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February 17, 2010

Why Dame Julie Mellor is making a good case for how the state and citizens can build communities

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 2:00 pm
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Yesterday I came across a grubby copy of Society Guardian (which I was about to use as a firelighter) when I found a highly readable piece by Dame Julie Mellor on how the state and citizens have to work together to build communities. To my mind it was very apt and timely copy and rather surprising, given that Ms Mellor works for PwC, an organisation not known for its services to the public.

Apologies, but I quote Julie at length here because I think she makes some crucial points:

“A shift to services produced in ¬relationship with citizens will require not just communities to take on more ¬responsibility but also the state to change the way it works. In particular, increased citizen involvement in services should not be used as cover for the state leaving people to fend for themselves, or putting them in situations for which they are unprepared. Co-producing services demands a new relationship between the state and communities.

“Greater community involvement in public services will also require professionals to change the way they work. The job of a service professional will increasingly involve building a relationship with service users, working with them to identify how to solve a problem, managing the relationships between people, and building mutual support systems.

“At its heart, community empowerment is about developing a new set of relationships between citizens, the state, service providers and actors in civil society. It is a demanding agenda that requires citizens and public services to change the way they engage with each other. However, the benefits are considerable, and policy-makers need to understand how the barriers to advancing this agenda can be overcome.”

In the past I’ve mentioned how the media is changing as the industry and communications change. And this is also true of the public sector and the professionals who are running public services.

To build these types of communities you need state funding and agendas that set out how professionals should connect with the public. You also need professional communicators that can make sure the connections are made and, more importantly, managed.

You need stakeholder engagement programmes that bring all sections of the community together through common platforms – and this is then managed by communications professionals.

Regardless of all the best laid plans, if communities are not managed then they will wither very quickly.

Linking to all this, I interviewed Chris Pyburn, communications and engagement manager at Suffolk County Council, last week. During the next year my team and I will be working closely with Chris and his team to roll out a programme that comes close the all the points Dame Julie Mellor has written about.


February 8, 2010

How hyperlocal websites using web 2.0 can link with community CAF projects

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:59 am

Professional journalism is dead – here comes everybody.

Social theorists the world over are in a philosophical frenzy about how journalism is dying by a thousand blogging cuts. It’s now you and me making and creating news, not the guys in the grey macs with the notebooks.

True, we’re now all at it, but journalists still do it better.

Call me new old school, but I believe journalism’s time has finally come. We survived the shipwreck of dictatorial media moguls, failed publishing trusts and B2B cowboys to arrive washed up on the shores of web 2.0 social media and hyperlocal websites.

I know I’m guilty of hyperbole here, but I really do think that journalists have an important part to play in our communities going forward. It’s now not just about the printed article, it’s about ways of joining up on a hyperlocal scale. From your small community to the wider world, using video blogging and other media.

I say all this as a preamble to the work I’ve recently done with Shropshire on their Common Assessment Framework (CAF) project.

I’ve written about CAF before – so apologies if I’m repeating myself – but this time I’d like to fit the idea of CAF into a hyperlocal social media setting. Indeed, a managed interactive hyperlocal media setting.

In essence CAF is about joining up local services so everyone in the community can access information about the most vulnerable members of society. A benign big brother if you like.

For my part, I believe that if you start to introduce social media, particularly video blogs, into the mix we can then create something unique. Join CAF projects into hyperlocal media sites and we have a community genuinely looking out for itself.

And here’s where journalists morph into a different type of media animal. They work closely with local public bodies and charities to link the hyperlocal media network to the larger CAF projects, which are in turn linked with the Department of Health and central government.

Social media is by its nature chaotic. So why not manage and organise the chaos so managers and directors from local services right up to central government know what’s happening in communities across the country. Seriously joined up thinking and all administered by savvy media-trained journalists or community managers.

Here’s Carol Lucas and Julie Edgington talking about the CAF project in Shropshire and workshops they’re running.

February 1, 2010

What does hyperlocal community media mean and can it help you?

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 4:43 pm

My 10 year old went to a real-life Willy Wonka land with the school recently. Afterwards, he came home beaming, eyes bright and arms heavy with assorted chocolate bars and sweeties. He’d been to the Cadbury-owned Bournville factory near Birmingham and wanted to take us all back there soon.

Unfortunately, Cadbury sold out to Kraft for £11.9 million a few weeks later and on hearing about the takeover he asked: “Dad, why do Americans have to take Cadbury’s away from us?” genuinely mystified.

I replied: “Because lots of people will make lots of money.”

“Can we still all go there?”

“Probably not.”

At this point I don’t want to descend into an anti-capitalist rant about greed, big business, asset stripping healthy companies and not giving a toss about the little guy (although I just have), but what I find most distasteful is the £240 million the lawyers, accountants, bankers and PR agents have pocketed from the deal. The gadflies in a feeding frenzy round the cash cow’s arse, if you like. “It’s drinks all round and holidays in the Maldives, guys.”

Meanwhile, everyone living around Bournville will be fearful for their jobs, their livelihoods, their families and lucky if they get a break at Skegness this year.

Ironically, the Cadbury family first built a model village for the Bournville factory workers 100-odd years ago and it’s their descendants who will be the prime targets for impoverishment after Kraft start to apply economies of scale to its new investment.

So what’s all this got to do with CandE (communication and engagement)? Well, a lot actually.

Hyperlocal media involves people getting together to write blogs, film videos and generally connect with everyone in the local community about local issues. The idea is that if people get involved they can make a difference – and even change things for the better.

Recently, Niki Getgood spoke about hyperlocal media initiatives, including working on a local project for Bournville, at the Birmingham social media café (more on this in the next blog). Here she is talking about it.


I’ve also attached a quick commentary by William Perrin – who is part of the Power of Information Taskforce – talking about how hyperlocal initiatives can help to change your environment.


Of course, none of this will save jobs or mortgages in Bournville, but when communities engage they can help improve the lives of people who would otherwise be isolated and disenfranchised.

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