Curating and sharing relevant content for DFTRA

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!

#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

Free social media support for local groups, clubs and societies

photo of a smartphone next to scrabble tiles spelling ‘social media'

Just a reminder that there are free social media surgeries taking place regularly around Dudley borough, thanks to the generosity of local business owners who host our sessions.

Halesowen – at the friendly Coffee Cups cafe (@CoffeeCupsHalas)
Thur 10 Mar 9.30am – 11.00am register
Stourbridge – at the beautiful Talbot Hotel
Mon 11 Apr 10.00am -11.30am register
Dudley – at the lovely Cafe Grande (CafeGrande Dudley on Facebook)
Thur 19 May 6.00pm – 7.30pm register

What is a surgery?

A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. They support voluntary and community groups, local charities, clubs and societies. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, no-one telling people what they think they should know.

Instead you will sit next to someone who understands good ways to use the internet, someone who will listen to what you do, and then show you free, useful tools. If you like what you see they can also help you set up your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. Social media surgeries take place around Dudley borough every few weeks, so you can keep coming back for help.

We’re always looking for surgeons

Think of a surgeon at a social media surgery  as a helper. A surgeon is someone who knows enough about using social media to help someone else. Some surgeons have spent years understanding the internet. Others started learning a few months ago but want to share what they know with other community groups and active citizens.

We have some brilliant surgeons, some work for Dudley Council, some run their own businesses, some work for charities, others are freelancers and volunteers in their own time. If you’re interested in helping and would like to know a bit more about it, please get in touch and we can chat on the phone or meet for coffee.

Contact me on twitter: @dosticen / facebook: lorna.dosticen / text or WhatsApp: 07501 722255 / email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

Introducing civic tech

To date this blog has focused pretty much on ways that people are using social media, and aimed to celebrate, promote and support that. It is an online place to signpost to face-to-face activities taking place in and around Dudley borough which offer support to people getting to grips with or tentatively trying out social media – activities such as Social Media Surgeries and BostinCamp. The strapline for this site until today has been “celebrating the ways that people are using social media to do great things and build community across Dudley borough”. Today I’ve added a second area focus: civic tech.

Civic tech, or civic technology, is

“technology (mainly information technology) that enables engagement or participation of the public for good development, enhancing citizen communications, improving government infrastructure, or generally making national and local governments more effective. It encompasses civic applications, platforms supporting government bodies and institutions and other software enabling those goals.” (source: wikipedia)

Interest in civic tech is developing in Dudley, particularly in relation to the development of the Community Council (I’ve started blogging about the Community Council on the Dudley CVS blog). There is a great new post on the Civicist blog about the role of praising and shaming in civic tech. It concludes:

“Until now, behavioral economics in public policy has been mainly about nudging citizens toward preferred choices. Yet it may be time to start also working in the opposite direction, nudging governments to be more responsive to citizens.”

I am of the understanding that senior officers in Dudley Council are keen to invite this nudging from citizens and communities. Indeed I’m starting to do some work on ways to help it to happen. So I’ve added a civic tech page to this blog to draw together useful resources and examples which we might want to learn from here in Dudley, such as work the Knight Foundation has done (see diagram below).

I’ll keep readers updated with ways to get involved in the conversation and activities. I’d love to hear about your favourite examples of civic tech in action, and any experiences you have of developing or using it. Leave a comment here, or get in touch with me on twitter: @dosticen or email: lorna@dudleycvs.org.uk

civic tech

From the Knight Foundation Civic Tech slide deck http://www.slideshare.net/knightfoundation/knight-civictech

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: 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?