Tag: training

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.

Working with Young People in East London

On Friday Nick and I were in London visiting Focus E15 – A Foyer for young people in the London Borough of Newham. They provide support in either a residential or non-residential basis with issues around housing, training, employment and personal development with 90 self contained units it is a busy, vibrant centre

We were  there for the launch of their hyperlocal website – East London Know How. The website has been developed as part of a programme we’ve been working on with them with to improve the relationship the residents of the  foyer have with each other, and the wider community.

I’ve been working with them to  deliver a social media surgery package to support them to use online tools that will improve their communication skills and the website is an opportunity for the residents to connect with each other and to showcase their hidden talents to the world.

Jon Harris and Alisia Myran arranged Fridays launch and are two of the residents who have been involved with the project from the beginning.

Jon uses the site to look outside of the Foyer to share news of things going on and any special offers he sees in shops to make shopping and socialising locally affordable. Alisha uses the site to look inwards – to showcase the talents of the residents to show the outside world that there is more to the people that live there then may be perceived.

I really enjoyed working with this group and they really seemed to enjoy the informal approach of the surgeries – here’s what Alisha has to say about her part in the project.

David Ahern the Foyer support worker had this to say about the benefits of this approach for the young people:

Museums, Heritage, Archives and Social Media

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.


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


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.


Using Social Media to Improve Perceptions of Saftey

At the moment we are in the middle of a project working with the South Birmingham Safety Partnership. This involves running social media surgeries across communities in South Birmingham to improve civic conversations in those areas, get the communities and local partners talking to each other talking to each and getting their news online and hopefully by doing so positively changing their perceptions of safety.

Yesterday we had our second session in the Kings Norton. Jo Burrows, senior youth worker at the Three Estates Youth Project came along. Jo, by her own admission was a complete novice when it came to social media – she didn’t trust it – and this came through her lack of understanding of the tools that were available. After just one Social Media Surgery with us we managed to change some of those misgivings and set her up with her own blog for the Project.  Here’s what she had to say :