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November 6, 2009

Dead energy

Filed under: Featured — andrewchilvers @ 1:40 pm

Last week I attended a conference for mental health professionals. The theme was recovery and rehabilitation; in short, life can be pretty shitty and brutish, but people are out there trying to help transform the lives of the less fortunate. Like all conferences, it was well meaning and speakers and audience alike were determined to help people who suffer from mental illness to build up their lives again.

But despite the fine words  and promised actions, the conference crowd dwindled and everyone rushed for the doors as the chair brought proceedings to an end. The end.

And that’s the central problem. What do you do when your workshop, seminar, conference, comes to an end? All the months of organisation are over and within a day all the delegates have gone off to their own lives and concerns. Not all, of course. For some people, social workers, for instance, the work never stops. But you see what I mean.   

For local government, which is trying to build links with the local community, all that time and effort is dead energy. Recently, I started working closely with mental health services in Stockport to try to solve the problem of this dead energy. While mapping the network, I noticed that workshops, seminars etc only brought people together every three months or so. The problem: how do we get people to talk to each other – that’s professionals, carers, parents, users of services – after the workshop’s over?

The answer was to set up a closed network, with registered users, who all receive weekly emails of updated information about their community. But more than this, they communicate through small cameras, flips, kodaks, and the video blogs are streamed through the system. The system is then administered by an editor (content manager or community manager in modern US online parlance).

So the system is sealed and active, emails help to generate activity, while engagement is encouraged across the network. It’s early days, but the next step is to get local health and welfare services on board. This way content will be generated from within and outside the mental health service. A virtuous circle is then created. Have a look at

Replicate this across all areas of society, within all the disparate communities, and we can get people talking. It’s a social revolution that would be unstoppable.

So let’s start. Now.


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