It's not easy keeping up with trends these days. From maxis to minis and smart phones to smarter phones they spread like wildfire then fade away before your new bleach blonde mullet even has time to show its roots.
When it comes to innovating public services, though, the current hot trends are ones to hold on to. In these times of austerity, it has become all the rage for communities to step forward and lend a helping hand to public services; known as the rise of "collaborative consumption"' to some, social innovation to others, it amounts to the same neighbourliness that has always been part of British communities.
It's an ethos that is continually cropping up among the ideas posted on Simpl, the social innovation marketplace, where schemes to improve public services, share resources and increase accessibility are bartered. An influx of ideas to improve online accessibility for older people flooded the site when Simpl hosted the interactivism accessibility hack weekend challenge. They included Spotted, a user-generated content app designed to bring together reviews and suggestions on usability and accessibility of design and places, and Go For Local, a portal designed to help users locate nearby services, complete with profiles and reviews, each of which encourages community involvement to improve local services.
Libraries have been particularly hard hit by cuts and stretched resources, and amid a dwindling interest in print they struggle to find their place in the future digital age. Our Library, an online system for personal book-sharing within communities, sparked a rush of responses to support local libraries, from e-book lending to the much discussed Sutton Bookshare. One participant even suggested that schemes to protect libraries could link up with the push for alternative uses for redundant phone booths.
Another idea, the public sector asset sharing plan, looks to create a sharing network among councils, drawing on each other's resources rather than seeking out external supplies. Brighton and Hove council has expressed interest in setting up such as a service, while Nottingham council has already launched a shared marketing platform known as Portfolio.
Looking to revolutionise care and support while saving money for councils, the we:care Community Kitchens project aims to revolutionise meals on wheels by bringing together local people to cook meals and deliver them to their neighbours. Murtaza Abidi, who created the idea, explains the need for the project: "A truly social service that better meets the needs of service users while playing its part in reducing a growing funding gap in social care." Currently in its incubation period, and with a pilot in the developmental phase with Surrey council, the initial service design for the project will be complete within six weeks.
If this bit of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" interaction continues, collaborations between community and public service could lead to mutual development and growth for both. And when it comes to trends, give me community-supported libraries over leopard print harem pants any day.
This item was originally posted on the Guardian's website.