Tag: Social Networking

“Can we talk?” – a new measure for liveable cities.

I’ve been asked by MADE to write 200 words for the Birmingham Post. They’re gauging opinion before the Technical and Environmental  Mayor of Copenhagen speaks in Birmingham next week. Klaus Bondam will be at Town Hall on April 6th to share with us how he expects Copenhagen to stays a wonderful place to live.

I was asked about an hour ago and the deadline is tonight.  Here’s a bashed out draft of what I fancy saying. Please encourage, discourage amend etc in the comments. Does anyone have details of that survey that put us the 2nd best place for social media behind, is it Chicago?


Is this a good place to talk?  It’s not a question we often ask about cities.  After all the whole point of a city is that we can connect, trade and work.  Non of that happens without talk, does it? No it doesn’t, and neither does innovation.

Conversation is about scale, it happens where it’s easy for people to gather in small groups.  The ICC is evidence that we know about audience on a grand scale, but how well do we do small scale gathering?

We need many places where we can meet, deliberately or by accident.  That means a city which is easy to walking but above all has many interesting and modestly scaled places that people want to go.   It means a tolerance of other’s ideas and interests, a city where people also like to listen.

These are partly planning issues and partly cultural issues. How good are our public services at setting the example and being interested in us, how good our our planners and designers at encouraging the interesting?

And of course we don’t just want to talk to ourselves. Birmingham needs take part in a global conversation.  So our schools need open access to the internet and our school teachers and pupils helped to have the confidence to take part in sharing and developing ideas with people across the planet.

Oh and Birmingham doesn’t have free internet access in the city centre, whatever our PR folk may so. So Birmingham Fizz needs to be turned of or turned into a proper free wifi service, so we can finally start hearing each other speak.


Birmingham Social Media Surgery for Voluntary and Community Groups III

The third social media surgery for voluntary and community groups in Birmingham is next Wednesday, January 28th 2009 at BSVC 138 Digbeth, B5 6DR, (map).  Please feel free to drop in anytime between 5.30pm and 7pm where volunteers from the Birmingham bloggers group will show you how you can make best use of social media. It doesn’t matter if you are the head of communications at a major charity or an active citizen in your neighbourhood, if you’re at all curious come along.

To helps us predict numbers please sign up using the form you will find here:   www.paradisecircus.com/social-media-surgeries/

Tools like blogs, podcasts, video and social networks can give a real boost to campaigning organisations, often for no or little cost. So these experts are offering you approachable one to one help and support because they believe it can help. You may just want to see what is possible and go away and think about it. You might be itching to set up a blog and start using it, either way you can get help appreciating the best use of the internet for your organisation. If you’ve been before please feel free to come back.

This surgery is organised as a collaboration between bloggers in Birmingham and the Third Sector Assembly.

Social Media and Social Housing

Trust from Joi on Flickr - click image to see the original.

This afternoon I spoke at the National Housing and Disrepair Forum annual conference. 100 or so council officers, solicitors, barristers, housing association types and others worrying about just how much money is spent on compensating council tenants for repairs that haven’t been done. This is a link to the presentation:  Talk is cheap – so use it more.

I was invited by Kate Priest, the head of the legal department at Birmingham City Council that deals with such matters.  Kate had heard me talking about local government, social media and the changing democratic relationship in one of my sessions at the Institute of Local Government.

A £3,000 pound compensation bill for a tenant could mean a £15,000 bill from their lawyers – and all that comes out of the repairs budget. So it’s worth exploring other ways to stop this.

I wanted to get across the idea that this can be thought of as a problem of trust. Lawyers thrive where trust does not. The challenge I wanted to throw to the group was how can they understand this as more than a problem of record keeping, accountability and process? Instead can they involve their people in sincere networks of trust within neighbourhoods.
The presentation is simply designed to offer examples of how and where the social web builds real networks of trust – ones which can make things happen. It was intended to give them a sense that trust is worth hard cash. The tenant who trusts their council worker and so negotiates directly with them could free up thousands for work of public value.  The tenants who are part of a wider network of trust may even be able to help negotiate priorities.

Thank you for a big chunk of input on twitter (image here and here of the 19 comments). Here is what you suggested:

By presenting an authentic face to tenants which listens and responds to their concerns and issues and by helping to link tenants up to find others in their situation, or who have resolved issues to share experience and connect”  Dave Briggs.

Listen to people where they are already talking about you (good and bad stuff)” Paul Henderson.

“Any way of improving two-way communication must surely help” Catnip.

Councils need to improve / review their relationships offline before making a difference online”  Stuart Parker.

One easy win would be for blogs to be set up for individual estates – the council can keep tenants fully in the loop of developments, the tenants would be able to have their say, but also that blog could help develop & bind the community of the estate itself together. wins all round, for minimal financial investment, really.”  Simon Gray.

Not a council tenant, but as a private one an answerphone and email address would be a start!” and “I think the question’s wrong: maybe, ‘what are the problems facing council tenants’ and keep soc media in mind when addressing them ” Michael Grimes.

“This is helping in some respects, esp with young people on 1st tenancy http://www.inliving.co.ukJohn Popham.

If social media is ‘informal’ it will help get over the “stigma” of phoning somone or appearing in person.” Paul Jennings.

Human face and interaction with two-way content. Would also bring tenants into contact with each other as well as council.” Nicky Getgood.

I think councils are way off social media. Difficult to control comms leads to degraded service. Also privacy issues and challenge of delivering service using tools and channels that are external. Eg what if Twitter down? Ian Edwards.

Google alerts for blog posts about “dog sh*t” or “broken paving slab” + their ward, then follow it up. That’s only a semi joke”.  Jon Hickman.

Blogging for different estates. Would get people to know each other and get them talking about issues that matter to them.”  Antonio Roberts.

Works t’other way- CLG wants tenants 2 have a role in mgmt- better way 2 engage than endless meetings (although meetings r useful)”.  Nick Drew.

Toronto based Michael Cayley also asked: “ pls share some references used for trust & social capital session aimed at lawyers who defend councils from housing repair claims.

I used very simple examples. I was facing an audience of 100 people, none of whom blog, only one had heard of twitter.  Even though I was amongst many lawyers only a smattering had come across Linkedin.   I needed to show how building networks of trust can help make good things happen.  I used the example of the Birmingham Bloggers group and the Social Media Surgeries. I used the volunteer effort that mysociety can apply to ventures like  fixmystreet (and not a soul in the room  had heard of the site). I also talked to them about the open innovation exchange experiment and how it’s model of open collaboration to pitch for contracts is using trust to disrupt existing ways of doing business and improve the outcome for the public.

Responses were mixed. Some went for the very human (my favourites) such as getting good at saying sorry, takings flowers when you’ve messed up and having street meeting with contractors. Others talked specifically about  procedures and software to track transactions.  One reported how law firms use facebook to recruit people for court cases.

Overall I tried to emphasise that I wanted people to go away not so much thinking about the internet, but appreciating that whatever they can do to build trust should ultimately reduce their need to fight fruitless court battles with the very people they exist to help.

We’ll see what comes next.

Who’s coming to the Birmingham Social Media Surgery, BAD08

Pete Ashton stumbles across a 'shelter' for homeless people in Birmingham

I thought is was time to take stock, not least to ensure sufficient tea and coffee for the social media surgery which us Birmingham bloggy folk are organising (with BVSC) to support voluntary and community groups in the city on Blog Action Day.

If you want to know how social media can help you campaign, garner support, raise funds, change the world then please sign up through this link (Wednesday, October 15th 2008, BVSC (map) 5.30pm to 7.30 pm). Come when you can for some free, friendly, one to one support.

Sign up here:


The Social Media Surgeons:

Coming from Somerset we have Steve Bridger, once of The Guardian website and Oxfam now a specialist in online fund raising and community management. I first met Steve through shared involvement with the NCVO ICT Foresight project.  Also getting here by train, this time from Sheffield, is Paul Webster. I think I first met Paul at the UKGOVBarcamp.   Paul travels endlessly, bringing vol orgs and their suport organisations up to speed with how IT and the web can help them.

Stef Lewandowksi will be there, sharing his enormous experience of producing blog based websites which achieve things, from webby award winning sites to those that build networks around curious human ideas, Stef builds some of the most elegant pages you can find on the web. He’s also offering:

half a day of my time to produce from scratch a blog-based website for one charitable organisation that works with disadvantaged or at risk kids, at no charge.

This is a brilliant offer. Stef can achieve a great deal in half a day if he’s working with an organisation that’s keen to get on with things.

Pete Ashton – who’s the first person I know to come up with the idea of a social media surgery – will also be there to help. One of the countries first professional bloggers, Pete has won national awards and helped the cities creative community burst into online collaboration and conversation through establishing Created in Birmingham. That leads me on  to another local. Chris Unitt has run Created in Birmingham for the last 6 months or so and is a very talented blogger who’s also applied his professional energies to initiatives such as cQuestrate, an ambitious project to develop an open source solution to climate change.

Others possibly/hopefully coming who can help with everything from how to set up a blog to how to run a festival (should that help reduce poverty) are Anthony Herron, Dave Briggs, Nicky Getgood and Antonio Roberts. (Update:  Joanna Geary – a Birmingham Post journalist who’s helping introduce social media to newspapers, is also hoping to come).
I (Nick Booth) will also be there with my background in BBC journalism then community podcasting and various work with local government, schools and community groups on using social media as a tool for empowerment.

Jon Bounds and Julia Gilbert, both of whom have energetically inspired and worked on this idea, can’t make Wednesday, but just thought I’d day hello and thank you.

Social Media Patients(!?):

So far I’ve had about 15 people say they’re hoping to come from various groups, some with url, some without names!  Among them are Gerry Moynihan of the Bordesley Green Neighbourhood Forum. I’ve worked with Gerry before to make this film and podcast for a European wide group of active citizens called R4R.  I spoke to Claire Rigby of Fairbridge earlier this week and if she can’t make it she means to encourage someone else to com along.  Her charity supports young people to pull themselves out of destructive patterns, often involving drugs.
Stuart Parker is establishing a social enterprise to use the power of the social web to help people who foundered in education. I’m sure he’ll be teaching and learning.
Ally Sultana works with women in Balsall Heath and has been developing a podcast project – she’s already explored some social mediaAudrey Miller helped create the Jubilee Debt campaign which put so much pressure on the 1998 Birmingham G8 to cancel debt to Africa. Serena Malone works with Rural net, and again is someone who may be able to teach as much as she learns.

Then there’s Gary Smith from firstlightmedia and also working with young people, Colin Kerrigan of the charity Stage 2Stephen Brook is coming along from another educational charity excell3.

Linda Hines from the Witton Lodge Community Association in Perry Common is coming. She’s also a community champion for Be Birmingham (I recently worked with Be Birmingham on simple podcasts and material for their youtube channel and flickr.)  Other community champions might join us, as might community groups who’ve worked with Groundwork in Birmingham and members of the Third Sector Assembly.

If you’re coming and I haven’t mentioned you please use the comments section to say hello. For some that will be familiar – for others commenting on this blog post might be your first step in social media!—


Update. Beside the bloggers some key organisations have also offerred their support with links and publicity, including Digital BirminghamBVSC who’s providing us with space and drinks and NAVCA.