Tell the story

July 19, 2010

Homer and Bart need to set up a hyperlocal site in Springfield

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:43 am

How often do you see Bart, or Homer, online in the Simpsons?

Not that often.

Sounds like a trite point, but bear with me.

Their hometown of Springfield – founded in 1796 by Hans Sprungfeld who travelled west to found the New Sodom – is surely the best known, most perfectly sealed open society in history (totalitarian hell holes like Hoxha’s Albania and Kim Jong Il’s North Korea don’t count).

And the TV show should have its own hyperlocal site run by Marge, hacked into by Bart, rubbished by Homer and monetised by the evil Mr Burns.

I don’t want to spiel forth on proverbial egg sucking, but hyperlocalism is in our midst, is a force for change, a force for good, but belongs in Springfield, the Isle of Wight or even Rockall.

It’s about Krusty the Clown’s antics, about emptying bins, mending cracked pavements, making sure older people don’t freeze to death in the winter. It’s about giving a voice to you and me. All that mundane stuff we fuss about when we live our lives.

It’s NOT about helping central and local governments – and people who run them – to avoid their social responsibilities. It shouldn’t be used as a cost cutting exercise or as cornerstones of grand political campaigns.

Unfortunately, hyperlocalism and the movement for local services and democratic ideals could soon be wholly consumed by David Cameron’s Big Society. Much of this Big Society talk is simple political puff, although I suppose it should be given the benefit of the doubt before the doubt inevitably supersedes the benefits.

But as more local people sign up to Cameron’s movement, they should be mindful of the morass of national political infighting, local political rivalry and hyperlocal bitchfesting that will probably follow.

This is not cynicism for the sake of it. It’s hyper-reality if you like. Ho ho.

Hyperlocalism is in essence a grassroots affair that can be anything and everything. It is anchored in local reality. It’s a celebration of localism. It’s a forum, a panacea and an advertising vehicle, yes, it should be monetised so the people running it can make ends meet.

But, above all, it belongs in Springfield, the Isle of Wight and (if people fancy living there) Rockall.

Yesterday I spoke to Rosie who set up a hyperlocal site in her area of Cheltenham only two months ago. A year ago she knew nothing about hyperlocalism or twitter, now she’s a full time community manager, interviewing local politicians, speaking out about local education issues and encouraging people to enter local charity events. She’s proof that a lot can be done in just two months.

Below she talks about her project.


July 7, 2010

Report on Big Society Network Open Night

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:16 am

My colleague Rob Mair atttended the Big Society Network Open Night yesterday. He’s emailed me about it today and I thought I’d share some of his observations and musings post event.

The Big Society Network Open Night was an attempt to bring together lots of different organisations (including quangos, charities, technology companies and social enterprises) to brainstorm ways of creating a Big Society.

The Big Society Network is essentially looking at ways to get people engaged in local communities (or hyperlocal communities) for the benefit of that area. Paul Twivy, CEO of the Big Society Network, said people in any one square mile have plenty of skills but often, when people do community work forget about the skills they have that may benefit that area.

He used the example of an accountant; accountancy is boring (his words), so accountants look to do something completely different from accountancy when it comes to doing voluntary work in the community.

But charities could benefit from free accountancy, and the accountant would be using his skills for the benefit of the wider community. And I think this idea is at the heart of the Big Society Network.

Which is noble – but I’m not sure where we all fit into this. Many people spend time doing digital engagement work, which is profit motivated – and this is at odds (indeed any sort of personal gain seems at odds – everyone’s hang up on the Big Society Network is ‘what’s in it for me?’) with the aims of the Network.

After the introductions, I took part in a discussion on ‘How Technology Can Help’, and the strong theme from this was that any website to come out from it must be completely removed from gov/local authorities. People at grassroots level (esp the most isolated) don’t want to engage if they feel that it is authority led. Overall it was a very interesting discussion though.

Still not sure how far this idea can be taken as it stands. Altruism is as well and good, but people have to earn a crust.

June 28, 2010

Here’s a synopsis I cobbled together to explain about the engagement site I’m developing for local government

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 12:55 pm

The local govt stakeholder engagement network is a secure video-based communications hub accessible to all staff, providers and users of services.

The programme opens a direct video dialogue between:
• directors
• frontline staff
• providers
• service users

It abolishes silos between departments, teams, services and communities.

It works across:
• social care
• health
• mental health services
• LD services
• Older People services

Each online community has its own channel and content manager and at the click of a mouse you can see what is happening internally and externally through video diaries and comment, internally and on location at outside events.

The emphasis is on recording human experience to produce better outcomes for people. The communications hub will help you:
• understand how the changes underpinning the individual budgets programmes affects all stakeholders
• to engage with isolated and vulnerable people in the community
• to engage and connect with a large multicultural community
• to hear from all stakeholders about the issues that affect their lives.

An editorial board meets to talk about content going onto the site each month. Each Thursday an email goes out to all registered users to give them highlights of the latest uploaded content. So it’s a managed, proactive network.

You can analyse all data on the site to see the most popular videos, most visited area of the site, most commented on videos and even add a monthly poll to ask people targeted questions. You can then analyse this data.

Importantly, the communications hub will also save you money. We sit down to find out what is spent on internal media, workshops, events, transport and communication costs, particularly around personalisation. We can then show you how we can cut costs by X% a year AND we can hook you up to a network that will involve all stakeholders. The idea is to get more out of less.

Below is an interview I did with Terry Dafter, director of adult services for Stockport, where he talks about how people inside and outside the council have to engage if services are to improve

At Out of the Box I glimpsed a future that will work

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:59 am

“I’ve seen the future and it works,” wrote American journalist Lincoln Steffens in a spurt of evangelical zeal after visiting the infant Soviet Russia in 1919. Poor deluded Lincoln, we all know how that turned out don’t we?

Nevertheless, a few days ago at an event no less evangelical in its attempts to change how people live, I glimpsed a future that WILL work.

The event was “Out of the Box”, a gift economy day put together by Patient Opinion at Birmingham’s Deaf Cultural Centre. The grandiose aim is to bring the benefits of social media and social networking to a wider audience comprising managers and workers from the NHS, social services and charities.

At its heart was the idea to make the world a better place for the disadvantaged and vulnerable people who live among us. Always a worthwhile endeavour.

Through speeches, workshops, wonderfully impromptu soapbox exhortations and chaotic speed dating sessions, the idea was to show people in public service how lives can be transformed through social networking, interactive engagement and video blogging.

A cynic would say there was much well meaning puff, but in the face of swingeing cuts in the public sector, directors of adult health and social care will be more focussed on retrenchment rather than driving change and building new engagement processes.

Well they’d be wrong.

The day highlighted that change in the way we communicate is not only desirable but necessary and long overdue. We have the tools for change, we now have to ensure that people use them for the good of all.

More importantly, using new ways to communicate can save everyone money and time. It should never replace face-to-face communications, but instead act as a natural corollary. It will make us better communicators – and make us feel better.

I found it incredibly enervating to see so many public sector professionals eagerly looking to see how these changes can and should happen.

So what were the main points to come out of the day:
• New ways to tell your story. Social media can bring human experience to a vast audience. People can tell their stories through video blogs. Vulnerable people need a voice, people going through reablement programmes, getting over serious illness need to tell their stories, about their services and the people who work with them. They need to feel engaged with their doctors, carers, social workers, families. Social media can do this. It will then help directors down to social workers, care assistants and GPs improve those services.
• The message. It’s the people behind the message that are now driving the so called Big Society through social networks. If local government and NHS directors and managers took a lead on this, politicians would have to follow.
• Mitigate risk. Risk is inevitable when faced with any kind of open communication. But it’s important to manage the risk from the outset rather than let the risk dictate your policy. Bunker mentality never won any wars (‘scuse the cheesy war metaphor).
• Get tweeting. With social networking and Twitter, everyone can be heard. People need to be made aware of these tools and local government and the NHS need to show people how to use them and on which sites to use them.
• Campaign for change. It is now much easier for people to collaborate, build communities and campaign for change – just do it.
• Giving isolated people a voice. Social media can help to bring people out of isolation. Let them have a voice online and make their world a better place offline. It’s not rocket science.

As an aside, I’m working with Bromley council on a live day event which will involve isolated older people, and people with learning disabilites and mental health problems. We plan to connect them across the borough through a common social media platform, streaming the days events into homes, libraries and day care centres so everyone is involved.

The world needs more events like “Out of the Box”, we need to get to the widest possible audience with the help of media savvy people inside and outside local government, the NHS, charities and even the private sector. Let’s face it, central government and politicians can never be trusted to make change happen. It’s up to us.

There you have it. I suppose I’ve just written a manifesto. Pretty revolutionary stuff and it’s going to change everyone’s lives for the better. Eat yer heart out Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov and Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.

Below are some video blogs of speakers at “out of the box”.

June 14, 2010

How social media will help local government to change the way people live

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 3:48 pm

I’ve penned at length about the social media engagement programme we’ve been working on with Stockport council. But I’ve never fully explained the reason why Stockport have taken on such a radical (certainly for local government) means of engaging with staff and the wider community.

So here’s a bit of background…

Most councils around the UK have been instructed to change radically the way adult social care services are received by the public. In the acronym-strewn world of local government this translates as the mercifully short IBs (individual budgets).

It’s therefore ironic such a little acronym can herald such a huge break from existing social care practices.

It’s not my place here to write about the whys and wherefores of IBs, but it’s suffice to say that it will involve a colossal change in the way all agencies involved with adult social care run their operations. To give you some idea of the extent of the upheaval here’s a short list of some of those bodies and people affected:
• adults social services
o including all directors, managers, front line social workers, social care staff, office administrators, financial auditors etc (hundreds of thousands of people, in fact)
• children’s transition services
• people with learning disabilities
• people with mental health problems
• older people
• all providers of services incl:
o charities
o social enterprises
o agencies (those providing traditional meals on wheels, for instance) for all of the above services
o public sector bodies
o quangos.

The knock-on effects of such momentous changes to so many people will also necessarily involve NHS services and funding. So the network widens.

You can clearly see this will affect the lives of millions of people. And given that most of us act as carers sometime in our lives, I reckon this will touch every person in Britain at some point.

Not wanting to labour the point, these changes are BIG!

So no pressure…

Back to Stockport, the comms platform aims to tie all these disparate elements together in a single portal that works predominantly through video blogs, as well as written and audio material. The idea is to help record the experiences of people – staff and people using the services – so everyone has a voice and has the ability to participate in this culture change.

Last week Stockport formally hired their community manager for mental health services. Christopher Reeves is an ex-service user who will now go into Stockport and Greater Manchester to help build the online community. It’s a hugely ambitious and exciting project, but I’m sure it’s one that will be rewarding for Chris and the mental health community in equal measure.

Here’s Chris introducing himself to the network.

Christopher Reeves from careknowledge on Vimeo.

June 9, 2010

Social media: ibuprofen for the age of the global heartburn

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 3:51 pm

Go online and key “social media” into google.

Actually don’t.

You’ll read 109 million times that social media is the ibuprofen for the age of the global heartburn.

Social media is a new religion, a God drawn up by prophets as diverse as doctorate students and bedsit web surfers. All of them are converts; all of them evangelists. Heretics beware.

So that probably makes me a heretic; I scoured the results list and I didn’t figure anywhere in the 109 million urls. Does that make me an unrated loser rather than a 21st century Lollard? Hey ho.

Which is a shame because I reckon the social media engagement pilots I’ve set up (with my team of media savvy oompa loompas) are breathing entities refreshingly cleansed of marketing hyperbole, professorial didacticism and general social media theoretical guff.

Next week we launch our stakeholder engagement portal for Suffolk Country Council. We’ve not written endless white papers on how social media will improve lives or about the risks involved with encouraging community networks.

We just sat down with communications manager Chris Pyburn and did it.

It’s a managed portal, a bottom up entity using interactive media such as Flip cameras and digital audio recorders. It will help record all the changes happening in adult social services among the staff and out to all the people using the services.

A kaleidoscope of viewpoints across the county.

And like all great ideas that look simple, the launch will be the result of months of internal and external work with the various communities in Suffolk. It has involved encouraging a culture change among staff, training events using flip cameras, setting up an editorial board and analysing different services, including:
• mental health
• learning disabilities
• older people
• workforce development
• transformation management (sounds naff, but these are seriously changing and challenging times in adult social services)

It also involved building links with local agencies and partners like Age Concern that work with Suffolk County Council; they provide services to people who are old, infirm, disabled or have mental health problems.

And all that is only the soft launch of phase 1…

Above all, though, the programme is about helping everyone, from staff to users of all services; to tell each other how they live their lives. That can’t be a bad thing.

So if social media can achieve all that in just three months – then count me as an evangelist.

Below Chris Pyburn talks to me about the engagement portal.

May 21, 2010

How we can help people like Paul reconnect with communities

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 4:18 pm

A while ago I used to meet up with a young bloke who slept in the underpass around Waterloo station – I’ll call him Paul. He was thrown out of his home by his mum when he was 19 years old because he had grand mal epileptic fits several times a day.

His family could no longer cope. He had no friends.

“No one wants to be around someone like me,” he whispered over his coffee (he always spoke in whispers). “I wake up and have no idea what will happen to me during the day – even where I’ll end up.” It was the worst case of epilepsy I’d heard of and his homelessness was clearly causing a lot of stress and making it worse.

That was back in the early 1990s. I wrote his story for the Big Issue and then, unfortunately, lost contact with him.

For people like Paul I doubt much has changed in the past two decades. Nevertheless, I do know that people working in mental health services are trying to make a difference, trying to shine a light on the blighted lives of people like Paul. Trying to bring them back into the community.

We recently launched our own community portal for Suffolk County Council. The idea is that it will eventually have a reach that will include all the people living across the county.

Given the need for local government to reach out to communities, I reckon it’s a pretty good start at helping people like Paul reconnect with you, me and everyone.

I know this probably looks like shameless self promotion, but what the hell! I really believe in what I’m doing so here’s an online demo of the existing community portal in Stockport.

April 22, 2010

Prime ministers and media moguls, ignore MrsNickClegg and #NickCleggsFault at your peril

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 1:44 pm

Ever since the Lib Dem leader saw off his political foes in the live debate seven days ago, I’ve been a voyeuristic rider on the Nick Clegg storm.

I’ve learned of his family history (his great grandfather was an Imperial Russian count), his next door neighbour (former Tory foreign secretary Lord Carrington), his school friends (Louis Theroux) and his first employer and mentor (Tory EU commissioner Leon Brittan).

In just seven days he went from zero to hero in the nation’s media spotlight and then back to zero again. For Nick, a week is indeed a long time in politics.

On twitter I stumbled over MrsNickClegg, who is a delightfully sassy, risqué, salsa-loving Spanish tweetstress who rants on endlessly about “her Nick”, the election and other latin-tinged idiosyncracies.

She talks of dinner parties with Eno (he talks endlessly of Bono, Bono, Bono), hiring film star Chrisopher Walken to scare off “filthy Tory” and believes that today’s Telegraph coverage of Clegg’s cash payment misdemeanour is a “a tiny storm in a glass of Rioja”.

Some of her rants are very funny, close to the bone and almost certainly not by Mrs Nick Clegg. But the dialogue is clearly someone with Lib Dem sympathies or possibly someone in the Lib Dem camp. It would be a canny piece of social network marketing and electioneering to keep the Nick Clegg profile high by inventing a wifely doppelganger.

Just possibly, though, she could actually be Mrs Nick Clegg.

Furthermore, with the perfect storm of anti-Nick Clegg headlines on the front pages of the right wing media today – the Sun, Express, Telegraph and Daily Mail all having a go at him or his policies – an ingenious perfect storm of ironic reaction swept through twitter networks to emerge later onto office emails, intranets, facebook accounts and latterly into the Guardian as a hastily written column

Out of nowhere #nickcleggsfault was the most popular hashtag in the UK. It had gone truly viral. In a popular revolt against the national newspapers, a wonderful outbreak of British caustic wit blamed Nick Clegg for everything from the death of Diana and missing your exit junction on the M69 to “my wife wants a divorce and it’s…”. All these misfortunes and much much more were #nickcleggsfault.

Surely never have so many right wing newspapers given such a helping hand to the very object of their derision. Media commentators stress that editors and politicians are unruffled by social networking sites. But they ignore them at their peril. Much of the content can swiftly catapault into the real world.

#nickcleggsfault is a reaction to a possible huge own goal by sections of the media and could signal the arrival of social media as an emerging political force (albeit a gag-strewn one) for change. Whether the Lib Dem’s comms team set up #nickcleggsfault or not is beside the point. If they did, it worked. If they didn’t, it worked.

The question media studies bods are asking is can twitter be more than just a network for gossip and viral marketing? Can it encourage participation and dialogue for social change?

Maybe we’ve just seen evidence of that.

It was former Times editor Harold Evans who once said the Sun is so widely read because the people reading it know they’re cleverer than the people writing it.

April 13, 2010

Ed Balls told me Sure Start was a reason to vote Labour

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 3:30 pm

I was chatting with Ed Balls yesterday (yes, really), quizzing him about children’s services, and how he intended to make a better world for people in Britain. Above all, I told him I was a wavering voter (probably not true) and what could he say to help make up my mind to vote labour.

The Sure Start programme will make a difference to thousands of lives, he said. Bringing children and parents together in preschool communities, sharing ideas and helping each other.

I know Sure Start will make a difference to the 3,000-odd people involved, but let’s face it that’s a very small population. Most preschools and nurseries rely on charity and donations to exist, people who work there often work for peanuts, or nothing.

The local authority tends to overlook such institutions when it comes to funding, yet Ofsted is keen to ensure that standards are maintained for the country’s tots. So ironically these places are not funded, but they need funds to meet Ofsted regulations. People who work there are not paid, but need to go on paid courses to work there.

What, Mr Balls, are you doing about that?!! Sure Start is small potatoes in comparison to most preschools and nurseries around the UK.

It was at that point that my new friend Ed decided not to continue with the discussion. You see as I would probably never get chance to chat face to face with Ed Balls, I decided to collar him on Twitter (he’s famous for his evangelistic tweets).

Yes, Twitter.

Once upon a time politicians spoke AT you at mass rallies, cosied up to handpicked audiences in TV studios, and answered letters and more recently emails (if you’re lucky). With the advent of social media they now answer to you on Twitter if they want your vote (and if they’re savvy enough to understand the medium).

Funny, it’s amazing how Ed Balls can still come across as smug, lofty and self important in just a few characters, but that’s politics for you.

But it also illustrates how everyone should start engaging in social media to help transform the world around them. People still scoff at me when I tell them to get a Twitter account. To all those naysayers, if you want to chat with Ed you know where to go.

Below are several reasons why they should sign up.

March 30, 2010

There’s nothing like a shocking death in the community to focus attention on the supposed inadequacies of our public services

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 10:45 am

There’s nothing like a shocking death in the community to focus attention on the supposed inadequacies of our public services.

And Birmingham Children’s Services have been under intense national scrutiny following the death by starvation of 7-year-old Khyra Ishaq. Rightly, questions were asked: How could such a terrible tragedy happen in a modern British city? Where were the safeguards to protect the child?

Last Friday I spent an hour or so with Owen Pearson, assistant director of Children’s Services in Birmingham. Owen is a dedicated champion of children’s safeguarding, he’s on call most of the time, often working round the clock. He has no time for holidays, but is urged to take them far away from Birmingham and England so he’s out of contact, “which makes my holidays rather expensive,” he jokes. Above all, he loves his work: “I believe I can make a difference for children. If I’m making a difference for one, then I’m making a difference.”

Some 2,000 looked after children are currently in the care system in Birmingham, and 4 times as many children are on the child protection register living at home.

“Our priority is to safeguard children in their own homes,” Owen says. “Most children don’t’ want to leave their parents. That’s home, that’s love for them. It’s only when they get older they realise they can get out.”

He manages 19 teams; each team has 6 social workers, 2 assistants and a manager. And each social worker has 15 cases or more at any one time. As Americans say, “do the math”. It’s a huge workload.

The teams’ records of helping vulnerable children go largely unrecorded, mainly because of the successful outcomes. Now and again tragedies happen and the teams collectively are vilified across the nation. Such is the lot of Children’s Services throughout the UK.

The reason for my visit was to plan a mini-conference where Owen and Colin Tucker, the Children’s Services Director, will talk to other heads of services to explain the type of work they do and how they’re going to develop this in the wake of little Khyra’s death.

The idea for the conference is to record the “journey” through video engagement of a vulnerable child who is referred to social services. So as Owen and Colin speak, behind them will be a portal containing half a dozen video blogs of everyone connected with the “journey”; that’s the 10-year-old child, social worker, case recorder, legal representatives and child/adult who has been through the care system.

The idea is to give an accurate picture – not a whitewash. Owen was clear about that. He wants to tell the truth and he wants each person in the chain of events to show clearly how the “journey starts and finishes”.

No system is perfect, but if we can show through directors’ speeches and video narratives how everyone is trying to improve the lives of children, then maybe next time tragedies occur, there’ll be less finger pointing and witch hunts and more empathy, understanding and analysis. That way real improvements will be made.

As part of this engagement process, it’s important to keep the portal growing post-event. That way everyone connected with the service can start to talk, engage and share best practice and anecdotal evidence. Using facebook-style profiling, microblogging and video blogs, a community can be formed and managed, and hopefully can act to help avoid tragedies in the future.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at