All posts by Nick Booth

A fair for Creative Citizens in Birmingham.

(This was first published over on the Podnosh site)

Click on the image to book on the eventbrite page
Click on the image to book on the eventbrite page

Creative Citizens is a project that’s been running for a couple of years bringing together research and activity around hyperlocal websites and active citizens. There’s some fine people involved, including Dave Harte (an old friend and collaborator of ours) and one of the researchers has also been investigating motivations behind the brilliant WV11 blog run by our own Steph Clarke and her very fine husband James.

So there is going to be a fair for active citizens and creative citizens organised as part of this programme. To get a free ticker go here

What to expect? Organiser Jez Turner says :

Thousands of citizens in the UK take part in community projects every day, from citizen journalists to breadmaking collectives, cycling social enterprises to craft makers. If you run a community project, are thinking of starting one, or are just interested in meeting like-minded people, join us at the first Creative Citizens Fair.

Talks will run throughout the day from community and voluntary projects, sharing their experience and tips, with plenty of time for questions.

In the Fair space you can:

  • talk to some of the organisations
  • take part in activities and workshops
  • see the Creative Citizens photo exhibition
  • find people to collaborate with
  • find out about the Creative Citizens research project
  • grab some lunch and coffee

More details at

The venue is the Impact Hub in Digbeth, which is another home for creative citizens.

Links that relate to open data, government and community groups

(First published here)

The BBC Reports that ”

The UK government is the most open and transparent in the world, according to global rankings looking at public access to official data.

But web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose organisation compiled the table, says the country has “a long way to go” before it has a fully open government

UK addresses as open data: the “UK’s first open and free address list launches”:

Voluntary sector and open data.

David Kane from NCVO writes:

My aim as a member of ODUG is to represent the needs of the voluntary sector – but to do that I need your help. I’d love to hear your open data issues – are there datasets that government produce that would help you but which you can’t get hold of at the moment?

A great place to start is the data requests process on This is where you can request access to datasets that aren’t currently open – they’ll be looked into by the team at the Cabinet Office and ODUG will also keep an eye on the process. You can also get in touch with me directly if you have any questions or comments about open data.

Something that ODUG members have been working hard on recently is a response to the government’s proposals for a National Information Infrastructure (NII). This ODUG paper published today sets out what we believe a National Information Infrastructure should look like, and how it is as important for the country as a physical infrastructure such as Crossrail.

see more

Data and open data skills for Birmingham community and voluntary groups at these Social media Surgeries.

Low Hill Social Media Surgery August 2012

First published on the Social Media Surgery blog.

Could your community group or charity be more effective if you collected information in different ways, used it better, shared it with the right people?  Would it help if you could more easily find information that government has about the places  or perhaps the people you are trying to help?

We are experimenting in Birmingham with how we can use the social media surgeries to share not just social media skills with local community groups and charities, but also data skills.

If you want a chat – even to find out what we mean – please click the links below for anyone of the surgeries for the following areas and sign up…

Central Birmingham Social Media

Moseley and Kings Heath Social Media Surgery

Kings Norton Social Media Surgery

What should I expect?

As always we start with you and your group.  What are you trying to achieve? What skills and tools do you have at the moment?  Can we show you new ideas that could help you achieve more? Can we help you in practical ways use those skills and tools – there and then? Always the same relaxed approach of a social media surgery.

What’s your aim?

Our ultimate aim is to encourage more community groups and local charities to find good uses for Open data.  This is numerical information that government shares in public, so we can have a better understanding of the places we live in and the way government works.  But we won’t throw you into anything difficult, we’ll start where you are and help you with the numbers and skills that matter to you.

Is there any information online?

As we work with people we’ll learn together how to solve problems. We’ll describe what we’re doing and share it here on the blog.  We will also be writing about things that might help you, tools, sites where data is stored, examples from other organisations.

I have no idea what you mean when you say open data!

Sorry – it is jargony.  Open government data is when government shares information on the internet that it owns  and grants you and I permission to use it (using an open government license) A simple example is local government releasing a monthly list of all spending over £500.  You can find the Birmingham one here.  But don’t be phased by any of this – we want to help you develop the understanding and skills that might be useful for what you are trying to achieve.

An open lecture on Freedom of Information in Birmingham

The smartest way for government to share much information is through open data, but whilst we improve how we do that FOI requests remain a potent tool for community groups, active citizens, hyperlocal bloggers,  even maybe bits of government to find out what they need to know.

Next week Paul Bradshaw of Birmingham City University and the Birmignham born organsiation Help Me Investigate Health will give and open lecture on how to use FOI well.  Thursday December 4th  Sign up here




Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop (in London)

This is a free workshop next week…  Tuesday, 21st October, 2014 – to register and find location go to this Eventbrite page.

The Open Data Challenge Series invites you to take part in the Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop. The Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge will invite participants to use open data to create solutions addressing problems or issues in this sector.

Over the coming weeks, we will compile a bank of open data related to heritage and culture. This bank of open data will form the main ‘raw material’ for the challenge and will be drawn from, individual organisation websites and personal recommendations. Once the data is compiled, the session on 21st October will explain how we have rated the data, how it will be used in the challenge and will give data publishers some pointers on how they could improve the quality and rating of their open data.

This session is designed to be practical – particularly for those people in relevant organisations who work directly with the data, preparing it to be shared. After the session, we hope to build ongoing relationships with data owners to ensure the improvements made to the data continue to be shared with potential participants in the challenge and to enable them, as data owners to have oversight of the ways in which your data is being used.

Contact – If you have any queries, please feel free to get in touch by tweeting us @ODChallenges or drop us an emai at

Hat tip Simon Whitehouse.



Funding for tech ideas/companies run by tyoung people in Birmingham

iDEA is a funding programme/competition to help young people develop either their digital skills or their digital business ideas, or both.  It’s supported by the Nominet Trust (a charity we’ve worked with before at Podnosh and had a fantastic experience) with the backing of the Duke of York.   They say:

Entrants will gain essential digital enterprise and entrepreneurial skills through the competition and can further develop these skills through our online library of industry endorsed badges. The three winning business ideas in the competition will be awarded £15,000 funding and accelerator support for further development. The project aims to recruit 10,000 young people into the competition in the next few weeks

Schools can get involved – and indeed are very welcome to use it as a way to develop digital skills.  Come on brum – make the most of this!

Go here to find out more:

New Cities Foundation

So what does the future hold? I would argue that, using technology, governments can co-create solutions to face urban challenges. They can identify and recognize the actors that understand community needs, and want to improve the city. Nevertheless, ideas alone aren’t enough to re-instate the importance of public space. To transform ideas into action, governments must find mechanisms for citizens to propose, create and help implement their solutions. If we make this possible, we can start to live in cities that think and act through community collaboration.


Too-smart cities? Why these visions of utopia need an urgent reality check

Too-smart cities? Why these visions of utopia need an urgent reality check

Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf
by Gary Graham who receives funding from the EPSRC Digital Economy Nemode and Sustainable Societies Initiatives. They funded his placement to Boston.

I recently attended a government meeting about future cities and found that all the discussion related to branding, bio-tech innovation, hi-tech transport infrastructure and opportunities for universities.

I pointed out that at least half the population doesn’t engage with such things directly, if at all. Most people are more concerned with how to get by, and even how to survive in an increasingly hostile city. One civil servant replied, “Oh, you mean the dark underbelly …” This, it seems to me, is exactly how elevated mandarins in London see normal people who live in inner-city communities.

Smart law making?

Finland is crowdsourcing ideas for new laws and working with the security minded money world to verify the process…

“a non-profit group of Helsinki entrepreneurs started a website called Open Ministry to allow people of voting age to propose initiatives online. The website uses APIs from banks and mobile operators to confirm identities. Recently, the Finnish Parliament approved the platform after verifying that the electronic identification process is secure.”

Of course building a whole new one of these wouldn’t be so smart – borrowing from the one already built would probably be better.