Conversations for collaboration
testing an autopost
Testing a cross post to socialreporter.wordpress.com. The previous post to designing forcivilsociety didn’t get there
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Amazing that over 300 people have filled in our @timebank #bigsociety survey within 5 mins of sending it out
Social innovation is happening: will Government join in?
This autumn the UK Government departments responsible for citizen empowerment, tech-supported innovation, and democratic engagement have a chance to catch a wave of optimism about what might be achieved through more open, cross-sector collaborations. But will they rise to the opportunity? There are some encouraging signs.encouraging signs.
Hope to see you over there
Projects using social technology to benefit communities received strong support from the Prime Minister Gordon Brown today at the UK Catalyst Awards. He launched the scheme a year ago, and today presented the community award to Savvy Chavvy – an online community for young Gypsy Travellers. You can find all the winners here. The Prime Minister said:
These awards are a huge and powerful demonstration that rather than weakening our communities and undermining social participation the rapid changes in technology – which all of you here understand better than me – can be harnessed as a force for good in our communities.
The aim of the awards is to provide inspiration to others on how social technology can be used for good, and so I asked one of the organisers, Dan McQuillan, digital guru at Make Your Mark, about the future.
My first question was about whether there was a common spirit that united some very different projects. Dan felt there was some commonality and went on to say:
It’s a new-old thing – the tools are new but the issues are really old … the concerns that people have about making their communities a better place, stopping people being pushed to the edge, giving everyone a chance … there’s no manifesto, there’s no single ideology, but there is a common sense of a moment in time, a moment of re-empowerment and new stuff happening.
That’s quite a challenge as well. You can’t put it in a box, because the whole idea of social media is about diversity – but we do want to bring it to another level so that people get a sense of their own power and can move on up in terms of having an impact, and in terms of sustainability.
What I sensed from the conversation with Dan and others is that the UK Catalyst programme – with its combination of bottom-up philosophy and strong cast of sponsors – may be a good way of bringing together a number of different “web for good” initiatives and networks … like those forming around the Social Innovation Camp , geekyoto and the 2gether08 festival. As I wrote earlier in Catalyst awards promote web for good there’s now a loose network emerging of people who are showing up at the same events, cross-feeding each others’ blogs, friending and following on Twitter … and doing projects together.
There was an attempt last year to start a UK equivalent of the US-based Netsquared, but it didn’t develop into any formal structure. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because one strength of the current networking is that it is drawing in people from digital media, marketing, and the pubic sector as well as nonprofits and social entrepreneurs.
However, it does need some hub, so I suggest anyone interested signs up with UnltdWorld and joins the Catalyst Awards group there for updates on plans leading up to something at the Chain Reaction event in November.
While I was editing these videos, one of the other main Catalyst organisers Oli Barrett – often referred to as the “man who knows everyone” – paused to show me a web tool I hadn’t seen, called addicatomatic. Just type in a search term and it shows what’s happening on blogs, twitter, Google, news sites and so on. Here’s what you get for UK Catalyst Awards. Cool, but I think there more to catalytic networking and top-level support than smart tools. More tips please Oli.
A round of social reporting at conferences and other events leaves me with a simple classification for the content I may capture or create: there’s Stuff, Conversations, and Stories.
Stuff is Powerpoints, papers, speeches. It is delivered, usually from a platform, by Important People.
Conversations are what happens in the breaks between Stuff, or in small groups if the event is Open Space, Unconference, Barcamp or similar setup where participants are considered important people too.
Stories are the interesting bits you may remember from Stuff, and are also conversations that you wish to retell to other people.
Stories may also be constructed by hard-working social reporters after listening to Stuff and conversation, for those not attending. These may or may not be the same stories participants tell each other.
The DC10plus conference about digital inclusion, which I blogged here with Dave Briggs, definitely had plenty of Stuff, and we also managed to capture conversations at coffee and lunch.
By contrast the Shine conference, and two Ideas days that I helped record for the Innovation Exchange – here and here – were designed to generate lots of conversations. Everyone had a chance to tell their stories, and then talk to each other. In this case the stories were about helping older people with independent living, and excluded young people.
At 2gether08, which happens next week, the event has been designed partly by the organising team, and partly by those attending. As you’ll from the main site, and our networking space, there are already plenty of stories and conversation around. We’ll be using a whole range of methods to capture what happens on the two days.
I’m using pre-event interviews like this one with Tracey Todhunter to help her and others create a really good story: how social media can help communities share ideas on tackling climate change.
So what’s the most useful role for the social reporter on these different occasions?
I don’t think there’s much additional value in capturing Stuff. That can easily be published online as papers, slide shows, webcasts or podcasts. It doesn’t require much reporting skill.
On the other hand, I’ve found that most speakers are happy to provide a short video interview summarising their key points. This makes it easier for the reporter to turn Stuff into a Story if they ask sensible questions, pull out some good quotes, and add some context for a blog post.
Capturing conversation is a bit more challenging. I’ve been using a Nokia 82 phone and Qik a lot for that, as you can see here with the Innovation Exchange and here at the Ruralnet Collaborate 2008 event.
I have found it much easier, holding a small phone, to say to people “that sounds interesting, would you mind if I captured some of what you are saying?” In some cases I’ve found it can add to the conversation, because people begin to tell stories to each other.
Good reporters have always found and developed stories that help people make sense of the world … and of course, bad reporters have just made up stories. How can social reporters help people have better conversations, and create the stories that they want to be part of?
One in five children in developing countries die before they are five from simple causes like dehydration. My friend Simon Berry believes he has an idea that could help, as we discussed when we met yesterday to talk about the 2gether08 Festival (more below on that)
Twenty years ago Simon Berry was a development worker in North Zambia, conscious that while he could buy a bottle of Coke anywhere, children were dying through inadequate distribution of simple medical treatments. In many cases they simply needed rehydration salts. Wouldn’t it be possible to reach an agreement by which Coca Cola used a small part of its superior distribution capacity to get the medicine to children? As Simon says:
The idea came to me – but I had no mechanism for sharing it with people. At least, I did have mechanisms, but they were one to one mechanisms, and the thing never got any traction. But now, with the whole Web 2.0 thing, one person can have an idea, and gather other people around that idea, very, very easily.
Simon has done just that. Starting with a blog post, and then a Facebook group, Simon has been interviewed on BBC radio, and attracted the support of New Seekers’ Eve Graham. The New Seekers original song ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ was adopted by Coke.
Eve provided Simon’s campaign with a new one:
I’d like to fix those Burmese homes;
Give poverty the shove
Grow sustainable trees, give aid with ease
And show Africa some love..
Coca Cola, at first unresponsive, have now said they would be happy to talk to Simon. Salvatore Gabola, Global Director Stakeholder Relations, told the BBC:
This is an extraordinarily interesting discussion. And it is one which goes to the heart of the key question of how we can make better use of the successes of business to serve the development needs of the world in general and of Africa in particular. The recent Millennium Development Goal Call for Action by Prime Minister Gordon Brown stems from this simple starting point.
Salvatore Gabola goes on to point out that the challenge in coming with any solution involves more than Coca Cola, because the distribution system is owned by many small independent local distributors.
However, there is a research project and pilot starting in Tanzania that could relate to Simon’s idea. Meanwhile Simon continues to document these developments in detail on his blog – all campaign posts here – urges us to join the Facebook group here, and come up with other ways to gather support.
It is just this type of idea – using social media to address social problems – that we will be discussing and moving forward at the 2gether08 Festival in London on July 2-3 this year, where I’m developing the blog and other online communications. Come and join in.
I’m constantly amazed at how creative people can be in a small group given a clear task, a framework and a few props. Today I went along to the conference of the Institute of Fundraising Technology Group to run a session on social media. The organisers were happy when I proposed a game session – and it went really well.
Within 40 minutes two groups were able invent a couple of very different scenarios (brand repositioning and a flood disaster), then come up with a simple social media strategy by choosing from a set of cards, and inventing some ideas of their own. People didn’t know each other – but were able rapidly to draw on their different areas of expertise to come up with some inventive solutions.
I started off with a brief presentation – but yet again it as the wisdom of the participants that was more compelling. I’ve put a brief report and all the material on the social media wiki here, so you can try it for yourself. Thanks to online fundraising guru Steve Bridger for suggestions on additional cards.
This weekend I’m at the Shine Unconference in London – blogging, shooting some video, and generally having a great time in conversation with social entrepreneurs and every type of innovator you might hope to meet. The photo show Alberto Nardelli explaining the UnltdWorld social network, and you can see it is a wonderfully informal environment at The Bargehouse on the South Bank.
We have an unconference blog, and we are streaming video to a qik event site here: click through the tabs at the top for the days. I’m really grateful to Mireia Fontbernat and the team at qik for guidance and support in setting up the site. It means that anyone who has signed up (free) with qik can use a Nokia S60 series phone to shoot video and have it up on the web within seconds, using either a 3g or wifi connection. If you can’t connect at the time, your phone will save the video and upload later. No editing and compression – it’s just there.
One of the most interesting conversations I had was with unconference organiser Jess Tyrrell and Tom Alcott, from the Social Network Company. They are experimenting at Shine with social network mapping, and we talked about how it could be applied more generally at events to help people make the connection they really want. Video here.
At Shine Steve Moore offered more details of the London digital festival planned for July 2 and 3. It was to be called 4Good, but will now be 2gether. I’ll be working on communications for the event, and hope we can introduce some of the social networking ideas that we discussed. I hope we’ll have a 2gether site up next week.
A new set of awards to promote the use of the social web to meet social needs was launched this evening in London with the backing of the Prime Minister … and I think they could help make a real difference to the way new technology is used for good.
Award schemes can too often be much hype and hoorahs up to the launch, then little action afterwards. Winners find the money doesn’t go far, and the contacts made don’t turn out to be that useful after all. The UKCatalyst Awards have been designed as a two-stage process in which projects first compete, and are then given support.
The Minister for the Third Sector, Phil Hope, was at NESTA to give the awards a formal send off, and was full of enthusiasm for the potential. Dan McQuillan of Make Your Mark, who are organising the awards, explained how they will work.
As you can see here, the award categories are more interesting than usual too, including the Shock for Good Award, Chalk and Cheese, and David and Goliath.
What was just as interesting as the awards was the cluster of people involved in the “web for good” field. As I wrote recently, there’s a lot happening in London at present, and a real sense of joining up and thinking through how to ensure ideas and projects are supported.
Phil Hope emphasised the aim of the awards is to bring to the fore good projects, and make connections. Dan McQuillan is one of the team who ran Social Innovation Camp, all now thinking how best to support not just the winners, but the other projects developed there. They and other have been talking to NESTA about how to draw on their wider experience of innovation processes to achieve this.
Despite keeping to the fruit juice I’m feeling a bit too weary at present to draw out all the strands I picked up tonight, but will be able to do more in working with Steve Moore and others on a digital festival planned in London on July 2 and 3, supported by Channel4. We aim to make development of the Festival another way to do some joining up. More soon when we get the web site up.
I think the Catalyst awards are important because they are just that – ways of bringing together good ideas, good people, innovative technologies. It all felt good – which is a great start towards doing good. How cheering to be among optimistic people in difficult times.