Community tech

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More and more community businesses are creating their own technology.

From adapting existing digital products, to building brand new hardware and software, community businesses are making technology that local people can hold to account, delivers local benefits, and that fully meets their needs.

Power to Change is committed to supporting community business as we know they enable communities to harness power and make places better. In light of the increasing influence of tech across all aspects of society, we recognise that something needs to be done to protect and ensure benefits are realised at a community level.

That’s why we want to work collaboratively to explore and invest in the development of community tech by community business, ensuring communities have access and ownership of technology that meets their specific needs, respects their autonomy and ensures more value is realised within a place – be that a street, ward or town.

What is community tech?

The term community tech means any hardware or software that delivers benefit to a community group, and which that community group has the authority to influence or control.

A community group may create a piece of technology for their own use or use by other groups, or to be governed or adapted by other groups.

This means community groups obtain influence or control over these technologies either because they created them, or have some ownership rights or other governance powers over them.

People
powered
tech

The Case for Community Tech

While a small number of very large companies might seem to dominate the digital landscape, the reality is that the Internet is full of alternatives and possibilities – of people making and sharing things for collective benefit. Over the last year we have met with and spoken to people from UK-based community organisations who are making and using technologies that generate benefit for and give power to communities. We have discovered what they have in common, the challenges they face, and the larger societal benefits that their approaches unlock.

This report offers a vision that simultaneously:

  • builds the resilience and impact of individual community organisations and the communities they are a part of
  • contributes to the growth of place-based communities
  • promotes a more diverse and sustainable technology ecosystem.

Case studies

The Bristol Cable

Media by, and for, local communities.

Chilli Studios

Supporting community health outcomes
and strengthening community cohesion.​

Wings

A platform for delivery riders,
society, and the environment.

Knowle West Media Centre

Facilitating creative programmes to
infrastructurally support local need.

The latest blogs 
on community tech

Community tech: Discovery Fund

***NOW CLOSED FOR APPLICATIONS***

A new fund to develop your ideas and learn new skills. We are looking to fund community businesses and organisations that are interested in making and using technology which upholds and reflects their values, but haven’t yet had the capacity to think about or do it.

You do not need to be a tech expert, the Discovery Fund will support you to explore a challenge you’ve identified, and learn the processes and skills needed to think about how you could design a community tech solution. We’re also offering free training on working in the open (sharing your learning so that others can benefit) and a place in our community tech community of practice

We are particularly keen to support community businesses who are led by a team of people from minoritised or racialised backgrounds, or whose community business seeks to support people who are experiencing marginalisation or racial inequity, recognising the barriers they have faced in accessing funding and the larger tech ecosystem.

The Discovery Fund is flexible around your needs and offers: 

  • £10,000 to explore a community tech solution to an existing business or community challenge  
  • £2,000 to fund open working and to engage with the community tech community of practice 
  • A free place on a structured design course – Community Explore – to help you move from challenge to solution  
  • A free place on Third Sector Lab’s Open Working and Reuse course
  • A network of experts and like-minded peers in a facilitated community of practice 

The Discovery Fund opens for applications on 1 June and closes at midday on 21 July 2023. Read more and apply now

Community tech:
makers & maintainers

***NOW CLOSED FOR APPLICATIONS***

Community Tech: Makers & Maintainers is our two-year funding programme to support and grow the community tech sector.

This fund is for community businesses, that are focused on community of place, who are working on existing community tech solutions, not new projects. The fund will support the people who support the maintenance care and repair of community tech.

Supporting community businesses who are making and using technology that benefits and gives power to communities. Our new programme focuses on the maintenance of community technologies – where there is need for care and repair. Running over two years, this programme provides an investment of £40,000 to use towards maintaining your community technology, to resource teams to create and curate community technology alongside opportunities for peer support and collaboration.

We know that in order to focus on developing and growing the sector of community business and community tech, many community tech practitioners need assistance to relieve short-term pressure, enabling small teams with little time to look beyond the day-to-day.

Community Tech: Makers & Maintainers investment supports your ‘business as usual’ – unlocking the capacity for more innovation, forward planning, and resilience measures within community businesses.  We also hope it gives more community businesses the capacity to use and develop technology that is aligned with their values and ensures long-term agency over the technologies they use.

Community tech benefits everyone

We believe that investing in community organisations to use technology on their own terms can help strengthen democracy, create community wealth and enable us to take better care of each other.

Community tech key partners are Power to Change and Promising Trouble.