I thought there would be some benefit in explaining where we have got to with the TechSolent concept as of the end of March 2021 and where we see it heading. It's this weird combination of frustration, ambition and excitement, with the frustration phase dwindling rapidly.
Since restructuring the concept in January, we have made lots of “behind the scenes” progress, largely regarding what we are trying to achieve. The key manifestation of this is an improved list of objectives, refined to improve the articulation of our charitable purpose, which are below:
To advance, promote and support the development, awareness and delivery of “technology” and “technology-based solutions” in response to a range of societal problems, including but not limited to:- climate change, health and social care, rising inequalities, smarter living and data access, by organising and facilitating workshops, seminars, research committees and through the promotion and dissemination of the outcomes of those activities for the public benefit;
To advance the education and awareness of the public in new “technology” initiatives and development opportunities, including through the provision, delivery and support of training sessions, seminars and schools/academia based engagement opportunities with Schools, Colleges and Universities and to work with those institutions to identify any skills gaps arising in the region and to facilitate educational opportunities in any gaps identified (such as apprenticeships or re-training opportunities), where possible;
To advance and support for the public benefit the urban regeneration and economic development of the Solent Region with a view to making “technology” initiatives and associated employment opportunities accessible by linking local technology businesses with: Academia, Local and Central Government; Industry and relevant community groups with the purpose of promoting opportunities and initiatives;
To promote, conduct and commission research and problem-solving actions by Technology Businesses for the purpose of assisting and relieving the social and health needs of the elderly in the region, and of any other vulnerable groups identified from time to time, by applying research findings and through the promotion and publication of effective results;
The above are our formal charitable objectives, but we are also looking to educate, promote, grow and develop the South of England region as a centre of excellence for Artificial Intelligence. This is to help our region become recognised as a world leader in applying technology to solving the UK's and world challenges.
If you net these down, we are a charity who’s purpose is to try and apply technology concepts to improve society through promotion and development of a technical community, which in turn helps drive improvements in education and opportunity (working with the Education establishments), thus improving prosperity, job prospects and skills in our region overall, with a particular focus on helping those who are in need of support. It’s quite difficult to read, but hopefully it makes sense. We are just waiting for the Charities Commission to approve our application, and we’re off.
And by “we’re off”, I mean proper activity. We’ve already started building a forward plan of webinars and events to support the promotion of the region, and the TechSolent concept, with some awesome events this year so far. The community is “building”, we’re getting about 30 or40 people to each event, but with zero marketing funds and a group of volunteers I’m seeing this as a good result. The events part is currently the main tangible aspect of the network, whilst we get formal charity status which allows us to do more interesting things.
Charitable status will also unleash the core part of the aspiration, which is to collect membership funds and apply them exclusively to our purpose. Until we get a charity bank account, we can’t pool funds, so we’re a bit hamstrung by this but as I say there are plenty of plans afoot.
First off, we have agreed a priority set of “themes” – things we feel technology can help overcome. These are articulated beautifully in our blog, “Tackling the Magnificent 7” written by Geoff Glover on this site.
These themes will start to drive our agenda across the spectrum of activity. We clearly have an “events” strand, which will continue to be interesting insights into the application of technology to real business problems, but also promote local businesses and their innovative approach to tech.
We have a structure for what is lovingly known as “Wicked Problems”, which will be a forum where local businesses are invited to overcome societal issues, again across the whole region’s diverse estate, from social care to maritime air pollution.
We are developing a list of educational videos, to be used with local education institutions, making Technology less theoretical and more accessible to A-Level and T-Level students, as well as helping people looking to retrain or cross skill understand the application of technology in the business world.
We are engaging local government regional development officers, across County, City, Borough and District, to understand where they see the benefit of our type of organisation and prioritise how we can help. This includes understanding how governmental funding opportunities can be used to best support local businesses, and how to ensure new or developing businesses can access these funds.
We are engaging other local tech networking groups, or interest groups, to try and work out how to support each other. There is a myriad of groups all of whom have a specific focus, and all of whom have excellent objectives, and we are trying to ensure we align / complement these to drive the bigger goal.
We are developing some proper, old skool, hand shaking and wine drinking networking events – chats in the pub – to develop proper relationships across the community and shake off the last years virtual shenanigans. When the restrictions lift, and people feel safe to do so, I’m very much looking forward to this bit!
We’ve written processes, policies and procedures; built a website; started (slowly) on LinkedIn and Email marketing; developed some basic brand guidelines. We’ve not been sat around chatting, we’re properly doing “stuff”.
And most importantly, we’ve collected an incredible committee of volunteers who have Formed, Stormed, Normed and are now Performing so effectively its incredible. Once we have an official vehicle to support our aspiration, the sky is genuinely the limit.
And what does that tangibly look like? Publicly stating objectives on a social media platform has plenty of risks. But I think its key that people understand what we want to achieve. So here goes.
By the end of 2021, we want to:
Have generated £30k of fees to help drive the agenda forward
Maintain our overheads to less than £5k, giving us £25k of funds to support local relevant causes
Built a network of 250 technology professionals, across 5 key “segments” with a view to driving achievement towards our charitable purposes:
Local Government (Regional Development leaders, Strategists).
Education (FE and HE, Tech Lecturers and Careers / Placement Managers).
Tech Companies (Hardware Manufacturers, Software Developers, and “The Channel” – all of the companies who help clients secure benefit from Tech).
Tech Consumers (Businesses who use tech to solve their business problems, who could help us overcome other problems through their experiences).
Ecosystem Partners (Other groups who support the above community, through providing support services, facilities, resources, training etc.).
Have 5 training videos to promote the use of technology in the context of societal improvement or business applications.
Have 4 active engagements with schools / universities to promote the sector and regional skills.
Have at least 4 networking events to build proper relationships
Held 1 “Wicked Problems” event to address a core challenge, leveraging our collective brain power within the community to improve and impact on social issues in the Solent region, and following up on enacting a solution where possible.
Most importantly, we’re looking for community members – people who want to get involved in doing things to support the charitable purpose we set out above. If you want to get involved, please let us know on email@example.com. Let us know your skills or things that interest you, and we’ll help you find a role.
Here’s to an excellent 2021!