Tag: Birchfield

Lozells & Birchfield Social Media Surgery, Small and perfectly formed.

I have been helping at a couple of surgeries now including the well established Central Birmingham Surgery and the Wolverhampton Surgery which I helped to get started and each one is different.

Lozells and Birchfield surgery is small and whilst the Central Birmingham surgery is run through podnosh on a voluntary basis this one forms part of our paid work.

Today I returned to Lozells Methodist Church to help the surgery manager Jo Burrill from our client  Midland Heart – a social housing organisation who work hard in communities, and 4 patients who’d registered for today. Selwyn looking for support with his email, Chris and Kevin both with WordPress enquires and Verona who wanted some help posting to a website. It was a nice number and while I helped Chris with his stuff and Jo helped Verona with hers the others got chatting and Kevin turned into an impromptu surgeon to help support Selwyn with his email problems – every one left  happy having received  the help they needed.

Everyone who has attended each of these surgeries either surgeon or patient has left satisfied with their input and that is is the measure of their success, it’s not the number of people that come through the door but being able to help the people that are there. So while in comparison to the to the city centre surgeries of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, Lozells and Birchfield’s Neighbourhood Surgery is small but it’s definitely perfectly formed.

Never been to a wedding; A social media surgery patient I’ll never forget

Methodist Church on Lozells Street Birmingham

Yesterday at the Lozells and Birchfield Social Media Surgery I was paired with a young man who was looking for help setting up a blog for an organisation he was involved with. I started as always by chatting with him a little bit about what the work he was doing and what they wanted to use the blog for when he said something that really pulled what he was trying to achieve into focus for me;

“The girls have babies and the boys shoot and stab each other. I’ve lost count of the amount of christenings and funerals I’ve been to but I’ve never been to a wedding that’s just not what we do”

– He was talking about life in Handsworth and Lozells as he knew it.

The patients name was Mosies, he is a 19 year old ex gang member from Handsworth, He’s not long been found not guilty on a very serious criminal charge, and by his own admittance has been in trouble with the law before, and now he’s taking that experience to not only try and turn his life around but also to try and change the gang culture that plagues youths in some parts of North Birmingham.

He along with other ex gang members from opposing groups in the area, some with criminal records for gang related activities have come together to form the New Day Foundation, They are aiming to try and combat gang culture targeting younger children to educate them on the realities of gang life and try to show them that there are other options to what they think is “normal”,  to change their futures so they can go to more wedding than funerals in their lives!

I sat for an hour and listened to Mosies as he told us about the path he’d taken to be sitting in the room with us that day. Where he’d come from, why he wanted to change the lives of people stuck with the perception that joining a gang was the only option and how he and the other members of his group hoped to do that.

He had the whole room enthralled and as he was telling us how at the age of 14 he stopped going out to the cinema with his friends so he could save his money to buy a gun and all I was thinking was look at you now! 5 years later a changed individual talking about the pride taken in earning money the “proper way”, looking forward to getting a mortgage and hoping the story of your experiences would in some way stop others having to go through it.

–  and that right there is what I like so much about the Social Media Surgery format; Only in a room where people are encouraged to talk to each other and help each other one on one would I have heard Mosies story. At a prescribed training session we’d have all sat in rows listening to one person talking and hoping to pick up the most relevant bits for our needs and no one would have realised the momentous journey this one young man had taken to be there with us.


Local blogs for neighbourhood managers in Handsworth and Birchfield

Screenshot: Be Heard in Birchfield website

Let me introduce you to two new blogs about neighbourhoods in Birmingham, both run by public servants

Hands on Handsworth is written by Tracey Thorne – the neighbourhood manager for Handsworth in Birmingham. Be Heard in Birchfield is being nurtured by Yvonne Wager – the neighbourhood manager for that particular part of the city. (Click here to see Tracey’s explanation of neighbourhood management.)

Both Yvonne and Tracey are in jobs funded by Be Birmingham – the local strategic partnership. They were inspired to start a neighbourhood blog by their colleague Kate Foley who had been running Life in Lozells – a site set up originally to address the problem of all the bad news you find when googling Lozells. Kate explains in more detail in this video made by the Chamberlain Forum.

What do they do?

They talked to us about helping them develop these sites during the social media surgeries we ran in Lozells last year. Both are built on WordPress with some changes to the backend that make it a little easier to blog and listen to what the web is saying about your neighbourhood.

There’s also a simple events system with mapping, and the sites include a facility to easily turn plans into commentable  consultation docs. We also provide a service that ensures the software stays updated, plugins don’t clash etc, plus training and support on using it well.

Tracey is a natural – she really enjoys writing for the site and is on a roll. Yvonne is equally enthusiastic but needs a different sort of support, so it is taking a little longer.

Why bother?

The sites are the neighbourhood managers’ home in a wider web conversation. It’s only fledgling at this stage. The point is that over time they help the neighbourhood managers share information, ask questions, pool expertise and begin to collaborate in new ways with their community.  I’m not convinced they should attempt to become THE site for their neighbourhood.

Such an idea concerns me, because if THE site gets switched off or someone begins using it to be self-serving that’s a problem for the whole neighbourhood. Instead I’m interested in how we can nurture a range of online resources and voices in a place. These blogs form  part of that process – providing a tool that can also help neighbourhood managers link to and encourage the wider conversation.

What do you think?

It will take time and patience for these sites to bed in – but what do you think? Could you encourage them by commenting a post or do you have any advice for Yvonne or Tracey?