On Wednesday 7th September, FutureEverything did what we do best. We hosted a Community Forum Workshop for CityVerve – a pilot event to test how we’re going to bring community voices, from along Manchester’s Oxford Road corridor, into CityVerve to shape the redesign of Manchester as a Smart City.

It was a groundbreaking event for CityVerve partners, players and stakeholders. It was the first time that the Smart Cities project had been openly presented and discussed with the public in Manchester. The aim of the event was to position the forum as a test bed to see how there can be a stronger community voice throughout CityVerve. Our vision and hope is that CityVerve will demonstrate how different communities can positively shape technology, in order to have a greater impact on future cities, citizens and to have a lasting legacy.

As this was a pilot workshop, we weren’t expecting a thorough representation of Manchester’s diverse communities and therefore we are aware of the limitations and difficulties presented to us in providing a community voice throughout CityVerve. We had a small group at the workshop, with a few CityVerve project leads from Cisco, Manchester City Centre and Transport for Greater Manchester, along with Community Champions, FutureEverything, and most importantly, community representatives.

We knew we weren’t going to get things right the first time around and we took this as our opportunity to see the big potential opportunities for how we can bring communities into CityVerve. It was a great process and an even better learning process for FutureEverything and CityVerve as a whole.

 

But, why are we doing this?

We want to do things differently, we want to spark a change in big technology projects.

Traditionally, large technology projects (and in particular Smart Cities and Internet of Things development) are scoped and implemented outside of the communities who will be using the tech. We’re pushing for a more human centred design within CityVerve, so that project partners are thinking of the people who will be using their technology throughout the development of their products and services. A big part of how they can do that is with community engagement.

What we wanted to discover, was what community representatives think of CityVerve and what success looks like for disparate and disconnected communities across the Oxford Road Corridor.

 

How are we doing it?

The Community Forum Workshop was the starting point for how we’ll be voicing community concerns, opinions and approval of CityVerve. It was just the first in a series of events and workshops that are going to happen over the next two years, so that community participation continues to be a key component of the project.

At the end of the Community Forum Workshop, our key objective was to walk away with the bare bones of a set of Community Key Performance Indicators to measure community success over the next 2 years.

 

But, what are Community KPIs?

Community Key Performance Indicators determine ‘what success looks like’ for a project and are defined and measured by the communities who are expected to use the new technologies. In an ideal scenario, Community KPIs are community designed, community owned and community measured. They’re a community led definition of success from a people perspective, to complement or to act as an alternative to traditional business indicators and parameters.

Community KPIs are built through a process of understanding what goals different communities are looking to achieve, and then understanding measurable ways of assessing those goals. The aim of Community KPIs isn’t just to measure success, but to empower diverse communities as stakeholders to take ownership and gain a voice in developments that can affect their lives. They give people an outlet to openly speak about their concerns, issues and feelings in regard to new technology. The aim is for this to help shape what is developed – not just whilst the project is happening but long after it has been deployed.

A great example of a Community KPI could be the number of people walking to and from school, before and after an innovation has been implemented. The focus shifts from a technology or service, to how people’s lives have changed as result. It’s a subtle difference but one that can have a massive impact on the way we think about and build neighbourhoods and city services – putting people’s experience and needs front and centre.

In CityVerve, FutureEverything has proposed Community KPIs as a way of looking at and defining the success of new technology from the point of view of the communities among which the innovation will be implemented. Community KPIs will sit alongside more standard business and economic KPIs in CityVerve so that the community voice is as important in determining the project’s success as everything else.

 

Outcomes

We gave an overview of CityVerve to the attendees, looking at what a Smart City is and why the community matters. Plus, CityVerve partners gave a three minute breakdown of problems that they’re trying to solve in Manchester, as a the starting point for community discussion.

We closed the event with a set of Community Key Performance Indicators. These were drawn from conversations between community representatives and CityVerve project leaders. They aren’t the be all and end all of Community KPIs for CityVerve but the humble beginnings of how we’ll be representing the community in the project.

Community KPIs combine a goal, and an indicator for that goal. Here is a selection from the workshop – some have been edited to make them consistent and legible, they are presented here only as an indication of the ideas that emerged in this pilot:

  • Goal: The community take ownership of CityVerve. Indicator: How many people attend CityVerve community events over the next two years.
  • Goal: Clear communication channels on how CityVerve is developing. Indicator: Community engagement in the project.
  • Goal: CityVerve has a lasting legacy in Manchester. Indicator: Attitude surveys during and after the project.
  • Goal: Decrease air pollutants along Oxford Road by 25%. Indicator: Parts per million measurement before and after the project.
  • Goal: Anonymous and easy to use reporting tools. Indicator: No personal data is stored.
  • Goal: Use bus stops as community spaces. Indicator: A decrease in vandalism at bus stops.
  • Goal: People incentivised to use alternative transports. Indicator: Incentivise bus and alternative transport users with vouchers to local amenities and measure use.
  • Goal: Decrease social isolation. Indicator: Uptake of new activities along Oxford Road.

These are by no means the final version of the KPIs what we’ll be measuring in CityVerve but a snapshot of what impact the project could have on different communities along Oxford Road.

 

Next steps

Despite our best efforts to do an open call for the Community Forum, we went into the workshop knowing that we wouldn’t have a full representation of Manchester’s diverse communities . So, we’ll certainly be replicating and adapting the workshop to engage with more communities over the next two years to run events with different neighbourhoods, community interest groups, different religious communities, students, public service users and so many more. Keep an eye out for event announcements and new ways of engaging with CityVerve. We’d love to have you take part in the future of CityVerve and this is your chance as a citizen or community member to have a voice in the future of Manchester as a Smart City.

The pilot Community Forum Workshop is just the beginning. We’re taking our learnings from the workshop to see how we can continue to implement Community KPIs in different aspects of CityVerve. We’re moving forward with the extremely talented Creative Expert team at Contact Theatre, to run more workshops and events  – as the Community Champions team – to engage with different communities so that there’s a continual community voice in CityVerve. FutureEverything have designed and created the role of Community Champions in CityVerve, which is a new and exciting way for the project to interact with different communities along Oxford Road. Working with some fabulous young people from Contact, Manchester’s world leading youth theatre, we’ll draw on their facilitator, performance and acting expertise to engage with a plethora of people on a grass roots level, to bring a stronger community voice to CityVerve as a whole.

Plus, we want to hear from you –  voice your opinions on the KPIs and if they’re relevant to you and your community along Oxford Road. This is by no means the end, this is just the beginning of a journey and we’d love for you to join us on the ride.