We’ve been holding some social media surgeries in Balsall Heath. So far they’ve been supported by the Birmingham Social Investment Trust and our hope is that, after our third event on July 7, we’ll be able to carry them on as completely voluntary events. If you’re interested you can sign up here.
One of the projects that has benefited from our this is the Balsall Heath Forum, which is also gives us a venue for the surgeries. The Forum has a website, but we’ve helped it to set up its own WordPress blog. The main force behind this is Nowrah Abdul, who works at the Forum. Nowrah has thrown her energy into creating new pages and blog posts for all the many projects that the forum is involved in. Before the blog came along Nowrah and others were struggling to access and update their original site with ease. Within a few minutes of sitting down we’d started the blog (for free) and shown her the basics of setting up pages and working with posts.
One of the main focuses for the Forum is the resident associations that look after specific neighbourhoods in Balsall Heath. At the last surgery, Nowrah was keen to find out how she could create maps to show the areas the specific associations cover. We spent a bit of time finding out about Google Maps – first creating a Google account and email address for the Forum – so that she could start to map out the boundaries of the various groups.
View Kinver Croft Resident Group in a larger map
You can hear a short interview with Nowrah, below, about how this can help the Forum to tell its own very interesting story.
Of course, this is just another example of how a social media surgery is able to offer some very practical help to an organisation. It’s not the only one, either. At our Yardley Social Media Surgery we’ve been able to help the church, St Michael and All Angels, to start its own blog and, more recently, the Friends of Yardley Park. There is enormous pleasure in helping people to tell their own story – and something quite humbling (as a ‘recovering’ journalist) about seeing how it can help to transform their ability to communicate their organisations’ ideals and mission.
Blogging and the Big Society
The Balsall Heath Forum is, of course, an organisation that has had a great deal of attention since the general election back in May – and featured prominently as a model for the Conservative Party’s ideas in the Big Society. The Balsall Heath Forum’s chief executive Dick Atkinson, for example, has been talking to the government about it – as this post from Will Perrin of Talk About Local shows (Dick is sat next to the Deputy Prime Minister on the seating plan).
And then there’s this video by Demos, which features Dick and, firstly, Nowrah.
Balsall Heath is thought to be a prime example of what happens when citizens take control of an area and try to improve it for themselves, so helping the Forum to tell its story and help to communicate with others about how they too can help their neighbourhoods does seem like a rather good idea. Community blogging is a cheap, effective and remarkably simple way of helping that process, which is one of the many reasons we get just a little bit excited about the power of social media surgeries.
Irrespective of your opinion about the Big Society, the idea of community organisations sharing information for the benefit of their work and their communities makes profound sense, because often the questions that organisations face have been faced and solved by others before. Traditionally, the problem is getting to the answers. Blogs – cheap, simple to run and phenomenally easy to communicate and have a relationship with – can do an awful lot of that work and social media surgeries are a way of spreading those skills that’s informal, sensitive to individual’s very different demands and, most importantly, remarkably fun.