I would have written this post yesterday but I was frankly exhausted from what was a typically exciting and intense Social Innovation Camp weekend, where six back-of-the-envelope ideas for using the web to tackle important social problems are taken to prototype stage in less than 48 hours.
The SI Camp weekend has so many elements to it but I'd summarise it as:
And most importantly come the show&tell on the Sunday afternoon we heard from how six excellent projects had developed, with weedayout.com taking the runner-up slot and myPolice, a Patient Opinion analogue for police services taking the coveted title of the SI Camp Scotland winning project.
Social Innovation Camp gets a lot of attention and praise as being the stand-out champion of social technology for social change and that is certainly all well deserved. However now that I am a relative veteran of two camps as well as being party to that which goes on under the bonnet, please indulge me in one of my favourite passtimes...namely mythbusting.
This is a popular one and just not true. While the weekend is certainly the main showpiece event, it is the culmination of a process of several months. During this time the core SI Camp team will work with a large number of key stakeholders and influencers to raise understanding of the process in its chosen location (Scotland in this case), manage a communications process to ensure that as diverse a set of ideas are entered as contenders for the weekend build and run a series of meetups to build a community of people interested in attending the SI Camp.
Paul Miller, co-founder of #sicamp, has written an essay for Reboot Britain on how public service start-ups can help transform Britain for the better. He is one of the most articulate voices on the subject so I recommend you read his piece Weary Giants and New Technology. So what we require is a more vibrant ecology of sustainable start-ups focussed on fixing things that matter. Part of this is providing a clear route and understanding of how anyone can take a back-of-an-envelope idea and turn it into the next big thing and SI Camp is an important part of the first stages - building awareness, showing what is possible and encouraging new issues into being solved using digital means. But more support from all quarters is needed so as to bring high-potential projects to maturity - only then will we are really reap the benefits of this stuff.
Well clearly it is to some degree! But the point I want to make here is that SI Camp is mainly about people. People who understand need and people who understand (digital) opportunity. They then have a conversation and learn about each others expertise and work together to produce something that neither could have though of by themselves. What this means for me is that we need not just more conversations but better practical conversations about what is possible. And SI Camp is the best practical conversation I've ever seen.
NESTA is delighted to be the majority funder of SI Camp since its inception and thereby be part of the extraordinary confluence of social innovation and new technologies.
And finally, on a personal note it has been a true delight to have support Anna Maybank, Katee Hui and Paul Miller in what little way i have been able to - their phenomenal hard work, passion and dedication - mostly behind the scenes - is inspirational, visionary and deeply practical all at the same time - a difficult trick to pull off indeed.
[Images courtesy of The People Speak - watch out for their #sicamp Scotland film on www.sicamp.org in the next few weeks]