Future Highways community site

Future Highways community network

The Future Highways community network futurehighways.net is now online. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some screenshots with you, together with some context around the journey so far….  

After months of preparation with the Future Highways Forum members, open data community in Birmingham, and Landor LINKS, it’s really exciting to bring this all together into one hub.  Its been lovely and the sunny the last few days, while I’ve been working away in a bubble getting the site structured, search engine optimisation, tags, categories and hyperlinks set, and setting up discussion forum, which I hope Forum Members will love! They wanted ‘Mumsnet for Highways’.  They also want to crowdsource discussion topics for the roundatable events, which is still work in progress right now.  The Forum Discussion tool looks really powerful, so I’m looking forward to exploring how it works with you all!

The website brings together the activities of these three groups (Future Highways Forum, Landor LINKS, and Birmingham open data, community), plus many other supporters including in particular TAG (Local Government Technical Advisers Group).  The website content, Forum secretariat role, and Future Highways conference design will collectively form the submission for my final MA Online Journalism project, on 20th May 2016.

It really is only in the last few days I’ve realised I’m now creating what I always  intended to, but didn’t think I’d manage in the timeframe.  Such a lot of things have happened in a short space of time, and as I’m enjoying it, I’m doing my best to relax and go with the flow!  Creating a website has not been so much of a challenge for me, as I’ve done it before.  But what has taken tremendous time and effort is co-ordinating into a coherent message the needs of all parties in the process.

Work started in September 2015 on the Future Highways activities within Landor LINKS.  In January 2016, the Future Highways Forum members met to define the value and purpose of the group, which we’ve now agreed. Then the latest surprise in the last few days, is the reconnection with the open data community in Birmingham I first got to know when I started my course back in September 2013.  They are a great bunch, very supportive in helping bridge the gap between open data and highways.

For the duration of my MA course, it feels like I’ve been navigating between the open data / user needs,  and the technical engineering worlds.  Sometimes I’ve been immersed deeply in one, and not had mental capacity for the other.  Over time, the barriers and blockages between both have reduced, which is why I delighted to discover that we’ll be hosting this years Future of Local Highways Delivery conference (5th July 2016) at Innovation Birmingham.

Figuring out how to prioritise user needs is one of the major recurring themes during the last 6 months work for me, so that’s what we’re designing the conference around.  There’s now enough tangible support for local highways challenges from outside the sector, including the gem of a find, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Aston University Bjorn Birgisson building highways modelling software!  It felt the right time to bring these people together with local highways authorities and private sector providers to collectively figure out how we do Local Highways in New Ways.

Event collaborators include:

Next steps and writing a few more blogposts, and finalising the submission for my MA.  I’m looking forward to taking part in Open Data Camp in Bristol on 14/15th May, and attending the TAG Presidential conference on 16th May 2016. I’m sure both of these activities will help draw perspectives closer together, and fine tune the details for the 5th July event.

Future Highways Discussion boards Future Highways community site Future Highways Forum and Landor LINKS

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