Finalist category: Ageing Society Award
Ageing Society Award, Finalist, 2019
Made Open is an online community platform (a social network for communities) that organisations can use to build a movement that is a force for good. Fully configurable, and created in co-production with the organisation, each platform helps communities of purpose or place to make practical use of community resources and connect around shared goals.
Created by service designers often asked to design, refine and improve services – the inspiration for the Made Open platform came from learnings across many projects. The team continuously co-design with clients and their customers (end-users). Organisations can license the platform singularly or in partnership with others, and the team at Made Open can help collaborating organisations to integrate their efforts around shared outcomes with purpose-built tools and processes, as well as providing bespoke design services.
Bristol City Council, for example, wanted to create an online platform for social action and citywide volunteering. The team co-designed this feature with key partners in Bristol – any group or organisation in Bristol can now post, promote and manage their volunteering opportunities (and volunteers) seamlessly. The ‘Bristol Reading in Schools’ project has since crowdsourced 250 volunteers; mostly people of retirement age, who help children from years 1, 2 and 3 who have fallen behind to improving their reading skills.
To their knowledge, Made Open is the only platform in the world to have merged a community directory and community exchange (timebank) into a single seamless user experience. This means, for elder people, being able to integrate the ‘support networks’ of service providers and local delivery partners with the ‘trust networks’ of local residents and volunteers.
Responsive and accessible, the platform works seamlessly on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Administrators can create sub-accounts for older users who are digitally or socially excluded. This means that people without emails can have accounts. Both they, and the person acting on their behalf, can sign into their personal dashboard and manage their activities / connections.
Each uniquely branded platform connects peoples to THEIR community. Other platforms by comparison tend to suffer from a poor user experience, minimal functionality, centralised control and an inability to create private configurations. For elder people, these small details make a difference. Made Open aims to bring together any community-minded person, group or organisation around a single platform.
Licensing partners can use the platform to develop community networks, support and report on community initiatives, sponsor campaigns, receive and manage referrals and guide people away towards community resources. Their collaborative licensing model helps to bind (often competing) community organisations together for meaningful and prolonged community engagement.
The team are currently finishing the first iteration of the v2 platform and going to market with various platforms across England, Wales and Australia. A key goal is to be a fully sustainable business, so they are also looking at how to balance purpose with profit.
The team has ambitions to create a ‘network of innovators’ (clients, partners, trusted associates) in the spirit of learning and co-production. This will enable the network to share their insights and experiences with each other and help them shape the platform – embodying their co-design philosophy. They also have plans to make the platform more accessible to socially-responsible businesses and more relevant to health professionals looking to signpost people towards community resources (aka social prescribing).
Looking to the long-term, they are seeking to build a strong management and delivery team capable of helping them to scale. This includes identifying distribution agents across the world who can license the platform on their behalf.