Dr. Maya Parmar
The UK pilot in Milton Keynes reached an important project milestone this month, June 2022. The Open University (OU) are collaborating with Woughton Community Council (WCC) and the SME Spirocco. Together they launched their new public mobile phone application, which aims to empower local communities in Milton Keynes. The app will promote independence, wellbeing and better connectedness within the community,
The app’s primary objective is to address issues of loneliness, wellbeing and caretaking. It works by enabling Milton Keynes residents to create and respond to requests around daily living on the app. Users ask for help with day-to-day activities, such as shopping and gardening, and then community members can respond offering that help.
During one community event, where the app was introduced to the local community, a resident told the team: ‘I can’t get the help I need. My friends and family always seem busy. My husband and I have health issues, and a limited budget, so some things are beyond us, like weeding, or gardening. If someone could help me do these things, I could help someone else by doing some shopping, for example’. The new, innovative app will address situations like this, and matchmake user’s needs and what they can offer.
The technological intervention is well placed within this Community Council. WCC has a great track record in community care, and grass roots interventions. They are experienced in supporting communities to support communities. So much so that in 2019 they won Star Council of the Year 2019. Steve McNay, Council Manager, explains ‘we see the app as a connector: the technology we hope will bring need and offer together in a seamless way. We already have a great relationship with our community, and this app will boost our current offering, allowing early intervention, and preventing people struggling needlessly.’
Whilst bolstering a well-networked community, the pilot will allow for a better understanding of community needs and the risks. Learning about how the research-led technology can intervene meaningful in the community is a valuable outcome for project researchers.
Dr. Alessio Antonini, Research Associate, says: ‘this is a great opportunity to support local good practices through technology, helping the council to increase the volunteer participation, all the while keeping an oversight on community support. Here at the OU, we are really excited to working with Woughton Community Council.’
The team are looking for participants in Milton Keynes to help test and shape the evolution of the app. Your help will allow researchers to understand how the app works within the community. If you decide to take part after expressing an initial interest, you will be offered support at the beginning on how to use the app, and then continuously as the project develops. If you want to know more, please get in touch with Dr Alessio Antonini (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Open University or, if you live in Milton Keynes and wish to join, contact Steve McNay (Steve.McNay@woughtoncommunitycouncil.gov.uk) of WCC.