What is the Wisdom Bank and how can an online tool help the people of Torfaen to develop better relationships with each other and public services? Matt Basham of Torfaen County Borough Council tells us more.
People know useful stuff.
It’s as true as it is simple.
Everybody has a library of tips, advice, information, let’s call it “Wisdom”, that they carry around in their heads. When we start looking at our local communities in their entirety, and then multiply these information resources by all the people who live there, we are dealing with something really significant and valuable. As someone who works for a local authority, I should have at my fingertips an enormous library of wisdom, which resides within the local residents, communities and businesses. If I could only unlock these resources, I could access information and advice that could deliver huge benefits to society. I could offer support to the vulnerable, advice to the needy, intelligence to local business, help to those who need it most, from a source they trust and respect.
However, society is changing. Modern life is hectic, and we don’t always have time to chat with the people around us. We don’t meet our neighbours as regularly as we once did. We don’t always bump into our friends in the village hall, our community centre, or even our local pub. All too often, we don’t even know our neighbours names.
We’d expect, in this interconnected age, that it would be increasingly easy to share useful, local information online instead. But the reverse seems to be true. There are a number of significant barriers that stop the flow of information between residents, organisations and businesses:
- The huge size and global nature of the internet makes it increasingly difficult to find information relevant and resonant to our own experience. We are swamped by too much information
- Potential contributors are frozen out by fear of trolling and cyber bullying. How many informative and helpful videos have you seen posted on YouTube that are greeted by sarcasm, insults and vitriol?
- The established social media brands are flippant, celebrity obsessed and distant.
It was with this situation in mind that the Wisdom Bank came about. It seeks to create a local environment, where resources can be created by the community, for the community.
A rigorous safety strategy puts reporting power in the hands of the user. Any reported content, right down to an individual forum response, is immediately suspended pending moderation. This means the cyber bullies and trolls can be weeded out locally. We don’t need to await a policy response from a distant web executive based in Silicon Valley, we can take action locally and immediately.
A new web brand, and intuitive site design encourages community involvement. The Wisdom Bank aims to become recognised as a destination for quality information.
Over time we want the site to work just like a bank, with people ‘depositing’ the knowledge they have to share and ‘withdrawing’ information when they need advice. These knowledge resources aren’t just helpful, they are enormously valuable. They help keep people happy, healthy and secure. They help people find work, cope with stress, or with tough situations. They help local businesses to trade and flourish. So how do we create and maintain useful social connections in the modern world? We have seen the potential of the internet to connect, to bring people together. But to date, no-one as developed something that works in a local context, to provide quality information.
So this is why we need the Wisdom Bank – to create a local online environment, where people are empowered to share their knowledge. In order for our local residents and businesses to engage with the Wisdom Bank, we must build an environment that is fit for their needs.
We worked hard to make the site as safe as we can, and developed a rigorous safety strategy.
We made the Wisdom Bank highly functional, and have developed a site that is clear and easy to use.
Most of all, we made the site welcoming, and have empowered the community to post films and web pages to share their knowledge. We believe that our residents and businesses have important knowledge to share, and we are giving them the tools to achieve this.
As well as posting films and pages, the Wisdom Bank also creates new online networks, based on common interests instead of pre-existing friendships. We give users a variety of communication tools, so they can interact, engage and support each other.
Ultimately, the quality and power of the Wisdom Bank will depend on how our communities engage, and how much they choose to contribute.
As an organisation Torfaen County Borough Council have a strong belief that our residents with respond positively, and create a special and unique resource for the benefit of all.
Visit www.wisdombank.org.uk to explore the potential of this new approach to social media.