Building a platform for uncertainty

For the past couple of years we've been running some crazy experiments in the name of community-driven, purposeful innovation.

We've learned a load. They've helped us loosely define some formats that work offline, so it feels like a good time to take our experimentation online. To start building a web platform that will allow more people to do more Good for Nothing, more of the time.

We're privileged to be living Good for Nothing every day, surrounded by inspiring individuals and organisations. It's amazing to watch it grow and evolve with every gig, constantly shifting our perspectives, but this does mean that it's impossible to know what the final platform should or will look like.

So we've let go of the concept of a finished product and that of a traditional prototype / development cycle – instead we're creating the platform in a way which allows it to evolve and adapt as the community grows.

Learning while doing. Doing while learning.

We're going to need the community involved in this process, here's the plan…

Phase 1 - Foundations

By using various free web services over the last year or so (Ning, Wordpress, Eventbrite etc.) we've figured out we need to build to support the online community as it stands.

Nothing groundbreaking, just a solid foundation for some experimentation.

Essentially it'll consist of a blog, somewhere to house information about gigs and briefs, and a mechanism for do-ers to register their attendance.

Phase 2 - Supporting structures for community growth

The second phase will focus on connecting up the growing community of do-ers and makers with the social enterprises, causes, grassroots innovators and charities that we support.

Another big part of this phase will be to start playing with ideas that encourage and support do-ers who want to continue working on briefs after everyone's goes home.

At this stage we're planning to introduce profiles for do-ers and causes alike - somewhere to showcase all the amazing work that's happening both at gigs and beyond.

Phase 3 - Going on tour

We're lucky to have met some amazing folk in Brighton, Bristol and Manchester who are brave enough to take up the challenge of organising Good for Nothings in their cities.

This phase is all about building tools for these local chapters. Things that helps with the grunt-work involved in putting on a gig.

Phase 4 - The slightly-more-crazy phase

Then it gets really interesting. We've been thinking about a number of digital experiments that we'd like to run with the help of the community.

A few of them are below.

Once the basic platform is kicking we'll start inviting small groups of do-ers and other members of the community to sit with us and work through the ideas before we begin to test them out on the wider Good for Nothing community.

1. Micro-volunteering

Two days just isn't enough time to get everything done. Ideas flow during gigs so there's always a load of small things that causes need which the do-ers just don't have time to cover.

Sometimes it's as simple as a changing text on a website.

We want to give do-ers the ability to dip in to this pool of need when they have a spare moments.

2. Match-making causes/briefs with teams online

Fifty two weeks a year just isn't enough time to crack every brief. We're always in contact with causes that need help with larger projects, some of these make it into gigs, some, sadly, do not.

But there's no reason the self-organising witnessed at a Good for Nothing gig can't happen online or between a group of colleagues.

We want to make it possible for teams to form around these briefs between gigs.

3. Curated ideas & inspiration

Last year, before kicking off the 50/50 project, we put out a call for ideas and gave people a place to post and rate these online.

The resulting inspiration flood was overwhelming.

These stories and ideas went on to inspire and shape the projects that helped raise over a quarter of a million for famine aid.

We want to harness the power of crowd intelligence so that do-ers can hit the ground running at the start of a gig, and keep going afterwards to tackle larger issues.

4. Crowdfunding

It's been done dozens of times, but feels like a natural extension of many of the briefs that are tackled during a Good for Nothing gig.

5. Advice & mentoring

There are nearly 700 people tuned in to the Good for Nothing community. That's a lot of talent. How can we allow do-ers to get their daily dose of Good simply by answering questions from causes?

This could even evolve into a self-organising mentoring network for causes or young people looking for creative mentoring…

6. Connections

The Good for Nothing network extends beyond those directly involved. How can we help turn this extended network into a directory of do-ers that causes can tap in to?

Watch it grow

We're not there yet, but you can follow our progress on the development site.

For a more techie overview head over to GitHub where we have some lovely UML diagrams and more detail on the specific features of the platform. Oh, and, of course, it's all available under an open source license.

Thoughts, ideas and general ponderances are, as always, much appreciated.


More warblings