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Points-based book swap

FROM: Dave Green

What NEED does this meet?
Giving people anyone who'd like access to free/very low cost books (and/or other media) greater access to all the unwanted items currently languishing in homes across the UK.

What is the APPROACH?
I'm clearly thinking along similar lines to a couple of other submissions - Community swapping website: http://mysociety.blogs.com/mysociety/2003/11/community_swapp.html

and Internet charity shop:
http://mysociety.blogs.com/mysociety/2003/11/internet_charit.html .

In a nutshell: users upload details of books/ videos/ CDs they've got but don't want, other users browse for things that they do, and a postal exchange is effected. The clever bit would be to create a LETS (Local Employment Trading Systems)-style points system to enable you to swap things with people who don't necessarily want what you've got.

Eg: say CD albums had an arbitrary points value of 10 each. If someone wanted a CD of yours then they'd mail you a stamped addressed envelope (you'd have to weigh more exotic items so they knew how much postage to put on), you'd just stick the CD in their packaging and, when it safely arrived etc, 10 of their points would be transferred to you, which you could then spend or save for whatever you want.

Off the top of my head, you'd also get 1 bonus point for every item you registered on the site, so everyone could start spending straight away. And obvious safeguards would be required (eBay-style feedback?) to prevent people offering stuff they don't actually have, or getting too many points by collaborating with friends by exchanging non-existent items. But at the end of the day, it's mainly a system for giving stuff away, so no-one should get *too* wound up over their various point tallies.

(In fact, it could incorporate the Internet charity shop idea as well for people who can't be bothered to send off the SAE - they could just make a small donation to an admin centre, who'd send the SAE to the person with the item, who'd send it on to the recipient...)

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Hey, free books and CDs! (Plus the opportunity to get rid of stuff you don't want, to people who actually want it, in exchange for points you can swap for things that you do)

What is the COMPETITION?
Like http://www.swapitshop.com/ , but a bit easier to understand (and not just for kids)

Like eBay, but doesn't cost you anything (other than time, Jiffy bags, and stamps)

Addresses some of the issues around "Internet charity shop" regarding who pays for postage: http://mysociety.blogs.com/mysociety/2003/11/internet_charit.html

Like "Community swapping website" but with potentially much wider range of material plus made-up currency to intermediate economists' "double coincidence of wants": http://mysociety.blogs.com/mysociety/2003/11/community_swapp.html

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not expensive or difficult at all - a few grand for programming would be nice but basic model could be constructed quite cheaply and easily. Administrative demands would increase the more popular it got but this could perhaps be offset by cross-promotion in some sort of weekly technology newsletter or something.

November 30, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

3rd Avenue

FROM: Avideh Shashaani

What NEED does this meet?
To the extent that our global society remains a stable fact-of-life, the nations of the world will find it necessary to engage each other on many fronts – economic, diplomatic, and cultural. Fund for the Future of our Children (FFC) believes that such engagement requires of nations that their citizenry “get to know” their global “neighbors.” Only by recognizing and appreciating differences and commonalities across regions and cultures will we be able to pursue our common interests through informed collaborative strategies. FFC’s current projects focuses on providing middle school-age children the means to learn about the wider world, and an opportunity to develop the leadership skills they will require in order to meet the challenges they will face as citizens of the world.

What is the APPROACH?
To meet these goals, FFC has developed an interactive website called 3rd Avenue. The site will present the social, imaginative, and spiritual aspects of the world’s cultures in a way that makes that information both appealing and accessible.

The site is designed to welcome young visitors to a “virtual land” consisting of various regions in which they can pursue a number of activities. In the Commons young visitors learn about the social and artistic aspects of a culture; in the Forest they explore a country’s natural environment, its games, and its folklore; and on the Mountaintop, students are introduced to the sacred practices and mythologies of the society. The structure of each region guides visitors through learning experiences. For example, in the Commons the “Train Station” allows the youngster to “travel through time” to explore a country’s history, and in the Forest a student can visit the Hermit’s Hut to learn about the importance of ecology and ecosystems.

For frequent visitors, 3rd Avenue will become a community of friends, both actual and mythological. They will come to know the (virtual) residents of 3rd Avenue, and get to know each other at the same time. The design of 3rd Avenue also serves another function. The contours of its component regions reflect aspects of the human psyche, encouraging in young people an appreciation of an “ecology of self” – a recognition that all parts of the whole are valuable and necessary to well-being.

An important aspect of the site is the invitation it makes to young people to interact on-line with their peers in other countries. This will be accomplished at first by creating partnerships between teachers from many countries. These teachers will agree to incorporate 3rd Avenue into their curriculum and to encourage their students to work with students from other nations. For example, if students in Poland decide that their community would benefit from a clothing recycling program, they might collaborate in designing such a program with students in Nigeria, whose community has the same need.

In addition, 3rd Avenue will feature discussion forums (Roundtables) where students, either individually or under the direction of their teachers, can experience the process of learning relevant facts concerning some social problem and debating proposed solutions. Such activities will foster skills in peace-making, offer civic education, and provide opportunities for young people to take on the role of leadership. These children have the opportunity to develop personal relationships as they work and learn “together.” Eventually, 3rd Avenue will become generally available on-line, with the interactive portions of the site monitored by adults involved with the project. This will allow interactions between youth who are not necessarily students in recruited classes.

Plans for the continuing development of the site include inviting the participation of high school students, who will be asked to contribute to both content and design. We anticipate that this will be a valuable experience for them -- a fun way to learn more about the world while passing this knowledge on to their younger peers. Other potential collaborators include: teachers, scholars, members of the diplomatic community, and technology experts.

Among the first countries to be featured in 3rd Avenue are: Britain, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Bhutan, and Iran. We expect the number of countries to grow rapidly once the site is on-line. Eventually, every continent will be represented by many countries.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
3rd Avenue will yield many short term benefits, including:

· for youth: a welcoming community in which they can participate and grow, a tool for accessing information, a window to the world, a doorway to valuable new experiences and relationships, a way to have fun while learning.

· for teachers: a social studies teaching tool, a means of collaboration with other teachers from around the world.

· for parents: the knowledge that while their children are having fun, they are participating in a valuable enterprise – learning about the world, learning how to both negotiate effectively in the world, and learning how to transform the world.

· for the countries of the world: a showcase for their unique culture.

· for the world at large: a training ground for future leaders, in which they learn skills that will enable them to identify problems, see those problems from multiple perspectives, and work with others to solve those problems.

However, the most significant promise held out by the 3rd Avenue project lies several decades in the future, when a second generation of youth reaches the age at which they will benefit from a visit to this virtual land. By that time its first visitors will have reached an age at which they will be creating the intellectual and diplomatic environment in which their country operates. If it has done the job we hope it will do, 3rd Avenue will have influenced them in such a way that they will find tolerance a natural attitude and identification with people from other cultures a natural tendency.

What is the COMPETITION?
In some ways, the 3rd Avenue project will certainly be unique. Its overall goals, its unusual website design, and its reliance on collaboration between people in various walks of life and from around the world of life distinguish it form other international websites. Also, as a social studies curriculum, 3rd Avenue will offer teachers an innovative way to present subject material. We believe no other project addresses the issue of the development of future world citizens in an way as imaginative and potentially influential as FFC’s 3rd Avenue.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
We project our yearly budget to be $471,026 of which $128,485 is in-kind contributions. 3rd Avenue will be built using open source technology, so that others in the community, especially non-profits, can benefit from our efforts. The website will also use technology that is available with inexpensive web hosting environments. The interactive component of 3rd Avenue will be a customized bulletin board system that allows youth from around the world to either participate in or observe discussions that enrich cross-cultural understanding. Full participation in the discussions will require that users expand their knowledge of history, mythology, religion, leaders, world cultures, and more. The supporting content and external links will reinforce the idea that conflict resolution and peace can be achieved and sustained by learning the paradigms, archetypes, and values of other societies, and accepting their validity.

We are currently working toward a number of goals for 3rd Avenue implementation. An in-kind grant from the Meyer Foundation provided us with a technology expert who has developed a Request for Proposals (RFP) for vendors. From this pool of proposals, we plan to select a vendor by the end of December. Additionally, we are currently developing partnerships with local high schools and art schools that will help us build the content of 3rd Avenue. With the collaboration of these schools, we plan to have the content developed for six countries by the end of the year. We have also secured the support of a number of embassies, including The Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan, and we are in the process of securing the support of additional embassies. These embassies will be able to provide support through their cultural and community resources.

November 25, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

On-line Talking Newspaper/Magazine For the Visually Impaired

FROM: Mike Evans

What NEED does this meet?
There are many ways for the visually impaired to hear the news - radio, TV etc. Yet local, manually produced talking newspapers all over the country show there is a demand for more. When I worked on one such newspaper, our listeners told us this was for the added coverage and depth that the printed news and magazines offered.

This proposal is to take this national.

Use technology to supply the voices. Companies such as Rhetorical (http://www.rhetoricalsystems.com) can take the printed word and convert it on the fly into quite listenable voice(try their demo on this text).
Then ask content providers such as national newspapers & magazines to supply the content. Bring the two together and distribute across the web on whatever terms the copyright holders require.

What is the APPROACH?
This proposal is to fill the gap between TV and radio news, and the audio book. The technology is now here to offer listeners access to in-depth but current editorial content.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Distributed as widely as the web (well - broadband web). Users can even choose the voice they are read to in.

What is the COMPETITION?
I do not know of any news / content services using voice synthesis technology. Hence I belive this to be an early adoption of the technology.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
This proposal requires a lot of giving and a fair bit of technical complexity. 1. A voice synthesis company must offer its software. 2. Media outlets must make their output available. 3. Considerable server hardware and bandwidth will be required. 4. The content must be catalogued and made available to users. 5. The distribution channel must be secured so that only those eligible can use it (a ceratin condition of the copyright holders).

November 22, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Facilitating parent/toddler interaction within the local community

FROM: Kristan Hopkins Burke

What NEED does this meet?
This project is aimed at helping 'new' parents. Parent/toddler groups are often the only way to make contact with other parents. Parenthood can be extremely isolating, especially for those who are 'new' to an area and those who have no family/support network around them. Attending parent toddler groups provides social contact for both parents and their babies/toddlers. In turn, they provide access to support, information and a basic human need for sociability. However, finding out where these groups are etc. isn't necessarily easy. I think that greater knowledge of and access to these groups could help prevent a large amount of post-natal depression (I think isolation is a key factor) and also maybe even help to prevent negative/abusive treatment of children in certain situations. Afterall, access to other human beings in the same situation can provide all sorts of information, education and support!

What is the APPROACH?
Within local communities there are many 'voluntary' parent/toddler groups. However, they usually rely upon voluntary helpers and are non-profit making etc. Parents (and other child carers)attend such places to 'make contact' with other people in the same position as themselves. Such parents can be very isolated within their own communities, especially in the absence of family and/or friends. Such parent/toddler groups are often the only 'adult' contact that 'isolated' and 'new' parents have. Many 'new' parents find themselves outside of the world of work (even if temporarily) and inside the world of 'babies'and 'toddlers'. This can be a rollercoaster ride and everybody needs support. Moreover, such groups also provide opportunities for babies and toddlers to 'play' and learn to socialise with other human beings.

However, it is often difficult to find out where these places exist. When I was in this situation myself, I received a list from the health visitor which was out of date. Such parent/toddler groups do not find it easy to advertise themselves. They are self-funding and voluntary.

My idea is that we could set up a web site which provides information to all parents and child carers of the many national parent/toddler groups which exist within their local communities(similar to upmystreet.com). This could be a life-saver for a great many parents and their children too. So, really this idea is about facilitating human interaction amongst a socially isolated group of people (mostly women). This site would obviously need updating by the parent/toddler groups themselves (?) but it could provide a 'free' and relatively 'easy' way to make their services known. It could also (though not necessarily) provide additional information (perhaps from parents) about other issues: transport, parking, the way in which the group is run, times and days, the structure of the sessions etc.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
My idea will primarily help 'parents'/child carers (and their children). However, it will obviously be more helpful to those who have access to the internet. Nevertheless, more and more people do have such access (even if not at home!). It will provide them with invaluable information which will help to reduce their social isolation (I write from past experience). Having somewhere to go and 'getting out of the house' are so important to 'new' parents who are not in paid employment. Imagine the situation where you are new to an area, your husband or partner is at work all day and you have no 'real' friends or family in the community. Add to this a 'crying' or 'colicky' baby and very little sleep! Being part of a wider community and making friends is invaluable. Finding out where these groups are on-line would serve a great many people.

What is the COMPETITION?
I don't know of any! Until children start playgroup, nursery or school, they require the care of either their parents or child-minders or nannies. All groups of child-carers require support within the community. This information made so easily available could be a great support to a great many people, for a very small cost! Once they have access to the correct information, they have access to the places themselves, and the opportunity to meet people and make friends.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I think this could be a 'cheap' and relatively easy idea to develop. It would require the necessary research to find 'upto date' details of these groups and post these details on to the relevant site. Once it was set up, the actual parent/toddler groups (which exist 'nationally') could be asked to update their details, if, for example they move or stop providing the service. Keeping the information upto date would be the most important thing!

November 20, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

School Run Fun

FROM: Lydia Howland

What NEED does this meet?
Fewer and fewer parents allow their children to walk to school any more which means more and more cars on the road and heavier levels of congestion during school run peak times. This frustrates other road users, environmentalists and parents as everyone knows the school run is one of the most stressful ways to start a day.

But what if there was a quick and easy way to find out if other children in the neighbourhood went to the same school as your child? Maybe you could contact their parents via email and suggest a school run rota? This would be more environmentally sustainable (1 car with 4 children makes much more sense than 4 cars with 1 child) and would alleviate the stress of having to do it every morning.

What is the APPROACH?
Set up a website where users register their postcode, the number of children they have, the schools they attend and the vehicles they own (including seat numbers). People could then search by school name or postcode to find out if other parents with children at the same school live nearby, contact them and arrange a school run rota. It's basically e-nabled carpooling targeted at a specific group who do the same journey daily. Not exactly rocket science but might make people's lives a bit easier.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Not having to battle through gridlocked traffic which screaming/arguing children 5 mornings out of 7. Save petrol, get more sleep, save the planet. It's all good.

What is the COMPETITION?
I don't think there is anything out there that offers this service, although there might be templates that are similar. I guess it needn't stop at schools either. Perhaps it could be offered to commuters or people who drive to a station, park and then take a train? Or people visiting prisons, hospitals etc?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I honestly don't know but I don't think it can be very expensive because the technology would be similar to something like Friends Reunited. All it need to is collect the data and then enable people to securely email each other, which doesn't sound massively sophisticated.

November 20, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Monitoring 'at risk' children

FROM: jacqui jacobsen

What NEED does this meet?
Social Services and children on their 'at risk' register.

What is the APPROACH?
My idea is to utilise the existing technology used in 'virtual parenting' programmes, and develop a wrist band or ankle band for babies or small children who are on the Social Services 'at risk' register.

Under the 'Baby Think It Over' scheme (a virtual parenting programme offered by some councils to schools) computerised, life-like models of a baby, which record levels of care and attention provided by the carer, are given to young people to educate them on the implications of responsible parenting.

My idea is to utilise the electronic programme used in these computerised 'babies' (or develop a similar one) and then develop a wrist band or anklet to incorporate this electronic chip. This band could then be attached to a child to monitor the child's care and would obviously have to be tamper proof. By attaching an ID tag to a parent/carer's wrist, it can also be monitored which parent/carer is handling the baby (this ID tag has already been developed and is used in the existing programme).

If nothing else it may make parents/carers think twice about losing their temper and, say, shaking a child, if they knew it was going to show up on an electronic monitor. If a bracelet or anklet could be developed that incorporated this electronic technology, it could be offered on a voluntary basis to parents who are genuinely wishing to improve their parenting and keep their children with them at home. I would imagine that if it wasn't offered on a voluntary basis, it could no doubt be said to be infringing all sorts of civil rights and liberties.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
This idea could help Social Services, whose resources are already stretched,
as part of a programme to help keep 'at risk' children with their parents, rather than them being placed in care or fostering. This could potentially make the lives of the social workers, parents/carers and children on the 'at risk' register easier, as well as easing pressure on fostering and care facilities.

What is the COMPETITION?
I do not know of any similar services or whether this idea is viable - the idea came to me after reading an appeal by the NSPCC.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Absolutely no idea, but the technology appears to have originally been developed in the USA.

November 20, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Centralised Complaints System

FROM: John Henderson

What NEED does this meet?
Many people have suffered poor service at the hands of an orgnisation, be it public or private, but very few people make the effort to complain. The idea of picking up pen and paper and writing to some faceless corporation or government department is enough to put most people off. After all, what good could a lone voice really achieve?

What is the APPROACH?
The idea was inspired by FaxYourMp.com. The site would aggregate and gather together complaints made against organisations and then deliver them to those organisation. Rather than going into great depth about the individual problem, the site would simply offer to register the fact that an individual has suffered poor service and would just like to point that out.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
3 or 4 clicks on a website is a lot easier than writing a letter, finding a stamp and posting it.

What is the COMPETITION?
Not sure, but this is a very simple idea, and one that I believe would garner a lot of support.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
No idea.

November 19, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

community swapping website

FROM: Paolo

What NEED does this meet?
Most of us live in a world where our neighbours are strangers.

Most of us have a stack of DVD's/videos/books/computer games/kids toys, getting dusty on our shelves.

My concept is a free website for your local community that helps you meet your real world neighbours, by listings and swapping your dusty read books, exchanging your seen dvds, and trade your played computer games or kids toys.

What is the APPROACH?
Have already developed an advanced swap group engine and website. I want input from you people. The website is of course free:


Check it out and please, let me know what you think and which way I should develop it, and promote it.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Save a fortune on Books/dvds/computer games/kids toys/anything else.

Meet your neighbours! We all know that its good to have friends in your neighbourhood.

What is the COMPETITION?
show me... them?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
£50k to bring it up to 'broadcast standard' and initiate a PR campagain.

November 19, 2003 in Connecting People, Leisure, Matching System | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bottom Up Responsive Government

FROM: Jamal Shahin

What NEED does this meet?
"Understanding what cyberspace actually means for politicians, citizens and civil servants".

Cyberspace is big, borderles and bound to confuse the local civil servant. At the same time, e-government works best at the local level. How do you get around this? Big companies can come along and charge lots for developing CRM systems based on SAP drivebys with gigawatts of energy, oozing with bytes and DRAM and you name it. But that still doesn't help anyone work out what cyberspace is and what people are doing there.

What is the APPROACH?
In two words: Bottom Up.

But not driven by the bottom up. Most e-government projects/ ideas/ innovations are all about giving something from the 'top' to the citizen. The ultimate step in the ideology of consumer politics. (Check out 'The Silent Takeover' if you haven't already.) This one is about local governments actually getting involved in citizen's lives via the public space that is the Internet. The TOOLBOX would be a little website/ application, designed as a dynamic portal to the local government's jurisdiction. It would carry out searches using specific search engines for issues and topics that have either been raised in forums where local citizens actually discuss things (and not on some forums that have been set up by local governments that noone ever visits), or where local issues are being discussed. These discussions might happen wherever! That's the beauty of cyberspace; there are no boundaries to content

What are the BENEFITS to people?
To be honest, Stan, it is a bit like a dialogue: two people talk to each other online in a forum. This gets recorded (in a public space). They complained about the fact that they thought that the litter in the local park should be collected in the morngings and not in the evenings. Well, maybe, (because of the hassle it is to write a letter and set up a campaign by lobby etc., and frankly, noone really wants to get that involved with local (or even national) politicians that much , so they decide to leave it. Then they distrust the 'system' even more, because they still watch the litter being collected at 19h, when noone uses the park. And nothing gets done. That's where this toolbox might help. Dunno though. might be something to think about a bit more.

What is the COMPETITION?
I haven't heard of any, apart from generic ones like google, which might offer part of what we were after.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
One coder, but more importantly (perhaps) someone to go and talk to local government officials to see what it is that they would like/ need/ could use etc.

November 19, 2003 in Perhaps Government Remit? | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dodgy Tummy Trend Spotter

FROM: Gordon

What NEED does this meet?
The number of notified cases of food poisoning in the UK in 2002 was 81,815. Everyone I have spoken to has had at least one dodgy tummy experience in the last year and these cases went unreported. This was because the sufferer didn't consider it serious enough to do anything about, and couldn't say for sure what really had caused it. However, if there was an easy way of entering an 'eating diary' of the day or so prior to being ill (and enough people used it) then it should be possible to correlate this data in such a way as to identify the likely source of the food poisoning. For example, a common denominator in several cases could be an egg sandwich from the same establishment, or common consumption of an in-flight meal. In these cases information can be passed onto the relevant authorities for further investigation. However, many cases will be caused by home preparation of food, and in these case advice can be given on storing, preparation and cooking.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to have a website that makes it easy to enter the relevant food and provenance data (what was eaten and where it was bought) and collate the data in such a way to allow a likely source of the food poisoning/illness to be identified. The important points in this process are:

1. Entry of data must be quick, friendly and easy in order to encourage re-use of the system (as good results rely on a large sample size).

2. Data must be stored in a way to make comparison and crosschecking between different users' information possible.

3. Where possible there should be some immediate feedback of the likely source to encourage usage of the site.

4. Contributors would be kept informed of developments of their incident by email.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
1. Individual contributors are told the most likely source of stomach upsets, along with practical advice on preventing it happening again wherever possible. 2. Promotes safer and more hygienic food preparation and cooking in the home. 3. Commercial sources of food poisoning will be identified faster, preventing further, and potentially more serious, cases from occurring.

What is the COMPETITION?
The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) maintains a database of food-poisoning cases - but this only includes cases that were reported to GPs, and where the GP carried out further tests and submitted a report to the PHLS. Most cases are not reported. This proposed system will contain a much larger number of more minor stomach upsets, making trend spotting and data analysis possible.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The main expenses of the system will be: 1. Creating/hosting the website. 2. Specialist health knowledge will be needed to formulate rules and write advice. 3. Up-to-date database of UK businesses selling/serving food. e.g. live information from on-line yellow pages. This will be required to let contributors pick visited eating establishments from a list to ensure accuracy.

November 17, 2003 in Health, Increasing Awareness, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack