Over the last few years the social media surgery movement has spread further than anyone could have imagined at that first (and supposedly one off) event back in 2008. There are now surgeries held in 70 different towns and cities all over the uk, and further beyond, in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and even Nepal to name but a few.
But, in the birth place of the Surgeries, Birmingham, there has been another spread happening -less global and more local, into our communities. In the last 6 months we have been working with partners such as the local strategic partnership and the police across the city and with their support there have been surgeries in:
These surgeries have been able to support people where they live and work, to enable them to get online to support the good work that they are doing in their neighbourhoods.
Like Lol Thurstan for instance, he came along asking for help distributing his monthly Neighbourhood Watch newsletter and we helped him set up a blog. Lol is now already exploring the possiblilities of sharing more than just hisNeighbourhood Watch news with his community – taking the idea of a neighbourhood magazine and reproducing it online, and there’s Sandra Turner. Sandra wanted some support promoting her community centre and finding out what was going on in her area. We sat with her while she set up a facebook page and later a twitter account so now she can do just that – it’s enabled her to share information online and make connections with others in her area.
And we’re not done yet. There are more dates already set and hopefully still more to come. We’d love to see you there whether it to receive some support or to offer your help. You can visit www.socialmediasurgery.com to register to attend any of these sessions, or find one nearer to you.
I’ve had a bonkers busy few weeks – meeting and talking to a wide range of people and it’s helped me start thinking through a problem with networks: they tend not to be trusted to reliably deliver solutions at any sort of scale.
Let me share how and why I’ve started looking at this (and I’m sure I’m not the first).
Catherine Howe (her govcamp piece here) and myself were both in a session at the fabulous ukgovcamp last Saturday. It was the end of the day and I think (I came in late) it was on what makes cross sector collaboration work and convened by Jag Goraya with a big dose of help from Saul Cozens.
A problem of scale?
The bit of the discussion that helped me went along the lines of. “The answer to a lot of public sector problems do sit in developing healthy networks and developing and encouraging the cultures which help networks thrive. Do that and people tend to do what makes sense, rather than what is prescribed.” I was trying to understand why achieving this is so difficult and suggested that it was a problem with scale, something along the lines of…
Large budgets and large problems tend to lead to large things being created and commissioned.
These have a direction of their own and – on the whole – need to be seen to succeed.
Networked activity is different – it is often lots of small activity with little or modest innovation – that doesn’t appear to be capable of delivering at scale.
So large organsiation charged with sorting large problems are loathe to trust to a networked approach.
In truth I think networks can deliver at scale. A city is such a thing, the families that make up a community likewise. The benefit for using networked approaches for sorting big problems is we don’t need to invest everything in one large solution then persuade ourselves it has worked.
Dollops and cock up
Instead we need to learn how to recognise the pattern of networked progress: plenty of success, a good dollop of treading water and a decent slice of cock-up, indifference, waste and failure.
That was the gist of where ukgovcamp had got me to. It was built on other things recently:
Listening to a conversation the week before at a conference I spoke at for the Hampshire Association of Local Council’s digital conference (again with Catherine Howe) amongst a group of councillors from some of the larger
At the LSIS Governance conference in Manchester late last week I started talking to a Clerk to a Further Ed college that had been asked to improve educational attainment in a particular neighbourhood. They wanted a steady approach that built community links, strengthened social capital and relationships and built aspiration in the community. The funders wanted rapid change – so what they are likely to buy is intense extra activity with the students about to take their GCSE’s – one is the big and brittle – v the modest but maybe meaningful.
Capturing the subtle incremental change that comes through networks is partly why we have been working with Gateway Family services and Birmingham Settlement and Nominet Trust to develop an impact assessment app which measures and organises the modest – as well as the sometimes downright remarkable – shift that happens in people and places. But turning this into something that politicians and policy makers will trust to deliver is an interesting problem.
We have recently been doing some work in Wolverhampton with the Local Neighbourhood Partnership (LNP), talking to their neighbourhood wardens about how they can use Twitter to communicate on their patch, the sorts of conversations they could be having and showing them practically how to use it.
As I live in Wolverhampton, sit on the board for my local LNP and use twitter in my neighbourhood with @WV11, one of the examples I used when training them was live tweeting from our meetings.