Last week was the Citizen Cyber Summit #ccs in London a fascinating gathering of people interested in, design and running citizen science activities. From the open session it reinforced how exciting our own exploration of citizen science is, and more importantly, the potential for finding new ways of addressing some persistent social challenges. That may sound overly optimistic, perhaps even a little naive, but as James Borrell highlighted in his opening speech, these are important characteristics of starting out a citizen science based enquiry.
When we conceived of the NT100 our starting point was the simple recognition that around the world digital technologies are being deployed in amazing ways to solve intractable social problems: social exclusion, lack of access to healthcare, education, culture, community; disenfranchisement; abuses of human rights.
We were already aware of a pretty sizeable number of inspiring projects but also conscious that for every innovation we had come across, there were probably many more that were unknown to us. We felt that little had been done to build a truly global picture. more >
How does a love of football extend into a digital making activity (sensor football boots anyone?); what digital making activities are borne from a passion for fashion and where does a fascination with Harry Potter, Wallace and Gromit or Moshi Monsters enter into digital making? more >
For centuries, people have used subscription models to build shared assets from small personal contributions. From families buying bricks to build mosques, to the citizen subscriptions that paid for the plinth beneath the feet of the Statue of Liberty, people have banded together to make whatever contribution they can afford towards creating something greater than the sum of their parts. These early examples of crowdfunding demonstrate the age-old desire to improve the collective lot and to achieve great things at a significant scale.
Armed with the researcher equivalent to detective's garb (Macbooks, cardigans), magnifying glass (Google, caffeine) and a set of leads (Charlie Leadbeater’s black book, and a significant social network of global innovators and activists from our collective consciousness), the NT100 pint sized research team has become a bona fide sleuthing operation. Just call us Marple, Mulder & Holmes.
But even despite our impressive credentials, we knew that taking on the search for the World’s Most Inspiring Digital Social Innovations was going to be a sizeable challenge.
What I love about our digital world is that it shifts agency from the few to the many. It opens up new opportunities for people to engage in their communities, ensuring that their voice is heard, their skills are employed, their experience is drawn on.