TOOLS

COMMUNITIES DIRECTORY

TURAS expert contact:
Johanna Varghese

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ONLINE PORTAL FOR STRENGTHENING NETWORKS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS IN CITIES

What is the challenge

There is an abundance of community and other groups and projects in cities. However, many citizens don't seem to be aware of them or how to connect to them. Because this is often the starting point for a transition movement, the goal of a Collaboration Network is to create a portal that provides this information "at a glance view", so that anyone concerned and motivated may connect with it. Such a portal would strengthen connectivity between the Local Authority and groups in the city as well as between groups in the city.

WHY DO WE HAVE THIS CHALLENGE?

Both the community groups and the local authority tend to operate in situations of "high context culture" - lots of information hidden within files and reports and not necessarily easily available to the public or concerned stakeholders. The starting point for a Network is to gather knowledge of groups or projects across an urban area, essentially to make a list of the different groups and decide on their role and function. For example, in the Dublin City prototype, there are categories for the local authority, institutions and EU projects, communities of practice, social entrepreneurs, and community groups. A portal that displays these diverse groups may re-frame the perception of "communities" and expand possibilities for participation in the city.

TURAS Solutions

First of all, it is key to identify which groups would like to be more visible and to be available to connect. It is then necessary to develop a strong visual layout of these individuals (using a simple but descriptive sketch) so that the concept can be introduced easily to others. This could be done using an "elevator pitch" with colleagues -in three minutes explain the challenge/problem and how the portal shall solve this problem!

During this process, you begin to augment an existing or create a new network with key people in relevant departments to gain traction for your concept. Now it is necessary to locate policy or legislative support in order to align the new portal with a policy, agenda or departmental goals. For example, in Dublin, the Collaboration Dashboard aligns with the Local & Economic Community Plan which is statutory and the Public Participation Network 2016-2022 of which there are 560 registered community groups. It goes without saying that you will need to involve community groups at an early stage. One way of doing this is to consult community groups through a survey or forum: "is anyone interested in a portal like this?" If possible, try to find project champions both within and outside of the department you work in. They're there somewhere. Pitch the portal and its benefits at relevant meetings (whenever you get the chance). Hint: a strong visual definitely helps with this. When finally developing the website portal, resources or funding have to be obtained to move the idea along.

In the Dublin context, we required a website designer who could work the "back-end" of the portal. Finding volunteers is sometimes difficult. In Dublin, we pitched it at a community of practice meeting attended by "Code for Ireland" - an organisation where coders volunteer their time for community and social projects. One Coder volunteered his time to help us develop the portal. We now have meetings every three weeks to move it forward or make changes as we progress it and require more categories. Data entry is vital. We also asked everyone to input data on the different groups into the portal. We have been helped again by volunteers or interns. The visual aspect is important and volunteers make aesthetic judgements on which image should be selected so that it looks the best on the overall page. For the Community Garden groups, for example, we avoided having 50 images of generic looking gardens in favour one of a few and close-up images of flowers and fruit from the community gardens which describe the work accurately and simply. The volunteers uploading the images and information select the best image to represent a particular garden. It goes without saying that social media is essential to create publicity and interest - so one person volunteers to tweet and Facebook the latest developments of the process. For more assistance and ideas

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THIS TOOL FOCUSES ON:

social sustainability, institutional sustainability

TYPE OF MAIN OUTCOME / BENEFIT:

stakeholder integration, process innovation, community empowerment

HOW TO REALISE THE TRANSITION?

Ideally, an interdepartmental group interested in communities, development, communication, planning and entrepreneurship in the city.

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

A network connector (an outsider skilled at moving between different departments and groups), sourcing data, data input, social media, website developer/ coder, visual communication and graphic design, sourcing funding and resources to facilitate the development of the network.

FACILITATORY (PUBLIC) BODIES:
community development department; planning and development department; communication department

LOCAL TASK FORCE:
entrepreneur; business; community group; professional expert; volunteer

SUITABLE FOR:
dense inner city; (sub-)urban communities; underused urban site & building

MAIN NECESSARY RESOURCES ARE:
expert knowledge; local knowledge; monetary investments; personnel time

TRANSITION INITIATED

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