Tell the story

June 28, 2010

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”.



  1. […] who was one of our lunch time speed daters, has written a great write up of the event, entitled At Out of the Box I glimpsed a future that will work. He also produced this video from the […]

    Pingback by A blog post and video « Out of the Box — June 29, 2010 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Andrew
    Many thanks for this really positive write-up of the event – I’m one of the Patient Opinion team that put it on, and I’m so pleased you took away so much.
    Thanks also for making such a great video. We’ll be plagiarising it shamelessly!

    Comment by jamesfm — June 29, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

    • James

      Apologies for not getting back sooner. I’ve been out of the office for the past week.

      I thought it was a really interesting and useful event. Thanks for letting me take part and please keep in touch about any future events/workshops etc that may be happening.


      Comment by andrewchilvers — July 2, 2010 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

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