Saturday the 24th of February saw the Church of Englamd host their first Digital Labs event, a subject so close to our hearts.
It had been our intention that Dave would attend but sadly he ended up being kept in hospital but he did his best to remain engaged using Twitter.
We asked our friend Ian Wyllie if he'd mind writing a short report on the day for us and here it is, thanks Ian, we owe you one.
The digital team at the Church of England invited a bunch of techies and creative to a conference to look at developing new digital services, and to choose one or two projects with immediate prospect of success and viability for adoption by the church.
In a 12 hour packed schedule over forty delegates interspersed concentrated work on how a user would journey through the proposed service, with testing and reworking. Examples of the services considered were online prayer resources, a way of providing pathways of support to people in crisis, and discipleship resources for the local church.
What’s the outcome?
At the end of the day a judging panel The winners were Ask the Church an innovative service exploring how the church might provide curated answers to real questions in near real time and C of E House a service proposing to integrate the best content being created across the C of E into one centrally available resource. Tom Pearson (@tompearson) one of the C of E House team said “we are delighted to have won with an idea we’re passionate about; resourcing hard working clergy and lay leaders with high quality curated content easy to find on an intuitive search driven platform.”
Sounds great… Can I see more?
Readers can see some of the available content by searching #CofELabs on Twitter and rewatching some of the videos (now in the ‘All Videos’ section of the C of E Facebook Page https://www.fb.com/thechurchofengland/videos/
The C of E digital team is intending to run further DigitalLabs in different parts of the country. Adrian Harris (@AdrianHarris) said ’we are looking to hold [the next event] in the North of England and will be delighted to work Emma Major, together with Disability and Jesus and Ian to make the next even more accessible to people with all sorts of disabilities.
An online fresh expression of church…
One concept that didn't win but won plaudits from the judging panel was of particular was the concept of an online parish church with live streaming and digital engagement to support people without physical roots and to assist disabled people and those with access challenges. This well designed project suggested that the church could set out as a fresh expression within the current framework of pioneering ministry in the Church of England.
There are some major concerns about this sort of project as it could unintentionally excluded disabled people from local physical churches. There are a range of views on this sort of initiative in the disability community. Emma Major from the project team who lives with sensory and mobility issues said: “This is not a get out of jail free card for local churches. For me it is hard to get to a physical church because of my energy and pain levels and I would love to be able to worship online where I can feel free and engage without pain.” @emmuk74
Why did the Church of England run this Digital Labs?
This sort of prototyping conference is commonplace within the software and solutions development. It permits small groups to produce viable ideas at pace. #CofELabs used a sprint format often used by Google as a template. The venue for this Labs was genuinely accessible and the stage had adapted with the importation of a roll-a-ramp (https://www.rollaramp.co.uk/) portable ramp to provide good wheelchair access, and the team were very willing to help adjust the venue to meet any specific needs
Part of the value of these events is beyond the actual proposals generated they serve to connect creatives and technical folk from across the church, and indeed we were joined by delegates from Europe. Those meetings create opportunities for future partnership and act to counter the fact that developing digital tools and services - especially for those in small teams, is hard, frustrating and sometimes lonely work.
© Ian Wyllie 2018 for Disability and Jesus