Inventing the Future: next steps

The Inventing the Future seminar revealed the wide range of national and local initiatives contributing to the development of community networking in the UK. Among the points discussed in the final session were:

These points will be considered as The Community Channel plans for for 1999, in association with its funders the Home Office and other partners.

Among those attending the seminar were Civil Servants from the Active Communities Unit of the Home Office. They mailed the following message to the Inventing the Future mailing list:

As people on this list may know, the Home Office is part-funding The Community Channel to begin to explore ways in which policymakers can link into what is really happening on the ground. One element is to help us understand the potential for using information and communication technologies in the community sector. The Channel event on February 23 gave us many insights - thanks to everyone we met.

Over the next few months we would like to explore further some of the issues discussed at the event, and in the matrices people completed beforehand:

Mapping the online landscape

  • Who is already promoting awareness and providing services to the sector, and what are they doing?
  • How are the major initiatives linked, is there any avoidable duplication, are there new connections which need to be made?

What do community groups and others in the sector need?

  • What are the main community networking functions (e.g. awareness, access, training etc)?
  • Where are the main gaps in provision, support, and skills?
  • (*A key question*) For each function, what is the most appropriate infrastructure for provision (eg, local umbrella agency, local authority, community business, national agency...)

What works, what doesn't

  • What insights do you have into the ways that technologies, people and groups work best together?
  • ... and where do the problems most frequently arise? What helped, what hindered?

What is really useful about the technology?

  • Information searching, publishing, discussion, collaboration all work to an extent... what works best?
  • Who has some good examples?
  • What doesn't work: which are the key mistakes to avoid?

How can policy makers and practitioners reach better shared understanding in the field?

  • More events?
  • Through The Community Channel and/or in other ways?

We have asked Kevin Harris and David Wilcox (of Community Channel) to plan, with others, how best to tackle these issues - and others identified at the event and on the list, and we look forward to participating in this exciting experiment.

Nicola Smith, Janet Novak and Sarah Denvir
Active Community Unit
Home Office