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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I033017/1
Title: Citizens Transforming Society: Tools for Change (CaTalyST)
Principal Investigator: Whittle, Professor J
Other Investigators:
Sas, Professor C Blair, Professor G Coulton, Professor P
Suchman, Professor L Mouzas, Professor S Buscher, Professor M
Soopramanien, Dr DGR Cruickshank, Professor L Fildes, Professor R
Rashid, Professor A Ellis, Dr R Rowe, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Community Matters Derry City Council Derry District Policing Department
FutureEverything CIC Manchester Digital Development Agency The Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
Department: Computing & Communications
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2011 Ends: 30 April 2015 Value (£): 1,513,053
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Processes Human-Computer Interactions
Mobile Computing New Media/Web-Based Studies
Science & Technology Studies
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Communications Creative Industries
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
23 Feb 2011 Promoting CDip Research Interview Announced
27 Jan 2011 Promoting CDip Research Sift Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
We define citizen-led (social) innovation as the bottom-up creation of community-driven solutions to major societal problems. Citizen-led innovation has been an active ingredient of societies for centuries. However, technological developments such as online social networks and mobile computing have made it easier than ever before to initiate and nurture it; these technologies permit 'ridiculously easy group forming' and have led to civic engagement on a scale and with an efficiency not seen before.Recent events mean that now is both an opportune and critically necessary time for citizen-led innovation. On the one hand, society has experienced a massive global economic crisis. We are all being asked to do more for less and one consequence is that citizens are now expected to become more active participants in solving local problems (cf. Big Society). On the other hand, governments in both the UK and US are opening up public data in a drive for transparency that puts information into the hands of citizens in a way never before envisaged. This proposal addresses two core themes that will maximize the opportunities for citizens to transform society: understanding behaviour (what stimulates people to participate and why) and tools for change (what next-generation technologies best support how people want to innovate). Regarding the first theme, much of what is being proposed by governments - Localism, National Citizen Service, Big Society - is being implemented without a sociological understanding of what people need from it. Regarding the second, although social technologies have been extremely effective in promoting citizen-led activism, they were not designed specifically for it; it is natural, therefore, to ask what the next generation of tools should look like and to design those tools with the wants and needs of participatory citizens firmly in mind.Furthermore, there are fundamental barriers to overcome. In particular, there is a well-known tension between innovation and inclusion. Experience from organisations such as Community Matters shows that a major reason for citizens engaging in social action is the need for more human contact; however, technology has a tendency to reduce human contact in favour of virtual contact. We therefore see that a fundamental challenge is to reverse this trend. In all our research activities, we will emphasise this goal and work towards technologies that are mediators and not replacements for human contact. Our research methodology puts people-based activities at the forefront of an integrated research/people strategy that aims to answer fundamental research questions about citizen-led innovation via a series of 'research sprints' that will combine discipline hopping, cross-discipline training, a community-driven research agenda and reflection on the interdisciplinary process itself.The project will bring together a group of social scientists (sociology; anthropology), computer scientists (mobile computing; web2.0; distributed systems), management scientists (consumer behaviour) and designers (innovation) to develop next generation systems that empower citizens to create bottom-up innovative solutions to 'wicked' societal problems. We will work with partners in Manchester and Derry with which we have a history of success: the Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA) and FutureEverything in Manchester; Derry District Policing Partnership (DDPP) in Derry. We will also focus on widening the research to communities across the UK. This will be facilitated by two organisations - the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and Community Matters
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Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk