For the last six months we have been involved in a project in Wolverhampton bringing Social Media Surgeries to different neighbourhoods across the city. At the surgeries all the help we and the other surgeons give has been recorded on our Social Media Surgery + website, but what is been really interesting having attended every surgery in the city so far is watching the things that have happened, and the connections made that weren’t recorded on the website – The things that aren’t just to do with social media.
Today for instance at the Low Hill surgery, a semi regular attendee Jaswinder (or Handsome to his friends), came along to learn more about twitter, but what was quite strange, even by our standards, was he hadn’t come for help from one of the volunteer surgeons already there . He’d bought his own surgeon with him, Ian! – Handsome had been to previous sessions and seen the value of the surgeries as a place to come, have a cup of tea, learn and to meet new people, so he’d bought Ian along so that they could work together in an environment he felt comfortable in, but also so that Ian could meet people from the area too.
Then there was Lorna who also came along today. Lorna is new to Low Hill, moving back to England from overseas a few months ago. She wanted to come and learn how to use social media as she’d heard that was a good way to find out what was going on and to meet new people. Which of course it is and we helped her look at her options to find things she could get involved with online, but also while there she was introduced to Tony and George (pictured above).
Tony is the chair and George the vice chair of the Low Hill Community Association and they are charged with running the community centre and as such know all of the activities and events that take place there. As I left this afternoon Lorna was in the process of becoming a fully paid up member so she could join some of the groups and take part in activities running there – but also during the session we’d introduced her to Keith. Keith is a board member of the Low Hill and Scotlands LNP, who alongside myself (as a member of the board for Wednesfield and Falling Park LNP) and some of the LNP Neighbourhood wardens who were in attendance, told her about the work of the Local Neighbourhood Partnerships, Keith took her details and now he’s going along to their next board meeting. – She’d come for some help just to find out what was going on locally, and left signed up to two very active groups!
Then there was a surgery early on in the project that the local police sergeant attended. Sgt Gary Passmore. Gary came along to learn how to use a twitter account for his role in the police, he already had an account, but just needed some guidance on some of the functions and terminology. Around the same period of time there were some quite serious rumours doing the rounds about an attempted abductions locally. I’d heard them as Low Hill borders Wednesfield so they’d been posted onto the WV11 facebook page, and despite many people openly questioning the validity and the variations of the posts (different coloured car, different locations etc) they just weren’t going away. Obviously people were worried so when some attendees of the surgery saw a police office present they chose then to question him about it. Gary was great, he allayed peoples fears and was able to speak to some key members of the Low Hill community who could help spread the accurate information for him through their networks, and also I took the opportunity to post an update to the WV11 facebook page at the same time – Gary had come for some technically support but left having managed to connect to his community and help stop the spread of a pretty nasty rumour in the process.
There are many more examples I could give you just like there, members of the WFTA meeting people from Tenants and residents groups and finding out about local issues, Tenants and Residents connecting with newly established local social enterprises, Neighbourhood wardens meeting their communities and on, and I’m sure this isn’t unique to this one surgery.
This for me is the unrecorded hidden value of surgeries, it may start with a simple “How can we help you online?” but they quickly develop into interactions that can help shape communities in the real world. All of these interactions have nothing to do with the internet, online tools, social media etc but have everything to do with the people. All the surgeries do is bring these people together in the same room, with a common purpose and give them the opportunity to talk.