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.)


What’s your digital tribe?

Screen grab from RSA quiz ‘what’s your digital tribe’ with photo of boys in superhero costumesIn a recent report  A new digital learning age from the RSA and Google available here, five tribes in the digital world are described. In a summary of ideas and findings from the report, Anthony Painter shares concerns from the report about the uneven spread of the benefits of new technology.

You can take a fun quiz to find out which digital tribe you belong to. Here is a little about some differences between the ways people are engaging with technology, from Anthony’s blog post.

  • Confident creators are adept at using new technology to develop their knowledge, creativity and social capital. They are confident in a rapidly changing technology environment. 
  • The ‘held back’ not only see the benefits of new technology but they are using it to learn. They are ambitious and seek the chance to turn their ideas and hopes into reality and they are trying to work out how. However, they feel that they need more support, a greater level of learning and more confidence to make their hopes a reality. With some support they might just get there but as it stands they feel a sense of frustrated ambition. 
  • ‘Safety firsters’ are least engaged with new technology and the internet. It’s not that they aren’t connected; it’s just that they see it less a part of their lives than the other two groups. They are not particularly satisfied with things but they do not see the world as particularly stacked against them in the way the ‘held back’ do. 

So, what’s your tribe? Are you among the

  • Cautious Strivers,
  • Aspirationals,
  • Confident Warriors,
  • Grounded Traditionalists or
  • Wise Enablers?

Can you guess what my tribe is?
How might you use findings from the report in your work or volunteering contexts?

Leave a comment or tweet your thoughts and responses using #digitaldudley

What is like a party, a great leveller, a place to learn, and to find voluntary work?

When I was planning blog posts for January I thought some readers might find it helpful to know some ways in which using twitter can be useful. I had some ideas about what I could write about, but then it occurred to me to be #social, so I threw this question out on twitter:

‘What’s great about using twitter to communicate, learn, collaborate etc.?’

I was pleasantly surprised at the themes which emerged, as they were a little different to what I might have focused on.

Here are the responses (thank you all for thinking about the question and responding):

  • My fave thing is the networking. Like one big digital party. If I ask a twitter matey something usually someone else chips in. Kate Vogelsang (@Kate_bob), a ‘digital do-gooder for Lambeth Council’.
  • Learning fab things, broadening my horizons and thinking, and meeting new peeps. Emma Rodgers (@EmmaRodgers), Irish mum and Head of Communications for a local authority in the West Midlands, and one of the amazing and supportive people behind some of the Comms2point0 happenings (@comms2point0)
  • I love it builds and helps keep relationships alive. It helps me to stay and feel connected to others, to new people I would never have met. It’s a great leveller. I have much better understanding and communicate more with e.g. elected members here [on twitter]. Donna Roberts (@Donna_M_Roberts), ‘loving mom to 3 boys, dogs and chickens’, who I have the privilege of working with on exciting projects  in Dudley.
  • For me, communication; it’s where all my volunteer work stemmed from, being introduced to many new people also. Examples of Susan’s volunteer work found on twitter? Guide Dogs for the Blind, Healthwatch Dudley, the RSPCA. This year’s ventures are Halas Homes and The Labour Party. Susan Perks (@MissSNP73), an energetic and talented volunteer in Dudley, who always seems open to new experiences and learning.
  • Instant, open and no hierarchy of power to go through. Ability to connect and learn from wide range of interests… Serendipity of conversations and connections has been great. Engaged with some brilliant folk who’d never have met without it. Simon Hanson (@hanson_simon), a generous and thoughtful sharer on twitter based in County Durham, and doing ace things up in the North.
  • One reason: you’re communicating with real people and real experiences as opposed to, say, media misconceptions. Stephen Parry (@StephenParry 80), a ‘passionate people person, cares about the world’ (Simon has become a welcome firm fixture in my twitter conversations over the last year.)

As if to emphasise what people have said, of the 6 people whose responses are shared above I knew two of them (Donna and Emma) in person before I connected with them on twitter. I have had a number of conversations with Susan on twitter over the last few months and finally met her last month. I’ve never met Simon, Stephen or Kate (or if I have I’ve clean forgotten and I apologise!), and yet I read tweets by Simon and Stephen most days of the week, and frequently have a bit of chat with them on twitter. Simon send me links to blog posts and articles which he just knows I’ll be interested in, and Stephen makes me feel great about things I share on twitter, chatting away with me about comedy night, ethical shopping and more.

What do you think about the responses people shared?
What do you use twitter for?
What do you think is great about it?

Image credit: shared by kyu3 with creative commons licence here

Tea, toast and tablets

It’s been a while since I posted here, despite there being lots of great things going on that could be shared and celebrated. I’ve been inspired to get back to this by a heartwarming blog post I read recently by David Wilcox.


A cup of tea. Credit: Miya – Wikimedia Commons.

In ‘A tasty intro to digital – Tea, Toast and T’Internet‘ David shares a story which demonstrates how wonderfully a few thoughtful people, an eye catching poster, some customised Samsung tablets and plenty of cups of tea can begin the process of involving older people in the online world.

I encourage you to read David’s post, and wonder if any of you involve in housing schemes for older people, befriending schemes, or charities like AgeUK might be likely to try something like this in Dudley borough? There are lots of people around who I bet would be happy to help, not least our local social media surgeons and growing number of officers and volunteers in all sorts of local organisations who are learning about and effectively using social media for all sorts of great work.


BostinCamp is back!

Photo of Laura Broster and Joy Clarke at BostinCamp in August

Laura Broster and Joy Clarke at BostinCamp in August

If you are interested in social media, local government and voluntary activity why not join us for our second event?

BostinCamp will take place Tuesday 5 November between 5.30 and 7.30pm at the Secret Coffee Club, Pearson Street, Brierley Hill (just off the High Street). Arrive any time from 5pm. There is free parking and wifi at the venue. Register here if you fancy coming along.

BostinCamp is an informal, out of the office chance to learn things, meet people, listen and contribute and make our corner of the world just a little bit of a better place. There is coffee, cake and good conversation, plus the invitation to go for a curry afterwards if you are really enjoying it!

We’ve got three great sessions planned (no death by powerpoint, simply sharing and discussions).

Citizen tweeting: Tim Sunter (@Brierly_Hill) will share his experiences of tweeting live from Community Forums and other events, and the reactions of people around him and online. He also manages a hyperlocal site, Brierley Hill Blog, so perhaps we’ll hear about that too.

From novice to navigator: Eileen Fieldling from Dudley Volunteer Centre (@DudleyVols) will share her boundless enthusiasm for social media one year in to her journey. Expect some stats, some great ideas and probably mentions of our many amazing volunteers in Dudley borough.

Social media, local government and citizen participation: Hear what it’s like for a politician using social media. From his twitter profile perhaps we can expect Cllr Pete Lowe (@CllrPete) to talk about family, politics and football. Hopefully he’ll share what works for him and other councillors who are actively using social media to connect with people.

We’ll be using the Twitter hashtag #bostincamp for the event. 29 people came to our first camp (read about it here). Register here to join us.

Social Media Mini Bytes

strawberry rssA fair amount of my work involves working with people in community contexts, and supporting people from all sorts of organisations and groups to work with different communities in ways which are empowering for all involved.

Four years ago a group of us started to develop training and networking sessions for people who have roles which require them to work with communities. This was in response to findings of some research we carried out in which we discovered that a lot of officers and volunteers don’t feel confident about doing this sort of thing. It can generate feelings of worry and stress – even though when they take the plunge they often have really good experiences. We call our programme of support around this ‘engaging together’.

Questions about social media in relation to such work are arising more and more. It might be that people are wondering how social media could help with community consultation. Or how they could use social media to make connections and build relationships in communities. Maybe just even to find out what’s going on.

In response to that my colleague Donna and I are running a series of short sessions in order to help people a little, with a view to using what we learn to develop more in depth learning opportunities. Our Social Media Mini Bytes series will invite people to explore opportunities, challenges and practicalities of using social media to engage communities in empowering ways. The sessions are free to attend.

The details and registration pages can be found from these links: