Opportunity: come and help us create the ExCiteS Social Enterprise!

1. children explore and discuss icons after a particiaptory software development session in their camp. longa, republic of congo 2013The Extreme Citizen Science group, set up about 8 years ago, has developed two main technological infrastructures – Sapelli software to allow data collection by low-literacy participants, and GeoKey, a data management system for community mapping. We have also developed an engagement approach that allows for the co-production of the data collection process, and for sharing of the information in a culturally sensitive and ethical way. These developments were funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

We now have funding to grow these activities (and in particular the use of Sapelli) into a social enterprise, and we’re looking for a consultant (who will be encouraged to apply for the post of director once the organisation is set up). We have £40,000 to enable the consultant to dedicate themselves to develop the organisation over a year and a bit.

Apply for this post by responding to the tender available here

Further details:
UCL’s Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group has recently been awarded EPSRC Impact Acceleration funding from the “Discovery To Use” initiative at UCL. The funding has been awarded to launch a social enterprise – the ExCiteS Social Enterprise (or ESE), via the Accelerated Market Entry and Upgrade project (AcuMEn). This tender represents one of several work packages to help launch this process. Each work package (see below) will be tendered separately.

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) is a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world. Over the last decade, ExCiteS has worked with indigenous and traditional communities in Cameroon, the Congos (RoC and DRC), Central African Republic, Ghana, the Brazilian Amazon, and Namibia on a range of projects – be it using participatory mapping to combat illegal resource extraction or invasions (often in the context of logging and poaching), or to monitor wildlife populations or a community’s territorial boundaries. This work supports environmental justice and strengthens conservation efforts as well as promoting and protecting the rights of these often vulnerable communities who sometimes live under the constant threat of exploitation and violence.
Our custom-developed mobile data gathering platform called Sapelli supports rapid adaptation to local conditions in the field through our unique approach that centres on participatory design with non-literate, non-technologically familiar users – developing locally-specific configurations of Sapelli to address problems identified by the community. Over the last 10 years we have carefully honed our methodology based on the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of participants into the development of a clear Community Protocol (CP) for the use of the technology and the data that is collected with it. These methodological approaches are integral to the successful application of the technologies we have developed.

The purpose of the AcUMEn project is to transform research collateral (the technologies and know-how) of the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group into a set of commercially viable yet socially focused offerings in what we will describe as the ExCiteS Social Enterprise (ESE). We have reached a point of maturity with our tools and methods whereby we are able to transpose these research projects into a standardised approach suitable for various forms of service delivery. Whilst this is workable in a research context, they are barriers to usability when positioning it as a commercial proposition. This project is designed to remove those barriers, to establish a core operating model and branding, a clear set of commercial offerings supported by a clear business strategy, and to obtain an initial tranche of work.

This project will consist of three work packages (WPs), of which this project is the first:

WP 1: Secure initial funding for contracts, consolidate project delivery approach and build initial team, as well as control WP 2 and WP 3 in consultation with UCL ExCiteS. Towards the end of 2019, the role of a permanent director will be advertised via an open application process.

WP 2: Hire expert social enterprise consultants to develop a clear commercial strategy and 18-month roadmap in line with ExCiteS’ ethos of social responsibility and collaboration.

WP 3: Software consultancy to deliver key improvements to Sapelli, the mobile data gathering platform developed by the group through the last decade of research.

Please note that the exact constitution of the other work packages may be subject to change, depending on how this first phase of work proceeds.

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Knowledge Transfer Champion for Social Enterprise

At the end of 2010, UCL’s Office of the Vice-Provost (Enterprise) ran an internal competition to identify several Knowledge Transfer (KT) Champions across the institute.

‘KT Champions will distinguish themselves as leaders of knowledge transfer and research impact within their field, and contribute to UCL’s enterprise strategy as a whole… The activities of a KT Champion will include: (i) leading others through their own knowledge transfer work; (ii) building an understanding of opportunities and relations within their area and facilitating the growth of projects and partnerships; and (iii) supporting colleagues in developing their own knowledge transfer portfolios. KT Champions will be proactive and visionary in working with their counterparts and UCL Enterprise to develop the UCL enterprise strategy.’

Based on my work in setting up Mapping for Change and securing the UnLtd HE Development Award, I felt it was important that the area of Social Enterprise will be represented within the range of activities that KT Champions cover.

After a successful application, I am starting 2011 as the KT Champion in the area of Social Enterprise. During the coming year, I aim to develop this area within the wider UCL community. The activities that will be carried out over the year include: an implementation plan based on the findings from the Perception Mapping project in which the community that surrounds UCL told us what connection they would like to have with UCL; identifying existing third sector work at UCL – publicising it,  understanding barriers to growth and devising solutions; running a Social Enterprise ‘clinic’, with widely published opening times, to assist any member of the UCL community to start a social enterprise; and extending the activities of Mapping for Change.

During the launch of the programme, I was approached with questions about the concept of Social Enterprise, and my experience of establishing one, so I guess that it is going to be a busy year.

For more information about the UCL Knowledge Transfer Champions programme, see here.