Tag: Dan Slee

4 more things volunteers think about volunteering.

The piece I didn’t write in the Guardian

Today I didn’t write a piece for the Guardian website. I didn’t set out “5 things volunteers hate about volunteering”. That was another Nick Booth, an eloquent and civically minded Nick Booth.  Not (as the site thought) this Nick Booth.

But it got me thinking about my own experience of volunteering.

One of the main ways we’ve been volunteering here at Podnosh (we are a commercial business) is through social media surgeries. It’s a curious thing, an idea that started as a one off event (based on something Pete Ashton was doing) and grew into a movement with nearly 400 surgeries so far run in 99 places.  I’m also on the board of a local charity and a local arts organisation plus on advisory board of two national ones and have been a school governor.  So here are some thoughts that develop or go beyond those of the other Nick Booth – the one who did write this for the Guardian.

We don’t want to do everything for free.

Just because a volunteer will help one person or group for free, it doesn’t mean they will help anyone. We come across this frequently with the social media surgeries.  Because we run the surgery in Central Birmingham on a voluntary basis it doesn’t mean that as individuals we also want to the run the surgery for Nether Wallop. I’ve had people confused and at times indignant that we won’t get on a train and run a similar thing for free in their town or city.

People often volunteer where they most feel an affinity – either with people or places. I’m certainly like that. My volunteering isn’t driven by what I want to do as much as who or where I want to help.  I have a friend who spent hours volunteering in a psychiatric ward. I really couldn’t do that. She loved it.

We also run paid for surgeries elsewhere. Lots of them.  That doesn’t make us bad – it just means we also have homes and families and we need to make a living.

Likewise not every volunteering organisation is funded.

At the moment the social media surgery movement isn’t – even though it manages to help more than 20oo volunteers coordinate the ways they help each other. Sometimes people treat us as if we have a duty to help them. Most quickly change once they understand it’s volunteer run, but not everyone does.

You might like bureacracy but we don’t.  Honestly, we dont! 

Many organisations that rely on volunteers are prone to produce a lot or paperwork around volunteers.  I know they don’t set out to do that, but by happenstance they develop a bureaucratic culture.  Such cultures often then expect people to give their own time and energy to feed a recording paper-mill, rather than make something better.

This is a big bugbear of mine.  I  dislike bureaucracy.

It’s why we asked Josh Hart (who shares my frustration) to create the website www.socialmediasurgery.com which massively simplifies how we measure outputs and outcomes from the volunteering that’s integral to social media surgeries.  It doesn’t do it later or put anything onerous on the volunteers – it has it all happen as the volunteering is happening. It’s also why we’re working with the Nominet Trust to develop our Impact Assessment Tool (see thoughts on our outreach monitor here) to make it easier for organisations  save time and money on measuring impact.  Doing this smoothly though does something just as important: it helps you keep good relationships with your volunteers.

Don’t think it’s always about your organisation. 

Dan Slee works in a local council comms department but has also volunteered as a social media surgeon and organiseing a local surgery. On his blog he wrote about winning a Big Society Award as part of the social media surgery movement.  He told someone he works  with about the recognition – because he was proud.  They said:

“Oh, so it wasn’t actually local government that won a prize for Social Media Surgeries? That’s a shame isn’t it?”

We don’t always volunteer for the benefit of your organisation – please understand our motives, don’t assume it’s about you.

Don’t treat us as if we are less skilled than those being paid. 

Good volunteering will often be filling gaps in an organisation.  It’s really import to listen to, understand and value the skills of volunteers – and trust them to be good at at what they do.  You have the added advantage that many are combining skills with passion – which might be a much more potent combination than skills with pay.

I don’t want to make out that I’m some super virtuous volunteer.  I’m not.  I do the best I can with the time and skills I have and I mostly do things that I know I will love.  Likewise I don’t want to sound grim about volunteering – the stuff I get to do is always a pleasure.

But I do feel better for getting this off my chest – so thank you the other Nick Booth – who you can find here: @OhThisBloodyPC

‘Making it findable’ – the creed of the hyperlocal blogger

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands, a gathering of hyperlocal bloggers, local government officials, and people involved in open data.

The final session of the afternoon focused on what bloggers wanted from council officials. The subject itself says a lot about just how the power relationship between communications professionals and hyperlocal bloggers has changed.

As one attendee from a police authority commented: “We have to treat questions from members of the public in the same way as from the press.” The ability to publish is no longer unique. Forget about citizen journalists – we are all citizens now.

A distributed, engaged audience

Indeed, Dan Slee from Walsall Council – a former print journalist with the local paper – noted the difference between the numbers of readers Read more

Stuff I've seen February 12th through to February 13th

These are my links for February 12th through February 13th:

  • Stop selling scarcity « BuzzMachine – If you are selling a scarcity — an inventory — of any nonphysical goods today, stop, turn around, and start selling value — outcomes — instead.
  • WEB: So, what makes a good council website? « The Dan Slee Blog – Great piece from Danslee: "You’re in a rush. You’re going swimming. You’ve three minutes to find out when the nearest leisure centre closes… and you’re face with a council website. This could be a pleasant experience and for many it is. But if you’re unlucky you’ll be faced with a sprawling brick wall behemoth of a website written in a funny language riddled with jargon. Oh, Lord. It’s not gritting information, for example. It’s a winter service plan. Your opinion of your council suddenly plummets and you hurl abuse at the screen.
  • Mark Thomas talks sense about the Digital Economy Bill by Andrew Dubber – "Most people in the world do creative things for no money. The vast majority of music in the world is made for cultural reasons that are not economic. To suggest that the only reason to be creative is with the expectation of payment is utterly offensive."
  • Let’s learn to respect each other « Let’s Respect – "I am trying to make everyone learn to respect each others differences." via @steventuck
  • Misspelled nemesis club » Blog Archive » Hacker Culture and geek groups in Birmingham, West Midlands – Birmingham has a vibrant community of geek/enthusiast groups, of which I’m proud to be a part. That said, it’s sometimes hard to find or even know about all of them, without the right. So collected here are the groups I know of:

Stuff I've seen January 26th through to January 27th

These are my links for January 26th through January 27th:

  • News : NDS – The government will create one secure, resilient and flexible network which will enable every area of government to adapt their ICT to best deliver for the public. Other changes include, for the first time, bringing together Government departments, local government and wider public sector organisations to remove unnecessary overlaps between departments and avoid costly duplication of technology.
  • Giving activities – Part 2: Professional amateur « Project : Arena – "taking journalism into the gift economy where it’s no longer a simple exchange between producers and consumers, writers and their readership. This new form of journalism is confronting issues familiar to many in volunteerism and others who’ve worked for many years in the gift economy."
  • Open Government Initiative | The White House – "As part of the Directive, federal agencies have answered the President’s call by democratizing hundreds of high-value datasets on every aspect of government operations. While this is meaningful for the technology community and transparency advocates who have been working on this issue for years, the data released will have direct impact on the daily lives of the American people. Here are three examples to consider:"
  • http://bournvillevillage.com/?p=622 – Bournville hyperlocal volunteer run news reports like, well er, reporters…."Passions ran high at a packed Rowheath Pavilion on Tuesday evening as experts and residents clashed over the best way to preserve Bournville’s future in the light of the Kraft takeover of Cadbury."
  • SOCIAL MEDIA: Your EIGHT step guide to getting started… « The Dan Slee Blog – Really fien post from Dan Slee at Walsall: "You need to construct a cohesive and persuasive argument backed by figures that will work with people who look on digital with the suspicious eye of a Daily Mail reader."