It’s been quite an eye-opener meeting Marlon Parker. He’s visiting the UK from Cape town in South Africa and has come over here to share some of his work at the charity Impact Direct. He was here with Jon Hickman.
Below is a quick interview with him, where he explains how he began using social media to help gang members and drug addicts tell their stories, initially as a means of educating the wider community about what to expect.
But Reconstructed (Marlon’s original project name) blossomed from simply helping a few people to a network of people who are using mobile phones and instant messaging to mentor individual and families with a huge range of problems – from drugs addiction to HIV/Aids. Here’s a scrappy bit of video of Marlon showing Chris Unitt how the mobile phone stuff works, using an application put together by the original groups of social media trainees. It’s interesting:
The whole project is built on the some of the core principles that makes social media more than a means of connecting online, but as a means to gain or regain control:
- Just get on with. Marlon doesn’t wait for funders to OK something, he gets on with it and hopes the world will catch up.
- Concentrate on the useful. When encouraging people to use social media find something that’s useful for them
- Get people teaching as much as they learn: the beauty of social media is it’s simplicity. It’s good to get those you are teaching to teach others, that strengthens the network and relationships.
- Don’t wait for the kit, use available technology. Instant messaging and mobile phones work in South Africa because that’s what the people Marlon want to reach have.
In the end none of the work that Marlon does, we do or loads of the rest of you do with social media is to do with specific tools or bits of technology. It is essentially about helping people get to know each other well enough to be able to achive things together. To do that it pays to use whatever it takes to connect folk.