PlaceCal has already been researched thoroughly so we know that there’s a need for it in Greater Manchester.
Read on to find out more about the PlaceCal prototype.
Funding from CityVerve
Before we even started, PlaceCal needed funding.
Working together with resident-led Age Friendly Hulme and Moss Side Partnership, we secured innovation funding for a PlaceCal MVP. It came from CityVerve, a Smart City accelerator program in Manchester.
The two awards from CityVerve totalled £86,000 which was enough to get started with a pilot. It enabled us to explore the issues surrounding information sharing and dissemination with a range of different stakeholders.
These included older adults, community group managers, and local authority employees.
Identifying a need
During the exploration phase we conducted extensive fieldwork.
Our CityVerve PlaceCal fieldwork shows that there are many different incomplete, inaccurate and poorly produced information sources in a neighbourhood. These range from flyers and posters, to bulk email chains and poorly maintained websites.
Even worse, many small local organisations and venues are not at all able to publish information about their activities. There’s a distinct lack of IT training, infrastructure, and suitable tools for these community groups.
50% of community organisations don’t have a website at all, let alone an up-to-date one. That means many residents can’t find out what’s going on if they’re not already socially connected.
Money for resources is a huge barrier for community organisations. Under-resourced and extremely time-strapped, most don’t have the budget or time to effectively commission and maintain websites.
They’re also not yet supported to work locally with others who can. That means it’s extremely hard for standard, single-approach interventions to become established with many organisations duplicating efforts.
We needed a cost-effective way for these groups to work together in a timely and efficient manner.
Helping the NHS
We found that many older people are approaching the health services out of loneliness. GPs want to connect these people with local events but lack the resources to do so.
An NHS England survey found that 40% of GPs would “socially prescribe” – send patients to community groups if they had access to the right information.
Check out our ’Who is using PlaceCal’ page for PlaceCal users.
Many software tools needed to publish information online already exist. It quickly became clear from our research that these tools were not suitable for most small groups’ use, that there was a chronic lack of tech skills across the sector, and that there was a lack of access to joined-up information sharing services.
We realised PlaceCal’s success would hinge on finding a method by which the social development could work in unison with the technological.
The goal is fruitful collaboration across providers in a way that benefits older residents, that is budget-friendly and avoids duplication.
After four months’ fieldwork, gathering direct input from older people into the design, development and training requirements, PlaceCal emerged.
Our specific ‘capability’ research approach enabled us to discover and respond to the complex capabilities, barriers and opportunities for the creation of organised, reliable community information between residents, community groups and institutional stakeholders.
In December 2017 we launched PlaceCal in our pilot area, Hulme and Moss Side, at a joint community event attended by hundreds of residents, schools and religious organisations.