Like pretty much everyone else in the New Year, I’m thinking about new ideas and resolutions – not least because our Start Something campaign is just round the corner. So in it’s honour, I’ve been thinking about what I could start. And it began with me tidying my bedroom.
What I found beneath the general detritus was loads and loads of books – old favourites, book group reads, Christmas presents (I won’t specify from what years), and even old exam revision books I suspect my sons of abandoning out of sight. Now while I struggle to throw anything out, I consider throwing out books a particular sacrilege. Like Heinrich Heine said, if you start burning books you’ll soon be burning people. And if you start throwing them out you’re throwing away someone else’s potential joy, knowledge and understanding – all contained within those pages.
So how can I put these resources to good use? Book recycling? Charity shops? Volunteer libraries? Perhaps. How many others are like me with hundreds of books gathering dust? How can we pool more of our existing knowledge, full stop, instead of keeping it in piles around our (proverbial) bedrooms? As ever, I can look to the UK online centres network to inspire me.
Victoria Rodney from the Mercy Foundation Centre in Wandsworth set up a homework group on a Friday night, inviting her childrens’ friends round saying she’d help them with their school work for the next week. She had a few text books and some old York Notes. Now 125 kids turn up to her centre every week for homework clubs, and more second-hand books and textbooks have been donated so Victoria and her volunteers can help them (in fact that’s where my son’s revision books are going this week), and the computers are fired up for research and essay writing.
So what does this mean for us in 2014? Tinder Foundation’s mission is to make good things happen through digital technology, but the network effect of UK online centres means that what we really do is to help good people make good things happen for their communities. Technology is important (even essential to our modus operandi) but secondary. It can be a catalyst, an organisational tool, a resource, a marketplace, or a library of knowledge. And it can be very powerful.
Undoubtedly, technology will be the key to bringing my vague post-Christmas musing of Sheffield book-pooling to some sort of life at some point, but Victoria’s example is inspirational. It’s something we’re particularly interested in at Tinder, because we believe both technology and communities of people are key in the creation of new, dynamic, relevant and high-quality learning.
Co-creation is another example of this, and is a live project for us in 2014. Our E-Reading Rooms pilot supported local centres, interest groups or clubs to follow their hobbies, collate resources and look to the online world for paths to help them progress. This year we’re extending that co-creation work with local partners who are creating new online courses that can extend and amplify our learning website Learn my Way – turning it into more of a learning platform (or MOOC) where hyperlocal learning data will sit alongside courses like Online Basics.
As an example, one pilot partner is working with teenage mums in the North East, and together they are creating an online health course which focuses on post-natal depression. For this group the process of creation will probably be as important as the process of doing the course, but once completed, others will be able to use it and share it. That’s pretty exciting stuff – and you watch this space for more information over the coming weeks.
Between 3 and 21 February we’ll be encouraging local people to start something new, something different, something useful or just something fun – all online. Hundreds of events will take place across the country targeting the digitally excluded or the digitally reticent, covering online health, job hunting, keeping in touch, saving money, and much, much more.
Why not join in? If the the New Year is all about making a new start, let’s all take some inspiration from the likes of Victoria, and choose to be self-starters and self-sharers in 2014 – online or offline. And let’s see what we can achieve together.
Happy New Year!