Monthly Archives: November 2011 - Page 2

Now there’s an iPhone app for community engagement

An extra bonus from the ABCD conference in Manchester last week was meeting two community mobilisers, Corrina Milner and Andy MacDermott, with their iPhone app for engaging with people in Milton Keynes.

Mobile apps are the little programmes that work on smartphones, and increasingly on desktop computers, to handle specific tasks. Initially they were for basics like calendars, databases, and email but now there are thousands of them.

Community mobilisers are out in the community hearing about people’s concerns and issues they want raised with the council and other agencies, and also picking up ideas for action. As Corrina and Andy explained to me, it can be difficult to capture a lot of conversations during the day and make sure that they are forwarded to other people, or gathered for future action.

The iPhone app allows that to be done through text or photos. Back in the office, the conversations captured on the iPhone can be reviewed in real time. Corrina explains that they find content can be categorised as ideas, interests, issues and also as impacts – when changes have occurred.

I was particularly excited to find the app in use because it confirmed a prediction that I reported the other day from Steve Dale, at a seminar on the Business of Collaboration, when he said that the future of online sharing is mobile, appified and people-centred.

I think that the development will interest Linda Quinn, the director of communications and marketing at Big Lottery Fund, who told me earlier she would like to see apps playing a part in People Powered Change. Andy says he can see a future in which residents are using the app for themselves – not just to report issues, but find solutions from others in the community.

Both Corrina and Andy emphasised at the end of our conversation that they believed that the community and voluntary sector should embrace new technology – not to replace face-to-face or telephone contact, but to complement and amplify it. There’s clearly scope for testing the app in other situations – so I hope BIG or other agencies might put it on the list of innovative solutions they wish to promote.

The app is not yet in the official App store, because some bugs need ironing out. Here are some screen shots of the app in action, I hope to get a more detailed specification later.

 

Meanwhile you can see Steve Dale’s excellent presentation here.

SHINE 2011; Social Enterprise, Story-telling and Change

On Thursday, I was at Shine 2011, which billed itself as “the UK’s leading unconventional conference (or unconference) for socially-minded entrepreneurs”.

Arriving just after the start, while things were already seemingly in full swing, it took me a little time to work out what was going on, as there seemed to be so much happening in different parts of the interesting space that is Hub Westminster. But, after a while, it started to make sense, and I joined a session on money issues for social entrepreneurs.

I was particularly struck, in this session, by the contribution of Dave Dawes, who describes himself as a “nurse social entrepreneur”. Dave talked about what social entrepreneurs get wrong when seeking financing for their projects, In particular, he was critical of those who invest all their efforts in chasing grants. Dave says everyone is after free money, but they rarely take the time to consider the return on investment of the time and effort spent on filling in grant applications and pitching to funders. There was particular derision accorded from session participants to the example of the “social enterprise” which, when asked what it would do when its grant application had been turned down, replied “wait for next year’s round”. As Dave said, any organisation which is serious about being a social enterprise should be aiming to be profitable in as short a space of time as possible, and if you are making profits, you can afford to borrow money rather than chase grants. If your enterprise is never going to be profitable, it is not a social enterprise.

Later in the day, I interrupted a conversation between Dave and Mel Findlater and asked them to talk to me about some of the issues raised in Dave’s workshop session. It was interesting as well, to hear that Dave is working in a similar space to the Social App Store. 

One of the most interesting and relevant (to the work of SocialReporters.net) sessions I witnessed at SHINE 2011, was Nick Jankel‘s presentation on Story-telling for Changemakers. Nick’s presentation was of particular interest as it accords with the work we are doing to encourage organisations funded by, and associated with, the Big Lottery Fund, to tell the stories which illustrate the differences they are making to people’s lives.

The slides from Nick’s presentation are here:

One of the points that Nick makes is that people who are running interesting projects, or doing innovative things, often make the mistake of assuming that everyone else will be similarly enthused by what they are doing. This is never an automatic process, and people need to learn to communicate the story of the progress they are making.

Nick talks about the differences between the stories of the nature of the world which are told from different points of view. One is that the earth is a mechanism whose finite resources mean that humans must be selfish, protect what they have from each other, and compete for a place in the world. The alternative story is that the earth is a living system, all of whose parts are interconnected, which means that humans must share, collaborate and co-create. It is important that, if you want to change the world, you are able to tell the story of the world view that informs your approach.

The basis of all Hollywood film scripts is “The Hero’s Journey” (see slide 37 of Nick’s presentation above), and this can provide a basic outline for anyone to tell a compelling story about their own work. The seven elements of the “Impact Story” are Connection, Context, Conventions, Consciousness Shift, Concept, Conviction, and Concrete Impact (slides 38-46).

After his presentation, I caught up with Nick to get him to expound on his theories. The video is in two parts, because we were interrupted by a security guard who objected to Nick’s voice echoing through the public part of the building.

Projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and bringing about People Powered Change, have some powerful stories to tell, as is often evidenced when they are showcased on television in shows such as the regular Saturday Night lottery programmes, and Village SOS. New social media tools, and the advent of cheap video cameras, camera phones, and other recording devices, mean that it is becoming even easier for such projects to tell their own stories.

 

Media Trust invites people to join Newsnet for citizen-led media

While at the Manchester conference on Asset Based Community Development – reported here – I was fortunate to meet up with Adam Perry, who is currently developing Newsnet for the Media Trust. This is the biggest development within Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change (PPC).

The Trust has been awarded a grant of £1.89 million “to develop a network to support citizen journalism and aggregate, package and distribute community news stories across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

I was able to ask Adam – who is development manager for Community Voices – for an update, so providing the second story here about the work of PPC partners. Mandeep Hothi reported for the Young Foundation here.

Since Adam is mainly working in video, it seemed appropriate that I did a little interview, and then asked Adam for a couple of paragraphs of further explanation.

Newsnet’s aim is to inspire and support people who are interested in starting some form of citizen-led media to connect their community. We’ll also be creating an opportunity for people to connect to a wider network of community-led media practitioners and projects in order that they have the chance to share and learn from others. My first step has been to travel the country interviewing those already running local media projects and two weeks ago we launched a blog and started posting the interviews which cover themes such as business models, getting started, tools and resources, promoting sites and engaging communities.   

Now I’d really like to hear from people who are either interested in starting a project, or from those who are already running a project and would like to be interviewed; and as I’m going to be conducting many more interviews over the next few weeks and months I will start posting a list of interviewees so that people can post questions/themes they would like covered. Alternatively people can post ideas for the interviews themselves, because I want to include photojournalists, those working with audio and video, lawyers, Newspaper editors, journalists, academics etc.

You can find an earlier interview here with the Trust’s director of marketing and communication services Gavin Sheppard, and you can email Adam at adamp@mediatrust.org

As well as the content Newsnet will be carrying, I’m excited by the potential of a network for people working in this field – whether they choose to call themselves community reporters, citizen journalists, social reporters, hyperlocal bloggers … or just someone who uses digital media to do good stuff for their community.

Forever Manchester leads with the ABCD of community building

A conference last Friday about Asset Based Community Development gave me some terrific insights into on-the-ground principles for People Powered Change (PPC), and also some directions for thinking about the ways that Big Lottery (BIG) and other funders could in future support both action and learning. (Here’s a summary of explorations so far).

The event was organised by Forever Manchester – which is the Community Foundation for Greater Manchester – with the ABCD substance provided by Comac Russell and Jim Diers of Nurture Development UK. As Shaun Walsh mentioned in this post, the roots of BIG thinking about PPC lie in the ABCD approach (I hope you are keeping up with the acronyms so far). More on BIG and ABCD here, and also here, for earlier interviews with Cormac and Jim.

I arrived on the second day of the event, to hear Jim talking about the seven principles of ABCD, which he summarised for me afterwards. I hope to have a link to his slides later. The basis of ABCD is to start with the strengths within a community, not the problems and weaknesses. As this post by Dee Brooks summarises, t’s a glass half full view, rather than half empty – so you first map assets (people, organisations, facilities, stories) rather than starting with needs (unemployment, crime, homelessness, alcoholism). You join up the dots between assets, and then mobilise from strengths to meet needs.

At the event Cormac invited people to put these ideas into practice by sticking notes on the wall about the things they might like to learn in a community, what they might teach, where were the “bumping places” to meet people to connect, and where the social networks might be – bringing alive the strengths-based approach in the room.

Over lunch I reviewed the notes, and found two people using some string to demonstrate how the dots might be joined up: Cathy Ellliot, chief executive of the Community Foundation for Merseyside, and Corrina Milner, a community mobiliser from Milton Keynes.

Forever Manchester, and Cathy’s organisation, are foundations that raise money from donors and then make grants tailored to local needs, and are members of the Community Foundations Network. The network operates nationally as well as supporting local foundations, and is currently running the Surviving Winter Campaign, encouraging people to recycle their Winter Fuel Payments to help those in greater need.

An approach like ABCD is clearly important locally in providing a framework to inform the way that grants are made. If the application form starts with “what are the needs in your community” it could set the direction in which a local group goes. That will also be important for larger funders like BIG, and so I asked Cormac what they and other funders might do to support an ABCD approach.

He suggested a number of directions: look at the Kellogg Foundation for a set of funding criteria that could be lifted off the shelf to support an asset-based approach; value the assets they have in their organisastions, in their staff; recognise and support the local community builders like beat police and health workers; then in monitoring and evaluating local projects, look at the relationships being built and the move towards citizen-led action.

Cormac also suggested that the Big Lunch on June 3 2012 – which is supported by BIG – could be a great opportunity to have a national conversation about the way to develop People Powered Change.

Forever Manchester are already putting these principles into place, with the appointment in Oldham of the first ABCD community builder in the country. Later in the day I talked to Gary Loftus, who is the head of community building, about the journey that the organisation  has made towards this approach, and to Miz Razaq, who now has the job in Oldham. We’ll be exploring in more detail the role of the community builder. Manwhile, as I left Manchester to travel back to London, I had a hunch that the greatest inspirations for People Powered Change may lie outside the capital.

ADDENDUM

John Popham writes: Miz’s first foray into practical community building in Oldham took place during an event at Sholver Youth & Community Centre on Friday 25th November. It was a great privilege to be there to capture the first ever conversation between a UK Community Builder and local residents. By the end of the evening, practical connections and suggestions for building on the community’s strengths were clearly emerging.

Update: headline change to “Forever Manchester …”

Building Local Activism for People Powered Change

In this first post from a partner in the Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change, Mandeep Hothi explains the innovative work that the Young Foundation will be doing – and sharing – using the power of digital media and building on established methods of organising.

The Young Foundation is a centre for social innovation based in Bethnal Green, East London. We bring together insights, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs and through People Powered Change, we are working across the country to help people become more active in their communities.

We are doing this through two distinct projects.

Through our Digital Activism project we are supporting community organisations in Hackney, Holloway, Leeds and Birmingham to campaign and encourage local activism through social media.  There are lots of great examples of this at the national or international level, such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz.org, and we think it has great potential at the local level.

We’re still working on firming up what campaigns we’ll be working on, but they are likely to include issues like housing benefit cuts, care home standards and city centre accessibility.

As well as helping these organisations, we’ll be sharing our learning and top tips about how to effectively use web, social media and tools like text messaging for local activism.

Our first top tip from this work is to not forget about emails! Even though Facebook and Twitter grab the headlines, good old email is still incredibly effective at informing people – especially if they are clearly written. We hope to elaborate more on things like writing good local campaigning emails as we go along and share examples from our work.

The second project is called Scaling Proven Models. We are helping three organisations– Church Action on Poverty, Citizens UK and People Can (formerly the Novas Scarman Group) – to scale their model of working with communities into new areas of the country.

These organisations have a history of high quality work with disempowered communities. Church Action on Poverty and Citizens UK are experts at Saul Alinsky style Community Organising, whilst People Can has a long history of asset-based community development.

Each organisation will be growing into two new areas of the country. In the process, we will help to ensure that their work is sustainable so that it can continue beyond the lifetime of this project, and that they are able to further scale across the UK.

We’ll also be sharing our learning from this strand of work, particularly around how organisations can sustain or scale their work with communities and how some of the more difficult outcomes of community work – such as better relationships or increased confidence – can be measured.

There will be loads more to share over time too, but in the meantime please do ask if you have any questions.

Summary of our People Powered Change exploration so far

Over the past couple of months John Popham and I have developed this blog as part of our work with the Big Lottery Fund, exploring the future of their People Powered Change initiative. The initial brief is here. Thanks to those we have interviewed, and to our guest bloggers, James Derounian, and Noel Hatch.

Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, has now posted some further thoughts to guide discussions, and invited people to pitch in with more ideas.

Here are links to all our earlier posts, to provide some background and ideas that have emerged so far. Latest at the bottom of the list.

New media and networking for People Powered Change – introductory post

Your Square Mile National Summit – reporting the Birmingham event

Paul Twivy and David Robinson at the YSM Summit – interview

Your Square Mile plans – and a live chat – interview with Paul Twivy, CEO of YSM

Voting leads to engagement – when it is about money – interview with Richard Edwards on participatory budgeting

Ideas, research, action from a Knowledge Portal and online discussion – about the new portal funded by BIG

People Powered Change in Dudley – Joining up the strands – collaborations towards developing Our Society

You can’t get practical experience from a book. Or online. – interview with Richard Edwards

Reporting events and games – including saving Slapham community spaces – report of Community Matters workshop

Can new local councils offer Power to the People? – report about the potential of local councils for London

Closing the triangle to explore the idea of #netfunders – making networked connections, personally and as a funder

Transition gives us the best of ingredients for networking – new Transition Network resources link a guide, cards and online content

Can people power bring the internet to remote communities? – the Can’t Get Online week, and how the lack of Internet bring people together

Secret ingredient for community engagement: a slice of pie – food is great way to start conversations, and news of Community Lovers Guides.

Innovating through BIG’s People Powered Change – interview with Linda Quinn, BIG director of communications and marketing, with a vision for People Powered Change

Social reporting through the social silicon valleys – guest post from Noel Hatch on collaborative events form residents and council staff

Making sense of localism for academics and activists – guest post from James Derounian. How can we bridges thinking?

The future of online sharing is mobile, appified and people-centred – report from seminar

Social networks could help embed reciprocity says NESTA CEO Geoff Mulgan – online can help neighbourliness

How Charitable Trusts and Foundations can use Social Media – event report and interviews with Toby Blume, CEO Urban Forum, Peter Wanless, CEO BIG

Moving from join us, join in, to join up yourselves – different network models and a move to peer-to-peer sharing

Trust people to tell their own stories of how they use BIG grants – guest post from William Perrin on hyperlocal blogs and online communities

BIGGING up People Powered Change? – Shaun Walsh of BIG invites ideas about People Powered Change

Updates after this post:

Building Local Activism for People Powered Change – the work of the Young Foundation

Manchester leads with the ABCD of community building – report of event with Forever Manchester, Cormac Russell and Jim Diers

Media Trust invites people to join Newsnet for citizen-led media – interview with Adam Perry

SHINE 2011; Social Enterprise, Story-telling and Change – report from John Popham

Now there’s an iPhone app for community engagement – developed in Milton Keynes

The many models for People Powered Change – we need to understand the different models before design ing ways of sharing

Kent Connects shows the way to smart solutions and a social app store – report from Discovering Solutions Camp

Sharing outside means first sharing inside – Tom Phillips suggests Yammer as a good way to start conversations within organisations

How sociable events can help build networks and connects ideas – Tom Phillips reflects on different network models and the role of events

Ideas from our exploration of People Powered Change – some of the ideas we may discuss at a workshop on December 1

The challenge of building a sustainable knowledge hub – an honest assessment from KnowHow Nonprofit

UnLtd: It’s all about people-powered solutions – news of the Big Venture Challenge

Community Sector Tales from Urban Forum – Toby Blume gives an update of their storytelling project

The community engagement iPhone app in detail – how the Milton Keynes app described here works

The 3-legged stool: Student energy to fuel People Powered Change – James Derounian reports from a conference on the potential

Developing People Powered Change ideas: the workshop – briefing on the workshop on December 1

Reporting from the People Powered Change workshop – presentation and videos from the December 1 event

Food for thought?…More like A Feast! – Linda Quinn, director of communications and marketing at Big Lottery Fund reflects on next steps after the December 1 workshop.

First beacon hub plus innovation centre for Newsnet – Media Trust provides an update on their £1.89 million plans for community news network.

No more unsung heroes – people can tell their own stories with social media

Why community groups are more energy waves than organisational matter – physics and complexity theory may give us insights into the way groups operate

SocialReporters and People-Powered Change: Time for Reflection – John Popham offers some highlights

People love Thornton Heath (and others places too). Here’s how and why – reporting from a celebration day for community connectors

Micro-mapping shows the richness of local life – research by Third Sector Research Centre reveals many small societies

Introducing Biglopoly: planning how to spend £1 million for real. Big Lottery Fund staff developed a game to help groups plan how to invest funds

Generating Collective Excitement and Momentum. John Popham applauds the leadership of BIG chief executive Peter Wanless in using social media and other methods to broker new relationships.

Helping BIG staff become social reporters David Wilcox worked with BIG staff to report an event in Wickford with the local MP and BIG CEO Peter Wanless

How BIG aims to be a more engaged, open and social organisation. Big Lottery Fund plans for the future

BIGGING up People Powered Change?

In this guest post, Shaun Walsh, from the Big Lottery Fund, opens up a conversation about how BIG might develop People Powered Change. This builds on some exploratory work started a few weeks ago here and calls on others to share their learning, experience and insights on how BIG can help develop supportive networks and supportive ideas.

How does a national funder, supporting community projects with as little as £300, maximise the impact and learning from its funding? What support and networks could a funder enable to help people and projects help themselves? What is the next social innovation or intervention that a funder could intelligently make that would support communities in these aims?

From March this year we (Big Lottery Fund) identified ‘People Powered Change’ (PPC) as a platform to build, accelerate and extend new and different approaches to develop great community-led action already underway across England. The announcement was accompanied by grants to UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge; Your Square Mile; Young Foundation’s Building Local Activism; Media Trust; and NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge. Ten months on, we’ve asked them to contribute to this blog, to help share some learning, insights and considerations that will help us address the questions I’ve outlined above and inform our approach to PPC.

The roots of our thinking behind PPC lie in Asset Based Community Development, which Jim Diers explains with a little more authority here. This approach is about focusing on the opportunities, strengths and the ‘latent power of communities’ building on the assets they already have.

[Deep breath...] We believe that every community facing problems contains within it people and groups who can step forward as the solution. We want to use our resources, and belief in communities, to unlock and inspire community action across the nation. We want to help people to share and celebrate their work, and learn from others that are doing it for themselves – whether this is through on-line spaces or meetings.

But we recognise that we can’t do this alone. There are some amazing people, stories and groups out there who are already doing some inspiring stuff. And as Linda Quinn explains here we fund thousands of projects every year who are making a real difference in their communities with great ideas that others could learn from, share solutions with or be inspired by.

But how do we help harness that learning? How do we help broker those connections? How, as a funder, should we/could we support people and projects beyond our grant investments? And what about those we don’t fund?

Will Perrin of Talk About Local helpfully starts to flesh some of this out in his earlier blog here.

Will’s blog is a useful prompt. We believe that People Powered Change is about more than just funding. It should be about an intelligent funder that proactively engages and facilitates conversations across communities, people and experts. Creating supportive connections, it is about making BIG’s activity and engagement more ‘social’ so that learning and conversations have greater reach so that we maximise the use of social media, for example, as a means of sharing best practice and sourcing creative ideas.

Or in other words supporting those wider conversations and hearing what’s being said.

This is a lot easier to write about than to do in practice and so part of the purpose of this blog is really a call for thoughts and ideas, what’s already happening and working that we can learn from? Notably:

How do we develop a communication network that could join BIG, partners, groups and others so they can share stories, support and engage with each other?

Where are some of the gaps that need to be filled? What might the helpful funding interventions be that would support communities in these aims?

Over the next few weeks the funded partners I outlined above will blog with updates on their project progress and reflect upon some of their learning so far that will help inform some of this future thinking.

But we want to share this with others so others can share with us their ideas so do feel free to contribute either in comment or via twitter using #ppchange.

There’s a summary of earlier posts here.

Trust people to tell their own stories of how they use BIG grants

In this guest post, Will Perrin suggests local websites can help the development of People Powered Change – if people are trusted to tell their own stories about their grant-funded projects. Will runs Talk About Local, a company that has helped hundreds of individuals and groups set up local websites and online communities.

Giving people their own voice through the lottery to talk for themselves about the change a grant has made is the ultimate in people powered change.

The lottery is one of the most remarkable new institutions of my generation – changing lives and communities across the nation without the dead hand of policy nor political favour.  Yet when historians look back on our contemporary records for the impact that the billions of pounds of grants have made they may be disappointed.  There will be far more column inches (whatever ‘columns’ and ‘inches’ are) on a handful of ‘failed’ projects than there will be on hundreds of thousands of successful ones.  They will mainly find press releases, turgid case studies and carping academic studies.  Sadly, the voices of people who received lottery grants largely won’t be there.

In the newspaper age, this was perhaps inevitable – the only way you could get your voice heard was through the distorting lens of the mass media.  Durable, accessible personal accounts only arose through academic mass observation.  Today in an age of the mass market internet the lottery could help people find their own voice online.  It’s incredibly easy now to create a simple website or twitter account that gives you your own voice.  Web companies have spent hundreds of millions creating online services that are easy to use for the regular person online for free – wordpress.com, posterous, blogger, twitter, Facebook etc.  If you can use web mail (hotmail, gmail, yahoo mail) then you can make a simple website. But many people don’t know these services exist.

The lottery could encourage or require people in receipt of grant to write about the experience online in simple blogs that they own and run or twitter accounts or Facebook pages.  This requires a simple change of assumption – the lottery must generally assume that people are literate, numerate, honest etc – and in 2011 they can assume that the majority of people they work with are proficient enough to master, the very basic skills to create a voice online once they have been pointed to the right service

There are some important caveats though – this isn’t and mustn’t be confused with journalism.  It’s simply people finding their own voice, calling something citizen journalism is a quick way to finish it off so low is that profession in public esteem. People should be encouraged to use free mass market platforms like posterous.com wordpress.com blogger.com, twitter, Facebook pages.  Then they have a stake in something they control themselves.  They aren’t doing something on a Lottery controlled platform.  It also removes liability, technology risk and makes things fairly cheap and quick to start.  People need to be given a nudge – perhaps being let off reporting requirements in return for writing to a blog or being made to do so. The lottery could experiment with the best approach.  And above all the Lottery has to be comfortable with letting go of control and engaging in conversation with its grantees in public.

My public service company Talk About Local helps people do this across the country. We give people the basic skills and confidence they need to tell their stories online.  We have helped NESTA support their grant winners in precisely the sort of public reporting described above.  It led to wonderful colourful storytelling about the marvellous neighbourhood challenge projects.

The Lottery could be at the heart of a remarkable grass roots flowering of local voices as a by product of its grant making.  Unleashing the voices of thousands of people as they change their lives and communities is a tantalising goal.  And it’s easily in reach.

Moving from join us, join in, to join up yourselves

I’ve used this diagram a few times in the past to start conversations about the move from hierarchical structures to more networky ones – including a couple of years ago, where Clay Shirky was talking about the changes that membership organisations need to make. Sending out newsletters and central event invites won’t pull in the subs when people can use social networks to organise for themselves. The organisations won’t survive.

I’ve used the diagram more recently to talk to people about the sort of online and face-to-face sharing space for social innovation that People Powered Change might become in fulfilling the vision set out here by Linda Quinn for the Big Lottery Trust (BIG). Increasingly people use social networks for knowledge sharing, and in addition Geoff Mulgan argued recently that they are one good way to help embed reciprocity in our society.

The idea of helping people share peer-to-peer, and not through a hub, chimes with the remarks reported here by John Popham from Toby Blume of Urban Forum, and Peter Wanless, of BIG. Both are chief executives in the new mould, using social media themselves and encouraging staff to do the same. While John was reporting Toby and Peter’s presentations, I was hearing at the Business of Collaboration seminar that organisational adoption of social media and networky behaviour won’t happen without that leadership. I also heard that the future will increasingly be mobile, with content delivered through apps, not conventional web sites.

So – it is possible to argue, at least anecdotally, that becoming more networky is important for individual learning, social cohesion, and organisational survival. People Centred Change, and communications.

At the moment a lot of organisations still work in model 1. Command and control structure, bureaucratic procedures, limited sharing outside the organisation, formal collaborations, restrictions on the use of social media. This still applies in some big organisations in the community and voluntary sector … and funding regimes don’t help. When you have to compete furiously with other organisations on the landscape for grants and contracts there’s pressure to keep things to yourselves. Your funders are probably hierarchical too… so everything chugs along as normal until the grants and contracts dry up and you find that the people you were serving are finding they can get along without you. Am I exaggerating? Not much, I think.

All this applies in strength when looking at knowledge-sharing. It is very difficult to maintain traditional knowledge portals, with high editorial overheads, in a sector that doesn’t expect to pay for services, grants are increasingly scarce, and where advertising revenue is unlikely to be available. But how about model 2, where a number of organisations might collaborate to provide complementary services? That’s already on the horizon for People Powered Change, with initial partner investments made in Your Square Mile, Media Trust, Unltd, and Young Foundation. There are earlier posts on my personal blog.

The challenge is going to be to expand from model 2 into model 3 – where people are making their own connections peer-to-peer as well as with some hubs. The joining-up in the peer-to-peer network comes partly from hubs, but also from sociable events designed for developing and sharing innovative ideas, like this and this, and also I believe by developing the practice of social reporting. We need network builders as well as networking people.

While it is possible – in theory – to design the move towards model 3, in practice it is really difficult unless the people involved have some personal experience of networked communications and networky ways of doing things. It can seem like a foreign country – and the leadership of people like Toby Blume and Peter Wanless is important to give people confidence. The Transition Network, as I wrote here, is a terrific example of central support that helps to build local projects – not own them. The book, the Networked Non Profit, by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, is an essential read. However, when learning to swim there’s no substitute for getting into the pool – and so as part of our work with BIG we are exploring how to pilot some peer-to-peer communication, probably using Google Plus. I’ll report later … well, actually, some of it will be open so you’ll be able to see how we get on. The best networking often involves food – so I wonder if Tessy and Laura would run a Pie Lab for the pioneers. The best ideas are often the simplest.

How Charitable Trusts and Foundations can use Social Media

Peter Wanless at #ACFSocMed

On 8th November, some 30 people gathered for an event in the Guildhall, London, hosted by the Association of Charitable Foundations,on how Charitable Trusts and Foundations can use social media. Speakers were two Chief Executives in the sector who have become well known for their use of social media for both personal and professional reasons, Toby Blume, of Urban Forum, and Peter Wanless of the Big Lottery Fund. Both speakers gave an interesting insight into how they blend their personal and professional profiles to engage people using social media.

Toby gave the audience a tour through different social media tools, outlining his 5 C’s of how social media can add value to an organisation’s work: Connection, Collaboration, Commerce, Campaigning, and Communication. Toby communicated the message that no organisation can ignore social media channels today, particularly through the story of the United Airlines passenger whose guitar was broken by baggage handlers, and who released a song about the experience on Youtube which resulted in 180 million dollars being wiped off the airline’s stock value in four days, and which, to date, has had over 11 million views. From a personal point of view, Toby recounted how a tweet questioning the official publicity about banks channelling money through Big Society Capital led to him being interviewed on Radio 4′s “Today” programme.

Here’s Toby’s presentation:

Peter Wanless talked about how his own use of social media started almost accidentally, and happened well ahead of its adoption by his organisation. Peter believes his own social media use, and the example it set, both allowed him to push for its wide adoption by the Big Lottery Fund, and gave staff within the organisation confidence to experiment themselves. He admitted to initial nervousness among some staff at the way social media communication subverted some of the hierarchical relationships, but he believes that BIG is on it’s way to becoming an open, sharing organisation, which is setting an example to others. He illustrated this by describing how photos and messages from the National Lottery Awards ceremony on the previous Saturday evening were released live on the web from a number of sources, when, in earlier years, it would have been a case of carefully managed press releases going out on the following Monday morning.
Expressing a sentiment which is common to many social media users, Peter described how he has reluctantly come to accept the widely-held view of him as the “tweeting Chief Executive”, as he feels that he is on a constant learning curve.  Here is Peter’s presentation.

A lively question and answer session followed. Audience members were particularly interested in how small organisations could adopt social media when they have few resources or staff. Peter’s response was that he does most of his tweeting on the train to and from the office, when he would otherwise be bored or reading the newspaper, and he no longer needs to buy a newspaper because he gets all his news from Twitter. Toby suggested that social media should not be seen an additional burden, but that it can streamline processes and replace out-dated practices. Thus, he also no longer buys a newspaper, sends and receives a lot less emails, and blogs instead of writing policy papers.

Another issue concerning attendees was how to persuade trustees, many of whom are older people, that social media was a legitimate use of time and resources. Gentle introductions to the tools were suggested, and an approach which seeks to tie in with trustees’ personal interests. Toby suggested that the United Airlines video could be a powerfully persuasive tool.

During the discussion, Peter Wanless touched on the reason David Wilcox, Drew Mackie and I have been engaged to work with the Big Lottery Fund, when he talked about how the Fund hopes to use its influence gently to persuade organisations it funds to move themselves to approaches based on open data and sharing of their practices and lessons using social media. Here is the audio of what Peter had to say on this subject:

Peter Wanless at #ACFSocMed (mp3)

As the event wound up, I caught up with both Peter and Toby for interviews about their impressions of the day.

There seemed to be a lot of positive intent in the room to go away and apply the practices described by the speakers, and there were clearly some of those present who already had stories to tell. As David Wilcox and I have advocated elsewhere, one of the keys to successful social media use is the ability to tell compelling stories. Charitable Trusts and Foundations have lots of stories to tell about the differences they have made to the lives of individuals and communities, and, social media can provide them with platforms via which to tell such stories which can be far more compelling and engaging than dry and dusty reports which sit on shelves unread. As we progress through the work that the Social Reporters team is doing with the Big Lottery Fund, we are getting much support for this approach, and hope to see it much more widely adopted in future.

And, if you still doubt the power of social media; here is the United Airlines video highlighted in Toby’s presentation: