PlaceCal is a community events calendar designed to help people find out everything that's happening near them, all in one place.
The PlaceCal pilot emerged as part of a large scale co-research project. It was responding to the need for older people, community organisations and institutional partners to work together more effectively.
This project was a collaboration between Dr Kim Foale (Geeks for Social Change), Prof. Stefan White (PHASE@MMU) and the Manchester Age Friendly Network (MAFN).
The research first established that many older residents could find nothing to do in their immediate area.
Using word-of-mouth and literature searches over the following months, we discovered literally dozens of events and activities on every day. That clarified the problem as not the lack of events, but a lack of high quality, up-to-date, accessible and complete community data about events.
Our solution was to share the information with interested parties. Initially we distributed it manually using a Google Calendar.
This method quickly became unmanageable as every event had to be added to the calendar by the small and time-limited MAFN team. Information given to us was incomplete, contradictory or out of date, and Google Calendar couldn’t allow filtering and sorting for high numbers of events.
We realised we needed a dedicated service to publish and manage this information, which was called PlaceCal.
The project started between MAFN and Kim Foale of Geeks for Social Change. Kim had previously worked on the initial development of Street Support Network, an information service for homelessness run by Viv Slack.
Through this partnership, we gained funding from CityVerve to launch a PlaceCal pilot.
The PlaceCal pilot addressed the issues of social isolation and loneliness in one of the MAFN areas, Hulme and Moss Side.
Research shows that loneliness and social isolation can damage our health. Lacking social connection puts you at risk for early death just like smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being obese, or physically inactive. Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%. (Campaign to End Loneliness)
This makes PlaceCal a crucial solution for improving community health outcomes through tackling the problem asset mapping and enabling social prescribing.
PlaceCal connects community residents and service providers with the small everyday events. These events are usually quite hard to discover, but can be lifesaving for socially isolated older people. They could be coffee mornings, sewing groups and computer classes.
Many GPs want to socially prescribe instead of prescribing drugs, but are currently struggling with a lack of quality information. Find out more about our social prescribers.
PlaceCal overcomes the usual limitations of similar programs which have typically been 'user-centered'.
We move on from these individualistic approaches to more effective ‘place-based’ ones. We do this by working in both social and technical spaces to join up people who would otherwise never find each other.
PlaceCal's vision is for information infrastructure to be controlled by communities – not for profit, but for the benefit of their residents. The PlaceCal Foundation will own the intellectual property, maintain the open source code base, and ensure it’s fair use for all.
What does PlaceCal look like in reality?
PlaceCal delivers a community development program that connects people and organisations with culture, health and social housing institutions in neighbourhood communities. It tackles social isolation and promotes wellbeing.
It does this by enabling community partnerships to create and share joined-up information about services and events in their area. The program is an innovative blend of community partnership building, education and IT infrastructure.
By working in this way, we support organisations (who otherwise wouldn't have a website) to publish high quality and up-to-date information. This information is shared widely across their local area, increasing both their breadth and depth of reach.
All this requires very little additional effort from organisations – beyond the initial setup. The costs are minimal compared to every community organisation providing their own IT resources.
We directly engage with our target audience, older people, by easily providing legible, printed listings and enabling other accessible formats and translations.
Find out more about PlaceCal's approach to digital inclusion.