Some of the things that the technological developments of the last decades are meant to have achieved are to remove the limitations of distance, make it easy to find out what’s been done elsewhere and share knowledge and experience.
Why therefore did people from all over the world make their way to Melbourne in Australia in July to the husITa conference (as part of the Social Work, Education and Social Development World Conference) and then clamber onto a mini-bus to physically visit an organisation focussed on providing the very services that the opening paragraph suggests should have made the trip unnecessary? Maybe it’s because we’re not, as humans, very good at using the capabilities the technology provides?
There’s certainly some truth in that; as the opening presentation by David Sprigg, the CEO of Infoxchange, demonstrated (see the presentation below). He began by setting out the history of Infoxchange which began with the development of a system for handling hostel vacancies about twenty five years ago. I hadn’t heard about this before which was interesting as, about twenty five years ago, I developed a system for handling hostel vacancies for the London Housing Aid Centre.
He went on to present the development and growth of the not-for-profit human services IT provider and enabler with more and more parallels to my own work (even to the level of a very similar capability matrix for agencies). Perhaps that’s not too surprising, we’re working in similar fields with similar pressures and drivers.
But…I’d never heard of them!
I suspect that’s because few of us have the luxury of ‘just’ browsing around. Our searches are focussed with precision, and limiting the number of returns is the aim. Without any international thesaurus of terms, or a taxonomy of service types, it’s going to be a bit hit or miss whether our searching finds the people and organisations we’d really benefit from discovering.
As well as being poor at ‘pulling’ the information we’re also pretty poor at ‘pushing’ it to those who’d benefit. Maybe it feels, in this sector, too much like advertising or marketing or maybe we’re just too busy, or modest, to tell people what we do and what we’re planning to do.
I’ll do a little bit of pushing for Infoxchange now:
- They run an impressive, constantly updated and well structured, health and community services directory
- They support referral, care planning and client management throughout Australia (and are beginning in New Zealand)
- They help organisations use ICT better
- They support work to help develop digital inclusion.
I think that there’s a lot others can learn from them and, in discussion, they think that they can learn from others who were on the visit too.
That kind of serendipitious link is why I’ve always tried to make the husITa conferences. The chance to make connections, and friends, with the other delegates and people we visit has never disappointed. The opportunity to discuss, argue and learn from other’s perspectives and views in a body of peers with similarities and differences always pays off. In the last couple of conferences where we’ve shared the sessions with a wider group of social welfare professionals the cross-feed has been apparent and valuable as well. For me the informal elements of a conference are often the most valuable in the long run and that’s why I‘ll carry on trekking around them while still telling people that technology can make then unnecessary.