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We are exploring online and off how to use a mix of media to Live Well in the Digital Age. David Wilcox and Drew Mackie

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.

David Wilcox

Digital Champions Consortium supported by @BigLotteryFund promises wider collaboration on digital inclusion

11 min read

The announcement this week of a £2 million investment by Big Lottery Fund to create hundreds of digital champions is an achievement for the organisations involved, and for BIG staff. It's been a long road, as Programme Director Emma Weston confirms below.

I believe the formation of the consortium to deliver the programme could be as significant as the training and support it offers ... if promises of continuing collaboration are fullfilled. Here's the story, with some additions teased out by sharing a draft of this post.

The aim is to help more than 9,500 people develop basic digital skills by recruiting more than 1,400 digital champions within disability, youth and support organisations who will engage with people who are not online and provide them with personal long-term support.

The idea of digital champions has been around for some time, but I particularly remember Emma Weston, chief executive of Digital Unite, producing a lengthy document for the Age Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group back in 2012 that pulled everything together and provided a development plan.

Digital Unite went on to create a Digital Champions Network, with a core group of housing associations among its 20 members. DU will now lead the One Digital Consortium of Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with Emma as Programme Director. DU's partners Affinity Sutton and Abilitynet are also involved. The DU blog says:

One Digital will also facilitate extensive partnership collaboration on all aspects of digital inclusion so that significant learnings can be shared and best practice models can be delivered for the benefit of all Digital Champions and end-learners.

All of the programme’s Digital Champions will be trained and supported via Digital Unite’s existing Digital Champions Network ( which is currently used by over 900 Digital Champions across the UK. The Digital Champions will have access to the Network’s existing assets and new learning content will also be specifically developed for each Partner organisation that all members of the One Digital programme can utilise.

The platform will also use its established metrics and develop new ones to measure each partner’s specific outcomes and data aspirations, and those of One Digital as a whole, reflecting the impact and benefits for both Digital Champions and learners.

The latest £2 million investment follows an award to Tinder Foundation of £329,958 to support three groups – homeless people, families in poverty and people with mental health problems, and £5.8 million to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to engage with a million people and raise their awareness of the range of equipment and programmes that can help to make technology accessible to people with sight or hearing loss.

The digital inclusion and ageing fields are inevitably pretty competitive, and organisations are frequently pitching against each other. I'm sure there must have been a lot of time and effort involved in bringing everyone together to create the consortium, and get behind the vision.

The press release and blog posts have all been rather formal, but I hope we'll now hear more from champions and learners about their experiences. That's what will really convince people of the value of the online world, and support from champions. BIG have made a start on their blog, with the story of digital champions Brian and Linda Dove in Burgess Hill. Brian says:

One lady aged 92 had taken on a voluntary project to print some greeting cards. This involved printing hundreds of identical copies and she achieved this by pressing the print button hundreds of times not realising you could change the print quantity setting.

On a regular basis we help people understand how to use all aspects of the internet including shopping online, sending emails, taking and attaching photos, setting up contact lists, Skype/FaceTime, iPlayer and general computer tasks.

We have found that those who are not computer literate tend to take advice from others who are not always knowledgeable. Often a grandparent will seek help from a grandchild, which is fine, but every so often the grandchild will not explain clearly what they have done. This especially applies to their passwords and accounts. We had one gentleman in his mid-seventies who was advised by a friend to restore his computer factory settings but had not done a backup so lost everything.

More and more organisations expect everyone to have a computer and know how to use it. Unfortunately this is not the case and it is causing quite a lot of stress and problems among the older generation."

More please ... maybe with a sideways look at the value of Social Media Surgeries, that provide similar opportunities with less funding.

Hmm ... what might be achieved by helping that informal movement, and other small-scale initiative to scale up? My original headline was "Digital Champions Consortium boosted by @BigLotteryFund - but don't forget the small stuff".

Update 1: I shared a draft of this post with some friends in the field, and the key point they made was that support is also needed for front-line workers, and for small organisations. That confirms my insights from the exploration into Living in the Digital World - that we need action on three levels: personal, organisational and policy. If we are concerned about how digital tech can support personal wellbeing, that's partly about our individual capacity, but also about the groups and services we interact with. Digital capability there is often lacking.

A recent report published by Big Lottery Fund recommended - as I reported here - that:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

So - another opportunity for some joining up.

Update 2

I also sent the draft to Emma, inviting her to add a comment in non-PR-speak (because she isn't that sort of person), and she responded with this more human version. If the consortium can really establish "a framework and a way of working and sharing and collaborating that organisations big and small, national and local, charitable, voluntary, public and private can join down the line", then this will be a new chapter for digital inclusion and community technology.

Making One Digital a reality is something we can all celebrate in DI land I think. You reference that 2012 paper about the digital champion model David, yes only three years later then! I have spent nearly 20 years in the DI environment and proper collaboration, by which I mean when different organisations really put aside their personalities and penchants and work together on something without ego but for impact, is something we don’t see often. If we are honest. That’s as much to do with how funding works as anything, but that’s a whole big discussion we can come back to.

So, for me, that One Digital even exists and is operational is a small triumph. Although the news made the public domain this week, we have actually spent the last six months or so pulling this partnership together, working out the ground rules, articulating the shared goals, how we will deliver them and measure them, the language we will use the behaviours we aspire to see, and so on. It has been a mind boggling process as times, because we are all so very different in size, constitution, our processes and our procedures occupy a broad spectrum. It has also been so invigorating and really quite celebratory in style, even though there were times when we all wondered if it would see the light of day and we had to draw deep from the well of stamina. We achieved something significant by committing to the process in a very open way and we have remained very buoyant about that even during the long nights of the never ending redrafting of documentation. You will know how that feels.

While the core - founding I suppose - members of One Digital are we six, our vision is that our model establishes a framework and a way of working and sharing and collaborating that organisations big and small, national and local, charitable, voluntary, public and private can join down the line. Our common focus is the capacity building of people to support other people where the end result is not just the accrual of better digital skills for individuals, but a myriad of benefits associated with the act of skilling and supporting someone else too; that capital of exchange, and across its social, emotional and economic guises. The landscape is teeming with people doing things that play into or contribute to this already, and as you point out David the ‘good connecting’ between and amongst them is I think an everyday imperative. We will be working very very hard to make One Digital a ‘good vessel’ or conduit, conductor, exchange, recycler of this expertise, energy and capacity.

For the moment, at the end of week 2 (our official launch date was 1st September) it’s good to be official, to have had our first ‘in action’ rather than ‘in proposal building mode’ meeting, which was on Tuesday in London. We will keep progress updates coming including real, tangible linkages with others outside the current core One Digital membership. Looking forward to working with you and yours down the line. And thank you for your support and interest as ever – next round of tea and cake on me.

Update 3 and reflection. Recently I've been in discussion with BIG, together with Drew Mackie, Paul Webster and Miles Maier, about the Maps, Apps and Storytelling model we developed from our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age, supported by Age Action Alliance.

Our aim is to develop a set of practical processes that will put digital technology at the heart of community-based initiatives to support living well, at whatever age. We will do that by developing a model and open source package of methods that builds on investment in digital inclusion and skills training programmes.

These inclusion programmes are creating widespread capacity to access and use the Internet. What's now needed is further action on three fronts: firstly ways to tailor personal digital offerings to meet individual needs - because everyone's situation and requirements are different; secondly ways to build the capacity of organisations in the community that can provide new opportunities to digitally-capable older people; thirdly ensure the personal and organisational capacity-building is designed to make the best of local whole-system approaches to wellbeing driven by digital by default policies.

BIG staff on the Accelerating Ideas programme have been really helpful in shaping our proposal ... and recently pointed us to the One Digital Consortium because that potentially provides first stage development of personal capacity that's needed for the wider community vision. I hope Emma and others will be interested in extending their collaborative framework to us and others. Maybe BIG will convene a get-together to take this forward, and the objective of integrating technology into projects that support older people, mentioned above.

This post has turned into a bit of a ramble, but I'm pleased that sharing a draft produced a better story, and wanted to show how that emerged. Tidier versions of what might be possible will follow.

David Wilcox

Digital inclusion can help address loneliness and #AgeingBetter - if co-designed with older people @BigLotteryFund

6 min read

Summary: the Big Lottery Fund report on Ageing in the UK suggests that any use of digital technology to help combat loneliness should be developed in the context of older people's preferences for traditional media, phones, and email. That throws up a challenge for BIG policy teams that might best be addressed through simulations and co-design, as well as a review of "what works".

The Digital Inclusion section of the report on Ageing in the UK, which I wrote about yesterday, is particularly useful because it goes beyond people's use of computers and other devices, and puts that in the context of other media and methods that people use to get information and communicate.

Since the focus of concern is loneliness, it is important to find from the report that phone calls are most important, and television is seen as a main means of company. Overall, traditional media like TV, radio and print remain enormously important for older people.

Add-in that for people online, email is rated as far more important than social media, and you can build up a picture that's rather different from the UK as a smartphone society.

Here's slides about the report, which I've clipped from the pdf:

Traditional media Phone call Weekly reach Time per day

The report, by Trajectory for Big Lottery Foundation, does emphasise that digital inclusion is hugely important when analysing loneliness among older people. As digital literacy increases, and people adopt tablets and smartphones, the scope for easily using online methods beyond email increases. That's evident from projects that BIG has funded and, for example, the work of my friend John Popham.

The challenge for the BIG policy team is now - I hope - how to take forward the recommendation in the report:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

The work of John, and others in the digital inclusion field, shows that people will quickly get the potential of digital technology - particularly in the form of tablets - to inform, connect, entertain, and that it doesn't necessarily involve taking a course to learn computer-based office skills. It also shows that everyone's digital preference is different.

So not only do you have to think about how to design a digital solution for an individual - as we played through in this simulation for Age UK London - but also how digital will fit into the mix of other media that people use during their day.

The BIG blogger Baba A, wrote:

Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report summarised that people in later life have more or less the same access to digital as everyone else, but just use it differently; and that they see social media as the least important. It could be suggested that the social media tool developers themselves may need to develop a platform that is more later life user-friendly?

I think it is more an issue - as I said yesterday - of "how to help people build the blend of newspapers, magazines, phone calls, visits, relationships and maybe online activities that is right for them". Original reference here

It's also about how to develop the digital tech capacity of community and voluntary organisations that support older people. Volunteering is the other main route to combat loneliness that the report recommends - so digitally-enabling volunteers could have double benefits as they might act as mentors. Again, there's plenty of projects showing how this may be done.

If I can be a little self-serving in proposing ways forward for BIG policy and programmes, I would suggest using something like the simple co-design approaches Drew Mackie and I have developed, as well as reviewing past projects. The simulations allow you to develop a scenario reflecting the personal or organisational situation, and then within that create personas for the people you wish to benefit and those supporting them. Cards provide a range of tech and other options.

A "what works" review of projects supporting digital inclusion, older people and organisational development would provide the content for any simulation. Older people could help develop the personas, and then play through what would really work for each organisation or individual. We did very well in a couple of hours with Age UK London - so I'm sure a better-researched programme would yield a lot of insights.

In addition I do hope that BIG will provide an opportunity to bring together people who have worked in this field to share their experience ... and to discuss what really works. There's plenty of other people with ideas to contribute. Blog posts are fine, but there's nothing like getting together for a chat.

Update: A new BIG post Some words of knowledge helpfully explains the role to the foresight research programme in an interview Pete Bailey, Head of Knowledge at the Big Lottery Fund. Finding will go to the innovative Accelerating Ideas programme, which is promising.

David Wilcox

The @BigLotteryFund highlights role of digital technology in #AgeingBetter

5 min read

The Big Lottery Fund has started a welcome discussion about how it can integrate technology into projects that it funds in order to help combat loneliness and promote wellbeing.

Earlier this week BIG published a comprehensive foresight report on Ageing in the UK that highlighted, among other things, the challenge of loneliness among older people. It concluded:

Volunteering and digital technology are two of the key tools to help combat isolation and its resulting impacts. Volunteering is a powerful way to build strong social ties and alleviate loneliness. While there are strong number of women over 80 volunteering, men are under represented. Older people are also accessing the internet as much as young people, but more like to use it mainly for emailing and banking. Almost eight out of 10 over-65s use a computer once a week. As with volunteering, using computers and access to the internet helps alleviate loneliness amongst older people and reduces the impact of depression.

The slides that accompany the report include the recommendation:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

I've previously highlighted the fact that BIG's £82 million Ageing Better programme, and the £50 million Centre for Ageing Better funded by BIG, have lacked any explicit recognition of the importance of digital technology, or specialist support - summary of blog posts here.

BIG has, however, funded many projects that use digital technology, and it looks as if their importance is now receiving more recognition, starting with a series of blog posts. The first today - Never too old! - refers to the foresight report and says:

The digital inclusion summary included the following: “Only a small proportion of those over 65 are what Age Concern call ‘refuseniks’, those who want nothing to do with these digital technologies.” Instead, reasons for lack of social media participation revolve around lack of understanding and fear of the unknown.

The blog post goes on to tell the story of how Betty Holden, 83, engaged with technology through a Rochdale-based project run by Pride Media Association. Betty then went on to help others - and both Betty and the report confirm the main barriers to digital inclusion are lack of understanding and confidence with 'how it works'; fear and anxiety about 'doing something wrong', and concern about security online.

The post author, Baba A, adds some really interesting insights, based on the digital inclusion section of the report, about the need to recognise the communication preferences of older people - including a major bias towards email rather than social media.

Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report summarised that people in later life have more or less the same access to digital as everyone else, but just use it differently; and that they see social media as the least important. It could be suggested that the social media tool developers themselves may need to develop a platform that is more later life user-friendly?

It cannot be assumed that people are not interested in the new or the different just because of their age, we need to take more time to find out why. There can be many practical or psychological barriers to interacting with new technologies, which we experienced users (and developers?) take for granted.

After going through the report I feel that in a world of numerous and varied digital platforms, we all need to remember that to even start reaching out to the digitally excluded that we might need to have an outreach plan that is mainly using telephones, Terrestrial TV, email and… word of mouth!

That chimes with an earlier post - My idea for digital inclusion - the minimum technology assessment kit - where I suggest that "the challenge is how to help people build the blend of newspapers, magazines, phone calls, visits, relationships and maybe online activities that is right for them." I'll follow up in a further post, and hope that the BIG report and posts get the attention they deserve.

David Wilcox

Ideas on how the Centre for Ageing Better can start to engage with digital technology

5 min read

Summary: here's a menu of ideas on how the Centre for Ageing Better could introduce digital technology into its plans and consultation process.

As I reported here, Shirley Ayres, Roxanne Persaud and I had a meeting last week with Greg Wilkinson, interim chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, and development director Paddy Hanrahan. We discussed our concerns about the lack of any mention of technology in the current consultation paper - backstory here, and view the paper here.

We had a constructive discussion, offering ideas on how to introduce digital innovation on three fronts:

  • the policy themes in the current strategy
  • the current consultation process
  • future development of the centre

On reflection, I would summarise the challenge as: how can the Centre develop a shared understanding of the importance of digital technology in Ageing Better, in order to inform its programmes and begin to plan collaborative action with others in the field.

Shirley, Roxanne and I entered a strong case for doing that without yet more research and reports duplicating past work. Instead, build on existing knowledge and learn with others.

I've followed up the meeting with a menu of ideas that might open the way for further discussion. That's in addition to a strong recommendation to review the great resources developed by Shirley - both the Long Term Care Revolution and earlier ones here.

Roxanne also emphasised the importance of learning from what hasn't worked - and being prepared to experiment and fail. That's really important with digital technology, where you can't understand the potential unless you try it. Do small stuff before going for any big investments.

Here's my menu of ideas. I don't know how they might fit into current plans and staffing - so they are really just conversations starters.

  1. Review together the insights and resources developed during the exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age - and from that consider how technology might play a part in Centre programmes.
  2. Use resources gathered during the exploration - and for example ConnectingCare - as a basis to map knowledge hubs and flows: who is doing what in the field, who is sharing.
  3. From the mapping process consider what existing or new online systems could be used to take things forward in the interim. As discussed here this might, for example, be a combination of presence on the Knowledge Hub, plus Slack and Twitter. We don’t know what tools might be appropriate without 1 and 2.
  4. Integrate any online activity with face-to-face meetings and other methods in a consultation plan.
  5. Solicit and publish real stories from the field on what’s working, as a taster of later systems that might be set up - for example a natural language database like Care’N’Share or something like FabNHSStuff.
  6. Invite further ideas using a simple online system like Uservoice.
  7. Hold some informal open discussion - maybe a Knowledge Cafe as suggested here in relation to the Big Lottery Fund online platform.
  8. Be open to stuff turning up, by supporting a social reporting process. Here’s an earlier example with Big Lottery Fund undertaken by David Wilcox and John Popham.
  9. Showcase and highlight examples of innovation and best practice to demonstrate the importance of the field.
  10. Look at private sector investments being made in the field of health care and wellbeing: both personal apps and services like this one.

What's really needed, as suggested in 3 and discussed here, is some shared space and network where people with an interest in this field can exchange ideas and learn from each other. I'm looking at options.

Meanwhile, see the Update from the Centre for more about their plans, and how to engage.

David Wilcox

Update from the Centre for Ageing Better

2 min read

The Centre for Ageing Better has posted an update on progress from interim CEO Greg Wilkinson following Twitter discussion of its consultation paper.

In addition, Shirley Ayres, Roxanne Persaud and I were invited to meet up yesterday with Greg and development director Paddy Hanrahan to discuss our concerns about the lack of any mention of technology in the current consultation paper - backstory here.

I'll follow up next week with more ideas from the meeting, but meanwhile the update explains the centre's development process, offers some opportunities for interim jobs, and promises more online engagement.

This (consultation) document is the start of our plans for consultation and engagement – not the end of them. We intend over the summer to engage with the public in a number of ways: using ethnographic research and focus groups, and also producing a follow-up document that we’ll put on the website for comments and suggestions from the public. Our first thoughts are that this will be a great time to engage with people via Twitter - not least because in a month or two’s time our startup venture will have acquired more staff and so we’ll have more capacity to do these things. All these ingredients, along with others, will feed in to the CfAB Board’s decisions in the autumn about its initial portfolio of work.


David Wilcox

Silicon Valley see older people and home care as a big new market

3 min read

Summary: Silicon Valley investors and entreprenaurs are backing a new home healthcare system. Will we see growth in this market in the UK?

Someone in a large UK tech company said to me recently that the reason there was so little attention to the role of tech in ageing better was that older people weren't seen as a significant market.

Unfortunately most of the charitable ageing industry is also fairly uninterested in tech - including, so far, the Centre for Ageing Better. As I reported here, their current strategy has no mention of tech.

However it seem things are changing in the US, where Miguel Helft reports that some of the big names in Silicon Valley are backing a new start-up called Honor.

At the root of Honor is an online marketplace. Caregivers will be able to list their qualifications, skills, hours they’re able to work and distances they’re willing travel. Seniors will specify the type of help they need, the hours they want and important personal details — that they only speak Mandarin, or that they have cats, or that they live in a multi-story unit. Honor will match caregivers and seniors accordingly, with final approval of the match in the hands of the seniors and their families.

Honor will also give seniors a custom-built, easy-to-use touchscreen appliance where they will be able to update caregivers on any changes in their needs or condition, so the caregivers will be better prepared when they walk in the door. The devices will also be used to record what services seniors received and for how long, and to allow them to rate the quality of care. Authorized relatives will have access to the information, so they’ll be able to monitor the situation.

The aim is to pay caregivers a higher wage than average, and develop employee profiles and training developed by Apple stores creator Ron Johnson.

I should think that once the system is in place, there will be scope for introducing more personal health technology. As Helen Cherry said at a recent digital health and care event, we could do with the equivalent of Apple Store Genius Bars to help people use the apps available on smartphones.

In the UK Corinna Herbst is developing HomeTouch as an online agency through which you can book self-employed carers to match your needs. There's a smartphone app to help carers find clients.

The US Honor system, and HomeTouch, are both examples of the business model developed by Uber, Airbnb and others that create systems that connect clients and service providers directly, with minimum middle management (and reduced costs). Of course there are potential issues around fair wages and quality control, but clearly there is a market emerging.

Thanks to the Futuregov weekly set of links for the tip. Signup and archive here


David Wilcox

How do we shift from yet more research and reports to innovation in #AgeingBetter? Ideas please

1 min read

Summary: if we believe yet more old-style research and reports isn't the way to promote greater innovation for living well in the digital age, how can we help organisations like the Centre for Ageing Better make the change? Ideas please

Yesterday's post about the Centre for Ageing Better opening up its consultation process prompted a cogent response from Mike Clark, and agreement from Shirley Ayres.

@shirleyayres tweeted: "@clarkmike @davidwilcox @betterageing our sector desperately looking for & great innovation rather than more reports <I agree"

I agree too. Mike and Shirley are two of the most respected people promoting the potential of digital technology in the fields of social care, ageing and well-being, so I'm keen to follow up.

We've been invited to meet the interim CEO of the Centre, Greg Wilkinson, in a few weeks - so how about our own open process to gather ideas on how to move from yet more research and reports to sharing and implementing real innovation. Examples of both in these resources.

We three - and many others in the discussion - are freelances, driven in the first instance by personal passion rather than funding (though we need that too). So how can we best gather ideas and exert some influence?

Should we go for more discussion on Twitter? Organise a meetup? Develop a simple ideas forum like the one started here? Use the Big Lottery Fund online community?

I'm just talking at this stage about the process of trying to influence a shift from old worldview to a different way of doing things, more relevant to the digital age as I outlined in exchanges with the Centre

1 Typical pre-digital view

  • technology isn't important
  • change is delivered by big well-funded organisations
  • in order to develop programmes you need to undertake yet more research and extract evidence
  • not much will have changed by the time you decide what to deliver
  • delivery involves top-level partnerships with a lot of funding
  • older people should be consulted via focus groups and similar techniques
  • organisations in the ageing field are the best route to older people
  • as a start-up you can ignore social media and online presence

2 A digital age view

  • technology is rapidly changing the world we all live in, not least the way public services are delivered, consumers are served, families and friends communicate, support is provided
  • technology can provide personal solutions, and already older people, acting as consumers, are developing those.
  • sustainable and scalable innovation will come from a frugal approach
  • change will come by empowering older people as service users and innovators, and those who directly support them
  • there is already plenty of research and innovation, but it isn't widely shared
  • as a start up direct contact with your customers and beneficiaries is crucial in understand your market, and imperative if it their money you are burning.

Do you agree we need a shift ... or at least a better mix? As a start, if you respond on Twitter to the tweet generated @davidwilcox by this post, your response should curate underneath. Or just drop a comment on this site. Thanks again to Shirley and Mike for helping start the shift.

David Wilcox

Twitter helps @BetterAgeing Centre engage with potential for digital innovation in #AgeingBetter

4 min read

Summary: the Centre for Ageing Better has reponded positively to a Twitter discussion about the lack of reference to digital technology in its strategy. Sending a blog post in draft helped.

Last week a consultation paper emerged from the Centre for Ageing Better, which has a £50 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund. The paper had no mention of digital technology, and the omission sparked discussion on Twitter.

Shirley Ayres made some particularly congent points, as you can from this Storify.

I thought that the strategy paper, and the way consultation was being handled, raised a lot of issues, so I started on a rather provocative blog post. But I held back on posting, and instead sent a draft to the Centre, and to BIG.

I then blogged a piece with resources about Why funders and policy makers should embrace digital technology, hoping this would be a more helpful way to start a conversation.

I'm really pleased I did that, because the interim chief executive of the Centre, Greg Wilkinson, responded to my draft with a very helpful email picking up key issues, inviting input, and promising a more open process. Greg has since followed up with an invitation to meet, when I hope Shirley, I, and a couple of others engaged in discussion so far can help move things forward.

Rather than extract the issues in a blog post I've now put everything together on our wiki: my initial draft, Greg's response, and some further thoughts.

My first idea on what next, which you'll find there, included reference back to an earlier post about BIG's Ageing Better programme (which also lacks digital innovation) and the need to develop their online community platform. That is currently in test mode. Earlier post:

Deep conversation needed on BIG's Ageing Better community platform. How about asking people in for a coffee? ... where I concluded:

I don't think anything so substantial (as a full exploration) is needed to get things started. Nor do I think online exchanges should be in the lead. Maybe something like a David Gurteen Knowledge Cafe? If the Treasury can host a discussion on How can we more actively share knowledge, BIG could host its own. David has even produced a tip sheet on how to run a Cafe yourself - though I know it will be best if he facilitates.

The Centre has offices in the same building as BIG, and the digitally-savvy innovation agency NESTA, so maybe they could host an event that brings together people from those organisations and others keen to promote digital innovation in Ageing Better.

I'll return to this before meeting Greg - but what do you think is the best way to engage? It seems a really welcome opportunity.

David Wilcox

Why #AgeingBetter funders and policy makers should embrace digital technology - some resources

6 min read

Summary: digital technology is increasingly important for Living Well in the Digital Age. Here's suggestions on why funders and policy makers should review existing resources.

There was lively discussion on Twitter last week about why the Centre for Ageing Better's consultation strategy has no mention of technology and digital innovation.

I'm drafting a blog post on the topic, and asked the Centre, and Big Lottery Fund who are providing a £50 million endowment, for some comments. In doing that it seems only fair to offer some ideas on why technology may be important to funders and policy makers, so I've rapidly pulled together some resources from our exploration into Ageing Better and Living Well in the Digital Age. More suggestions welcome.

I suggest that researchers, funders and policy makers in the ageing field would benefit from reviewing these issues and resources:

  • To avoid re-inventing the wheel in commisioning research or funding activities
  • To identify opportunities for collaboration
  • To shape their policy recommendations

The internet and digital technology affects all or us - for good or ill - and it is important to understand why.

See Baroness Lane-Fox for a positive view of the Internet, Andrew Keen and other sceptics for the downsides. Review our exploration into Ageing Better Innovation, and the resources we have gathered. The SEEFA symposium shows how people in the ageing field view technology.

Government departments are embedding digital technology in service transformations that will affect older people

The Department for Communities and Local Government has used older people and ageing as the first area to explore in digital service transformation and engagement. Cabinet Office is promoting innovation. Local services will become digital.

Older people and those who provide support are adopting technology

Organisations providing direct services in the ageing field find technology a hot topic. Older people will expect those serving their needs to be engaged as well.

Digital technology will be increasingly important for health, wellbeing and social care

Service innovation, the drive for cost savings, and consumer interest will make digital innovation increasingly important.

Organisations in the ageing field need help

Discussion at the SEEFA symposium in January 2015 confirmed that many organisations in the ageing field are failing to engage with digital technology - partly through lack of skills, and partly because of cultural attitudes

Digital technology will be increasingly important in local initiatives

Local councils and partnerships will this year be faced with the growing challenge of deciding what technology solutions to develop and promote for care, health and wellbeing in their community.

Innovation funders provide resources that other funders could adopt

  • The UK innovation agency NESTA has developed a framework for supporting innovation in ageing, a living map of projects, and an ageing well challenge fund. Here’s the NESTA site and a blog post
  • The Nominet Trust has compiled the Social Tech Guide "to recognise the pioneers who are using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives", including a section on health.
  • The Trust’s Knowledge Centre details research and projects that the Trust has supported, including work on older people, well-being, and life transitions.

If you have further suggestions on why digital technology is important in this field, and/or resources, please send to David Wilcox, tweet @davidwilcox, or comment.