Annemarie Naylor was a sociology student at Essex in the mid late 1990’s, gaining a distinction for her sociology degree. She went on for a while to study for a PhD, and became the manager and designer of the sociology department’s first web site. After leaving Essex, she went on to community activism.
She writes about her work:
I am a Director of Common Futures, a modest new venture working with the public, private and third sectors to explore and kick at the boundaries of the community ownership landscape.
The ownership and management of land and buildings by communities for public benefit is nowadays a feature of neighbourhoods the length and breadth of the UK.
There is no shortage of ambition – with communities engaged and hard at work in socially conscious attempts to take control of an altogether bewildering range of assets. Likewise, the social enterprise sector and interest in social and impact investment is growing apace. However, technological advancements are transforming the operating context at break-neck speed. Increasingly, people expect super-fast broadband and 24/7 access to public services.
Government is investing to upgrade our digital infrastructure. It is implementing a digital-by-default approach to public service transformation. And, it is investing significant public funds in open and big data alongside cutting-edge technological innovation. But, there are potentially very serious ramifications for deprived communities – whether we’re talking about accessibility, affordability or confidence, knowledge and skills. Equally, there are concerns about the preparedness of the third sector and communities, more broadly, for the revolution that is already well underway. Nonetheless, there are also significant opportunities and considerable scope for socially conscious types to identify with the principles of openness and mutuality that underpin so much that is good about our ‘brave new world’. In fact, we can all get involved in developing our digital communities.
A handful of communities have made a start already – becoming ‘civic engineers’ and establishing themselves as community broadband pioneers. Elsewhere, the creative industries are flourishing, and a local manufacturing revolution borne of the hacker and maker movements is increasingly discernible, with social enterprises beginning to come to the fore. Still others have spotted the potential to begin developing digital services and internet enterprises to deliver social impact and improve their income generation prospects.
We’re here to advise the public sector as well as to help communities with all of that. If you’d like to know more, please take a look at our website and get in touch.
In January 2014, it was announced in the Queen’s Honour List that she had been awarded an MBE for her work.