Is there a viable alternative to Big Tech? Well, yes, and it already exists in the form of countless smaller community platforms and companies. As the social power wielded by the tech industry has exploded over the last two decades, plenty of examples of grassroots tech projects have grown healthily alongside. You might not know that The Bristol Cable is one of them.
We’re excited to announce that the Cable has won funding to expand our community tech work, with a two-year grant of £40,000 from Power to Change, an independent trust that strengthens communities through community business.
This grant will allow us to continue the maintenance and development of our in-house membership and community engagement platform, and make it more accessible for other community organisations to use. The code is already open source, but this will mean we can ‘open source’ the processes around the software too.
It will also allow us to make improvements to other online services, such as our communications and mailouts aimed at community engagement.
Over the last few years, our Tech Lead Will Franklin has built and developed Beabee, a membership management platform. It is the software that allows us to store member data securely without the risk of it being sold to advertisers, and also powers our callouts to engage our members in editorial and operational questions.
Beabee is used by a number of other small newsrooms around Europe already, making it a community technology not only benefiting Bristol, but many other developers and communities.
Power to Change’s Community Tech grant is aimed not only at benefiting the organisations that win funding and those that reap the results directly, but also the wider technology ecosystem by driving forward innovative, beneficial and sustainable solutions for social technology.
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Power to Change launched the grant with the aim of “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”.
On what makes the Cable’s membership system a crucial example of successful community tech, they said:
“[The Cable] found that off-the-shelf back-office software was too expensive, and also not suited to their needs. So they have been building their systems for membership management and democratic participation. In doing this, they will actively preserve members’ privacy by keeping all their data in-house, rather than on third-party platforms. This bespoke customer-relationship management (CRM) system is sustainable, community-driven, and fully accountable to its members.”
Will, our Tech Lead, says:
“Our membership and engagement platform, built in-house, is a core component of the democratic engagement we have with our members. It allows us to engage with them directly, and simultaneously reach wider communities in the city, for example, through callouts allowing people to respond to questions such as ‘How is Bristol’s bus chaos affecting you?’ or ‘Should we do more culture, or news?’
“The grant will allow us to continue this work, and build on our innovative, grassroots community tech work not only for Bristol, but for other community based organisations around the UK too.”
As ever, we’d like to give a huge thank you to our members for your ongoing support and engagement with our work, and also to Power to Change for this generous grant that will allow us to continue serving our members and the people of Bristol with innovative technology.
If you’re not already a member of the Cable, you can find out about all the benefits of membership here.