#SmartDudley twitter campaign

I was delighted to finally meet Nathan Coyle recently. A Dudley resident with a passion for Dudley, it’s people and ways that we can use technology to make Dudley even better. Nathan has kicked off something really interesting called Dudley Smart Region Hub – because as well as being thoroughly lovely, he’s the kind of person who turns his ideas into actual things.

This week Nathan made and launched a beta version of a digital tool called Data Brew. The idea behind it is “to encourage community groups, social enterprise and citizens to come together to create social campaigns or projects using open data as a base to evidence it.” In other words a way to help people work together using data to help solve problems. Do have a look / play and let us know what you think of it.

I’ve also just spotted a lovely twitter campaign which Nathan has started called #SmartDudley. See the graphic below for details and get tweeting!

I’m hoping Nathan might guest blog here sometime soon about Dudley Smart Region Hub and Data Brew, in the meantime you can check out his Huffington Post blogs and hear from him at the upcoming BostinCamp (which will be on Tuesday 12 April, details to be shared shortly).

smart dudley


Creative Citizens Fair in Brum

You may recall a previous post in which I shared some inspiring digital ideas from community projects which have been bought together in the Creative Citizens Variety Pack. Some of the team behind this work are hosting a Creative Citizens Fair on Saturday 27 June, 11am-4pm in Birmingham. It is free to come along, family friendly, and lunch and refreshments are provided. If you’d like to book places simply hop over to the Eventbrite booking page: www.creativecitizensfair.eventbrite.co.uk

And a call out to creative citizens in Dudley borough, please get in touch with me if you’d like to showcase what you do at this event. You could give a short talk or bring things along to display and show people. The organisers have heard about amazing things happening in Dudley and are keen for creative citizens from Dudley to be part of this (which is why you’ll spot Dudley CVS’s logo on the flyer). If you have any questions or thoughts just email me (lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk) or text or call me on 07501 722255. I hope to see some of you there.

creative citizens fair flyer

(How) do you use WhatsApp?

WhatsApp_logoI was first introduced to WhatsApp by residents of Wrens Nest who  were using it as a way to maintain communication between committee members for the Community Centre. A small team of us from different organisations have been working closely with the committee at the centre, so they added us to their WhatsApp group. I think some of the reasons it was so useful in their context was that you don’t need credit on your phone because it works over wifi, it works across all different makes of smartphone, and it doesn’t require people to be on a social media platform like Facebook (a couple of members of the group don’t use Facebook).

Our team started using WhatsApp for a number of things including:

  • Communications to and between residents who were getting involved in activities with us.
  • Practical arrangements – our most frequent one is finding out who has the keys to the community centre and where can we collect them from!
  • Team communications and updates. It has been really helpful to share updates on who we’ve spoken to and what activity has been taking place using WhatsApp. We did try email updates, but they felt cumbersome and hard work. A quick WhatsApp message can be sent on the spot, and doesn’t clog up email inboxes. Another useful function is that you can export WhatsApp group chat content via email, which we do on a monthly basis to save updates for monitoring purposes.
  • Team planning. While I’d love to be using tools like Trello and Slack, they are big step and if not already part of how you work they probably feel a bit daunting and perhaps present to much of learning curve for a project you might spend one or two days a week on. So we started to use WhatsApp to share screen grabs of planning documents shared in our GoogleDrive, this helps keep us on track, reduces emails, and nudges us over to GoogleDrive when team mates ask for contributions.

Given this experience, I was fascinated to read a blog post by Paul Bradshaw about ways that Online Journalism students had used WhatsApp to publish updates during the elections. Below are a couple of extracts which serve to highlight useful things I learned from reading the post.

WhatsApp has a Broadcast Message Function

Most people use WhatsApp to have group chats – but most news organisations don’t use this.Instead they use WhatsApp’s Broadcast Message feature to publish updates. This is because it has particular advantages:

  • Users cannot see each other’s details (particularly useful if you’re concerned about data protection issues)
  • Users do not know how many other recipients there are (useful if, as is likely, you have small subscriber numbers and do not wish that to be obvious)
  • Users are less likely to reply (useful if you don’t have the time to manage replies – although this can also be a disadvantage if you want interaction)

You can find a guide to setting up a broadcast message on various platforms here.

You can use WhatsApp to share great visually driven content

What made the BirminghamEastside coverage stand out was their focus on visual journalism: not just data visualisation and infographics but also short animated videos using Legend and mobile video journalism.

See number 5 in Paul’s post for great examples of visual content. I also loved the signup page promotion shared in the post (number 3).

Now it’s over to you. Leave a comment here, or on twitter (@dosticen), Facebook or LinkedIn with your thoughts on WhatsApp, for example:

  • Do you use WhatsApp, and if so how are you using it?
  • Are you interested in using WhatsApp now?

Inspiring digital ideas from community projects

Photo of 2 copies of Creative Citizens Variety Pack

The Creative Citizens’ Variety Pack is a beautifully designed and curated collection of stories about ways which 12 very different community projects have made use of digital tools to help and support people and make a difference in their corner of the world. Reading through the pack gave me lots of ideas, and introduced me to some new digital tools which I’m starting to make use of.

The whole pack is available to download for free in a pdf book format here, which is wonderful but doesn’t do justice to the hard copy pack. I was generously sent three copies of the printed pack by Dan Lockton from the Creative Citizens project and so will pass two on to Digital Dudley readers – see below for more on that.

But first here’s an overview of the pack and some highlights from me.

I love the description of creative citizens in the welcome section:

What do we mean by ‘creative citizens’?

Everyday millions of people do something creative, from knitting and genealogy to photography and choirs, sometimes organised in community groups and networks, sometimes not. The crossover into ‘citizenship’ begins when there is a social, political or civic element to the creative work.

The welcome pages also explain that in terms of ‘digital tools’ the authors have included all sorts from well-known and used social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc.) to one off creative technology projects. The pack is then divided in to four sections, with case studies in each.

The first section is about Supporting Each Other Locally – ways that digital media has been used to bring people with something in common together, connecting and supporting each other in their local area. The Tidworth Mums case study is a brilliant example of how a Facebook Group can be used to great effect, and the What Others Can Learn section on the fourth page may be useful to groups in Dudley thinking of using, or already using Facebook’s Groups function. The Allsorts youth engagement project offers some really helpful advice at the end of the case study:

Be prepared to change setup. The way people use social media and the sites they prefer to use change all the time, and with young people they can change quite fast. Don’t invest in too rigorous a structure as you may find you have to change, or even abandon them.

The Cannock Connect newspaper pilot story was particularly interesting to me, as I work with residents in Coseley who produce their own newsletter, and I’m working on a newspaper in relation to work I’m doing in Wrens Nest. In the ‘digital tools used’ sidebar in the case study the newspaperclub.com was listed, which was really helpful to know about and I’ll be using in the next week!

Photo of some pages from the Creative Citizens Variety Pack

The second section of the pack includes two case studies around Telling Stories – using digital tools to help people’s voices to be heard locally and beyond. The Story Machine is a beautiful idea and would be simple to develop or adapt in all sorts of settings. The Digital Commonwealth project used the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as an opportunity to encourage all sorts of stories to be shared, not only those which mainstream media focuses on. The thinking behind the ways the project encouraged use of digital tools really resonated with me from workshops I’ve taken part in around social reporting:

Use what’s in your pocket. Digital Commonwealth encouraged people to use familiar technology to shift from media consumption to production, rather than learning specific tools that later become obsolete. Participants often use Facebook and YouTube socially or personally, but workshops showed people how they can contribute to online conversations by capturing existing, but often unheard, narratives. Once participants felt confident using their own mobile devices for producing as well as consuming stories, the Digital Commonwealth project encouraged them to apply this beyond the Commonwealth Games.

I’ll blog about the final sections of the pack in the next few days, as that feels a lot already!

Get your hands on a lovely copy of the pack

 As I have been sent three copies of the pack, I thought I’d share one copy with my colleagues at Dudley CVS, and offer the other two to Digital Dudley readers. The packs will go to the first two people who email in a story about ways they are using digital tools and what others can learn from their experiences – whether in the context of an organisation, team, a local group or club, or as a creative citizen. The stories will be posted on this site as guest blog posts. I’d love to hear and share stories from people living, volunteering or working anywhere (it needn’t be Dudley), and in any context (community, local government, health, business, social enterprise, activism … ). Anything between about 300-800 words. Send your story, plus your contact details including a postal address to lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk
The authors of the first two stories received will get the Creative Citizens Variety Packs.
If you don’t have the energy to write up your full story, please do feel free to add a brief comment on this post about what you’re up to and what you’re learning. You’d be surprised how helpful things like this can be for others.

Photo of a Creative Citizens Variety Pack with a post it note on saying “this could be yours!"

Using social media in Community Forums

Apologies for the lack of posts at the end of last year, I don’t know where the time went!

Our social media surgeries in November and December bought together people doing brilliant things in their communities and organisations, and helped them increase confidence and skills in using social media to help them. The next social media surgery coming up is on Thursday 20 February, from 6pm at Cafe Grande in Dudley – click here to register.

BostinCamp on 5 November was a great success, the 100 tweets shared during the evening are archived here. Something we heard about during the evening was Tim Sunter’s experience of using social media at a Brierley Hill Community Forum meeting organised by Dudley Council.

local saying "community forums, a new way to have your say"

logo from Dudley Council website

The 10 regular community forums held across Dudley borough are designed to “give people direct access to councillors and Dudley Council through regular drop in public meetings” (from Dudley MBC website). During consultation about the community forums when they were first proposed there were hopes from active citizens that social media would be integral to the process (see this report from a participatory workshop at which people voiced this aspiration). However as the forums were rolled out this time last year, use of social media wasn’t being actively encouraged or facilitated.

I was therefore really pleased to see that Tim Sunter (@Brierley _Hill) was live tweeting from a community forum meeting last July. I was also intrigued that in doing so Tim had prompted a discussion during the meeting about using social media. You can see the conversation in Tim’s Storify archive (go down to the sub-title use of twitter in future meetings). I just love that the simple act of sharing a contribution made by someone using twitter and not present at the meeting impressed and changed the views of people at the meeting who had thought that using twitter at the meetings would exclude those who didn’t use it.

photo of people at BostinCamp

BostinCamp in November 2013

Tim shared this story with us at BostinCamp, and also another really interesting continuation of the story. Knowing that a number of people who are interested in what is going on in Brierley Hill don’t use twitter, Tim emailed his curated Storify archive to everyone on the mailing list for the Brierley Hill Community Forum. 21 individuals replied to Tim’s email, including 2 local councillors, with responses being very positive, aside from the 5 people who couldn’t access Storify through council computers.

Tim generously prepared a wonderfully mind map of all the responses which you can see here. Below are a couple of responses he flagged up to share with us:

“I think it is really good way to open the meeting up to a bigger audience. would be really good if the council did it safe you doing it for them and people can give live feed back to issues.”

“I think that life has made attending meetings like this difficult, but this allows people to be in the room if they care and not just if they can make the meeting. Certainly a huge leap in transparency. Thanks for sharing.”

And here’s a great response from a local councillor demonstrating openness to sharing and to figuring out which social media tools to use (which can be rather confusing) :

This is really good – how do you link into it – do you have to be on twitter or could I go in through one of my Facebook pages?”

The next BostinCamp will take place on Tuesday 5 February from 5.30pm – more details and online registration here. Do come along and join us, it’s great to drink coffee, eat cake and talk about social media.

Dudley Council social media use celebrated in White Paper

Image of Best by West Midlands 2013 publication front cover

An event held at The Public in West Bromwich on Friday bought together people who work in and around local councils in the West Midlands to highlight social media activity which has the potential to’ transform the way that citizens see and interact with council services and officers’. Jan Britton, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council says in the introduction to Best by West Midlands 2013: A White Paper on Social Media in Local Government:

‘Councils across the West Midlands are increasingly using social media channels to communicate and engage with customers, citizens and communities. We believe that councils are doing some amazing things not only to improve the skills of their staff and expand their knowledge but more importantly, to enhance relationships with and among their communities.’

Two examples of Dudley Council activity are highlighted in the White Paper and on the Best by West Midlands website. The first is Dudley Council’s Flickr site on which over 1600 photos have been shared to date. Jason Whyley from Dudley Council explains in the case study that:

‘Probably our biggest success with flickr, to date, has been around the building of community pride and has included working other privately run interest groups within the borough.  We have used flickr to profile good news stories that come directly from the community, for example, a sketch book collection found by a member of the public in a charity shop that contained some great borough paintings from Edward Fox. Setting up local history interest groups, such as the borough’s links to the Titanic anchor, adding images from the borough’s archive relating to our proud heritage, and featuring interviews with former business owners.’

Dudley Council’s use of social media to support the Making it Real social care work is also featured as a case study.

Why a White Paper? As was explained on Friday, ‘a white paper is an authoritative report or guide helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision’ (source: wikipedia). The people behind this one (Dan Slee and Darren Caveney of Comms2point0 and Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands) wanted to bring the great work going on in the West Midlands above the radar, and lay down a marker of progress by 2013.

Useful links

(image: Best by West Midlands 2013 publication cover taken by Lorna Prescott)

What’s this all about then?

Have you noticed it?

People from community groups and voluntary organisations across Dudley borough using twitter, Facebook and blogs more. Connecting with others that have similar interests, sharing news in neighbourhoods…

Officers who work in Dudley Council tweeting in their own time about work stuff!
Dudley Libraries doing the great things that they do on twitter, including starting a twitter reading group (#readindudley)…

Dudley Local Policing Unit and Neighbourhood Teams being as brilliant as the whole of West Midlands Police is at communicating using social media. It’s part of their job. Even our Chief Superintendent Stuart Johnson will tell you how useful he finds twitter! …

Health and Social Care officers using social media in new ways. I’m thinking here of all the great things Dudley CCG are doing, and Healthwatch Dudley and Making it Real

People in Stourbridge launching a tweetup

Citizens using social media to report in real time from meetings in which people are having discussions and making decisions which affect communities (for example Tim from Brierley Hill Blog)…

women looking at digital tablet

Stourbridge social media surgery

As I’ve said in the about page of this site – something has shifted in the last year or so. Where I previously looked to (and frequently physically went to) Birmingham for great social media based networking related to my work I am now overwhelmed and incredibly excited about all the good stuff  originating from people who live, work and/or volunteer in Dudley borough. This site is a place to bring together and celebrate all these good things.

My aim is to post at least weekly to highlight what’s coming up, share stories from things that have happened and share thinking, reflections and practical stuff in relation to our uses of social media to make things even better in Dudley borough. Please do add your ideas of what should be shared here.

My first question to you is: do you know anyone who lives, works and/or volunteers in Dudley borough who is a social media star for you? Let me know:

  • who they are
  • where we can find them online
  • and why they are a social media star for you

From this a social media stars page on this site will be born!