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David Wilcox

Re-inventing a Positive Ageing forum in the Digital Age with @MervChangeAGEnt and @ageuklondon

1 min read

Here's a Storify of Twitter exchanges during and after the Positive Ageing in London event that I wrote about yesterday.

Thanks to the positive attitude of the chair Mervyn Eastman - always up for a challenge - it looks as if there's interest in exploring innovative ways for the forum to operate in the face of funding cuts.

David Wilcox

No funds - but a very Positive Ageing event thanks to @pailondon and @ageuklondon

3 min read

This morning I went to a consultation meeting on the future of the forum for older people, Positive Ageing in London. It was chaired by Mervyn Eastman, and organised by Age UK London.

The news was not good: almost all funding has been cut by the Government, and staff support will be limited.

But the discussion was wide-ranging and creative, helped by Mervyn's "let's be positive" approach, and well-organised group discussion. Mervyn had invited me along to talk about things digital, not least because in January 2014 Drew Mackie and I ran a game at a PAIL event to launch a comprehensive digital inclusion report with Age UK London.

As you'll see from the report here we asked people then to invent some fictitious characters, and come up with ideas on how they could use their personal tech, apps and the Internet to develop their interests and make new connections.

We later developed that approach with the Joined up Digital project, funded by the Centre for Ageing Better, and ran a much more complex town-based game in May this year.

As I reported here, the future of the JUD initiative is in doubt, because of a failed funding bid. However the PAIL event gave me confidence that we could take forward - perhaps in different ways - some the ideas developed over the past year.

Firstly, when I asked how many of the 50 or so people present had smartphones or tablets - and found them essential - almost everyone put their hand up. We all agreed they would be even more important in future. That means more help for those who aren't connected or confident, and exploration in more detail of the benefits to older people.

Secondly, people at our table were keenly interested in how personal tech and network communications could enable a forum like PAIL to rethink operations ... making the most of the skills of members and reducing central costs.

We need new civil society models for the digital age ... and on the evidence of today I think older people involved in ageing organisations may up for it.

In addition, I found interest in a London version of the JUD game, and people who might explore together in more depth how digital tech, radio, together with face-to-face sociability can help people connect and share their passions ... which is Mervyn's personal enthusiasm. His was the one contribution at the May event that won applause all round.

I think we could also find support from the Digital Inclusion group of Age Action Alliance, where a group of us are exploring how to share stories of older people using digital tech, make better use of the knowledge developed in the field, and use that to develop new projects.

David Wilcox

Looks as if @Ageing_Better #joinedupdigital may be dead after failed @BigLotteryFund bid

3 min read

The JoinedUpDigitalProject, initially supported by the Centre for Ageing Better, has now heard from the Big Lottery Fund that its next stage bid has been unsuccessful.

As I reported here one of the main project partners, New Philanthropy Capital, led a £50,000 Proof of Concept bid to the Big Lottery Fund Accelerating Ideas panel in early September.

The three elements of the plan were:

1 Exploring the role of "conduits" in helping older people use digital technology, or using tech themselves. These may be friends and family, or people in frequent touch with older people. Led by NPC.

2 Deepening our understanding of the capabilities and motivations of people in later life who are not currently benefiting from digital, and what would help them to overcome key barriers to sustained uptake. Led by the Centre.

3 Re-imagining user journey for those in later life, to improve interaction with the Department for Work and Pensions and other organisations. Led by EthosVO.

The proposal added that the aim is to develop the network/ecosystem as a shared infrastructure that is owned and run by those who use it.

Tris Lumley, on behalf of NPC, shared the bad news with contributors to the JUD network Slack team. Paddy Hanrahan, who led the work when at the Centre, has now left.

I worked on the first phase of JUD with Drew Mackie, and as I wrote here, we concluded in May with a game event that played through how organisations, people and key connectors can use digital technology to address life challenges and opportunities, and collaborate to do that.

I wasn't involved in the bid, and don't know a great deal more about the details.

My understanding now is that 2. above will still be taken forward by the Centre subject to Board approval.

At this stage NPC is saying someone else will need to pick up the JUD baton, and it doesn't sound as if the Centre wants to use JUD as a brand for its work. There is no further funding from the Centre for the network.

So unless someone else who has been involved takes over it looks if JUD as a cooperative initiative and network is dead.

I've shared a draft of this post on the 70-strong Slack team for Joined Up Digital to check for addition information and whether anyone else will be taking a lead. I'll update if so.

David Wilcox

Doubly inspired by #RSAengage - great #FRSA projects and @thersaorg cooperative ecology

4 min read

I was doubly inspired yesterday to re-engage with the RSA through an evening of drinks, chat and lightning project presentations from Fellows.


The seven projects were inspiring enough in themselves, ranging from a Global Thought Map to a festival of sense-stimulating events, and tech solutions to help refugees. Details here of RSA Engage London.

Taken together with the RSA’s broader vision for social action - explained in this excellent animation - they gave me some ideas about how, through the RSA, to explore spreading ideas and supporting action through a mix of events and social media. This will make more sense if you first spare a moment to view the animation - What is the RSA?

RSA = Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, founded 1754. Fellows broadly = members. More here

I’ve been a Fellow, on and off, since 2007 when the new chief executive, Matthew Taylor, first set out a vision for engaging both staff and Fellows in a programme of research, publications, events, networking, and projects large and small.

A group of Fellows set up OpenRSA to complement the staff-led initiatives, as you can see from our blog 2007-09. There were then a few bumps over the years, and some early enthusiasts dropped out, including me for a time. I felt it wasn’t too clear whether Fellows, through their fees, were there to support the projects and research run by staff, and/or whether RSA should be doing more to support the Fellows, like a membership body.

At yesterday’s event Fellows I spoke to seemed pretty happy with the current mix … with a few looking at more ways to get involved. Of course the networking juice = free drinks helped.

The project presentations offered one route, with opportunities in cash and kind. RSA offers grants and help for Fellows wishing to start their own projects, and there is an interesting crowdfunding initiative called Crowdpatch that combines funding, volunteering and local networking.

The RSA website is is rich in research and reports, blog posts about projects, and has a find a Fellow facility. What isn’t there is the original vision of an online platform enabling Fellows to connect across interests and projects.

That sort of all-in-one online community probably isn’t feasible these days, when people have so many options through Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. But I do wonder if more could be done to help Fellows fulfil the vision in the animation: acting as global advocates, accessing RSA resources, developing ideas for action, and collaborating.

At the moment the blog posts don’t attract many comments, and while there is a fair amount of tweeting around events this doesn’t seem to consolidate into conversation. A database of Fellows is fine … but you also need to see who is saying and doing what. That involves encouraging people to share what they are interested in, and what they are doing, beyond a static profile.

So - might there be any interest within RSA staff and Fellowship in some network building, doing more to connect people, ideas and projects? If so, I think the key would be to identify and support the equivalent of community connectors and agents of change that I wrote about here.

A few years ago there was a network of RSA digital champions, as this page shows, but I couldn’t find anything more recent. I did hear yesterday from one staff member about support for storytelling by Fellows, which sounded really interesting. I would like to know more.

Either way, I think the RSA continues to be a fantastic testbed for developing the cooperative and collabotative social ecologies we need in local communities, nationally and internationally. I’ll find out more about what’s happening and report back.

Meanwhile thanks to Mark Hall, the London regional manager, and Hannah Pater, Senior Development Manager, for organising and hosting such an engaging evening.

David Wilcox

Thanks for RTs about #joinedupdigital bid. Here's who's interested so far - including @nuzzel

2 min read

Re-tweets about my previous piece on the next phase of the Joined Up Digital project are all referenced here under the main body of the post - thanks everyone.

That feature is one thing I like about the Withknown platform I'm using, together with the way you can write a headline in the form of a status update, and auto post it to Twitter and other services. It's part of the POSSE philosophy of Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere.

What's also needed is a way to aggregate top stories being published in your network without having to scan lots of tweets. The Nuzzel app does that by turning the links most shared by your friends, and friends of friends, into a newsletter. You can also create your own more personalised newsletter. More here on the way that works, and Nuzzel's aim of creating a network of newsletters.

Today Nuzzel spotted the relatively high number of re-tweets, and popped the post up to the top of my automatically generated newsletter.

Nuzzel newsletter

One of the challenges for the next phase of Joined Up Digital is to develop a network for people interested in the key idea of supporting "conduits" - people and organisations who act as connectors of information and support for older people and those in the ageing field.

One conventional option is to create a central platform, and some 70 people are on a Slack team developed for the first phase of the project. As the project opens up to a wider range of interests decentralised approaches like Withknown and Nuzzel may be useful complements.

These enable people to become curators and conduits ... and I think it will be useful for people in the JUD network to try out these connecting tools as well as discuss them.

David Wilcox

Promising bid from #joinedupdigital to @BigLotteryFund + @Ageing_Better for conduits to info and support

4 min read

The JoinedUpDigital project, supported by the Centre for Ageing Better, is now planning three strands of work to help older people connect with each other, their communities, and public services.

Although technology plays a key role, the focus will be on the needs and interests of individuals, not the tools.

There's also an ambitious vision for joining up the many ageing organisations and interests in the field to collaborate in a digital-ageing network.

I worked on the first phase of JUD, and as I wrote here, we concluded in May with a game event that played through how organisations, people and key connectors can use digital technology to address life challenges and opportunities, and collaborate to do that.

The background framework for the event, developed with Drew Mackie, was the idea of personal, community and organisational ecosystems - and that's now reflected in the project proposals and network plan. Paddy Hanrahan, who led the first phase of the project, has circulated on update to participants.

One of the main project partners, New Philanthropy Capital, is leading a £50,000 Proof of Concept bid to the Big Lottery Fund Accelerating Ideas panel in early September.

The three elements of the plan are:

1 Exploring the role of "conduits" in helping older people use digital technology, or using tech themselves. These may be friends and family, or people in frequent touch with older people. Led by NPC.

2 Deepening our understanding of the capabilities and motivations of people in later life who are not currently benefiting from digital, and what would help them to overcome key barriers to sustained uptake. Led by the Centre.

3 Re-imagining user journey for those in later life, to improve interaction with the Department for Work and Pensions and other organisations. Led by EthosVO.

The aim is to develop the network/ecosystem as a shared infrastructure that is owned and run by those who use it.

Paddy has now left the Centre, but will continue to be involved, with Tris Lumley from NPC, Robert Pye from Ethos VO, and Nigel Lewis of Age Action Alliance. They say that they will create a larger network development group.

I'm personally delighted that the project has come so far. Last year Shirley Ayres and I challenged the Centre for its lack of any mention of technology in consultation documents. This led to a meeting with Paddy and interim chief executive Greg Wilkinson, and a set of ideas about engaging with the potential of technology.

I think that Paddy has done an amazing job internally and externally in developing Joined Up Digital, with support from the current CEO Dr Anna Dixon, and the other partners.

The plans developed with NPC take everything up a notch, and could also benefit from the NPC Digital Transformation programmes.

However, as well as the big players, I hope that there is also provision in the programme for input from freelances like Drew, who developed network thinking and designed the event game, and John Popham, whose video reports provided direct reporting of how older people actually use digital technology.

In addition, Shirley Ayres is developing a new set of Click Guides that will bring together much that is already happening the field.

Paul Webster and Miles Maier have a wealth of expertise from their Connecting Care project and other work with LASA.

These and others involved in our exploration of Living Well in the Digital Age over the past four years, and a possible digital age learning network will, in my opinion, be crucial to the success or otherwise of the Joined Up Digital network - if it is to bring real benefits to older people and those close to them.

It is generally the freelances, small organisations, and (relatively few) enthusiasts in larger organisations who share their experience and ideas ... not so much the senior managers who may symbolically sign up to networks.

As the SEEFA symposium revealed last year, there isn't a general culture of sharing in the field.

I think that the three strands in the JUD project plan are exciting initiatives ... and certainly reflect discussions over the past four years about what's needed in the field, as well as the JUD first phase.

David Wilcox

The @ageofnoretirement announces 4-day festival to celebrate Age Doesn't Matter. Why not build your Personal Brand says @johnpopham

4 min read

I'm a big fan of The Age of No Retirement, which is about rather more than keeping on working. As they say in an invite to network members for their Age Does Not Matter Festival:

Imagine a world where age does not matter. A world where we all live longer, better lives. A world where you can make the most of our potential, however old or young you are. We are building this world today, and we want you to take part.

The four-day event in London from September 28 to October 1 will "disrupt the narrative around ageing through an inspirational series of co-design labs, talks, installations, photography, stories, sound and film."

However, you don't have to wait until then because you can contribute now to the online Ideas Lab which is currently focused on Building Confidence:

A lack of confidence holds us back more than having a poor CV or limited skills. How can we develop more self-confidence? What new products, services or ideas do we need to develop for us to have greater confidence in ourselves?

I like the contribution from my friend and digital ageing enthusiast John Popham - Never to old to have a Personal Brand:

It's a digital world, with more than 30 million messages per minute being posted to Facebook and nearly 350,000 tweets reaching the world in the same time. But for those who didn't grow up with access to such tools, and who haven't yet joined in, this can make the modern world seem confusing and bewildering. Many people appear welded to their digital devices and live their lives online on a daily basis. One of the key outcomes of this is increased confidence, ability to communicate beyond the wildest dreams of their predecessors, and minute-by-minute knowledge of news, trends, and information. The way people live their lives publicly, broadcasting their every thought and action to the world, has been dubbed "Personal Branding". When people with a strong personal brand approach the employment market, they are very often already known to their employer, or, if not, it can be relatively easy to research them. This can give them a headstart in getting a job, and aid their progress through the ranks.

Personal Branding is rare among older people. So we need a campaign and practical work to assist older people to develop the digital skills necessary to establish a personal brand and then to channel and hone those skills into creating and maintaining a strong, robust, and positive Personal Brand.

Personal Branding should not be the exclusive preserve of the young. Leaving this field open to them alone contributes to society's stereotypical image of older people as being out-of-touch and "not with it". This deficit must be addressed if older people are to have the same kind of confidence as their younger peers.

For those attending the Festival a little online branding will help with connections ... and for those who don't go along it will make it easier to join in.

Give me a deadline to brush up my profiles and do some more blogging.

Congratulations to Dr Jonathan Collie and Georgina Lee for countering the too-prevant decline and dismay narrative around ageing with an approach that brends online and face-to-face activity, and Big Lottery Fund, Barclays and Spigit for backing.

David Wilcox

The #joinedupdigital project recruiting for later life digital co-design workshop led by @npcthinks

2 min read

The Joined Up Digital project that I wrote about earlier is starting its second phase development with an event in Birmingham on August 18. Details here:

This workshop will give you a chance to influence and shape our thinking as we work towards ambitious goals of helping older people get the greatest possible benefit through technology, helping them access and navigate a world of opportunities that can help them life the life they want to. We aim for the day to be both fun and useful for participants. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Places are limited, so please confirm your attendance by 8th August at the latest by email to

The JUD project, which I worked on until last month, was initially funded by the Centre for Ageing Better, and is now seeking further support from the Big Lottery Foundation and other funders. The event post explains the move to a more broadly-based network:

We are Joined Up Digital – a network of charities and social purpose organisations aiming to see more people enjoy the opportunities and benefits of digital technology. We have a common goal of improving later life, and our members include Centre for Ageing Better, New Philanthropy Capital, Reason Digital, Big Lottery Fund and the Age Action Alliance.

New Philanthropy Capital has been a key partner in first phase development of JUD, and it may complement their larger digital transformation programme focused on charities. Key people are on holiday at the moment, but I'll check in later on how things are going, and whether the Centre for Ageing Better will be actively involved. Either way, it's good to see continuing progress with a person-focused approach.

David Wilcox

Update on the Centre for Ageing Better and Joined Up Digital

4 min read

I've spent the last few few months working for the Centre for Ageing Better on the digital technology initiative that I mentioned last year. Here's a brief report, with more to follow in later posts.

The Centre initially advertised for a digital manager, but plans changed and instead Paddy Hanrahan took me on as adviser to work with him on two phases. The first was research and internal briefing on the importance of digital tech for older people, drawing on previous work I've done with Drew Mackie and others - archived on this wiki.

The second phase was the more independent Joined Up Digital project outlined here by Paddy, where I was joined by Drew and John Popham working respectively on the importance of networks, and digital storytelling.

The main output from the project has been a one-day event, held in May, with 45 people from over 30 organisations taking part. The morning session was a game that simulated the whole ageing-digital ecosystem from national organisations down to local communities and individuals, including role play. The game design drew on these earlier games.

Robert Pye provides an account from a participant's perspective, which captures better than I could the type of exchanges and deals made on the day between different players.

In the afternoon session groups pulled together insights from the game, and developed ideas around what works; local pilots; network development; big tech; and business models.

Phil Richards worked with Drew on the game materials - no small task - Centre staff provided support and joined in enthusiastically on the day, Paddy facilitated and carried everything forward on a wave of enthusiasm, and John captured presentations in short videos.

Paddy has done a terrific job of reporting the event in the posts I've referenced, and also written a piece on What next for Joined Up Digital?.

Our aim is to develop JUD as a social platform to better connect people using digital technology

  • Designed around and co-run by the people it serves
  • Powered by a network of organisations bringing together the social and tech sectors
  • Pooling funding, skills and resources to more effectively bring about digitally-enabled change ​ We believe JUD can provide a catalyst for digital transformation of the social sector, starting with ageing. We will develop solutions with people to bridge the digital divide, and will share digital leadership and expertise across organisations to help the third sector ‘catch up’ and to better exploit the digital age for social good.

Paddy goes on to describe three components: ways to help people connect locally with each other and with community activities and local services; support for organisations and leaders in digital transformation; and a network to share ideas, learning and to develop these ideas.

Paddy and others including Tris Lumley at New Philanthropy Capital are now taking things forward in discussion with funders including Big Lottery. Paddy's post has more on the timetable.

I'll expand later on some elements of the programme, and report any developments. Meanwhile I strongly recommend the video interviews John Popham has been doing with older people on how they use digital technology.

My thanks to Paddy, and the Centre's CEO Dr Anna Dixon, for the opportunity to contribute. I hope Paddy and his new team can secure support, and that now the Centre has such a great team in place there will be further reflection on how digital tech can help enhance their programmes.

Main links:

David Wilcox

Good life for older people - and success for Centre for @Ageing_Better - depends on social connections and networks

6 min read

The £50 million Centre for Ageing Better launches officially today with two substantial foundations: a fascinating study by IpsosMORI of six 50+ social clusters including typical life stories, together with details of the Centre's initial topic areas for research and development.

The challenge for the Centre, during its 10 year life, will be to connect their broad topic-based programmes around major life changes, health, supportive neighbourhoods, work and other activities with the complex needs and interests of individuals revealed by IpsosMORI.

That will require a deep understanding of the importance of networks both for individuals, and organisations. The first for people’s social connections - highlighted by IpsosMORI “as important as money and health to a good later life”; the second because the success of the Centre will depend on integrating topic-based findings and action in ways that are both meaningful and useful to individuals, and likely to be implemented by organisations often working in silos. That involves joining up people, ideas and action. Digital technology may help - but it isn’t a magic bullet for social connections, networking and cooperation. (Disclaimer below on my work with the Centre)**

The IpsosMORI research led them to identify six clusters among the over 50s:

  • thriving boomers who are doing well on most fronts
  • downbeat boomers who are doing well but feel they have missed opportunities or could have done things differently
  • can do and connected who are less well off, face challenges, but have a positive attitude and good connections
  • worried and disconnected who face health and other challenges and don’t have connections to support them
  • squeezed middle aged who are typically in good health, and in work, but squeezed for time through caring for children and ageing parents
  • struggling and alone who are the worst off, with poor health and low incomes

The researchers could, no doubt, have come up with different names for the clusters, but that’s not important, because there is a wealth of data to allow you to form your own view, and also typical personal stories developed from interviews. Details in a report and this section of the site - click on segment images, or see drop down menu.

The Centre’s news release says:

The study, Later Life in 2015 was conducted with Ipsos MORI and reveals that social connections are as important as money and health. It reveals the strong links between health, financial security and social connections in determining whether we enjoy our later life. It is possible to enjoy a happy and fulfilled later life despite having some health and money problems.

There’s enough detail in the analysis, and the life stories, to see scope for a range of methods to help people connect with others, and with activities in their communities. Digital technologies could be part of the mix - depending on people’s preferences - but as recent research for the Centre’s funder, the Big Lottery Fund, showed, older people do not generally favour social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Communication and connecting solutions will have to be co-designed with a blend of face-to-face, print, email, web and other methods. I’ve got some ideas on how Drew Mackie and I could develop our persona-based workshops to take that forward, for example.

Just as challenging for the Centre will be using networks to translate research into key topic areas around major life changes, being active and connected, feeling in control, into practical action. The centre is going to do that through a programme of innovation and change that will involve collaboration, funding and support, network building, and influencing other.

The impact that the Centre has will depend substantially on the extent to which organisations in the field will cooperate with each other and the Centre, and blend different topic insights and actions into support on the ground. A SEEFA symposium earlier this year highlighted some of the cultural and organisational challenges. Again I think that co-design of programmes with those who are going to take action will be crucial, together with a creative blend of engagement and communication methods. New staff are still being appointed, so more detail is likely in a few months.

I’ll be going along to the launch event later today, and will follow up with any further insights. Follow @Ageing_Better for tweets from the Centre, and the hashtag . I really recommend reading the research report and other content on the Centre’s site, and tweeting your questions and ideas. The Centre have been very responsive today.

The IpsosMORI research

The work of the Centre

The Centre’s Digital Initiative, and earlier posts

Design workshops

** Disclaimer: I did some early work on an issues paper for the Centre, as part of their Digital Initiative. All opinions here are my own, based on the launch material.