Sharing Cities

The digital economy has helped the growth of the sharing economy.

The most obvious example is a services like AirBnB (where you can find people to rent out your spare room on a nightly basis). It’s not just the preserve of southern californians.  This is a search for Dudley – Saturday night.



But there are far more ways to think about how sharing can make our cities better places to be and this was the subject being discussed last night at an event in Birmingham.

Julian Agyeman was discussing his book  Sharing Cities: A case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities.

First some sketchy notes I made of the points he was making.

  • The sharing economy can help to build equality in cities.
  • Don’t do area projects, find opportunities for what he called urban acupuncture / pin pricks to relieve pain – He gave the example of the garden library in Medellin – the one time drug crime capital of Columbia.  Built on a hillside where the slums had developed – this encourages new ways of being and connects the city in new ways.
  • Sharing things helps us build relationships –  however we may do that within out own existing networks.  How do we create culturally inclusive spaces? Ones where people talk across what makes them different.
Other examples:

This is what he thinks a city should have on their to do list

  1. Map assets –
  2. Put sharabity in the tender/contracts
  3. Encourage Co production
  4. Measure sharing Walkscore -,sharescore
  5. Participatory budgets.
  6. Change taxation, planning and licensing
It got me thinking.  The social media surgeries are part of the sharing economy.  CoLab Dudley is entirely about nurturing it here.
But it also reminds me that the smartest cities are not oiled simply by faster broadband, mobile phone apps or better tech training.  They are made smarter  by the connections and the best connector is often a cup of tea.  So maybe the way to measure collaboration is to count the number of cups of tea drunk in a city.
(Nick Booth is the founder  of Podnosh – and the chap behind the social media surgery movement.)



Curating and sharing relevant content for DFTRA

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging social media tips with Caroline Salter, who works for Dudley Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations (DFTRA). Amongst her other work she does an absolutely fantastic job of maintaining DFTRA’s website, the @DudleyFed twitter account and Facebook Page.

Caroline is committed to finding relevant online content to share with local tenants and residents associations, and brilliant at bringing together the great things they are doing and helping to share them more widely. Do check out what our local tenants and residents groups are getting up to, and the work that DFTRA do in bringing them together. The current DFTRA newsletter even includes a handy list of the tenants and residents associations using social media and where to find them. Nice work Caroline!

NetSquared Midlands meetups and digital engagement sessions

NetSquared brings together people involved in charities and community-based activity with people who have digital and technology know-how. They want to make it “easy, meaningful, and fun for people and organisations to get the information, visibility and in-person support they need to maximize technology for social good”. NetSquared events and meetups take place in over 50 places around the world, thanks to individuals volunteering to be NetSquared Organisers.

netsquared midlands logoWe are incredibly fortunate to have two fantastic co-organisers for NetSquared Midlands (on twitter as @Net2Midlands). Paul Webster is an incredibly generous and knowledgeable individual, and one of a handful of amazing people I am forever grateful to for helping me to get started with social media. Pauline Roche is one of the most wonderfully supportive people you could hope to meet, and equally as knowledgeable. Both Pauline and Paul have diverse networks, lots of experience working in and with voluntary and community based organisations, and know a lot about tools and tech that people and in groups and organisations could use to improve what they do and the impact they have.

There are a few NetSquared events coming up in September (sorry I share this news so late in the day). Do check them out, book and get along if you’re interested. They are all free, and all just down the road in Birmingham.

Tableau Public Session on Wednesday 2 September, 9.30am-12.00pm
Free event, register on Eventbrite
Tableau Public is free software that can allow anyone to connect to a spreadsheet or file and create interactive data visualizations for the web. This session is  facilitated by Caroline Beavon who specialises in information design, infographics design and data visualizations. (Caroline worked with Dudley CVS last year to produce a stunning Annual Report in infographics for us.)

September meetup on Monday 7 September, 6.00pm-8.00pm
Free event, register via Meetup
At this meetup we’re going to share our top digital tools, the ones that help us make better use of our time, and the ones that are interesting and fun!

Wikipedia Session on Wednesday 9 September, 9.30am-12.00pm
Free event, register on Eventbrite
Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This session is facilitated by Andy Mabbett who has been a Wikipedian (or Wikimedian) in Residence at a number of museums, galleries and other organisations, provides training and consultancy on Wikipedia-related topics and speaks on various Wikipedia-related topics at conferences and seminars. (Andy gave one of the most fascinating talks at Bostincamp and has helped out at Social Media Surgeries in 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:

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 ( or text or call me on 07501 722255. I hope to see some of you there.

creative citizens fair flyer

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 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
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!"

Community Action and Social Media

Photo from research seminar, Angus McCabe at the front of a seminar room, participants looking towards him or using laptops etc.

Research Seminar at the Third Sector Research Centre

On Wednesday Alison Sayer from (Halas Homes) and I spent the afternoon in a research seminar at the University of Birmingham. The Barrow Cadbury Trust have funded the Third Sector Research Centre to undertake exploration and research around Community Action and Social Media. The project started a few months ago, when Kevin Harris from Local Level (he blogs here) reviewed literature on the topic and carried out telephone interviews with people who do work with community groups and social media.

Questions being asked through the research are:

  • How/do social media generate, extend, develop or sustain community action in communities of place/interest? (This is the overall research question.)
  • What social media are being used at a community level and how?
  • Why and to do what?
  • What is the impact and outcomes of social media use?

If you have any examples which can help to answer these questions please do get in touch with Kevin Harris ( I’ll be sharing some experiences here which might go some small way to responding to the research questions, and also examples from other places. (They will all go in a category called community action and social media so that you can find them easily.)

Though the research team themselves weren’t using social media during the seminar, that clearly that didn’t stop those of us who enjoy social reporting, involving people outside the room, and picking up on discussion points through a backchannel. We used the hashtag #CASM, and Pauline Roche kindly curated an archive of the twitter discussion on Storify. Slides from the seminar were circulated after the session via email with participants, I’ve shared a copy here.

At this point I confess to a feeling of immense frustration. There are amazing people across the country who have incredible experience-based knowledge in relation to communities and community development, and the analysis of power which comes with that. They even write brilliant books about things like networking approaches to community development. However they haven’t really jumped in when it comes to social media. This leads to barriers in them understanding stories and examples from people like Steph Clarke who use social media in highly skilled and adept ways to facilitate positive connections and action and build cohesion in their own communities. I am convinced that understanding can only be real when you have built up some experience  of using social media. Otherwise it’s like trying to understand what it’s like to swim without ever getting in the water.

Anyway, here’s my first example from Dudley of community action being driven through social media. Karl Denning is a guide dog owner from Dudley who campaigns for equality and raises awareness about behaviours which make day to day life difficult and even dangerous for partially sighted people. Karl came along to a Dudley Social Media Surgery in 2013, when he learned some tips and tricks to use Twitter more effectively (he’s on twitter as @KarlDenning). He returned to the next surgery for help to set up a new blog on WordPress, and then again later in 2014 to find out how to use Instagram. Below is a video made and shared on YouTube by Dudley Police and Karl, raising awareness of inconsiderate parking. It’s had over 3,500 views. I have no idea what the impact and outcomes of this are, but it has made me more thoughtful about where and how I park. The video relates to a wider effort by Karl to raise awareness which taps in to the hashtag #inconsiderateparking. Do take a look at the video, if only to watch how tentatively the police officer passes the car, which helps you empathise with how scary this is.

Photo credit: Photo from research seminar taken by Gooweon Jeong, shared via @thirdsectorrc twitter account