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Community Tech & Social Infrastructure

Common infrastructure to connect up communities
  • The ownership of local digital infrastructure being run entirely on corporate platforms who amass profit at scale, who are extractive in their behaviour, and are having cumulative affects on our communities.
  • The unrealised potential to more effectively use digital to connect up existing social and relational infrastructure through “connecting the system to more of itself.”

Now is the time

Findings from our survey at Doteveryone highlighted the unease people feel about how the internet is changing society.

Where we got to last year

  • Less duplication of effort
  • Better use of data
  • More collaboration and sharing of assets
  • Greater digital understanding (not feeling overwhelmed by digital and knowing where to start — this is not the same as needing digital skills)
  • Redesigning or sticking to their focus on user and community needs not funders needs
  • People’s lives don’t only exist in services — nobody quite understands how to support more informal activity
  • Activity in civil society is often seen as about giving voice, campaigning, activism etc and therefore the everyday can be neglected, and it’s the every day that is the foundation of social infrastructure
  • We also realised that nobody has done any really good user research on the activity of civil society organisations or they hadn’t back then that we could find.

How could community tech play a role in strengthening social infrastructure?

Food Banks

What about the tech?

Community travel

Community tech for a community transport system

Community ‘somebody should’ board

Community ‘somebody should’ board

Why is this better as community tech?

What does community tech afford?

  • Governance — how disputes are resolved can be appropriate for the community in question
  • The values embedded in the rules of the tech, or codes of conduct, can reflect community values
  • Corporate priorities, or algorithmic decisions, won’t take down some content (e.g. breast feeding content is often taken off Facebook, but could be part of valuable community information provision)
  • Community tech can be used to organise around protesting/supplementing state/commercial outsourced services — it can be harder to do on local government platforms, or in some cases commercial ones
  • Priorities are aligned with the platform for feature development
  • You don’t need a commercially interesting or scalable business model (or there’s no business model available at scale) — there isn’t a business model that relies on gathering data for uncertain purpose
  • Open APIs and open standards for data formats, code, interfaces can be required, which makes interoperability easier, enables greater community empowerment through access to information and the creation of collective intelligence
  • There is a more neutral environment with different expectations to commercial platforms, and less extractive qualities

And the value of shared or common infrastructure?

  • It can reduce risk — fewer places holding data etc, if you have shared infrastructure, than hundreds of tiny services
  • It affords new explorations for different ways of doing privacy and identity
  • It’s easier to support than many tiny services
  • It facilitates more coordination and resilience
  • It can build greater connections between activities and services
  • It helps build collective / local intelligence and resilience — spotting opportunities and challenges
  • It means you can gather data at a level and of a type which can be used for community information and planning — local data for local people
  • It facilitates collective knowledge building — documenting how people solve problems is useful for future communities

What next?



Stories from the team at Doteveryone. We're championing responsible technology for a fairer future.

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Cassie Robinson.

Working with Joseph Rowntree Foundation, EarthPercent, P4NE, Policy Fellow IIPP, Co-founder Point People, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.