As the old proverb goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We're under no illusion that the success of our latest platform will be if people use it.
Fortunately, we didn't start developing version 2 of our software midway through 2018 from a blank sheet of paper. The version 1 platform taught us so much about what to do and what not to do, and where we needed to sharpen our focus.
Take the Can Do Bristol, for example, the 'Bristol Reading in Schools' project alone successfully crowdsourced 250 volunteers last year, mostly people of retirement age, who help children from years 1, 2 and 3 (5, 6 and 7 year olds) who have fallen behind with their reading. These volunteers commit many days to improving children's confidence and overall reading skills, and encourage a love of reading.
Our new platform will improve usability
Whilst this one project alone has been a success (improving the average reading age of children by 4 months and creating, we estimate, equivalent to £900,000 in social value), the lesson learnt for us here was that we needed to make it easier for other community groups and organisations to post their volunteering opportunities on the platform. The usability on our v1 platform wasn't good enough - on v2 it's a lot lot better.
Elsewhere, the Torbay Together timebank amassed nearly 400 new members, 3,000 credits earnt (that's 3,000 'volunteered' hours) and 346 spent credits in 2018. Indeed, timebanking has played a role in helping our clients Torbay Community Development Trust to reduce self-reported loneliness from 59% to 29%, halve GP visits and reduce hospital admittance by 60% - to name a few. Our partnership with TorbayCDT has been a real success in terms of co-design.
Our new platform will be more accessible
Ever the perfectionists, we acknowledge that we still got a number of things wrong when co-designing this platform with the Trust's Community Builders, which our new platform will correct. For example, if vulnerable people are not online, then we need to make it easier for Community Builders to manage timebanking accounts and activities on their behalf - blindingly obvious in hindsight but something we missed at the time.
Our partnership with TorbayCDT is also a reminder of how important it is to wrap decent processes around our platform. With so many public sector bodies and community-led organisations in Torbay, all seeking to help some of the most marginalised people in their communities, it doesn't really make sense that we licence our platform to just one community organisation. Sometimes you need a single innovative organisation to get the ball rolling but, in the long-term, we must always ensure we build up communities not organisations.
We will encourage partnerships
That's where we genuinely feel our partnership in Launceston (Tasmania) is leading the way. Our two-year pilot of the v1 platform provided partners in Tas with enough insight and confidence to form a new consortium and licence an integrated platform for the city of Launceston; which is something we worked hard to develop in 2018. This city-wide platform, known as Launceston Together, will provide an innovative and collaborative means to deal with challenges and opportunities.
Fundamentally, community-led organisations need a process to create functional regions in tandem with the communities they are trying to support. It's not easy but it's not impossible. The Made Open platform is a system with a passion for people and we've been really fortunate to co-design our platform with people who have a passion for the system.
Thoughts on 2019
That's why, when it comes to measuring our success, we feel very confident about our version 2 platform in 2019 and beyond. We've already had a terrific response to the Hexitime platform, for example, with a number of meaningful exchanges already taking place (where none of the participants exchanging knew each other) and a growing sense that this platform has huge potential to connect people between and within organisations.
As we create new platforms supporting communities of place or purpose - testing new models around partnership, social prescribing and social value creation to name a few - our senses is that when we prepare a more detailed impact report for 2019, we will have some good statistics and narratives to report. 2018 was an excellent year in terms of making sense of where we wanted to go and how we planned to take things forward.