Over the last 2 days the Podnosh team hosted 24 science communicators from across Europe. They were in Birmingham as part of the Open Places project which is looking at bringing together 69 science communication institutions and other stakeholders in European cities to partner with local policy makers to tackle socio-economic issues such as employment; education; climate change and poverty from a scientific perspective.We met with them to discuss social media and the ways in which it can be useful to them in their workplaces or on this and other specific projects.
The above exchange took place recently between Wv11 a hyperlocal blog in Wednesfield (*disclaimer* I am the co-founder of Wv11 – but this wasn’t me tweeting this time), Wolverhampton Parks and Wolverhampton Homes, the ALMO (Aram Length Management Organisation) that looks after housing for Wolverhampton Council. It was a simple and common complaint involving litter. There wasn’t an immediate solution as someone had to physically get out to the park to deal with it but because the message was not only acknowledged positively but there was also a response given about the planned action, any other residents following this exchange knew something was planned to get the litter cleaned up and later on when it was dealt with they could see that the promise was carried through.
This wasn’t the first conversation of this sort to take part online and it surely wont be the last but to my mind at least this kind of engagement can only improve communities.
It may start as small as getting rubbish collected from the park put just imagine the possibilities. If lots of people can take part in a wider conversations with service providers and local partners, if they are responded to as individuals and if they can see that not only are things are getting done as a result, but also see the processes in place that get them there they are more likely to engage in the future and feel part of the bigger picture that makes their neighbourhood tick.
Recently I was having a conversation with Nick about the value of social media, the community links you can build using Twitter and blogs and the value this has in the real world, when I remembered the story of PC Richard Stanley’s blog.
PC Stanley is a blogging police officer and Twitter user from Walsall. He uses these platforms to talk to the “locals” about his job and help give plain English examples of how the police work and why things are done in a certain way sometimes. I read his blog, follow him on Twitter and have personally never found him to be anything less than factual and informative with some nice humorous banter, creme eggs, #foxwatch and competitions thrown into the mix.
It was a factual piece that explained, from a policing point of view, why sometimes the “victim” of the burglary can also end up being arrested along with the burglar in cases like this. It was written so that it would be easy for the public to digest – and I felt it was. It was informative without being patronising and a good insight into how a decision to arrest someone could be made.
However, what wasn’t easy for regular readers to digest was what happened next. His blog’s comment section exploded with anonymous commentators condescending and, in some cases, outright insulting PC Stanley. It wasn’t an argument about the accuracy of any details in the blog but an inference he was doing something wrong by engaging in this way and “toeing the party line.”
So what if you’ve never been to a social media surgery? You might have a few questions, right? We thought it might be good to answer a few.
So what is a social media surgery?
Social Media Surgeries are just a fun, informal way for people to meet and learn how to use social media for social good.
What is social media?
Social media is a loose term that is applied to a range of tools that use the world wide web to bring people together and communicate – including blogs and social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
How do social media surgeries work?
Our surgeries consist of patients (the people who come to learn stuff) and surgeons (the people who can answer their questions). We pair surgeons with patients, so that the patients can learn all about how to use social media.
Who should come to social media surgeries?
Our surgeries are for anyone involved in community and voluntary organisations who is looking for new, more effective ways to communicate about the work that they do. Patients don’t need to know about computers. It’s much more important that you are keen to learn and that you have something to say!
Who are social media surgeons?
The surgeons are all terribly nice people who’ve volunteered their time for free to help people. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all want other people to be able to make good use of the power that comes from effectively using social media.
What happens when you get to a social media surgery?
Imagine a big coffee morning, except it’s probably in the evening! We pair surgeons with patients after quickly finding out what people would like to learn. You get to sit with a surgeon who can help you with whatever question or issue you’ve got.
What can you expect to get out of a social media surgery?
Well, that’s entirely dependent on what you want to get. Lots of people who come want to set up blogs – simple websites where they can publicise what they are doing. Other people are interested in using Twitter, or other social networking services. Often people come back to learn more and more. Sometimes people who first arrived at surgeries as patients become surgeons themselves.
Is there anything I need to bring?
No. The surgeons have computers, so you don’t need to worry. Of course, if you have a laptop and can carry it easily then please bring it along.
Where can I find out more?
To find out how the surgeries started you can read this post. John Popham, who runs surgeries in Yorkshire, has done a good job of explaining things in this podcast. This site, Podnosh, gives details of new surgeries in Birmingham and elsewhere.
Where are the social media surgeries?
You can mostly fine them here: