit Auntie Daisy at www.auntiedaisy.com
Take the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/AuntieDaisy

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

The Big Idea: connecting digital natives with small businesses

January 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

SineadMacmanusCloseUp smallerThe Big Idea: Fluency is a learning platform and crowd work marketplace that gets young people into work and connects them with small businesses who need their skills. Sinead Mac Manus FRSA is the CEO and co-founder of Fluency.

I founded the company to solve two big problems: the fact that there are limited work opportunities at the moment for young people, both here in the UK and across Europe, and the lack of digital expertise in small businesses in the UK.

We teach our young people in-demand skills such as how to build a website, how to market a company on social media or how to optimise content for Google. Our learners complete digital challenges and collect badges to demonstrate their learning. But what’s really unique about our platform is that as our learners get mastery in a subject, they become eligible for work on the crowd work platform. In this way they can ‘learn and earn’ at the same time.

The story so far

My background is a digital coach and trainer to small businesses. For the past four years I have been working with them to overcome stresses about engaging in digital and showing them the potential that the web and social media can have for their business. But many of my clients were just too busy to implement much of my advice so I back in 2011 I saw a gap in the market for providing outsourced digital services and, with help from UnLtd and then the Nominet Trust, started training low income women in east London with these skills.

To be honest I never had a passion for working with young people specifically – as a feminist, creating economic opportunities for women and girls was always more my thing. But as I developed this Picture from Nesta pilot day (2) - fluency x 400work, I couldn’t ignore that youth unemployment remains stubbornly high here in the UK and is catastrophic in many European countries such as Greece. Spain and Italy. I realised if we don’t provide work opportunities for this generation of young people, then we run the risk of a ‘lost generation’ with knock-on effects in communities for decades. Since starting to work exclusively with young people last year, I have been amazed at their talents and ambition to make a better life for themselves and feel proud if we can help even one young person succeed.

Fluency was accepted onto Bethnal Green Ventures social technology incubator in July and have been building the platform and piloting our work with young people over the last six months. The Catalyst grant from the RSA was amazing and it allowed us to work with a great bunch of young people over the summer – one of whom is now working in our company, one is doing a technology apprenticeship, and the others are interning or in education.

What does the future bring

We are a very young startup but have received lots of recognition from industry and the press. We were finalists in Vator Splash, one of the most prestigious pitching competitions in the US and we won The Challenge Cup in November last year and were voted Best Education Startup in the UK. We have made strategic partnerships with some of the biggest youth charities in the UK such as The Prince’s Trust and are just about to start working with our first 100 young people getting them trained up and working as digital experts. We have grown our team from the original two co-founders to a team of five and are raising investment to bring the team to nine and reach as many young people as we can.

We have a passionate belief at Fluency that we can help some of the 75 million young people around the world who need work. As more people around the world come online and get access to cheap devices, we want to be there providing access to decently paid, online work opportunities, not only in the digital space, but moving into other verticals such as customer service, lead generation and customer support.

How you can get involved

We are always looking for youth partners to get involved. If you or your organisation are helping young people get into work, then please do drop us a line and see how we can help. We are also looking for small business clients for our young trainees, so if you need help with a making a website, managing your social media, or a host of other digital services – then please do get in touch with us on hello@fluency.io. More information can also be found on www.fluency.io.

Sinead Mac Manus FRSA
Follow them at @getfluency

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

The Big Idea: making cities fully transparent

January 13, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship, Uncategorized 

Nathan Boublil Nathan Boublil FRSA co-founded Stat.io, a Cambridge-based software company aggregating the millions of statistical spreadsheets released by government units. While the data-driven software is mainly intended for professional decision-makers, Stat.io is now partnering with cities to launch OpenCity portals. These virtual townhalls allow any citizen to be able to seamlessly view all available data points about their city and engage with other citizens as well as their local policy makers.

The story so far

Stat.io, founded in late 2012 by a team of Cambridge University graduates, has been committed to developing technology addressing Open Data’s usability issues: segregation (the data divided across more than 500 portals on the web) and formatting (eclectic mix of data formats, structures and languages). As millions of datasets are being released publicly by government units, Stat.io has been working on ways to aggregate, geo-reference and normalise this statistical data, creating in the process a search engine particularly relevant for professional decision-makers (corporate strategists, NGOs, government officials). Supported by the RSA’s Catalyst programme, Cambridge University, Unltd and Google, Stat.io has already aggregated over 20 million datasets.

Stat.io will not rest until the socio-economic situation of every geographical point on the planet can be accessed in a few clicks.

Stat.io is now looking to apply this technology to tackling local issues by launching OpenCity. Encouraged by a prize received from San Francisco’s Mayor Lee last year, the team is now starting collaborations with cities in the UK and abroad to create a full local transparency solution. The offer is simple: the Stat.io software aggregates of all of a city’s public data (hundreds to tens of thousands of datasets depending on the city) on a single online page and the easy-to-use interface lets any citizen comment on the layers of data using their existing social media credentials.

Statio

We have all seen the deluge of citizens commenting about their cities, neighbourhood of street – in positive or negative ways – on obscure online forums or social media… The issue is that online citizen engagement has so far been inefficient. Comments often lack credibility as not backed up by data and simply hit a communications wall as there is no way for government officials to keep track (and therefore act on them).

Through OpenCity, we at Stat.io are essentially creating a 24/7 easy-to-use virtual town hall. The platform provides a common structure where every citizen has access to all the objective (recent and historical) facts and can, in one click, make data-driven suggestions/comments involving other citizens and local officials. The entire platform is geo-referenced, making it particularly easy to navigate. All discussions happen using twitter/facebook credentials, adding even more convenience as both citizens and (increasingly) government officials are present on the social networks. Stat.io will not rest until the socio-economic situation of every geographical point on the planet can be accessed in a few clicks.

At Nacue’s varsity pitch in November (where Stat.io won best financial technology), ex Ambassador David Landsman OBE called Stat.io “an important tool for democracy”. Indeed, Stat.io clearly intends to provide a way to improve both transparency and accountability – one city at a time.

How you can get involved

Stat.io is currently recruiting 5 partner cities (3 in the UK and 2 abroad), of all sizes. If you are interested to be part of the scheme or believe your city should be – please do get in touch with us on cities@stat.io. More information can also be found on www.stat.io/cities

Nathan Boublil FRSA

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

The Big Idea: turning the spaces above us into art

December 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 
catherine shovlin

Catherine Shovlin FRSA

The Big Idea: The New Cross area of south London could gain a new arts space. A previously closed public library has re-opened as New Cross Learning, inspiring and uplifting thousands of local users. Catherine Shovlin FRSA has launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a creative arts space working with the local community…

Over the last 10 years we, Artmongers, have been stirring things up in Deptford and New Cross, South London with thought-provoking public art that changes the way people relate to space. Now we want to create New Cross’s first public artspace: a giant 3D lightbox on the ceiling of New Cross Learning. We will work together with local groups, running workshops to create multimedia artworks that change every six months. Central to our aim, we will be collaborating with emerging artists in our local community as well as school children, community groups and Goldsmiths students. To do this, we need to raise nearly £5k.

This is where we need your help. Through RSA Catalyst we have launched a crowdfunding campaign, Looking up in New X, to raise the funds needed to bring a much needed art space to the New Cross area – and we have ten days left to go!

new cross

The story so far

Since it opened in 2011, New Cross Learning has quickly developed into a vibrant community hub. Locals go there for books of course, but also for computer access, street dance, poetry group, baby bounce, community meetings, training sessions, Chinese dragon making workshops and much more.

The front of the building got a great facelift in 2012 (thanks to RSA Catalyst and the Funding Network) with a participatory artwork that marked the beginning of community ownership and involvement.  Now we want to do something about the inside. New Cross doesn’t have a public art space so we are raising money to make this happen.

Last year’s flash mob on the A2 (for those outside London, the A2 is a major road connecting London with Kent) highlighted the challenges pedestrians face getting from one side of New Cross to the other. We didn’t break any traffic rules but we definitely caused a stir. And this year’s campaign to plant 1000 sunflowers has involved hundreds of school children, Goldsmiths University, local businesses and community groups. It brightened up the place and more importantly it encouraged people to realise the possibility that it is our environment and we can choose how it is. Then recently we worked with another RSA supported project – Talk to Me London to create unexpected creative interventions at bus stops in New Cross including a disco.

Taking back ownership of public space encourages all sorts of social benefits – not least the improved sense of well-being while you’re taking part.

Taking back ownership of public space encourages all sorts of social benefits – not least the improved sense of well-being while you’re taking part.  Enough downcast acquiescence, people in New Cross are ready to LOOK UP and improve their public spaces for themselves. Backers get to be part of the creative process, and some will even get a piece of art for their home. Most importantly, those who support this project will know that they are part of transforming an area and empowering local residents.

How you can get involved

Those living around New Cross will know how much community spirit there is in the area. We want to give something back and give local residents the chance to express themselves through art – and in a local space everyone can enjoy.

We need your help to make this happen.  Please visit the RSA crowdfunding page and find our project - Looking up in New X – and help us to reach our target. If you would like to get involved in the project or would like to visit us in New Cross, you can email me at cmshovlin@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter.

Catherine Shovlin FRSA
New Cross Learning and Artmongers

The Big Idea: a wiki guide to public services

November 18, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The Big Idea: Nalibeli is an online platform created by Blair Glencorse FRSA and Surabhi Pudasaini that helps citizens in Nepal to navigate complicated public services, and uses crowdsourcing to give people access to the information they need.  Here, Blair explains more…

galligalliAccessing basic services, like obtaining a new passport or renewing a driver’s license, is a difficult, complicated and messy ordeal for citizens in Nepal. There is no clear and readily available information – of the sort taken for granted in a country like the UK, whose gov.uk website won Design of the Year award – to help Nepalis understand the services the government should provide. As a result, it can take numerous visits to offices and a great deal of confusion (and bribes) to navigate the administration.

That is why we’ve started a crowdfunding campaign on the RSA crowdfunding area to support our Nalibeli portal. Nalibeli (a Nepali word that gives a sense of understanding the intricate details of something) helps citizens navigate government and make more informed decisions about issues that affect their lives. With generous support from the RSA US Challenge fund and RSA Catalyst (which supported initial development, research and network-building on the ground) we are using web-based tools, like Facebook, to gather ideas on the problems that Nepalis care about. Then we are using our contacts across the country to organize, package an disburse relevant information through a wiki-tool (using MediaWiki, the free, open source wiki product that was evolved from Wikipedia).

One of the many pages on the Nalibeli portal that provides information on basic services.

One of the many pages on the Nalibeli portal that provides information on basic services.

The story so far

We’ve begun a massive outreach campaign around the country and despite our small budget, results so far have been impressive: Nalibeli has over 115,000 hits and over 400 pages of information on key services in both Nepali and English. We began with higher education and mapped information across over 60 college campuses and 38 faculties, and we’re now mapping services through District Administrative Offices (with which all Nepalis have to interact for obtaining birth certificates, marriage licenses and so on). We’ve held numerous “wiki-a-thons” at colleges in different parts of Nepal as well as numerous informal wiki-sessions to build a committed user base and demonstrate the importance of what we are doing; and we’ve built up a solid team of 5 people and an informal network of over a dozen institutions and organizations who, on a volunteer basis, give us their time and expertise.

All of this has taken just a few months. There have been challenges of course. Crowdsourcing information under difficult conditions has been harder than we thought it would be, and bridging the digital divide is proving tricky, but we are working on these problems and making fantastic progress. The wiki is fully functional and has a truly vibrant community developing around it. Now we need it go from a useful tool to the essential resource it should be for every Nepali citizen to ensure that the provision of government services is equal and fair for all.

One of their regular 'wiki-athons' compiling basic information.

One of their regular ‘wiki-athons’ compiling basic information.

The next stage of the project involves recruiting plenty more volunteers, scaling up the amount of information in the wiki to cover all public services, and greater outreach efforts to ensure the tool is as usable and accessible as possible. Friends from elsewhere have also indicated that Nalibeli would prove valuable in their countries – and we are keen to pilot it in other South Asian contexts and beyond. Citizens everywhere want reliable and up-to-date information on government, after all, even if the government itself is unable or unwilling to provide it.

How you can help

We’ve had tons of interest in the project from Fellows so far.  We’d love to speak to any other Fellows in the technology field, with experience in crowd-sourcing information or who may have grown projects like this across issues and countries.

We’d also welcome any support for this next stage which you can do through the new RSA Kickstarter crowdfunding area. There are plenty of amazing pledge gifts up for grabs including Intercontinental Holistic Missiles (ICHMs) – collections of medicinal, cooking and other healthful herbs grown in Nepal (all in Nepali embroidered bags!); vedic astrology charts and much more! Please help us continue to build transparent and accountable government in Nepal.

Support ‘NaliBeli: Helping government work in Nepal’ by finding his Kickstarter campaign on the RSA curated area. To get in contact, email him at blairglencorse@accountabilitylab.org or follow him on Twitter @blairglencorse.

The Big Idea: a network of godless congregations

October 21, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

This is a guest blog from Sanderson Jones FRSA who along with Pippa Evans set up the Sunday Assembly. Sanderson blogs here about their plans for the next few months.

The Big Idea: Helping people live better, help often and wonder more through the Sunday Assembly

The Sunday Assembly is a godless congregation that celebrates life. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfil their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one.

The Sunday AssemblyWe are here for everyone who wants to:

  • Live Better. We aim to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and practical ideas that help people to live the lives they want to lead and be the people they want to be
  • Help Often. Assemblies are communities of action building lives of purpose, encouraging us all to help anyone who needs it to support each other
  • Wonder More. Hearing talks, singing as one, listening to readings and even playing games helps us to connect with each other and the awesome world we live in.

Since 250 people turned up at our first Assembly in January 2013, in a run-down deconsecrated church in North London, we’ve discovered that there is a massive desire across the country to celebrate life. By June we had over 600 people in our congregation and thousands of people have reacted to our motto of live better, help often, wonder more. We will have 30 Assemblies started by the end of this year and around 1600 people across the world have asked for their own Assembly.

We’ve discovered that there is a massive desire across the country to celebrate life

Supported by RSA Catalyst, the Sunday Assembly is now going on a global tour called 40 Dates and 40 Nights: The Roadshow. The plan: to launch 40 Assemblies in 40 nights across the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. We’re going to 29 cities including Oxford, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Dublin, New York, Chicago, Washington, Nashville, Adelaide and Sydney. The roadshow will be a launch-pad for local Assemblies, allow us to meet the local teams, and demonstrate what goes down at an Assembly: basically all the best parts of church (but with no religion).

Ultimately, we want to reach the 300 million people across the world who have no religion, but to do that we need to get digital.

40 Dates & 40 Nights: The Roadshow is coinciding with a crowdfunding campaign to raise the start-up funds needed to get a global movement and organisation off the ground. We are raising the capital to create a custom-designed, digital platform that will allow the millions of people who believe in good to connect with other like-minded people, and build wonderful life-giving congregations.

It is quite impressive that we’ll start 30 Assemblies in our first year, but if we were to have a site like this we can help start thousands.

We want RSA Fellows to get involved as volunteers and speakers, and to connect us with community projects

We would love to speak to RSA Fellows about the Sunday Assembly. This is for three main reasons:

  • To find people who would like to help organise a local Assembly
  • To source inspiring speakers for the Sunday Assemblies themselves
  • To find wonderful community action projects with which we could connect volunteers from our congregation. Each Assembly is going to be very focused on helping out in the community, so we’d love to hear from local community social enterprises and charities that are in need of volunteers or who could think of good partnerships.

Please watch our video below to find out more about our crowdfunding campaign. If the Sunday Assembly sounds interesting to you, I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch.

Sanderson Jones

 

Visit the Sunday Assembly website or contact Sanderson on Twitter @sandersonjones or @SundayAssembly.

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