Monthly Archives: June 2012

How data.gov.uk is laying foundations for open data engagement

Originally posted as a Guest Post on data.gov.uk

When the first data.gov.uk platform was launched, it was a great example of the ‘rewired state’ spirit: pioneering the rapid development of a new digital part of government using open source code, and developed through fluid collaboration between government staff, academics, open source developers, and open data activists from outside government. But essentially, the first data.gov.uk was bolted onto the existing machinery of government: a data outpost scraping together details of datasets from across departments, and acting as the broker providing the world with information on where to access that data. And it is fair to say data.gov.uk was designed by data-geeks, for data-geeks.

Tom Steinberg has argued that data portals need not appeal to the masses , and that most people will access government data through apps, but there are thousands of citizens who want direct access to data, and it is vital that data portals don’t exclude those unfamiliar with the design metaphors of source and software repositories. That’s why it is great to see a redesign of data.gov.uk that takes steps to simplify the user experience for anyone seeking out data, whether as a techie, or not.

The most interesting changes to data.gov.uk though are more subtle than the cleaner navigation and unexpected (but refreshing) green colour scheme. Behind the scenes Antonio Acuna and his team have been overhauling the admin system where data records are managed, with some important implications. Firstly, the site includes a clear hierarchy of publishing organisations (over 700 of them) and somewhere in each hierarchy there is a named contact to be found. That means that when you’re looking at any dataset it’s now easier to find out who you can contact to ask questions about it, or, if the data doesn’t tell you what you want, the new data.gov.uk lets you exercise your Right to Information (and hopefully soon Right to Data) and points you to how you can submit a Freedom of Information request.

Whilst at first most of these enquiries will go off to the lead person in each publishing organisation who updates their records ondata.gov.uk, the site allows contact details to be set at the dataset level, moving towards the idea of data catalogues not as a firewall sitting between government and citizens, but as the starting point of a conversation between data owners/data stewards and citizens with an interest in the data. Using data to generate conversation, and more citizen-state collaboration, is one of the key ideas in the 5 stars for open data engagement , drafted at this year’s UKGovCamp.

The addition of a Library section with space  for detailed documentation on datasets, including space to share the PDF handbooks that often accompany complex datasets and that share lots of the context that can’t be reduced down into neat meta-data, is a valuable addition too. I hope we’ll see a lot more of the ‘social life’ of the datasets that government holds becoming apparent on the new site over time – highlighting that not only can data be used to tell stories, but that there is a story behind each dataset too.

Open data portals have a hard balance to strike – between providing ‘raw’ datasets and disintermediating data, separating data from the analysis and presentation layers government often fixes on top – and becoming new intermediaries, giving citizens and developers the tools they need to effectively access data. Data portals take a range of approaches, and most are still a long way from striking the perfect balance. But the re-launched data.gov.uk lays some important foundations for a continued focus on user needs, and making sure citizens get the data they need, and, in the future, access to all the tools and resources that can help them make sense of it, whether those tools come from government or not.

Guest post: What does ‘open knowledge’ have to do with ‘open development’?

Or, why international development practitioners should make a date with OKFest.

After a bit of guest blogging around the web myself this week, I thought it was time to feature a guest post over here. This time from the fantastic Linda Raftree of Plan International, who writes about the upcoming Open Knowledge Festival and the open development track we’re co-organising…


Linda Raftree

The Open Knowledge Festival (OKFest) happens this September 17-22 in Helsinki, Finland with the theme Open Knowledge in Action. OKFest will explore the benefits of opening up knowledge and information, look at the ecosystems of organisations that can benefit from openness, and discuss the impact that more transparency can have in our societies. OKFest will run 13 key Topic Streams, one of which will focus on the topic of ‘Open Development’.

So what does ‘open knowledge’ have to do with ‘open development’? And why are people putting the word ‘open’ in front of everything these days?

Well, in addition to being a bit of a buzz word or trend, the idea behind ‘open’ is that making data and information more accessible and less restricted can enhance transparency, accountability, sharing, and collaboration. This in turn can benefit development processes. (See this post for ideas on how openness and information literacy links with participatory governance, for example.)

As Matthew Smith, a strong proponent of ‘open development,’ says, ‘openness’ is not a new concept, especially with respect to development theory. Democracy and participation represent an opening up of decision-making processes to more people. Transparency and accountability are about opening up organizations, people and processes to scrutiny and feedback.

The Internet and new ICTs such as mobile phones play a big part in the idea of ‘open’ since these platforms and tools can allow data and information to be shared more freely and widely. The concept of ‘open development’ according to Smith is enhanced by ICTs when it favors:

  • Universal over restricted access to communication tools and information. For example, access to the telecommunications infrastructure through a mobile phone or access to online [educational] content or government information.
  • Universal over restricted participation in informal and formal groups/institutions. For example, the use of SMS to mobilize political protests or new e-government implementations that provide increased transparency and new accountability arrangements.
  • Collaborative over centralized production of information, cultural content, and physical goods. For example, collaborative production of school textbooks, co-creation of government services, mesh networks.

Attitudes and behaviors also play a part in ‘openness.’ Smith notes that egalitarianism and sharing are two core concepts within ‘openness:’

  • Egalitarianism suggests an equal right to participate (access, use and collaborate).
  • Sharing is embedded in the idea of enhanced access to things that were otherwise normally restricted. This enhanced access is often motivated by the normative desire to share – whether through an obligation to contribute to the common good or to participate in a coordinated or collaborative activity.

Policies, practices and philosophies that allow data and information to be shared are also a part of ‘open’. Tim Davies explains ‘open data‘ as:

  • a set of policies and practices – open data should be accessible (online); standardized (in a common format) and reusable (open licenses)
  • a response to how tech and society is changing –  bandwidth is growing, there is more capacity to share and analyze data, people want to do things for themselves and analyze information for themselves rather than have someone do it for them.
  • a tendency towards new combinations of data – seen in ‘mash-up’ websites where people pull data from different sources, combine it with other sources, add crowd-sourced information and maps, etc.
  • a philosophy or movement - there is a push to open information and access to knowledge because information is power; there is a tendency toward greater collaboration, transparency and collaboration

The Open Development stream at OKFest will explore ways that openness can help address key development challenges, from reducing poverty to improving access to education and healthcare to mitigating climate change and managing natural resources to improving transparency, accountability and governance. One of the most important aspects of the Open Development stream will be the participation of development practitioners and thematic experts on development.

As guest program planners for the Open Development stream*, we are determined to support two-way learning about how open data and open knowledge can benefit development. We know that ICTs and new technologies cannot work in a vacuum and that open information on its own is not enough. We know that creating ICT tools and applications without basing them on real needs and local context is not helpful, useful or sustainable. We also know that traditionally excluded and marginalized populations are the ones that most often do not have access to information and new ICTs, and therefore open access to information and knowledge needs to be part of a broader and more holistic development approach that takes care to include those who are often marginalized and excluded.

Within the Open Development stream, we will offer space where those working with new technologies and those working on development issues can learn more about each other and work on joint solutions that are based on local realities and that take advantage of new opportunities that new ICTs and ‘open knowledge’ can offer.

The Open Development stream will bring together key thinkers and doers in the ‘open’ movement and the development sector via a panel discussion. We are also organizing 3 working sessions to explore:

Open development and aid flows.  Here we will look more internally at ways that greater openness in aid and development funding, activities and impact (such as the  International Aid Transparency Initiative – IATI) can help make aid more transparent, accountable, coordinated and effective. What are the new opportunities Open Data and Open Knowledge provide? How can aid and aid organizations be more open, transparent and accountable?

Open = accessible? In this session we will explore practical issues and the realities of access to and use of open information in low-resource settings. We will hear opinions and realities from development practitioners regarding a series of critical questions such as: Open for who? Open for what? Is open data enough? How can we design for accessibility in communities with lower resources and access and/or in ‘developing’ countries? Who are the new information intermediaries (aka ‘infomediaries‘)? How can we ensure that ‘open’ is not replicating existing exclusions, creating a new middle-class or benefiting already well-off sections of communities and societies?

Technologies for open development In this session we will focus on the role that ICTs and open technologies, from open source to open hardware, can play in development. We will hear ideas from development workers, technology evangelists and those who bridge the two fields.

In addition to these sessions, there will be an ‘Open Development Hack Day‘ where development practitioners can share development challenges with the OKFest community to create mobile and other ICT applications.

Events like OKFest can be overwhelming the first time you participate in them, butwe are committed to making sure everyone who attends OKFest can join the discussions, contribute ideas, and learn from the wealth of keynotes, sessions and workshops. The organizers of the Open Development Stream will be on hand to support participants working in development and those who are new to the Open Knowledge World to navigate the conference via daily birds-of-a-feather gatherings, catch-up sessions and more.

In order for our stream to be a success, we need the participation of development practitioners and development workers!  The core OKFest team has made a number of travel bursaries available to help potential participants with the costs of getting to Finland, and the open development stream team are also working hard to encourage development organisations to support staff and associates from projects in the ‘global south’ to take part. If you need help securing support from your organization or funders to take part, then get in touch with the team (okfest-dev@practicalparticipation.co.uk) and we will do what we can to help.

For more on OKFest, watch the slideshow below:

What does Internet Governance have to do with open data?

[Summary: What do Internet Governance and Open Data have to do with each other?]

As a proposal I worked on for a workshop at this years Internet Governance Forum on the Internet Governance issues of Open Government Data has been accepted, I’ve been starting to think through the different issues that the background paper for that session will need to cover. This week I took advantage of a chance to guest blog over on the Commonwealth IGF website to start setting them out. 

It started with high profile Open Government Data portals like Data.gov in the US, and Data.gov.uk in the UK giving citizens access to hundreds of government datasets. Now, open data has become a key area of focus for many countries across the world, forming a core element of the Open Government Partnership agenda, and sparking a plethora ofInternational conferencesevents and online communities. Proponents of open data argue it has the potential to stimulate economic growth, promote transparency and accountability of governments, and to support improved delivery of public services. This year’s Internet Governance Forum in Baku will see a number of open data focussed workshops, following on from open data and PSI panels in previous years. But when it comes to Open Data and Internet Governance, what are the issues we might need to explore? This post is a first attempt to sketch out some of the possible areas of debate.

In 2009 David Eaves put forward ‘three laws of open government data‘ that describe what it takes for a dataset to be considered effectively open. They boil down to requirements that data should be accessible online, machine readable, and under licenses that permit re-use. Explore these three facets of open data offers one route into potential internet governance issues that need to be critically discussed if the potential benefits of open data are to be secured in equitable ways.

1) Open Data as data accessible online

Online accessibility does not equate to effective access, and we should be attentive to new data divides. We also need to address bandwidth for open data, the design of open data platforms, cross-border cloud hosting of open data, and to connect open data and internet freedom issues. Furthermore, the online accessibility of public data may create or compound privacy and security issues that need addressing.

Underlying the democratic arguments for open data is the idea that citizens should have access to any data that affects their lives, to be able to use and analyse it for themselves, to critique official interpretations, and to offer policy alternatives. Economic growth arguments for open data often note the importance of a reliable, timely supply of data on which innovative products and services can be built. But being able to use data for democratic engagement, to support economic activity, is not just a matter of having the data – it also requires the skills to use it. Michael Gurstein has highlighted the risk that open data might ‘empower the empowered’ creating a new ‘data divide’. Addressing grassroots skills to use data, ensuring countries have capacity to exploit their own national open data, and identifying the sorts of intermediary institutions and capacity building to ensure citizens can make effective use of open data is a key challenge.

There are also technical dimensions of the data divide. Many open data infrastructures have developed in environment of virtually unlimited bandwidth, and are based on the assumption that transferring large data files is not problematic: an assumption that cannot be made everywhere in the world. Digital interfaces for working with data often rely on full size computers, and large datasets can be difficult to work with on mobile platforms. As past IGF cloud computing discussions have highlighted, where data is hosted may also matter. Placing public data, albeit openly licensed so sidestepping some of the legal issues, into cloud hosting, could have impacts on the accessibility, and the costs of a access, to that data. How far this becomes an issue may depend on the scale of open data programmes, which as yet can only constitute a very small proportion of Internet traffic in any country. However, when data that matters to citizens is hosted in a range of different jurisdictions, Internet Freedom and filtering issues may have a bearing on who really has access to open data. As Walid Al-Saqaf’s power presentation at the Open Government Partnership highlighted, openness in public debate can be dramatically restricted when governments have arbitrary Internet filtering powers.

Last, but not least, in the data accessibility issues, whilst most advocates of open data explicitly state that they are concerned only with public data, and exclude personal datafrom the discussion, the boundaries between these two categories are often blurred (for example, court records are about individuals, but might also be a matter of public record), and with many independently published open datasets based on aggregated or anonymised personal data, plus with large-scale datasets harvested from social media and held by companies, ‘jigsaw identification’, in which machines can infer lots of potentially sensitive and personal facts about individuals becomes a concern. As Cole outlines, in the past we have dealt with some of these concerns by ad-hoc limitations and negotiated access to data. Unrestricted access to open data online removes these strategies, and highlights the importance of finding other solutions that protect keydimensions of individual privacy.

2) Open data as machine readable

Publishing datasets involves selecting formats and standards which impact on what the data can express and how it can be used. Often standard setting can have profound political consequences, yet it can be treated as a purely technical issue.

Standards are developing for everything from public transport timetables (GTFS), to data on aid projects (IATI). These standards specify the format data should be shared in, and what the data can express. If open data publishers want to take advantage of particular tools and services, they may be encouraged to chose particular data standards. In some areas, no standards exist, and competing open and non-open standards are developing. Sometimes, because of legacy systems, datasets are tied into non-open standards, creating a pressure to develop new open alternatives.

Some data formats offer more flexibility than others, but usually with connected increase in complexity. The common CSV format of flat data, accessing in spreadsheet software, does not make it easy to annotate or extend standardised data to cope with local contexts. eXtensible Markup Language makes extending data easier, and Linked Data offers the possibility of annotating data, but these formats often present barriers for users without specialist skills or training. As a whole web of new standards, code lists and identifiers are developed to represent growing quantities of open data, we need to askwho is involved in setting standards and how can we make sure that global standards for open data promote, rather than restrict, the freedom of local groups to explore and address the diverse issues that concern them.

3) Open data as licensed for re-use

Many uses case for open data rely on the ability to combine datasets, and this makesc ompatible licenses a vital issue. In developing license frameworks, we should engage with debates over who benefits from open data and how norms and licenses can support community claims to benefit from their data.

Open Source and Creative Commons licenses often include terms such as a requirement to ‘Share Alike’, or a Non-Commercial clause prohibiting profit making use of the content. These place restrictions on re-users of the content: for example, if you use Share Alike licensed content to in your work, you must share your work under the same license. However, open data advocates argue that terms like this quickly create challenges for combining different datasets, as differently licensed data may be incompatible, and many of the benefits of having access to the data will be lost when it can’t be mashed up and remixed using both commercial and non-commercial tools. The widely cited OpenDefinition.org states that at most, licenses can require attribution of the source, but cannot place any other restrictions on data re-use. Developing a common framework for licensing has been a significant concern in many past governance discussions of open data.

These discussions of common licenses have connections to past Access to Knowledge (A2K) debates where the rights of communities to govern access to traditional knowledges, or to gain a return from use of traditional knowledge have taken place. An open licensing framework creates the possibility that, without a level playing field of access to resources to use data (i.e. data divides), some powerful actors might exploit open data to their advantage, and to the loss of those who have stewarded that data in the past. Identifying community norms, and other responses to addresses these issues is an area for discussion.

Further issues?

I’ve tried to set out some of the areas where debates on open data might connect with existing or emerging internet governance debates. In the workshop I’m planning for this years IGF I am hoping we will be able to dig into these issues in more depth to identify how far they are issues for the IGF, or for other fora, and to develop ideas on different constructive approaches to support equitable outcomes from open data. I’m sure the issues above don’t cover all those we might address, so do drop in a comment below to share your suggestions for other areas we need to discuss…

Further reading:

(Other suggested references welcome too…)

Addition: over on the CIGF post Andrew has already suggested an extra reference to Tom Slee’s thought provoking blog post on ‘Seeing like a geek’ that emphasises the importance of putting licensing issues very much on the table in governance debates.

 

What should a UK Open Government Partnership Forum look like?

[Summary: Open spaces events across that whole UK that provide access for all ages are key to an effective UK OGP forum]

A key step in a countries participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) involves establishing ongoing public consultation between government, citizens, civil society organisations and the private sector on the development and implementation of OGP action plans. Given the UK is currently co-chair of OGP, and will be hosting the next OGP plenary meeting in London in March next year, establishing an effective, credible and dynamic forum for ongoing multi-stakeholder participation in OGP should be a top priority.

 

Members of the informal network of UK-based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) engaging with the OGP process have been thinking about what such a forum could look like, and in this post I want to offer one possible take, based on my experience of taking part in a range of open space and unConference events over recent years.

Proposal: At the heart of the UK OGP forum should be a series of regular open space events, taking place across the UK, with a focus on getting out of London. Events should be open to anyone to take part – from active citizens and community groups, to social entrepreneurs, private sector firms, national and local government representatives and  local and international CSOs.
Simple principles of inclusion should  be established to ensure the events provide a welcoming environment for all, including for children and young people, and older people .

What is an open space or unConference?

Open space events are created by their participants. Rather than having a set agenda, the discussion agenda for an open space event is set on the day by participants announcing sessions and discussions they would like to take part in. Participants then self-select to take part in the sessions they have the most interest in. Simple principles encourage participants, wherever they come from, to take shared ownership of the discussions and the outcomes of the day. Open space events and unConferences can have a focussed theme to guide the focus of the specific sessions that take place.

I first encountered open space on a large scale in the UKGovCamp unconferences, which, as it turns out, are in many ways a paradigmatic example of key aspects of digital open government in action. At the annual UKGovCamp events (and their spin off LocalGovCamp events around the UK), civil servants, citizens, CSOs, social innovators, business people, and event a few politicians, spend a day in practical conversation about how to make government work better – sharing knowledge, developing plans and deepening shared commitment to shared problems.

See the Wikipedia article on Open-space technology for more on open space, and links to examples of open space events in action.

Why should open space events be part of the UK OGP forum?

Open Government is about more than a few action plan commitments to better ICT systems or increasing access to data. It involves active rethinking the relationship between citizen and state both as democracy continues to evolve, and as technologies, globalisation and other social forces reconfigure the capabilities of both citizens and governments. Open Government needs mass participation – and open space events are one way to develop action-focussed dialogues that support large-scale participation.

  • A UK OGP Forum needs to be not only about feeding demands up to government, but also about disseminating OGP ideas and commitments across the whole of the public sector. For many people, it is open local government which will have most impact on their lives, and taking the OGP conversation on the road to events that can include all tiers of government provides an opportunity to join up open government practice across government.
  • Open space events are also very cost-effective. You need a room, some refreshments, some flip-chart paper – and, well, that’s about it.
  • Open space events are powerful network building opportunities – helping develop both civil society open government networks, and build new connections between civil society and government (and even across different parts of government)
  • With social media and a few social reporters, open space events can also become largely self-documenting, and with good facilitation it is possible to include remote participation, using the Internet to make sure anyone with a contribution to make to a topic under discussion can input into the dialogue.
  • Most of all, open space events embody principles of openness, collaboration and innovation – and so are an ideal vehicle for developing a dynamic UK OGP forum.

How could it work in practice?

Well, there’s nothing to stop anyone organising their own Open Government unConference, inviting civil servants and a whole range of other stakeholders, recording the key outcomes of the discussions, and then sending that all to the Cabinet Office team working on the UK’s OGP participation. However, to make open space a core part of the UK OGP process a number of elements may be worth considering. Here’s one sketch of how that could work:

  • In partnership with the OGP team in government, planning a series of quarterly OGP open space events, which central civil servants commit to take part in. These would take place in each of the nations of the United Kingdom, and should have as their core theme the commitments of the UK Action Plan. Events should issue and open invite, and should be designed to ensure maximum diversity of participants from across all sectors.
  • In addition, government, CSOs and other stakeholders should agree to providing sponsorship for thematic OGP open space meetings. Anyone could organise a thematic meeting, providing they apply key principles of inclusiveness, open participation and transparency in the organisation of the events.
  • The OpenGovernment.org.uk site becomes a platform to collate notes from all the discussion sessions, drawing on social media content and notes captured by facilitators and rapporteurs at the events.
  • Each individual open space discussion within the events does not have to reach a consensus on its topic, but would have the option of producing a 1/2 page summary of discussions that can be shared online. Government commit to reading all these notes when reviewing the action plan.
  • Existing open space events (e.g. UKGovCamp) could choose to add an OGP track of discussions, feeding in as any thematic event would.

What about formal representation and accountability? How do decisions get made?

Some of the other ideas for a UK OGP Forum are far more focussed on formal structures and procedures. I don’t reject the value of formal structures where questions of accountability and representation are in play. However, unless actual authority to decide what does into country action plans is shared with an OGP forum, then as a consultative body, a more open model would seem more appropriate.

Established CSOs have existing channels through which they are talking with government. A forum should  help them co-ordinate their asks and offers on open government issues through existing channels, rather than add another narrow channel of communication.

Open processes are not immune from their problems: they can suffer from those who shout loudest being those who are heard most, or from those in power being able to pick and choose which voices they engage with. However, finding ways to deal with these issues in the open is an important challenge and learning journey for us to go on if we truly want to find inclusive models of open governance and open government that work…

A realistic proposal?

I’ve written this outline sketch up as a contribution to the debate on what an OGP forum should look like. Government tendencies to control processes, and manage engagement in neat boxes can be strong. But to an extent open government has to be about challenging that – and as a process that will involve a shared learning journey for both government, civil society and citizens, I hope this does make for a realistic proposal…

The Digital Edge – Nominet Trust announce new funding challenge

[Summary: New funding opportunity from Nominet Trust, shaped by messages from the Digital Technology and Youth Engagement exploration]

The Nominet Trust have just announced a new £2m funding challenge focussed on support for young people. Here is how they describe it:

Nominet Trust is launching a programme of social investment to address the challenges faced by young people in participating socially and economically with their communities. This call for applications aims to seek out new approaches to using digital technology that re-design ways of supporting young people. We’re looking to invest in partners and ideas that address the challenges we have identified, and look forward to working with you to do so

A number of the areas of interest in the challenge have been shaped through the Digital Technology and Youth Engagement exploration which David Wilcox, Alex Farrow and I have been working on for Nominet Trust over April and May: seeking out key messages on opportunities and approaches for digital technology to be used supporting young people’s economic and social engagement in communities. The four areas the challenge looks to address (headings are from Nominet, reflections are my own) are:

  • Digging deeper into the problems and addressing the root causes- going beyond surface solutions to find new spaces for effective innovation. Our exploration highlighted the plural ‘causes’ is important: there is often not one root cause to be addressed, but a diversity of issues needing a diversity of approaches. Roots spread out underground, so as we dig we need to explore multiple pathways and many spaces for innovation.

  • Exploring the changing landscape and the nature of engagementMany of the models for youth engagement, or offering support to young adults, were developed in a pre-Internet era and haven’t really been updated, save from digitizing a few processes here and there. Looking at how digital technology has changed the context of young people’s lives (whilst many of the concerns of youth and young adulthood remain pretty consistent) can highlight opportunities for new forms of support and social and economic engagement for young people – not driven primarily by a desire to save money or streamline, but by an interest in making engagement more effective in an Internet age.

  • Renegotiating professional practiceI’m really happy to see this element in the challenge, as it provides a great opportunity for practitioners in Youth Work, Community Development and other youth-supporting professions to put forward projects that start from their professional values, but consider how these can be applied in new contexts. In a recent digital youth work workshop in Helsinki with Verke, CFDP and YouthPart, we started to sketch out a shared understanding of Digital Youth Work that started to consider what a renegotiation of youth work practice could involve, drafting the description below:

The Internet is playing a powerful role in shaping the lives of young people today: as a source of information, as a social space, and as a key part of everyday life. Youth work is a process of engagement with young people, supporting young people to make positive choices and shape their own futures, and to actively participate in communities and societies. Digital youth work is values-led practice working with young people that takes account of the digital dimensions of young people’s lives. It might be delivered through digital tools, using online environments or mobile communication; it might blend together physical and digital communication and collaboration; or it might take place face-to-face, but aware of and addressing issues raised by the digital world. 

The ethical values of digital youth work are rooted in voluntary engagement, empowering young people, and working from the interests, needs and concerns of young people. Digital youth work is necessarily a multi-professional field, involving a range of existing practitioners, and requiring us to develop new forms of practice and new roles. Digital youth work include specific online services (for example youth counseling delivered by professional adults), as well as facilitated peer-to-peer learning and engagement.

Digital youth work is a key part of supporting young people’s digital citizenship and securing the rights of everyone to participate fully in contemporary everyday life and its environments. 

The renegotiating professional practice element of the Nominet Trust challenge invites proposals that “support different professions… [to] test out and learn new approaches for engaging with young people?”, and there is real potential here for some action learning in different professional fields to feed back into scaleable change in the way support and engagement opportunities for young people work.

  • New forms of employment and rewardI like to think of this last element of the challenge as creating the space for some more radical rethinking of solutions to the current economic crisis. Although the challenge is a little narrower than the ‘Consider the livelihoods of the future’ message in the Provocation Paper (PDF), in getting beyond the idea that ‘economic engagement’ means getting into a full time job, and thinking about “ how we [prepare] young people to secure a decent living, and to be able to make positive choices about how they use their time, talents and resources”, there is hopefully space here for innovations that challenge a work-consumption treadmill, and explore with young people the social, as well as economic value, of work.

I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas and innovations that result from the challenge. The first deadline for Phase 1 proposals is 1st August, and support is available ranging from £2,500 up to over £250,000 for larger projects. So – head over to the Nominet Trust site to find out more and think about putting forward your project ideas…