We’ve been working with Kate Cooper on the New Optimists and her New Optimists Forum for a few years now (find the fascinating book here) Here Kate gives a very fine speech to TEDx in Warwick on what urban food if for and how we can feed ourselves in the future. She speaks a lot of sense and I learnt a long time ago to not doubt Kate.
I’ve had a bonkers busy few weeks – meeting and talking to a wide range of people and it’s helped me start thinking through a problem with networks: they tend not to be trusted to reliably deliver solutions at any sort of scale.
Let me share how and why I’ve started looking at this (and I’m sure I’m not the first).
Catherine Howe (her govcamp piece here) and myself were both in a session at the fabulous ukgovcamp last Saturday. It was the end of the day and I think (I came in late) it was on what makes cross sector collaboration work and convened by Jag Goraya with a big dose of help from Saul Cozens.
A problem of scale?
The bit of the discussion that helped me went along the lines of. “The answer to a lot of public sector problems do sit in developing healthy networks and developing and encouraging the cultures which help networks thrive. Do that and people tend to do what makes sense, rather than what is prescribed.” I was trying to understand why achieving this is so difficult and suggested that it was a problem with scale, something along the lines of…
- Large budgets and large problems tend to lead to large things being created and commissioned.
- These have a direction of their own and – on the whole – need to be seen to succeed.
- Networked activity is different – it is often lots of small activity with little or modest innovation – that doesn’t appear to be capable of delivering at scale.
- So large organsiation charged with sorting large problems are loathe to trust to a networked approach.
In truth I think networks can deliver at scale. A city is such a thing, the families that make up a community likewise. The benefit for using networked approaches for sorting big problems is we don’t need to invest everything in one large solution then persuade ourselves it has worked.
Dollops and cock up
Instead we need to learn how to recognise the pattern of networked progress: plenty of success, a good dollop of treading water and a decent slice of cock-up, indifference, waste and failure.
I think way forward collectivity this will improve on social problems more steadily and in a way that people can more easily get involved with than a large scale service offer tends to do. It’s also relates to why I’ve had problems with unrealistic expectations – that setting expectation too high leads to harming social movement – zero expectations encourage success – high expectations make even achievements look like failures.
That was the gist of where ukgovcamp had got me to. It was built on other things recently:
- Listening to a conversation the week before at a conference I spoke at for the Hampshire Association of Local Council’s digital conference (again with Catherine Howe) amongst a group of councillors from some of the larger
- At the LSIS Governance conference in Manchester late last week I started talking to a Clerk to a Further Ed college that had been asked to improve educational attainment in a particular neighbourhood. They wanted a steady approach that built community links, strengthened social capital and relationships and built aspiration in the community. The funders wanted rapid change – so what they are likely to buy is intense extra activity with the students about to take their GCSE’s – one is the big and brittle – v the modest but maybe meaningful.
Capturing the subtle incremental change that comes through networks is partly why we have been working with Gateway Family services and Birmingham Settlement and Nominet Trust to develop an impact assessment app which measures and organises the modest – as well as the sometimes downright remarkable - shift that happens in people and places. But turning this into something that politicians and policy makers will trust to deliver is an interesting problem.
Other govcamp posts:
Posted on 19th March 2013 by Nick Booth
Tags: Catherine Howe, Jag Goraya, LSIS13, networks, Saul Cozens, Uk Govcamp, ukgovcamp13
Posted in Local Government, Neighbourhoods, Social Housing, Third Sector | 5 Comments »
Yesterday a sad thing happened; 2 children went missing. It was presumed at the time that they’d gone of their own volition and they were later found well and safe, but none the less it was an awful thing to happen.
This all happened in Darlaston, 5 miles from my house, in Wednesfield and as such when the press release went out appealing for witnesses we posted it to the WV11 site and Facebook page. We were aware that while the children weren’t strictly from the WV11 area our readership expands beyond our borders, and friends,and friends of friends, would most definitely cross over into Darlaston and the surrounding areas.
We posted the photo from the appeal along with the copied the police release verbatim, all we added to the post was two words at the end “please share”
And share people did.
Within an hour 565 people had re-posted the news direct from our facebook page and less than 2 hours later that number had jumped to 1984!
It seems to me 2 things had happened to make the numbers jump like that - every parent that uses our site could empathise with the situation these parents were in, no one can imagine, or would want to imagine, what it feels like to find your child missing like that, and going on the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” everyone wanted to help raise awareness to bring these children home safely.
The other thing that happened was we were there, we were local and we we part of the community and we appealed to them directly with the “please share”!
Darlaston falls under Walsall Council but it is fairly close to the border with Wolverhampton. Both Councils picked up the police release and shared to their facebook pages, Walsall’s post was shared 20 times, Wolverhampton’s 136.
The local radio station, Free Radio also picked up on it and shared to their page too, Their story was shared 550 times.
Looking at those figures it seems clear that being community based and very local really had an impact on the way the community interacted with the appeal.
The important thing here of course is that the children were found and returned home safe and well, l but as an observation it is interesting how much being part of a community can make a difference
Posted on 24th January 2013 by Steph Jennings
Tags: appeal, children, community, darlaston, Facebook, hyperlocal, neighbourhoods., Police, Social Media, walsall, wednesfield, Wolverhampton, WV11
Posted in Hyperlocal, Neighbourhoods | 1 Comment »
Hyperlocal folks in South Birmingham – a few notes from the first social media surgery in Kings Norton.Posted on 7th December 2012 by Nick Booth
This picture shows three hyperlocal bloggers all come together through yesterday’s first Three Estates Kings Norton social media surgery.
On the left is Lynn Horsnett of the Friends of Kings Norton Park. She came along for some tips – having started a blog. We helped her make it more blog like – activating comments and looking at trackback (the way in which when one blog links to a post of another blog it appears in the comments section) and writing google friendly titles for posts. We also helped her change her twitter account and improved the prfile a little. She is though in her own right a hyperlocal blogger – but he local is a park in south Birmingham.
Lynn’s feedback was that the surgery..
helped Friends of Kings Norton Park to open its blogspot up for conversation and helped set up a twitter account, hopefully meaning we can now hear from the important people, the wider community. Love the ideas of interlinking community groups and widening networks. Social media workshops are really positive experiences.
In the middle is our own Steph Jennings – a hugely experienced hyperlocal blogger around to offer tips about her work on www.wv11.co.uk.
Beside Steph is the amazing Sas Taylor – listen here to why she and her husband Marty run the B31voices local blog. Sas was sharing her expertise with a range of people at the surgery, including Kizzy Bent of Birminghsm City Council’s Environmental Health team.
Kizzy commented after the surgery:
Sas showed me how Environmental Health can promote the work we do in Northfield District on her blog and twitter sites to ENGAGE with the residents. I was amazed and will definitely be sending regular updates to the site. The Podnosh meetings have boosted my confidence using technology and highlighted social media is the way to go to connect with a wider section of the community. Thanks I will be encouraging my colleagues to do the same.
Austin Rodriguez – of the Birmingham South Community Safety Partnerships - is working with us to run surgeries in south Bimringham, blogs in his own right on the site
which brings together a lot of social media activity in South Birmingham plus news of their work. Austin helped his colleague Lewis O’Rourk.
Lewis said after the surgery
I was initially a little bit wary of social media. The session has provided me with a decent insight into the simplicity of using this mode of communication. It is easy to use, a fantastic way of engaging with people and cost effective. I will certainly be using social media in future for various projects and media campaigns.
The best thing though by miles was bringing these people together in one place – one place where they could start to share not just skills but ideas and work together. Social media surgeries are about much more than technical skills – they are about confidence and relationships and building trust to make things better.
Posted on 7th December 2012 by Nick Booth
Tags: Austin Rodriguez, Birmingham
Posted in Big Society, Clean & Green, Hyperlocal, Local Government, Neighbourhoods, Policing, Social Media Surgery | 1 Comment »
Things have moved on a good bit since then (mainly that new owners Cisco decided to discontinue the flip) so I just want to update it really.
My thinking on the best kit for social reporting is very simple:
- Speed counts more than quality – so shoot in standard definition not hi definition – it uploads faster.
- Decent sound often counts for much more than decent pictures.
- If you are using a stand alone video camera simplicity matters.
- The most sensible thing to use is what you are most likely to have to hand.
Buy the ZoomQ3HD – Hi Definition Nick you say? Yes – but don’t use it that way - change the video setting from high definition to standard definition. You get a good widescreen image. Prices have come down quite a bit over the last year or so – so you wont regret buying this one. It comes with great sound so also works as a fantastic audio only recorder. Do not buy the ZoomQ2HD - Why? Because it doesn’t come with a built in usb – and that means you’ll have lost the cabel just when you need it.
Alternatively: if you can find a standard definition Flip (ideally Mino but any) then buy it – it will probably be second hand but is small, widescreen (which tends to look the part) and very simple to use – keep it in your pocket or bag.
Your ipad – that can be a fab social reporting tool. But take to get good sound – you’ll will probably need to hold your ipad or phone closer than feels comfortable for decent sound.
Posted on 21st October 2012 by Nick Booth
Tags: Flip, flip camera, ipad, iPhone, Samsung sIII, Social Reporting, \
Posted in Citizen Journalism, Hyperlocal, Miscellaneous, Neighbourhoods, Social Media, Third Sector | 7 Comments »
One of the key differences between the UK’s national parliament and its local governments is that Parliament produces a written record of what gets said – Hansard.
This practice – which has no actual legal power – still has a huge impact on successful functioning of Parliament. MPs share their own quotes, they quote things back to one-another, journalists cite questions and answers, and every day TheyWorkForYou sends tens of thousands of email alerts to people who want to know who said what yesterday in Parliament. Without freely available transcripts of Parliamentary debates, it is likely that Parliament would not be anything like as prominent an institution in British public life.
No Local Hansards
Councils, of course, are too poor to have transcribers, and so don’t produce transcripts. Plus, nobody wants to know what’s going on anyway. Those are the twin beliefs that ensure that verbatim transcripts are an exceptional rarity in the local government world.
At mySociety we think the time has come to actively challenge these beliefs. We are going to be building a set of technologies whose aim is to start making the production of written transcripts of local government meetings a normal practice.
These people could be active citizens – hyperlocal bloggers, councillors (perhaps even council officers) or just someone looking for a warm seat of an evening?
They says it doesn’t have to be everything that is recorded. I agree with this principle that’s it better to be there doing something than hold back because you can’t do everything.
Hansard is the record of pretty much everything that gets said in Parliament. This has led to the idea that if you don’t record everything said in every session, your project is a failure. But if Wikipedia has taught us anything, it is that starting small – producing little nuggets of value from the first day – is the right way to get started on hairy, ambitious projects. We’re not looking for people willing to give up their lives to transcribe endlessly and for free – we’re looking for people for whom having a transcript is useful to them anyway, people willing to transcribe at least partly out of self interest. We’re looking for these initial enthusiasts to start building up transcripts that slowly shift the idea of what ‘normal’ conduct in local government is.
Unlike Wikipedia we’re not really talking about a single mega database with community rules. Our current plans are to let you set up a database which you would own – just as you own your blog on Blogger or WordPress, perhaps with collaborators. Maybe you just want to record each annual address of the Lord Mayor – that’s fine. We just want to build something that suits many different people’s needs, and which lifts the veil on so much hidden decision making in this country.
I love it and hope it will also work alongside openlylocal’s fabulous work on transparency in local government.
John Popham is working for us and Nominet Trust in Bristol for the next couple of weeks. He popped this up on his blog last night.
Today was my first day as Internet Station Manager on Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Exhibition. Our Digital Planet is a touring exhibition highlighting the benefits of the internet, and the Internet Station is an portacabin where people whose interest in the internet is stimulated can come to learn more about any aspect they are unsure of. The estimable Lloyd Davis has already done a stint in the role when the Exhibition was on Brighton seafront, and he will also be guiding it in Cardiff, while I will be back in Liverpool and Glasgow. In all this, we are working with the amazing Nick Booth, and his team at Podnosh Ltd.
In truth, it was a fairly slow day, a useful gentle introduction for me to the initiative, and I was fortunate to be working alongside Kieron Kirkland and Vicki Hearn from the Trust who were able to show me the ropes. A Monday in the middle of a shopping centre, was probably always going to be a quiet day. But, already some interesting issues are starting to emerge. This is true Digital Inclusion activity. Some of the people who approached us had very little knowledge of the internet at all. Nearly all were frightened, about giving away too much information about themselves, about losing money to scams, and about breaking something. They faced multiple barriers to getting online, but a common factor was fear engendered by media scare stories.
It was evident as well, that quite a few of the people who came along had literacy problems. It amazes me that many people who promote the digital inclusion agenda fail to take into account that a fairly high degree of literacy is needed to use the internet, and that, many who don’t go online avoid it for precisely that reason. But, there were a variety of reasons for being there, and not all were total beginners; including the young woman living in a hostel who came in to look at photos of her son on Facebook because there is only one, very slow, computer in her hostel. There was the man who wanted to know how to “unfriend” someone who had been sending him threatening messages on Facebook. And there was the man who wanted to know how to search for cheap coach fares to Blackpool, before going to challenge the ticket sellers at the Bus Station to beat the online price.
One of the interesting queries was from the young woman who came in under the mistaken impression that we were selling broadband packages. She explained that she had no internet connection at home because her previous supplier had been too expensive. “I’m not paying that for broadband,” she said; “that’s a holiday”. I helped her search for a cheaper supplier. Which shows up the great irony. How do you search for the best broadband package when you don’t have access to the internet to do so?
Posted on 11th September 2012 by Nick Booth
Tags: Bristol, digital inclusion, John Popham, Kieron Kirkland, Nominet Trust, Our Digital Planet
Posted in Miscellaneous, Neighbourhoods, Social Housing | No Comments »
Councillor Waseem Zaffar has been leading MyBrum, a consultation by Birmingham City Council’s new social cohesion and community safety scrutiny committee asking the simple question:
“What does it mean to be a Brummie?”
I was at Birmingham Leadership Foundation‘s Monday Masterclass in Handsworth last week (Podnosh provide social media help at the events) and helped social report the debate on “What does it mean to be a Brummie?”
There was a good mix of civic and young leaders giving their opinion. Here are my notes paraphrasing the debate:
Posted on 4th September 2012 by Gavin Wray
Tags: Birmingham Leadership Foundation, Civic Engagement, cultural identity, culture, Handworth, mondaymasterclass, mybrum, young people
Posted in Local Government, Neighbourhoods | 3 Comments »
Earlier this week Max, Nick and I went to the New Optimists Forum - Future Foods, We’re were there in a professional capacity Social reporting from the evening to get and overview of the event online as it happened. This was Max’s first outing as a social reporter and talking to him afterwards reminded me how tiring I found it when I first started live blogging events. So I asked him afterwards what 3 tips we could have given him before we went into the session to make it easier. These were his responses;
1. Don’t be complacent.
Max thought it was going to be easier than it actually was ad didn’t expect to be quite so tired afterwards - It’s not an easy thing trying to record what is going on, keeping track of the sometimes multiple conversation and listening for a perfect sound bite to capture on camera.
2. Make sure your laptop is not too big.
Turning up with all the tools you’d need for a social reporting job as a *mobile” social reporter is easier if you have a lighter laptop. We had audio recorders, flip cameras, a stills camera and our laptops with us – spare batteries, spare chargers and a mi-fi – lugging that around can be tiring.
3. Don’t delete anything.
Max admitted afterwards that the thing he found hardest was listening and picking out the “best” bits. He said he would start writing something and then something else interested would start to be discussed so he’s scrap it and start again. He realised he could have just kept it all. He could have bullet pointed all interesting points and not worried about going into too much detail – if he’d wanted to elaborate further he could have grabbed the attendees for a video clip, getting them to reiterate the relevant points they’d made.
Social reporting is all about getting a flavour of an event, an overview of proceedings not precise minutes - it can be used at all kinds of events from large conferences to smaller neighbourhood meetings and everything in between. It’s a skill we teach in our aptly named “Social Reporter Training” packages where we look at the tools to use and the “how to” of social reporting and while we already teach “Don’t delete anything” I think I’ll be adding the rest of Max’s tips into the next session we host.
Posted on 15th June 2012 by Steph Jennings
Tags: bloggging, conference, engaging, information, Local Government, reporting, sharing, social reporter, Social Reporting
Posted in Neighbourhoods, Social Media, Third Sector, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
This video is shot by the Lorna Prescott – who’s the surgery manager for the enormously successful Dudley Social Media surgery - and she’s talking to Coral Musgrave who organised last night’s first social media surgery in Bearwood. It is wonderful to see surgeries seeding with people who run one helping others develop there’s – and all working along the keep it simple lines that started with the recipe. Lorna (of Dudley CVS) learnt this from her first surgery:
- Never underestimate the power of sharing knowledge, skills and experience (crucial in community development practice)
- Social media surgeries are to help active citizens to join the massive conversation which is taking place on the internet
- Social media surgeries are not basic IT training – we can signpost to adult learning for that
- Individuals working in the public sector, voluntary sector and involved in community groups are willing to give their time
Well done and lets hope those organisations come back for more help in Bearwood. Can I make one suggestion Coral? Put some more dates in – so people who are enthused can book to come to another.
May I also say it’s a top notch piece of social reporting. Lorna came to one of our social reporter training programmes a year of more ago - and is a natural in the business of keeping things relaxed, simple, and get them online quickly.
Posted on 12th June 2012 by Nick Booth
Tags: Active Citizens, Bearwood, Coral Musgrove, Dudley, Dudley CVS, Lightwood Park, Lorna Prescott, Sandwell Coucnil
Posted in Hyperlocal, Local Government, Neighbourhoods, Social Media, Social Media Surgery | 1 Comment »