Tag: Third Sector

A dog called Guinness and some thoughts on stories and social good #beingthestory

beingthestory

I’ve spent today in London at #beingthestory – a days of stories brought together by Jude Habib from Sound Delivery. Thank you Jude.

Here are some thoughts on stories picked up today (this doesn;t cover the whole day – I’m still digesting other bits)

Telling someone’s story helps make them real.

Lawyers tell stories – judges and juries listen to them.  That’s one thing I learned from Sue James who works for the law centre in Hammersmith and Fulham. She tells other people’s stories for a legal living.  

When trying to stop someone losing their home she needs the judge to understand the story. She told us that telling someone’s story helps make them real.   

One client lost his wife, then his son died. “His life fell away”.  The one anchor in his life was his pet, a dog called Guinness.   Because he didn’t walk the dog and the dog crapped everywhere the landlord wanted him evicted.  To keep her client in his home Sue had to do two things: tell his story to make him real and get his dog walked.  

It got me thinking how helping people is only one thing that organisations should concentrate on – telling their story is just as important if we are to make their world real to the system. (It’s something we’ve helped with in the past – indeed it’s how the impact app helps – collects the stories for you to tell.)

Telling stories is the way to break a taboo

Mandy Thomas silenced the room with her story of domestic abuse. She had been advising the team from The Archers, including the actress Louiza Patikas, who plays Helen in the Radio 4 drama.

she cried when we met, she’s had to live and breathe this story line – I’m proud of the Archers team. This is no longer a taboo subject.

mandy-thomas-domestic-violence-bookMandy’s abuser was sentenced to 15 years but after he was released form prison her son died – he killed himself.  Her abuser ignored the conditions placed on his release and continued to pursue the family.  “He was“, she said,  “playing the system because they let him play.”  Stories can help remind the peiople in the system why they need to behave differently.

One last thought from Mandy: “a listening ear can save a life” . Her book You Can’t Run is here.

To make stories stick make them visceral.

Clare Patey is an artist who started The Empathy Museum (alongside Kitty Ross).  She quoted Barack Obama on the  “empathy deficit”

Clare says empathy is a skill – we can learn it.   If we do this we can combat hyper individualism – the “me, me, me” culture.  “The internet decreases our friendship circles and surrounds us with people who share our values”

In their work they have taken empathy very literally. A mile in your shoes gives people the opportunity to walk for twenty minutes – wearing someone elses shoes and listening to them talking through an mp3 player. It makes story telling and story listening physical – visceral.  It makes it have more impact.

That’s not quite all

I’ve more to digest/share on this, more and even wilder stories were told  – but I just wanted to start whist it was fresh.

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.

Who are social media surgeries for?

Melissa helping someone learn about Facebook at Dudley Social Media Surgery

This post summarises emails I’ve sent in response to enquiries about the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery I coordinate – and advice to other Surgery Managers.

It’s about my personal take on what – and specifically who – the surgeries are for. It also stems from feeling protective of the helpers who volunteer their time and skills for free at the surgery, the very social capital that makes the surgery work.

Read more

Community Lover’s Guide To The Universe and Birmingham

Spines of Community Lover's Guide books arranged on a shelf

It’s been a little over 5 months since we first mentioned The Community Lovers Guide To The Universe : Birmingham and we’ve finally found some time to get around to to approaching people to write chapters for us.

Jo Burrill and Birgit Kehler are going to be covering Change Kitchen, Emma Woolfe will be writing about The Friends Of Cotteridge Park, Christ Unitt will be telling us about Created in Birmingham and James Yarker will be writing about Stan’s Cafe “Of All The People In The World” and there are still some email responses pending from other interesting projects we’ve contacted.

We’re hoping that the The Community Lovers Guide: Birmingham will be ready to be published by early next year, but that of course all depends on us getting all the content we need in time. So while we’re making a start approaching the groups from the suggestions in the comments of the last post Can you think of any other people/projects that would like to contribute? A lot can happen in 5 months and we’re just wondering if there is anything happening that may have slipped under our radar.