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Live Streaming Council Committee meetings – How we helped Birmingham City Council Billesley Ward Committee get online.

Posted on 28th March 2014 by

I’ve mentioned about how we’ve worked in South Birmingham in conjunction with the South Birmingham Community Safety Partnership when we wrote about what Austin Rodriguez , South Birmingham Safer Places officer had to say about the project.

What I haven’t said yet is that we’ve been working on a second phase of the surgeries with him.

Austin has been doing a great thing empowering the people he works with to use social media to talk to each other, to improve where they live and  to  build a stronger communities and with him we’ve continued to build on the momentum from phase one of the project.

In February we were holding a surgery in Bartley Green that  Alex Buchanan  – Ward Councillor of Billesley – attended. He came along with Austin with the idea that he’d like to trial live streaming his ward committee meeting .  Birmingham City Council have been live streaming their meetings from the council house and he wanted to see how he could make that work locally.

The Technology

Out in the community centres and church halls where community meetings are usually held there isn’t the infrastructure the council have  - there isn’t high speed Wi-Fi or  high definition webcams and high quality controlled audio. Nor is there a bespoke website to send the feed to,  so we had to look at what was available. 

Councillor Buchanan had invested in a laptop with a webcam and a decent microphone so we decided Google Hangouts would be the way to go, using the On Air function to stream to Youtube, which also meant it could be shared via other platforms and embedded into blogs – We spent about an hour looking at how this could work for them and then on the 20th February they put it into action.

Some observations – Be brave.

You can see in the video above that while the camera was positioned in such a way that the whole top table could be seen – the microphone struggled to pick everyone up. As the people farthest away from the set up took their turn to speak at times the audio wasn’t very clear at all but then they weren’t using a multi-directional mic that can pick everyone up like at the council house. What they had was a small mic plugged into a laptop  -  but  it could have been moved to pick up more voices.

This seems obvious watching it back but again it comes back to the fact this was a trial and a learning experience. What it needs next is just a bit of bravery, Bravery to do it again and to take what they’ve learned doing this and apply it. If during the meeting they were willing to pause proceedings by just a few seconds to re-position the mic before people took their turn to talk this would greatly improve the quality of the audio, make better use of the technology they have available and improve the experience for the community watching.

In saying that though it is fantastic that Councillors are looking at ways to open up the local democratic process to more people, and live streaming of meetings is definitely a good way to go. The fact that Councillor Buchanan was willing to even consider giving this a try is fantastic and who knows what could be next? What other public conversations could take place in – well – public?  

Museums, Heritage, Archives and Social Media

Posted on 9th January 2014 by

Today we are in Shrewsbury delivering a workshop for an array of people that work in museums, heritage and tourism from across Shropshire and the West Midlands.  We’re running a session talking about the importance of building social capital and working hyperlocally. The day will be roughly structured as follows:

  • Building Social Capital and making use of it – including time to reflect on how this relates to what you are trying to achieve.
  • Working Hyperlocally, What does this mean and what does this look like? Your examples – are you already doing this? – Show us.
  • Lunch/Social Media Surgery and Networked learning. A practical session with support from Podnosh and learning between yourselves – time to start exploring the tools and concepts we discussed this morning.
  • Where next for you. Group discussion, based on the thing you’ve learnt in this mornings session and started to put together in this afternoons surgery, What is next for you?
These are the notes from the discussions that took place after our presentations

 

Building Social Capital

Nick Booth talked about Social capital – your social capital is the group of people, or the community you build around your cause or organisation.  These are the people you have invested time in and in return they are prepared to invest time in you to get things done/ make a difference / help you out.

Q. But is this bigger than our individual organisations? Social capital can work on a large scale – but also for individuals, and individual groups. Sharing information, being social and useful helps build your social capital and helps you make things better.

Q. But what about the groups what have already – if they are reluctant to use use the internet? It usually only take s one or two people to come on board for others to start seeing the benefits,

To make the best use of your social capital and to see it really work you have to build it in the first place – it’s just like any other relationships – the more effort you put into it, the more you’ll eventually get back out of it.  

Working Hyperlocally 

Hyperlocal is a really messy word to imply something niche and local – this could be a street, a neighbourhood or somewhere larger like a City. WV11.co.uk is a hyperlocal website that covers Wednesfield a neighbourhood in Wolverhampton,  yet Connect Cannock is also a hyperlocal website that covers the entire town and the surrounding areas in Cannock, Staffordshire.

Museums, Tourism and Heritage organisations  are also Hyperlocal – serving areas both big and small, but that are local and niche.

Hyperlocal Blogging

Steph Clarke talked about her Wednesfield Blog =  one of the questions that was asked was around competition – if there are lots of people in an area all talking about that area isn’t that overkill? In short the answer was no. NO because the useful website will outshine the useless ones and on the other hand the more people talking about an issue/cause/place online the more varied and vibrant the conversation about that place will be.

Another question was asked about community and conversation, how long does it take to moderate and how is the community built? Going back to the points that were made about building social capital – in the beginning it took more time as we were building the trust and building the community, Now, on a day to day basis we can keep the facebook page up to date and moderated in around 20 mins a day because we don’t have to moderate conversation – the community help us by managing themselves. Posts to the main website can be scheduled.

Tools

A brief look at some of the tools discussed.

  • Facebook: Pages vs Groups – one is more public than than the other.
  • Twitter: start conversations, join in conversations, look for “local” hashtags ie #oswestry or #shropshirehour
  • Tripadvisor – What are people saying about your venue or attraction?
  • Foursquare – what tips are being left, gamify visits prizes for the mayor?
  • Blogs – talk about what you are doing. Invite others to write for you

Links

Here is a list of links and resources that were mentioned by attendees or discussed in sessions that would be useful to look at and share experience.

 

West Midlands Police Working With Hyperlocal Bloggers through Podnosh

Posted on 22nd October 2013 by
Lol_Thurstan_Stu_Davis_B26Community

Lol being shown around the new West Midlands Police website by Digital Service Manager Stuart Davis

Working with the Community Safety Partnerships in Birmingham has allowed us to help partners start great conversations across the city.

In North Birmingham a whole host of police officers are now tweeting and community groups are starting to organise themselves online. In South Birmingham a whole spectrum of people from the Community Safety Partnership now blog & tweet to help inform their community of the things that matter to them.  In East Brum?  Well in East Brum we have Lol .

We’ve written about him before, but Lol Turstan is a  resident who loves where he lives so much he hasn’t waited for any of the local partners to get online, he ran with it himself and created B26 Community - A hyperlocal website for the community of Sheldon, where Lol can help spread the message from his Neighbourhood Watch group.

Lol has been working to forge partnerships locally to make the most of his site for the local residents, including strong links with his local police team.

I caught up with Sgt Hanif of Sheldon’s Neighbourhood Police team to find out what they thought of Lol and working with the B26 Community Blog;

“Lol is a very active, influential, member of Sheldon’s community, and already has vested interest in our area, so when we saw the opportunity for our team to attend the social media surgeries he was an obvious choice for us to take along. When it was first suggested to him he couldn’t dream of being involved – he was scared his age would be a barrier to understanding the technology.

But he went along with some of our officers and a few weeks later when I saw him next I was just, well WOW!  He’d set up a website and was doing everything he could to make it as useful as possible.

Every time we have a community meeting he brings handouts to promote the site and is always asking others to get involved. We’ve worked with Lol to share our messages and make other things happen in the area – but some credit has to go to our PCSO  Steve McGrath too.  He’s worked especially close to Lol to get things on the site.

Together they’ve coordinated local schemes like installing locks on residents sheds after a spate of break ins and and recruiting for the street and neighbourhood watch groups.

We forward everything to him not just police stuff but anything that’s relevant.  It gets it out there and it works because people tell me they’ve seen it on the site – and this level of communication was especially important to us after a murder in a local public house.”

Reassurance

“The day after the murder took place, because of the nature of the incident, we had to get a reassurance message to the effected communities as soon as possible, and while technically it happened in our neighbouring ward residents don’t recognise those boundaries we had to act fast.

There had been a shooting, and a possible case of mistaken identity and we wanted to help allay any rumours. I was informed at 11am and within 2 hours we’d got key members of the community  together at the station and gave them what information we could for them to share.. We had a time sensitive message to get across.   We wanted community we had gathered together  was to share that message with other people.

Lol used his website and the contacts he’s made there to circulate this for us. We know his distribution is vast so for us it’s a short cut to the community. An officer on the beat or any other member of the community by word of mouth may have only reached out to 20 people they bumped into – with Lol and B26 Communty we reached potentially hundreds in a short space of time.

Moving forwards, as his contact list builds we would like to work with Lol to use his website to spread other key messages – we can reach a much wider audience than before and as a result we have a better informed community – which means they can make safer choices for themselves.”

Direct Link to Local People

Hannah Fitzgerald, West Midlands Police East Birmingham Communications Officer had this to say about the usefulness of communicating through community websites;

“Having someone like Lol running a site like B26Community is really useful  for Sheldon and East Birmingham as a whole. There is no really localised press coverage in that area so he’s a direct link to the people there.

He’s hosted our live webchats for us on his site.  The last one we broadcast was around Anti Social Behaviour and as Sheldon Park has suffered from episodes of Anti Social Behaviour in the past it was good to be able to communicate directly with the community there.”

Richard Eccelstone, West Midlands Police Social Media Champion added;

“We used to promote our webchats on our Twitter and Facebook pages – but that would attract comments from the whole of the West Midlands even when we wanted to focus on a  specific area –  that would really dilute the conversation but by connecting to  local blogs we were able to use their audience to focus the talk and make it more relevant. This is true of B26 and other hyperlocal websites across the midlands.

We are looking to focus more of our communications on a local level and working with hyperlocal blogs such as B26Community is a fantastic way of doing this”

What’s great about the approach the police are taking to local communication is how effective it is. Our work with all the community safety partnerships has proven that talking with local people using the tools they understand improves communication right across the neighbourhood and in turn improves the perceptions of safety in those areas and helps make things happen. The video below is of Safer Places Office Austin Rodriguez, he’s talking about how using digital tools to communicate locally has benefited his area – evidence that partners working with the community – talking to them at a local level, works.