Author: Nick Booth

Thank you Steph

Steph Clarke just about to pick up an award in May 2013
Steph just about to pick up an award in May 2013

——

It was a common joke that Steph came to work for a rest.  She heard it often and it always made her smile.

Besides a full time job with us, Steph Clarke was busy.

She and her husband James started and ran the hugely significant hyperlocal blog WV11. Both volunteered to run their local community centre and she was a driving force on the board of the local charity Hands on Wednesfield.  Steph had just raised more than £5000 for new Christmas lights for her local high street – even though James thought she was pushing her luck on that one.

She seemed to almost effortlessly run a photography business on the side, helped with her local (and large ) photography club, made the Wolverhampton Social Media Surgery happen and supported a range of home school groups. Steph organised voluntary events for Big Lunch Extras, got stuck into making new things happen through Make Shift in Wolverhampton and sorted regular social nights for her and her friends.

In between she never flinched from standing up for injustice (as anyone on the very sharp end of her unflinchingness will tell you) or caring for someone who might not even know that they needed a kindness.

Above all though she was a wholeheartedly committed wife, mother, daughter, grand-daughter and sister.   Loyalty was at her core.

So did Steph come to work for a rest?

The truth is that she was too restless to be all that good at resting.  Her commitment to what we do at Podnosh was total.  Throughout the 5 years she worked here Steph was happiest when we were stupidly busy.  She loved learning new things, solving problems, seeing work through – sometimes with very gritted teeth.  She could not fail to connect her different worlds of work and volunteering and home to make them all work better. She helped and connected people almost casually and her stock pot of social capital was rich and full of flavour.

Our company values are: Think, Make Things Better and Give a ****.  She relished telling people that, especially the sweary bit. She blogged to her friends:

“What do I do? I think, I make a difference, I give a f**k! – and I’m really proud of that!”

She embodied these values and at times scolded me (respectfully, he’s “the boss’) if I wasn’t doing the same.  (She could smell hypocrisy at a 1000 yards and might need talking down from shouting it out every time she sniffed it).

Most days that we worked together ended the same.  She’d head off to do another days work in her life and I’d say ‘thank you’.  I wasn’t really thanking her for the work she’d done.  It was for her being generous enough to bring all of the intensity and decency of herself to work.

Last Thursday our working day ended differently.  So here I’d just like to say one final ‘thank you, Steph’ x.

 

 

 

(Steph Clarke died on Friday November 25th after falling ill the previous day)

 

All new shiny Grantnav or where to find information on where charity grants go.

infromation on grant given by funders in the uk

I’ve been to many an open data event and written about it, used it and encouraged it’s use for years.

Never have I seen a standing ovation for a data project – until Friday.

Grantnav is a tool built on the open data that grant funders are releasing using 360giving standards.  It’s a wonderful thing.  It’s uncomplicated but powerful.

Intrigued? I bet you are.  Before you read on – go there (no login needed) and have a play When you’re done you might also be tempted to stand and applaud the people behind this.

It’s not just the determination and clarity of thinking of the team at 360giving (and the tech team at Open Data Services) that deserves applause; it’s also the willingness of the funders to fund this programme and release their data. The largest are Big Lottery Fund and Esme Fairbairn Foundation, the smallest is Three Guineas Trust.

Today there are 25 funders, who have openly shared 184,483 grants awarded to 124,212 recipients worth a total of £8,540,945,514 – yes £8.5 billion.   Next month it will be more.

So why does this matter to you?

 

Grantnav for the local community group, charity or social enterprise. 

  • You can search this information by which place and what activity the grants were given to
  • You can see who gives grants for things that matter to you.
  • You can see who else has received grants in areas that interest you
  • You can find partners with shared interest to collaborate
  • You can find evidence of whether your places or areas of interest are being well funded or poorly funded.
  • You can download this information and combine it with other information, or analyse in new ways
  • You can simply have a good nose – satisfy your curiosity

Grantnav for local councils and other public services

  • Publish your grant giving using the 360giving open data standards
  • Combine the data with your own to learn new things about civic activity in your community
  • Analyse how well your area is being served
  • Find partners to work with
  • Find work to celebrate
  • It’s a ready made list of some of your civic organisations
  • You can simply have a good nose – satisfy your curiosity

Grantnav for grant givers 

  • Publish your grant giving using the 360giving open data standards
  • Find gaps in funding
  • Find partners to work with
  • You can simply have a good nose – satisfy your curiosity

Developers 

  • use the data to provide new services for civic activity
  • You can simply have a good nose – satisfy your curiosity

Enjoy and use and download this data – but remember two things: this work sits on other work – like the amazing  open charities –  and this is just a start.

 

 

Growing the civic conversation online – a platform for healthier local democracy and healthier communities.

Austin Rodriguez and Lewis O-Rourke

Bit by bit we’ve been doing something strategic in Birmingham.   Every social media surgery that happens in the city helps in a number of ways:

  • Provides new skills to individual active citizens
  • Creates a place where people can meet each other
  • Helps community groups and the public sector use the web to talk to each other
  • Grows the civic conversation online.

This last one has been the strategic part.

I think that growing the civic conversation online is an important part of building new platforms in neighbourhoods. It helps traditional civic activity work better and new civic models emerge.

This is based on a simple assumption that if more civically minded people are using the web to talk to each other in a community it will be easier for politicians, public servants and other citizens to share ideas, information  and collaborate or campaign.  Of course people can and will use the web to talk about brangelina – but with the surgeries we target those already involved in or wishing to do something consciously civic.

We’ve taken this a step further in the last two or three years. A normal social media surgery is run by volunteers for volunteers – the free help is available to active citizens, local charities and community groups.

With funding from three of  the different quadrants of the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership  and some other initiatives  (thank you) we have run surgeries which involve public servants too. This means that they come to a surgery to get help on why and how to use social media. More than that though they learn alongside local community groups and active citizens. At times they are teaching each other – strengthening understanding and relationships.

We also used the effort to help spread live streaming of meetingscreate alternatives to traditional ward cttes and give public services tools to think about the stages of engaging online.

We sent out a survey to people who’ve used the social media surgeries in Birmingham. 35 people replied, about 10 per cent of those involved. They were a mixture of volunteers, third sector workers, public servants and at least one councillor.

The Survey

social media and public sector
does learning about social media influence how you think about your work

A third of people said what they had learned had influence how they think about their work ‘a lot’ – three quarters replied either 4 or 5 to that question.

One comment from a worker in a charity supporting charities said

“If I hadn’t started using social media  to build relationships I doubt I’d still be employed in my organisation, and I doubt my organisation would be doing some of the brilliant work it is doing. It’s enabled both me and my organisation to be pro-active in a rapidly changing and challenging context”

Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?

65% of people felt better able to make things happen because they are using social media. This is a core point. Growing the civic conversation is not just about more blither – it’s about more action.

Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet
Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet

Developing these skills in community groups and active citizens was also seen as a fresh opportunity by at least 77% of those who replied.  They know that the online civic conversation can help them get things done – so helping more people get involved ought to help that more.

have you seen the online conversation grow?
have you seen the online conversation grow?

More than 85 % felt they has seen the online civic conversation grow since getting involved with the social media surgery.  You would expect that to be the case for most people, simply being exposed to new people and new places where civic things get discussed would have that effect. But it is still encouraging to see that they have a wider civic conversation to take part in.

So Birmingham – you’ve already started a strategic investment in building a critical platform for civic change.   Persistence is paying off. Some more?  And what next? Which other new platforms are worth building?

If you’re not Birmingham, other places understand this and we can help you.  We introduced Dudley CVS to the why and wherefores and they have been running surgeries for years – indeed it was Lorna Prescott who told me that what were doing was platform building (sometimes it takes others to spot the obvious).

The benefits of story telling – or why you should spend your training budget on stories.

21-century-report-4-pg-report_pdf

 

I had planned to blog a little more about #Beingthestory – the wonderful event staged by Jude Habib last week.  I thought I would describe more of the astonishing stories I heard that day but instead I want to try and organise some thoughts.

Being told stories or telling stories often seems a little nebulous.

When faced with a choice of spending training budget people want to know what the “learning outcomes are”.  Likewise with comms spending, or even spending on organisation change, people will often want to know specifically what they will get for their money.  (Ironic in the latter case)

We have worked for years helping people tell their stories and helping them use story telling to achieve more. Obviously stories help them attract attention to what they do and build the case for their cause, but it goes further. So perhaps I should have a stab at outlining why it is worth spending organisational money on stories?

Stories are a work skill. We may need to win the argument that story telling is as valid a work skill as project managment – but it is. Perhaps if we have a training programme called “Princess and the Pea 2″ – we could charge thousands for it.   The work on 21st Century Public Servant includes storyteller as a quality to be identified and nurtured in public service.  It’s worth investing in how you do it and how well you do it.  Listening to others do it helps you develop that skill.

Stories encourage creativity.  At least Einstein thought they did – he is quoted as saying

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

It helps you to see things from another perspective. If you want to improve what you do story telling can help.  Perhaps the people you do it for can tell you what it means for them or what they experience.  Perhaps you telling a story will jog your thinking away from process and back to what that process means.   Listening to people tell stories from another world altogether helps freshen up our thinking.  I also think it helps us find new analogies for our own work. (Think the wonderful TedxBrum or TED in general)

It can help you get to the nub of things.  There were a lot of tears and smiles and laughter on Friday.  Emma Lawton told us (beautifully I may say) of her experience of being diagnosed with Parkinsons aged 29.  You’d think the nub of the story was just that, the shock of it and the battle with it. It was the opposite: how she shrugged it off, how she shifted gear in her life and moved on. How Parkinson’s had given her many of the best things in her world.  We knew what mattered most by the tears of pride that welled up in her fathers eyes (and mine) as he listened to her tell that part of the story. Listening to how you feel as you hear a story helps you get to what matters. Once you know what matters it’s easier to decide what is the best thing to do next.

If you’re going to change you need to stop and listen first.  So you may as well listen to stories – they’re a darn site more interesting than reports.  (That doesn’t mean you don’t need numbers or other forms of structured thinking – but do stories)

why story telling helps organisations

“Empathy creates radical disruption”.   This expression leaped of the stage at all of us when used by the astonishing team of Samiya and Naveed Parvez. They are using product design, medicine and 3D printing to create a service which means that disabled children can be measured for and receive their Orthotics (limb/muscle/torso supports)  in just one week. They start with listening to the people they want to help.  Everything they do flows from that. If conventions conflict with what makes sense, they ignore them, go round them, disregard them.

Stories help you appreciate you’re not alone.  When people tell stories they often mention the mundane or are brave enough to talk about the things that professional language tends to exclude – like doubts and insecurities. Recognising them in each other can help boost confidence. Punk Pop Poet Brigitte Aphrodite helped us see that on Friday.

 

These are just a few thoughts. I think they need to be more concrete. Please feel free to make them even clearer for the people who write the cheques.

Other posts on #beingthestory.

Gemma Pettman: “If you believe in a story keep on telling it.”

Madeleine Sugden “Empathy and the power of stories

Comms2point) “A mother whose son was stabbed to death just reminded of the power of storytelling

Claire Bridge  Storytelling: why I am all ears