MANY: How we aim to deliver – with and for – the North Yorkshire community

Nature is awesome – and that’s why we love living in rural communities. But nature also presents some interesting technological and economic challenges for organisations working to connect rural communities to the internet, mobile data and communication services.

The MANY project is gradually picking up its pace as our technologist learn more about the particularities of the North Yorkshire landscape and the implications of this for the provision of digital connectivity services. As they begin to understand what the technical connectivity possibilities are with the new and emerging kit that they can use to get our communities connected, the MANY project can now move into the next critical phase of the project – understanding what our communities actually want from these potentially new connectivity opportunities.

The MANY project is an ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI) project. RRI projects are governed by a set of core principles that help researchers to work out which research and development actions are appropriate for the specific community with which innovations are being developed. The core principles are the inclusion, anticipation, responsiveness and reflexivity.

Inclusion for the MANY project means trying to get the ‘right’ forms of knowledge and expertise ‘into the room’. This enables the research team to gather together and share ideas about what is possible (in relation to technological provision) and what is needed (in relation to technology use) to solve every day problems of ordering shopping, doing homework online, running local businesses and accessing health and social care services within the community, for example.

Our research team is working with community groups, technology scientists, business practitioners and policy-makers. We have great support from Community First Yorkshire and North Yorkshire County Councils Stronger Communities team to help us engage with and listen to community members. This type of engagement enables us to hear the voices of communities, enabling us to anticipate needs and concerns, answer questions and help us together, imagine the type of future that communities collectively want to create. We can then work with our technologists, businesses and policy-makers to ensure community voices are taken into account in the plans that are made to put new technologies in place.

These plans are then shared with communities – with individuals, County and Parish Councils – and together we can reflect on and respond again to issues and new understandings that unfold through these innovation processes. The aim here is to make the process as transparent as possible and to take as many views and needs into account as we can. The aim is to do research and innovation with and for communities.

Author:  Katy Mason, Lancaster Management School