This post is by Simon Bannister, who was at CityCamp 1 in 2011 and is coming again this year.
One of the aims of CityCamp this year is to widen participation from the community generally and the B&H voluntary sector in particular and 9 February saw a kind of launch for City Camp 2 at an information evening for community groups.
Around 60 residents/reps from various groups turned out to find out more about City Camp, and also more about the substantially increased prize pot of £20k provided by Brighton & Hove City Council and NHS Sussex.
The aim of the funding and the projects judges will be looking to support are quite broad and loosely defined- aside from some administative particulars, funded projects will need to: “Advance the goals of City Camp – increasing participation or wellbeing in the city using new technologies or innovative practice in public or voluntary service and openly sharing the results”
The event and the funding criteria is slewed toward social media (though not exclusively) and the evening discussion raised many of questions about this aspect, from attempting to define ‘social media’ , looking at issues of participation and digital exclusion and talking about the various platforms available and how they might best be used to accomplish certain tasks. It was clear that not everyone was starting from the same point, with some individuals and organisations far more at home in the digital environment and understanding its potential than others, and recognising this, it is really useful that a first Social Media Surgery has been planned for Feb 20th which could help groups work out how they can make best use of online places in advance of the main City Camp event. (HERE for info and to reserve a place)
Although I spend a lot of time online and offline with people who see internet technologies as a part of their daily terrain, much of my work puts me in contact with the many people who don’t. Finding ways to describe the benefits of internet based technology to people and groups who are inexperienced at using it and may be sceptical is an ongoing challenge, but being aware of the issues of digital exclusion isn’t a reason not to engage; it intensifies the need for the approach taken by City Camp2 and underlines the value of the particular funding emphasis on grassroots community organisations developing their work online.
Public services are increasingly aware of the ‘digital by default’ challenges and benefits and our council in Brighton & Hove is investing in its digital presence – it is becoming an easier and better way of getting things done, whether that is finding out about council activity and taking part in consultation, or commenting real time on service delivery. As one mundane example, my local Local Action Team has found that using Twitter to send a picture of flytipping to the council, is a far more efficient way of reporting and getting action – and also it puts the complaint and response into the public realm and gives it a transparency which other approaches could not easily match.
That City Camp this year is looking for greater involvement from Brighton & Hove voluntary sector, and has been able to focus energy, resources and real cash toward making this happen, gives so much extra value. Not only work given to help develop projects, and money to develop them with, but a really serious attempt to involve those groups working with the most marginalised and excluded communities across the city, helping them to find new ways of translating the benefits of ‘online’ to improve the opportunities and quality of life for those they work with.