Monthly Archives: August 2007

Participation ride 2007 – day 3

Stage 12 participation ride As I sit down to write this Simon Berry and his companions will be cycling some between Hengrove and Bristol city centre. The route through Bristol is just one of 48 stages on a 12 day ride from Land’s End to Severn Beach, Scotland.

Even though I have never met Simon, after reading the trip blog I feel I could easily strike up a conversation with him. Simon runs ruralnet|uk, a rural development charity promoting a living and working countryside. He, and nine fellow cyclists, are aiming to raise 2000 pounds through people sponsoring them. The money will be used to fund travel expenses for people to attend the annual ruralnet|uk conference.

After three days they’ve already had lots of adventures: jamming brakes, punctures, late night arrivals. It sounds good fun and I’ll definitely be following progress in the days ahead.

A full itinerary for the ride is available on the trip blog, and there are maps and GPS co-ordinates as well. Before he set off, Simon made a short video about how he packed his very small Pashley Moulton TSR30 bicycle, see “Simon’s bike” on YouTube.

I haven’t got the money at the moment but if so inclined, I could make a donation via the 2007 participation ride page at the Just Giving website. When I checked, about 66% of the target had been raised, including a donation from a Mr Bill Bryson (reputedly).

That Simon uses a range of freely available web-based applications to publicise the participation ride is irresistible. The pictures and maps, the rattling of the donation tin, enhance the story, rather than getting in the way. Simon, and his team of web writers, etc, have done a really nice job.

I hope they enjoy the ride as much they seem to have enjoyed getting the blog and other bells and whistles set up.

Doing IT better – Victorian community IT project

I’ve just missed the “Introduction to Social Software” session today at the Duke Street Community House. It was a bit far to travel to Melbourne to attend.

The course is one of the early practical outcomes chalked up to a new project being run in Victoria, Australia. The Doing IT Better project is being run over the next three years within the Victorian Council of Social Services network (VCOSS).

The primary instigator behind the project is Larry Stillman, from Monash University (see my earlier post “Larry’s thesis”). As I was yarning with Larry a few weeks ago on Skype (sans video), he was shuffling papers as he prepared to submit his application to the ethics committee to take an action research, community-based approach.

Larry doesn’t just seek academic insights, he wants to see groups participating in the project better able to use ICT at the end of it. The whole endeavour is underpinned by a commitment to sharing and learning together. He outlines the philosophy behind his work on his blog:

A key guiding principle is that of ‘Open Knowledge’, as distinct from individualistic activity. The idea of Open Knowledge had appeared to me as one similar to that found in the Open Source movement, in that strength could only come about through collaboration, information sharing, and information distribution, in a sector that is used to this principle.

This collaborative approach has been instrumental from the very outset. People within the VCOSS network were invited to a one-day search confernce which tapped into grassroots views about what you think of such a project, its priorities, and strategies for action.

A steering group with community organisation representatives is shaping the project. Larry has proposed a series of case studies with community organisations to provide discrete and detailed knowledge about problems and solutions. These will a wide variety of different types of organisations including a community house in Sunshine western Melbourne, Travellers Aid and services working in alcohol and drug and domestic violence prevention fields.

Working alongside Larry is a dedicated IT worker within VCOSS. The project is being fully funded by a private philanthropist with a commitment to social justice.

As well as the training mentioned above, a whole raft of activities are expected to be organised. This includes:

  • training and support relationships with different public and commercial bodies on behalf of the sector
  • developing a skills and knowledge base though technology ‘champions’ in the sector, as well as an online resource base for the sector
  • steering technology research and development to meet sector needs in line with the collaborative ethos of the sector.

The philosophy behind the project and its three year duration mean that understanding of technology use in grassroots social organisations can move beyond the most obvious or basic factors.  It’s a rare opportunity to examine some of the deeper implications of technology use.  I’m personally confident that not only is ICT necessary, but can help bring advances for social justice. The research Larry is doing will help confirm (or deny) this.

I’m sure I’ll be in Melbourne at some point to mull over these themes. Larry is very open to sharing. In fact, he’s already sent an invitation to the project launch in early October. I might miss this one too.

ICT help for Rotorua groups on its way

Social service organisations in the Rotorua area will soon be able to access better IT support and advice. The Rotorua Community ICT Trust is looking for somebody with a technology background to work as an e-Rider in the area.

The empahsis of the service is going to be on strategic advice, eg records management, security, IT support budgeting, specific staff training recommendation, and websites as appropriate. A limited amount of hands-on help will be available. The role will be based within the computing department of Waiariki technical institute.

In contrast to the Wellington e-Rider and a new technical support service being launched in Hamilton, the groups will not be charged for visits.

I was stuck with envy after reading the advertisement as the Rotorua e-Rider will have a vehicle provided and an attractive remuneration package.

ICT trust has wasted no time getting things underway, with funding from the Digital Strategy Community Partnership Fund confirmed just a few weeks ago. When I’m in Rotorua next week staying with Roz’s whanau, I hope to meet with one of the Trustees to get a few more details.

Anyone interested in working as the Rotorua e-Rider needs to complete their application by 31 August 2007.

Downtown Community Ministry now on Facebook

Downtown City Ministry logo

I actually struggled to find the Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) page on Facebook. Being a Facebook absolute beginner I found all sorts of other ministries, mostly run by fundamentalist christians, before I arrived at DCM’s page.

When I got there I found a very short description of what DCM do, an advert for the upcoming bookfair on 1 September, a few photos and links to friends of DCM (currently 7 people) and related groups.

Launching the Facebook page David Cross, the Ministry’s Events and Communications Coordinator, wrote in DCM’s 8th August email bulletin that an aim of Downtown Community Ministry is to create a more inclusive world, including the online environment obviously.

“Sites like Facebook show how interconnected our lives are. They effectively map our social and professional relationships. However, they also demonstrate the exclusion that society permits” David says.

DCM’s primary work is finding solutions to social issues and providing practical grassroots support to people in need. Fortunately not everyone needs to sign-up to Facebook to get help, though David is encouraging people who support their work to join.

At the moment I’m not sure if I’ll become a DCM Facebook friend, because I really think I should add something to my profile before I do. Also I’ve got a strong sense of reluctance doing this at the moment. It’s not only the time that it will take that puts me off, but it’s actually because I don’t know how much I want to share of myself with complete strangers.

Some people have obviously poured out their hearts. A few of the profiles I had a quick look at are long, with lists of hobbies, relationships and schools, full virtual bookshelfs, and maps of where people have travelled. Plus there are links to friends, who anyone can be nosy about, and comments (sometimes witty).

Scanning the list of DCM friends I see a Richard Davis listed. I’m wondering if he is the same person who was webmaster extrodinaire for the Churches Agency on Social Issues and the Presbyterian Church. I haven’t heard from him for several years, and I could now be back in touch with him at the click of a button.

This is perhaps one of the types of interconnection that David Cross is talking about. Thanks to DCM for opening my eves to the world of social networking, even if I keep on the sidelines, for now.

e-Petitions to Wellington City Council

Listed in today’s Dominion Post alongside the normal array of city council notices about street closures, planning exercises and evensts like the Malaysian festival on Saturday, was a small notice about a new online tool for citizens. Now available on the Wellington City Council website is an e-Petitions generator.

This new online democratic tool allows anyone to create an e-Petition to collect signatures about any issue the Wellington City Council is responsible for. After the closing date, the petition will be presented to the appropriate Council or committee meeting.

It looks a simple process to create a petition. Just fill out a simle online form with your contact details and the question. The hard bit will be promoting the petition. Petitioners are advised that the ‘principal petitioner’ is responsible for raising awareness of the e-Petition.

Now, the Council does reserve the right to reject what it considers unsuitable petitions. The good thing is all declined e-Petitions will be listed with the reason why. When I checked, no-one has started a genuine petition.

The Council is probably the first in the country to try using e-petitions, but they are in good company. For several years the Queensland government has run e-petitions, recognition of which has been incorporated into legislative assembly standing orders. At the moment 11 peitions are listed, most with 100 or fewer signatures.

Earlier this year a massive response to an e-petition on road pricing hosted on the former UK prime minister’s website caused politicians to closely examine the pros and cons of e-petitions. Apparently, Tony Blair sent a personalised email response to each petitioner. 10 Dowling Street still host e-petitions. Included among currrent e-petitions is one promoting a ban on the sale of bicycles – something outside the jurisdiction of any government I would have thought. Less frivolous e-petions are calling for proposed restrictions regarding photography in public places to be dumped and a change to the timing of student loan interest repayments, from annually to monthly deductions.

You’ve still got a chance to be run Wellington’s first e-petition. I’ll update this post when I find out what the first e-petition citizens are invited to sign.

Updated: the first e-petition went live on 14 August. The petition calls for an increase to the level of income long-term tenants living in WCC owned properties can earn. Just one signature to date, but good luck to Adam Russell for bringing this up.

Wanted e-Rider mobile ICT technician/ advisor

“Experienced and motivated IT professional to take up the first e-Rider position advising and supporting community groups in the Wellington region.”

This is an excerpt from the advertisement we placed last week for the mobile IT professional the Wellington Region 2020 Communications Trust is hiring to work with community and voluntary organisations.

The person we’re looking for needs a skill mix that runs kinda contrary to trends in the IT industry where specialisation is the norm. We need a generalist who can do a bit of everything ICT related. The list includes fixing basic software problems, advising on hardware purchases and helping write specifications for a new information management application. They need to be comfortable giving advice over the phone and by email, as well as in person. And absolutely crucial is the ability to mentor and coach people so that they’re better able to manage a secure computer environment for themselve, and make good long term decisions.

Actually, we don’t expect one person to cover absolutely everything. Provided we get enough demand, we are looking to appoint a second e-Rider.

My role in the project has changed a bit as I’m now contracted as the Implementation Manager on a part time basis. I’m setting up systems, drafting policies, coordinating the recruitment, and will soon beginning promotion.

It’ s helluva exciting to have reached the point where groups will soon have access to the e-Rider service (it should available in October all going to plan). Keep an eye open for an announcement about the launch of the pilot service.

In the meantime, spread the word that we’re looking for an IT professional. See the e-Rider job advert on Seek.