Tag: Social Networking

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?

Recipe – how to make a social media surgery

I often get asked how you make a social media surgery. Below is a list of ingredients and how you use them.

This recipe is for a standard social media surgery and is ideal for community, voluntary and neighbourhood groups.

Last year I would have said this is enough to serve a city, but since then I’ve got a bit greedy and think that every neighbourhood should have a surgery much like this one. I’d recommend you read all the way to the end before starting to mix the ingredients.

Social media surgery recipe

A diary: This should be full of dates and used to avoid clashes with other things.

Lists of people – 3: Here in Birmingham we use three lists of people. One is a list of people who care about where they live and get things done (some people call them active citizens). This list can be any size, although bigger tends to be better. These are our patients. We have a much smaller list of people who themselves have bigs lists of people who care about where they live and get things done. We send the dates (see above) out to these people who circulate them to their lists.  Finally you need a list of people who care about where they live and get things done and know about the internet. These are your surgeons.

As you get better at this recipe you will find that people who first appeared on the patients list will move across to the surgeons list. That’s exactly the result you’re looking for. In fact those people are the sweetest part of the whole confection. Also if you are making different social media surgeries for different neighbourhoods you will probably find yourself acquiring a whole range of different lists. That’s normal, but do keep them in separately labeled jars.

A room (with corridors): This is the standard size social media surgery so you just need a standard sized room. Most rooms come with corridors, please don’t discard these. We have found them very handy as marvellous overspill spaces.

Tables and chairs: Some people like their tables and chairs in neat rows. I prefer them just how they come. So scatter these around.

Tea and coffee: Let people help themselves.

Wi-Fi: Never skimp on this. A good social media surgery will be drenched in wi-fi. If you find yourself tempted to drizzle the ‘nets the whole thing will certainly turn out flat. Some types of wi-fi come with a key. If you have that sort make sure everyone can easily find it.

Organiser (1 or more): You must have at least one of these so dates get set, rooms get found, wi-fi checked, lists updated, emails sent out. It also always helps to keep a couple of spares in your store cupboard. Don’t use too many organisers though, that can spoil things.

Welcomer (1): People really don’t believe that a surgery can last between 90 minutes and 2 hours and nothing formal happens. So it’s good to have someone to welcome the patients through the door, take their details and explain to them what isn’t going to happen (you’re not going to get lectured at, speeches won’t be made, you won’t be made to do or learn anything your don’t want to).  The welcomer also introduces the patient to their surgeon.

Social capital: This is the most important ingredient. We started with Birmingham Bloggers Group social capital, which had been simmering for a good 20 months, thickened by all sorts of strange ingredients. Think of social capital as the stock pot of your social media kitchen; you need to keep it constantly bubbling away. By the way, it has to be home made and hand made. In an emergency you can borrow some social capital from your neighbour, but please take care to return it as soon as you can. Some people are tempted to use shop bought social capital. It never works.

Note: Some of you may be surprised to see that I have not included Expectations in this recipe.  I use zero expectations when making a surgery. Anything more than that can sour things.

Happy surgeoning.

This is the Birmingham standard social media surgery. Other recipes may be available from Sheffield, Solihull, Brighton, Nottingham, SCIP in Brighton, in Dave’s head, a Solo Bassist, Pete Ashton, ManchesterMosman, Australia.

Things I've spotted July 17th

Here are some things I’ve been reading July 17th:

  • MP asks UK.gov: Why are you still using IE6? • The Register – Tom Watson MP: “I feel sorry for the thousands of civil servants using the Austin Allegro of web browsers when they can have newer, faster alternatives. I want government CIOs to pull their fingers out.”
  • UK Parliament – House of Lords Information Committee – Lords information Committee want to see parliament change the way it shares information with the public: “We recommend that information and documentation related to the core work of the House of Lords (including Bills, Hansard, transcripts of public committee meetings, evidence submitted to committees, committee reports, records of divisions, expenses and the register of Lords’ interests) should be produced and made available online in an open standardised electronic format that enables people outside Parliament to analyse and re-use the data.” (paragraph 66) “We ask the Government to explain how and within what timescale our recommendations will be incorporated into the work that Sir Tim Berners-Lee will lead on opening access to data.” (para 81)
  • The social media paradox: success & time. | Blog | Econsultancy – “We’re about to see a wave of anti-social media feeling and a call for back to basics; with comments like “Why were we all getting so carried away!?””
  • 10 things you should cover in your social networking policy | 10 Things | TechRepublic.com – This post reminds of why controlling and obsessive business will founder with sociaol media. The whole tone of voice is about aversion to rather than embracing the social web: “To have teeth, a policy must include consequences for violations. The policy should spell out that violation of the policy can result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination, and reference other company policies that lay out the appeals process and other relevant information.”
  • The Wires are gone, now for the Restrictions « FutureLibrary – “Is your library wireless friendly? And why not? It is the way we communicate and work now. People are less attached to desktops as sales suggest, with laptop and other mobile devices taking off. Yes, we are a mobile society in more ways than one.”
  • A huge list of social media and blogging guidelines « Webyogi’s blog – “One policy that really sings to me is Zappos Twitter policy ‘Be real and use your best judgement’ – that’s it! Thanks to original posts listed below just for reference….”