Why I love the informality of social media surgeries

One of the most brilliant things about Social Media Surgeries are the connections people make with each other. At this week’s Social Media Surgery in Stourbridge Catherine Growcott from International Cuisine Association popped in to bring along her colleague Sangeeta Rangwami. International Cuisine Association are an inspiring and dedicated group of people bringing their skills and experience from industry to a social enterprise which aims to change people’s lives through learning about food from around the world and developing confidence in cooking.

Sangeeta and I were working through the pros and cons of Facebook Pages, and the fact that under Facebook rules organisations and groups shouldn’t set up a Facebook Profile – they are only for individuals.

We were then joined by Aneela Hanif, who was fully sighted until her early 20s, and is in the process of setting up a new group called Vision Division to support people going through experiences similar to hers, or looking for something a bit different to more traditional groups supporting partially sighted people which tend to involve people who are much older and not necessarily facing challenges of working or getting work.

The three of us took a whistle-stop tour of twitter. On the spur of the moment I chose the National Trust’s twitter stream to explain to Sangeeta and Aneela how to write engaging and friendly tweets, use hyperlinks and what hashtags are used for. It was a rather wonderful place to start, I’d fully recommend delving in to the National Trust’s tweets – for their warmth of tone, amazing pictures and gentle awareness raising of relevant issues.

As is often the case at a Social Media Surgery, we spent as much time learning about each other’s work as we did about social media. Sangeeta and Aneela started to connect ideas about what they do, and Sangeeta invited us over the road to International Cuisine Association’s teaching space on the High Street in Stourbridge, which has a healthy take away and noodle bar on the ground floor, called Taste. Catherine showed us around and ideas were bubbling up about cooking sessions for people who are partially sighted. Sangeeta expressed a desire to learn about what support partially sighted people might need in relation to learning to cook. Catherine generously offered Aneela’s group free use of the space.

I can’t wait until both of these Stourbridge based organisations are using social media, as I am keen to see what collaboration and learning develops online and offline.


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:


How to make curry with social media

A recipe for Social Care Curry Club


Over 150 people in 4 countries (quantities can be increased)

Suitable for

Vegetarians, not-vegetarians, people working in social care, people not working in social care with an interest in social care.


  • A splash of an Assistant Director from Dudley Council with a good ideaPhoto of Matt Bowsher in indian restaurant tweeting on his phone
  • A healthy dollop of a social media savvy, unstoppable woman
  • A large glob of online connections with an interest in social care, and curry
  • Boundaryless opportunities to co-create
  • A handful good indian restaurants
  • A pinch of a Minister of State (optional)

You will also need the following free stuff

  • 1 blog site
  • 1 twitter account
  • 1 Eventbrite site


This began as a recipe for a handful of outings of people interested in social care, and curry. It turned in to a recipe for connecting over 150 people across 4 countries (including Canada). You can turn any recipe for something small and simple in to something much bigger by simply lengthening the preparation time and making it easy for people to co-create it with you.


  1. Take the Assistant Director‘s good idea, and add it to the social media savvy, unstoppable woman. Saute until the twitter account and first post on the free blog site are done.
  2. Ask people following on twitter and the blog what day suits them best and let things bubble up on the Eventbrite site to determine how many people you’ll need to book in to the test kitchen chosen restaurant on a suitable date.
  3. Gently mix people on the evening, enjoy curry and have good conversation about social care type things. Grate over some tweets, photos and a blog. (If you’re a fan of baking with booze, you can add a pint or two in a pub afterwards.)
  4. Swirl in opportunities for people to become local hosts, add suggestions about locations across the country (England), season with a social care curry in Scotland and one in Wales.
  5. Warm(ly respond) to any interest from politicians, such as the Minister of State for Care and Support.
  6. Keep everything sizzling using social media.
  7. Taste the mix on 5 September, and quarterly thereafter.

N.B. You know how Canadians (and Americans) call courgettes, zucchini? Well they don’t use the term ‘social care’, so they have adapted this recipe to ‘Connecting over Curry’.

Preparation time

Just a few weeks.

Eating time

Dependent on restaurant, and enthusiasm for an after dinner visit to a pub. [Warning: when testing this recipe I was out until 1am!]

Don’t miss out!

Register here to join us on 5 September in Birmingham, 5 confirmed attendees from Dudley organisations (other parts of the country are available)

Photo: Matt Bowsher, Assistant Director, Dudley MBC.
Photo credit: George Julian
This post was inspired by a Social Care Curry Club tweet (below) from George Julian

social media surgery successes

This month’s social media surgery took place at Cafe Grande in Dudley (as ever we’re grateful to the owner Martin, for welcoming us in the cafe).

Dudley Voices for Choice twitter profile page

Sarah Offley came along from Dudley Voices for Choice, which is a self-advocacy group for people with learning disabilities. She wanted to find out how to use twitter, and was supported to set up her own twitter account (@DVCSarahO) and send her first tweet. She said: “I feel so relieved – it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be! I will use the account for promotion, keeping in touch and up to date on important issues.” As a result of the social media surgery Sarah has bought back the @DvcDudley twitter account from a year of inactivity. Keep an eye on them for interesting news and collaborations.

Alison Sayer from Halas Homes wanted to learn about twitter, and how to include a twitter feed on  her organisation’s website, or a blog. We talked about ways that Halas Homes could develop a fresher online presence, and Alison left equipped to talk to her board. She said “We had a really helpful and informative conversation about WordPress blogs and Twitter. I now know that blogs can be updated through Twitter and I can see that this will help me make best use of my limited time.” Within two working days Alison had a new twitter account for Halas Homes (@HalasHomes) created and active, with great sharing going on already.

image of a tweet from Halas Homes  about a coffee morning

There’s more about the social media surgery in my Storify archive, so I’ll finish with Alison’s feedback: “I didn’t know what social media surgeries would be like but it’s been really informal and an enjoyable experience.”