Whether we organise through informal friendship networks, Facebook groups, community events and protests; or formal committees, charities, faiths and trade unions, whether we block runways or co-ordinate coffee mornings, sweat round charity runs or make music for fun; when we organise ourselves outside the market and the state, we are all civil society.
The Future of Civil Society Enquiry is asking important questions. Doteveryone, with organisations like Local Welcome, Digital Civics and MySociety, wanted to take some practical steps in working out what digital might mean in this context. This isn’t about the Enquiry being digital, although we do think how it’s done needs to reflect something of how Tom Loosemore defines digital.
We think that many civil society organisations need to be more digital and also make more use of digital. The Enquiry could use their process as a way of building digital understanding across civil society. Technology in this context can also mean partnering with government, influencing government to move in a particular direction or co-producing new services with government. All of these are most commonly described as “civic tech.”
Whilst civic tech is interesting to us at Doteveryone, in relation to civil society we are especially interested in what we are calling “community tech” — tech used for activity beyond the market and the state. Where people on their own choose to work together towards a common goal. Where hyper-local self-organisation gets things done. Where minimum viable structures and relationships keep strengthening the entire fabric of a community.
When does digital enable people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause — when is tech most civic?
Micah L.Sifry in A Lever & A Place To Stand
What is the tech that is needed for this kind of activity? What is already being used? We expect in many cases it will be as simple as Facebook and Whatsapp, but we want to know that. We listed out the kinds of activity that happens in civil society as a starting point for this work — see below.
This Thursday, in partnership with the Future of Civil Society Enquiry, we’re running a workshop to map out the digital tools and infrastructure that already exists in each of these categories. If we find there are things missing, needs not met, or opportunities for things to be re-used or re-applied in different contexts, we’ll show how, and we will share that. If you want to join us (9–10.30AM at Somerset House) please email me. If you think we have missed things off the list above, please let us know.
In September we’ll take a look at what is missing and needed, and we’ll start designing and making things.