Category: Social Media Surgery

What is the loop of generosity?

I often use the phrase ‘loop of generosity’ to describe the good stuff I see happen in communities.  It sits at the root of the most enjoyable work we get to do.

But what is it?

I think it is elegantly described by Terry Pratchett in A Hat Full of Sky:

“Filling what’s empty and emptying what’s full”

Tiffany couldn’t quite work out how Miss Level got paid.  Certainly the basket she carried filled up more than it emptied. They’d walk past a cottage and a woman would come scurrying out with a fresh-baked loaf or a jar of pickles, even though Miss Level hadn’t stopped there.  But they’d spend an hour somewhere else, stitching up the leg of a farmer who’d been careless with an axe, and get a cup of tea and a stale biscuit. It didn’t seem fair.

“Oh, it evens out,’ said Miss Level, as they walked on through the woods. ‘You do what you can, people give what they can. Old Slapwich there with the leg, he’s as mean as a cat, but there’ll be a big cut of beef on my doorstep before the week’s end, you can bet on it. His wife will see to it. And pretty soon people will be killing their pigs for the winter, and I’ll get more brawn, ham, bacon and sausages turning up than a family could eat in a year.”

‘You do? What do you do with all that food?’

‘Store it,” said Miss Level

‘But you -‘

“I store it in other people. It’s amazing what you can store in other people.’ Miss Level laughed at Tiffany’s expression. ‘I mean, I take what I don’t need round to those who don’t have a pig, or who’re going through a bad patch, or who don’t have anyone to remember them.’

‘But that means they’ owe you a favour!’

‘Right! And so it just keeps on going round. It all works out.’

The best public and social services do what is needed and they do their best to do it in collaboration with people.  To recognise that what we are creating together is part of the loop.

At CoLab Dudley – where we’re currently working – everything involves some part of the loop of generosity.  Whether it is a trade school where the learners bring something to say thank you,  a crafting circle that exchanges materials and skills or the pay it forward stash in the Gather Cafe that allows people to receive a drink or food when they can’t pay.  As Miss Level says,’You do what you can, people give what they can”. (even though some are more generous than others).

This generosity is commonly found in the stories we and others captured through the Community Lovers Guides (Birmingham here, full of others who get the loop) and forms the basis of the Particpatory City movement Tessy Britton has built out of those who generously told and shared stories.

It is core to organisations like Gateway Family Services and Grapevine Coventry who may be delivering services, but do so with a mind to being generous and creating space for the people they help to close the loop and be generous in turn.

The social media surgeries are an exchange of time and skills, they are a kindness that gets passed on and passed round. It’s through watching those that I first started talking about the loop of generosity.  It has led to more than 5000 small and local charities and community groups receiving help and passing it on.  Generosity can make tangible things happen, at scale.  Indeed, the loop is almost always found in peer to peer programmes.

It is also key to good help.  The sort of support that Nesta and Osca are now encouraging public services to embrace. The sort of help that organisations measure through our Impact App – which records ‘helps”

Primarily though the loop of generosity is found in people. How they think and feel and act. Not in formal contracts.

It often thrives in community groups and is often broken by large businesses with large contracts.

Why?

I’m not sure.

Perhaps to work it requires kindness and a memory of a kindness. Miss Level’s trust that she can store food in people.

This is recorded in communities but not so well in institutions. In a community a  kindness is seen as an asset.

To a corporation a kindness might look like a liability. Worse: a memory of a kindness is accounting for a liability! High liabilities lead to a lower share price. If you forget the kindness you lose the liability from your books, but at the same time you break the loop of generosity.

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).

Adding Administrators to Facebook Pages (when you’re not already friends)

This is going to sound like a pretty obvious blog post for those of you that already know this but  –Did you know you can add people to become an administrator on our facebook page without having to be friends with them?

No? Well neither did the organisation I helped at Wolverhampton Social Media Surgery this week.

So for those of you that are unsure, here is how you do it:

 

Sign in to facebook and go to the page you would like to an administrator / editor etc to.

Now go to settings:

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The Page rolesScreenshot_051316_025503_PM

From here you can invite people to help you manage your page.

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If the person you are adding is your friend on Facebook and already likes your page you should just be able to start typing their name and it will appear in a drop down list. But if they are not our friend, or they don’t like your page then you will have to enter their email address…it has to the be the email address that they use Facebook with personally.

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Press enter, and you will be prompted to to re-enter your password, Once you’ve done this an invitation will be sent to your new admin, but they wont get notified about it in a an obvious way.

 

This method does not generate an email invitation, or even a standard Facebook notification, so for the invitee to accept they need to log into their facebook account and then visit https://www.facebook.com/pages.

Once here they need to find the invitations tab:

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Any pending invitations to admin pages will be at the top of this page, they can accept or reject from here.

Simple when you know how!

Craftivism and Social Media Surgeries. Being there.

During the Making For Change project I mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Corbett give a talk on Craftivism. Sarah  is the founder of the Craftivist Collective, a social enterprise which uses the techniques of craftivism to engage people in social justice issues, so she was perfect for the #MakingForChange project.

The Craftivist Collective’s approach to activism is more low key, respectful and more targeted approach than that of traditional activism.

To give you an example when the group were protesting in favour of the living wage for staff at Marks and Spencer’s they didn’t rock up to the head office waving placards shouting and stamping their feet. Instead they were took a more subtle approach, holding craft sessions or “stitch ins” outside branches of M&S.

They encouraged people to turn up to their session wearing Marks & Spencer’s clothing and to then to sit peacefully and stitch nice messages on M&S handkerchiefs encouraging the adoption of the living wage, that would then be gifted to all members of Marks and Spencer board.

This low key, quiet protest worked to engage the community. Shoppers, instead of having to shuffle around loud placard waving, intimidating protesters stopped to ask questions, “Why were a group of seemingly well dressed people sitting on the High Street sewing?”. Their interest was piqued, they were intrigued and a conversation was started.

This was only one of the projects Sarah talked about, and they were as equally as interesting, but in all of them the message that Sarah kept coming back to was the importance of being there.

Being there.

By being there with other craftivists – wherever there may be – and engaging in crafts gave people the space, time and freedom to talk about the things that mattered to them in a gentle way. By being there at protests and behaving non threateningly but intriguingly, passersby were engaging and we able to spread the message of the issues that mattered to them.

And being there is a message the we sell both for and at Social Media Surgeries.

When people approach us wanting to set up a Social Media Surgery for their town or neighbourhood it’s one of the first pieces of advice we give. “Just be there”. Find a space, start small, have zero expectations, but be there. You may only have 1 or 2 people come for help, but if you weren’t there you couldn’t help.

And when people come to us for help and support at surgeries, be it at our paid training sessions with councils, housing associations or charities, or at volunteer run surgeries with volunteers, third sector orgs or the solo community activist the message is the same “be there”. Who is your audience? Where is your audience? Find them and be there. Share your stories news and ideas, both good and bad. Write for them, engage with them, but be there. Because if your not there telling your story to your audience, no one else will.