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March 17, 2010

The best way to get people talking is to entertain them

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 6:01 pm

The best way to get people talking is to entertain them.

I saw this at first hand yesterday in Liverpool at a huge exhibition and conference focused on transforming personal care. The event was attended by local authority transformation leads, carers, and people with disabilities and mental health problems, so a good mix of attendees

There were the usual suspects advertising their wares, handing out mints, chocolates, squeezy stress heads and – my favourite – balls that light up when you bounce them (couldn’t resist filching several of these).

And some of the workshops, while well meaning, bordered on the very tedious.

Nevertheless, the good bits were VERY good. There were dance troupes, a bell ringing Town Crier decked out in Georgian garb, an Elvis impersonator and a comedy troupe called Abnormally Funny People. This bunch have just finished a season at the Soho Theatre and boasted only one “normal” person (ie a person without a disability). The humour was not all about disabilities; it was simply put on by people with disabilities. That was the point. Fairly risqué stuff, but the audience loved it.

In many of the workshops people were invited to take part. From citizen leadership in the community to helping mental health service users understand personalised care, this was how conferences should work. The audience were tasked to help solve various conundrums among themselves. – and have some fun doing it.

Jenny Pitts from Shropshire CC headed a brilliant exercise in audience participation in her workshop on cultural change in the community. Here a couple actors from http://www.peopledeliverprojects.com gave a role playing exercise, one of them a cynical team leader who believed change wasn’t possible, the other a young eager assistant director eager for change. Throughout the workshop the audience was invited to stop the action and get the actors to use a different approach to solving their communication problems. It was funny, engaging and thought provoking. Everyone loved it.

The only workshop missing was a truly interactive one where people used Web 2.0 tools, cameras and social media to show how communities can grow through networks and active participation. That’s where I come in. Next time.

Below is an interview with Andy Taylor and Dave Rowen of people deliver projects and Jenny Pitts, Shropshire CC. Also Elvis singing In The Ghetto, followed by a chat with the king.

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March 11, 2010

Conferencing + interactive content + plus managing the network.

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 3:20 pm

“What I really like is Facebook. Can you do Facebook for me?”

No, it wasn’t my 10 year old asking me to set up his own Facebook page (which he wants – tho I haven’t). It was the director of a local council asking me if we’d be able to extend Facebook profiling for all staff and community stakeholders.

“Of course,” I replied. “We can even throw in sealed microblogging (twitter-style) capability for your senior management team and different departments.”

Now there’s an interesting challenge…

On every level central and local government are working on ways to extend their reach into the community, the problem is how to do it when budgets/resources are scarce and local politics get in the way.

What I propose is a virtuous circle of engagement. Take the old ideas of knowledge management – so beloved by local authorities – and turn them inside out. Bring video/audio and blogging capability to all staff within local government. Add to this, set everyone up with Facebook-style profiling and secure microblogging networks.

Immediately, people can start forming groups within organisations, best practice can be shared, problems can be solved. Twitter-style blogs can keep members of teams up to speed with what’s happening inside and outside of the office. This will become an essential tool for senior managers/directors and also frontline social workers. The career minded will embrace the new ways of working while acting as evangelists to the less enthused members of staff.

Following this, you extend this level of engagement into the community, bringing in health, police, community groups, charities. So the complex of different individuals and groups, private sector and public, will start to interact with each other.

Furthermore, as the groups start to generate content, talking to each other and posting human interest stories on video and in blogs, the engagement process will gather its own momentum – altho still managed by all partners in the community.

It’s ambitious, far-reaching stuff. An absurd utopia, some might think.

Maybe. But not so absurd. If all stakeholders decide to engage it can work through proper management and proactive profiling.

If cabinet ministers down to directors of local authorities are serious about stakeholder engagement, they should take the lead and start the making it happen.

I recently proclaimed in a meeting with the senior management team of a London Borough Council that I would revolutionise community engagement. At the time I was embarrassed by my own hyperbole. But afterwards I realised what I said was true.

We need to create awareness, then show people the possibilities; not abstract but concrete possibilities. Conferencing + interactive content + plus managing the network.

March 10, 2010

How Roger was bundled into a straitjacket for 12 hours and why he’s never told anyone

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 12:22 pm
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I’ve got a friend who’s an ex-con – let’s call him Roger.

Every few weeks I meet Roger in a little pub in a forgotten corner of Worcestershire and sink a few Hereford Pale Ales while putting the world to rights.

Roger is incredibly erudite and eloquent, outwardly middle class and a happily discontented family man. After a few jars, however, he often sinks into a maudlin stew and talks me about his life inside a maximum security prison.

He recounts these “missing years” – even his wife is unaware of his secret history – in a matter-of-fact way. But even after 2 decades, bitterness for the way the prison service operates still burns inside.

Last week he told me of his first day of incarceration on what he terms a trumped up drugs charge:

“Coming out of court and packed into a van, I was too numb to understand what was happening. As we sped away, tears started streaming down my face. Then they came in floods. I was lost, alone, desperate for some kind of shoulder to cry on, some level of deep humanity I could touch.

“I was bundled out of the van, taken to a place where I was ordered to strip. By this time I was sobbing uncontrollably. One of the prison officers shouted to his mate: “We’ve got a crier!”

“They all laughed, dragged me into a cell and squeezed me into a straitjacket. I was unable to move for the next 12 hours and had to piss myself inside the suit. I was let out next morning; I wanted to kill myself.”

What struck Roger the most was the malevolence of the system. Any weakness shown was met by force and brutality. His gaolers would punish crying, but respect violence towards other “cons” in a world turned upside down.

Only the beer brings out Roger’s deep-seated scars. He talks to no one else about this – it will always remain bottled up inside.

Below is a recent interview I had with Christian Wraxall about how social media engagement can try to bring people with mental health problems together to talk about their shared concerns and histories.

When I asked Roger would he ever want to be involved in such a network he said: “Before, when I’d just come out it would have helped enormously. But that was then, not now.”

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.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2010/feb/10/policy

February 8, 2010

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

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 11:59 am
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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

January 27, 2010

How to get a community talking instead of posting dry comments on a forum

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 6:43 pm

My little boy plays for an under 8s football team as a defender – and he’s pretty good at it. His team is chock full of highly competitive little boys, watched over by highly competitive mums and dads. And the relaxed Saturdays of old have now become a rather fraught, fractious and sometimes tearful affair depending on the fortunes of the team.  

“So what of it?” I hear you mutter.

Well, this team has a website and after each match one of the dads writes up a small report about the game. Most kids’ football teams have this type of weekly reportage after each game. Outside the team it’s only of interest to the highly competitive mums and dads of other teams and is more often an excuse for a frustrated dad to try out his John Motson hat (not to mention coat).

Athough only a handful of parents and children read the match report, I still reckoned I could come up with something a little more interesting. So I took my little Flip camera along and filmed a rather bemused coach and manager after the game (see Grant and Richard below). I told them I wanted the to “do a Fergie”.

The day after I uploaded my experiment I had calls from other parents and children telling me how much more they enjoyed looking at the report.

Comments included:

“It suddenly comes to life.”

“I wanted to hear more from them.”

“Is this going to happen every week?”

“Never bring THAT camera to a game again!!” (that was the coach)

Suddenly people had become immediately more engaged. The small footballing community I belong to started laughing and joking and talking more.

Going forward I want to persuade a parent to comment each week after every match, taking the engagement idea one step further (altho the coach and manager are still in the denial stage). Simple really – and fun. Shows what you can do when you get a community talking rather than emailing or posting dry, humourless comments on a forum.

January 13, 2010

How Fiona Phillips made me think again about the nastiness of dementia and the awful plight of all the people who care

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 5:39 pm

Early morning telly is soo bad.

I really mean it.

BBC and GMTV.

From the saccharine niceness of the presenters to the largely fatuous content involving recent polls by YouGov, the bland mediocrity of the editorial mission simply encourages you to think gratefully about your working day and the delicious commute ahead.

So when I tuned in to Dispatches on Channel 4 to watch the former doyen of GMTVness Fiona Phillips talk about dementia, I wasn’t expecting much. I knew she’d been a cut above the early morning crew with some testy chats with the likes of Brown, Cameron and Blair (I omit honorifics and first names deliberately). But she was, after all, a GMTV PRESENTER!! Guilty till proven innocent.

So what I witnessed next was nothing short of an epiphany on the scale of nasty Saul’s hasty transformation to nice Paul en route to Damascus. No exaggeration.

In Dispatches: My Family and Alzheimer’s, Fiona (for that is what I’ll call her from now on), spoke openly about the tragedy of dementia that has afflicted her parents. Her honesty in presenting her own pain as a long-distance carer (Fiona had to travel to Wales to be with her mum during her final years) and her graphic account of her father’s deterioration was at times eye watering.

Furthermore, she interviewed and filmed several other couples – one not so elderly – highlighting the ordeal of the sufferers, the plight of the carers and the insane bureaucracy involving health and social services, which often denied these people essential help. It also, again, highlighted the unfairness of the postcode lottery system for social care.

Dispatches commissioned YouGov (yes, them again) to do a survey of 767 people who care for dementia sufferers and the findings revealed:

almost half of those who care for Alzheimer’s sufferers receive no help from social services whatsoever
half of carers have little or no respite care
over half frequently feel threatened by the sufferers they look after
27% of sufferers waited three years or longer for an official diagnosis
17% never received one.
Some 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia.

Recently I started work with the dementia unit at Stockport NHS. They are eager to get involved in Stockport council’s video blogosphere to highlight all the issues above. I hope to meet with them next week and will post a follow up video blog then. I sincerely believe this network will start a process of real engagement that will help everyone involved make their lives somehow more bearable.

Meanwhile, if you have time and you have the patience to get past the infuriating ads on Channel 4s iplayer, click on the URL below and have a look at Fiona’s film. It’s not easy viewing, but then if you want that you can always tune into GMTV.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches

How Fiona Phillips made me think again about the nastiness of dementia and the awful plight of all the people who care

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 5:39 pm

Early morning telly is soo bad.

I really mean it.

BBC and GMTV.

From the saccharine niceness of the presenters to the largely fatuous content involving recent polls by YouGov, the bland mediocrity of the editorial mission simply encourages you to think gratefully about your working day and the delicious commute ahead.

So when I tuned in to Dispatches on Channel 4 to watch the former doyen of GMTVness Fiona Phillips talk about dementia, I wasn’t expecting much. I knew she’d been a cut above the early morning crew with some testy chats with the likes of Brown, Cameron and Blair (I omit honorifics and first names deliberately). But she was, after all, a GMTV PRESENTER!! Guilty till proven innocent.

So what I witnessed next was nothing short of an epiphany on the scale of nasty Saul’s hasty transformation to nice Paul en route to Damascus. No exaggeration.

In Dispatches: My Family and Alzheimer’s, Fiona (for that is what I’ll call her from now on), spoke openly about the tragedy of dementia that has afflicted her parents. Her honesty in presenting her own pain as a long-distance carer (Fiona had to travel to Wales to be with her mum during her final years) and her graphic account of her father’s deterioration was at times eye watering.

Furthermore, she interviewed and filmed several other couples – one not so elderly – highlighting the ordeal of the sufferers, the plight of the carers and the insane bureaucracy involving health and social services, which often denied these people essential help. It also, again, highlighted the unfairness of the postcode lottery system for social care.

Dispatches commissioned YouGov (yes, them again) to do a survey of 767 people who care for dementia sufferers and the findings revealed:

almost half of those who care for Alzheimer’s sufferers receive no help from social services whatsoever
half of carers have little or no respite care
over half frequently feel threatened by the sufferers they look after
27% of sufferers waited three years or longer for an official diagnosis
17% never received one.
Some 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia.

Recently I started work with the dementia unit at Stockport NHS. They are eager to get involved in Stockport council’s video blogosphere to highlight all the issues above. I hope to meet with them next week and will post a follow up video blog then. I sincerely believe this network will start a process of real engagement that will help everyone involved make their lives somehow more bearable.

Meanwhile, if you have time and you have the patience to get past the infuriating ads on Channel 4s iplayer, click on the URL below and have a look at Fiona’s film. It’s not easy viewing, but then if you want that you can always tune into GMTV.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches

January 7, 2010

Goodbye to all that – here comes everyone

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 2:30 pm
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Back in the early 1990, QuarkXpress revolutionised publishing, cutting out highly skilled workers from well paid NGA jobs.

Everyone was going to be a publisher and, more importantly, everyone was going to make money out it; publisher-writers, printers, dodgy advertorial telesales firms, the lot.

A gold-rush of tacky, home-based publishing outfits followed. The picture quality might not be so good, the keylines around pages might be missing, but who cared about the quality of paper. Publish and be damned. Goodbye unions, here comes everybody.

That was then.

Now publishing has imploded, advertising is an industry transformed and journalism looks set to follow suit. Nowadays it’s social media that is fast taking the place of traditional publishing/journalism; it’s a new way of communicating, of telling stories, of working with and for the local community.

But what is social media and more importantly how can you make money out of it? According to Wikipeda, social media supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.

In the past couple of years I’ve done a lot of sleuthing in e-space around the subject and found that social media applies to a host of different programme agendas, from democratic utopianists, e-community radicals and post oil and climate change transitionists to e-government civil servants and journalists. In short, the focus is wide and varied.

I’m not here to teach you to suck eggs, but if you’re interested to see what some of these people are doing and saying, look at my blogroll at the bottom of this page.

So what am I doing that’s different?

In short; Candie (or communication and interactive engagement). It takes the early 90s publishing revolution to its conclusion. It’s a space where everyone talks, listens, comments and keeps in touch – without the dodgy advertorial telesales staff. It’s about telling stories.

In essence it’s a managed online video blogosphere. The idea is to set up a platform and framework for local health and social care services to communicate with staff and everyone in the community; that’s parents, carers, young people, older people and people with learning disabilities and mental health problems. It’s a way to help vulnerable and isolated people keep in touch with their friends, relatives and the professionals who supply their services. It also helps professionals to keep in touch with their peers ensuring better practice.

It’s a virtuous circle of communication, paid for by the local council; a managed network with a proactive emailing service to all registered users. I suppose in some respects I’m not too different from the e-community utopianists mentioned above.

Here’s a recent blog I did with Robert and Charlie in Church Stretton, Shropshire, explaining about an awareness project they’ve been working on. The workshop was organised by Shropshire CC as part of their CAF programme (more about that in the previous 2 posts).

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