First Housing Stories Workshop #housingstories

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Thursday 1st May, saw the first of my #housingstories workshop. #housingstories came about as a response to the increasing tide in the mainstream media of negative stories about people who live in social housing. “Benefits Street” and “How to Get a Council House” are just two examples of the recent trend for TV, newspapers, etc. to stoke the fires of negative stereotyping of the people who live in social housing. I have long argued that people now have the tools in their own pockets, i.e. their smartphones, to produce material of a decent quality that can contribute to telling their own stories, and that gives us all the ability to shape and disseminate our own stories. It has been clear, however, that the social housing sector has been slow to take advantage of these opportunities. So, the aim of #housingstories is to demonstrate how this can be done and to create a cohort of people within the social housing sector with the skills and confidence to tell their own digital stories and to help those they work with, particularly social housing tenants, to do so for themselves.

So, the format for the workshops is that we start of by talking about the importance of storytelling and why we do it, moving on to some effective examples. We then explore storytelling techniques, before undertaking some practical work, during which participants interview each other on camera. We then explore some basic editing tools, and we critique the interviews they have recorded to provide some pointers for improving the quality of their output for the future. And we also cover uploading content to Youtube and other sites, and promoting it via social media.

My emphasis in these workshops is on assisting people to produce good quality content with the tool they are likely to carry with them all the time, their smartphone. Most smartphones these days can produce good quality, usually, HD, video. I know that the purists will always say that there are deficiencies, particularly in sound and lighting. Yes, you can get better results using an external microphone, and, yes, you need additional lighting in certain circumstances. But, I maintain that people are highly unlikely to carry such additional kit with them as a matter of course, and that, if they believe such equipment is necessary, then they will run the risk of missing good stories.

So, in the workshops, we cover techniques for overcoming the deficiencies of lacking additional equipment. These include:

  • getting as close as possible to the subject to make sure the microphone is adjacent to their mouth
  • cutting down background noise by moving to a quieter location
  • making sure you shoot video in a well-lit location
  • cutting down wind noise on external shoots by putting a sock or a glove over the microphone

I think the videos participants shot were pretty good efforts for a first attempt. See what they came up with below. I am keen to do more of this kind of thing in other parts of the country. Let me know if you’d like to host a workshop.

Hayley Collins interviewed by Jess Dewhurst

Jess Dewhurst interviewed by Hayley Collins

Adrian Capon interviewed by David Troupe

David Troupe interviewed by Adrian Capon

Stephen Blundell interviewed by Andy Leppard

Andy Leppard interviewed by Stephen Blundell

John Middleton interviewed by Peter Greenwood

Peter Greenwood interviewed by John Middleton

 

Digital Tea Party

This Friday (2nd May) I am working with Leeds Federated Housing Association, the HUGO project, and JTM Service to run a Digital Tea Party.

The format will be a traditional vintage tea party, and people are baking cakes to bring along; but it will be augmented with digital technology, giving people the opportunity to try out different kinds of gadgets and equipment, and it will feature a live Skype linkup with a similar event taking place eleswhere in the city.

So tune in for some fun and games, this Friday from 2pm. Follow the hashtag #digitparty on twitter and elsewhere on social media.

Image credit: Patrick Emerson on Flickr  https://www.flickr.com/photos/kansasphoto/

ebaywatch – Let’s make it happen

Photo courtesy of coljac on Flickr

I first floated the idea of ebaywatch (title courtesy of Graham Richards) in April 2011. This year, I am determined to make it happen.

This is an outline of the event, for which I will be seeking sponsors. Please use the comments section below to add your ideas.

  • A group of volunteers convenes at a public beach on an agreed day. Hopefully sponsorship can be found at least to contribute to travel expenses. It needs to be a beach relatively easy to access from most of the country via public transport – current favourite is Blackpool;
  • Blackpool is also current favourite because of Cath Mugonyi‘s mystical ability to source 1000 deck chairs!
  • A Social Media Advice Hub is established in a prominent location on the beach, with prominent sign-posting / branding. This could be something as simple as a gazebo, but a Beach Hut would be awesome;
  • Volunteers offer advice to members of the public on how to enhance their holiday / beach-going experience using social media;
  • During advice-giving down-time (which, let’s face it, would probably be most of the time), the volunteers can engage in traditional beach activities (including, of course, beach cricket) which can be videoed, live tweeted, instagrammed, blogged etc.

Ideas to build on this, below, please.

 

Telecare & Telehealth: Drivers for Digital Inclusion

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Earlier this week, I spend two days at Leeds University Business School, videoing the AKTIVE project conference “Technology, Care and Ageing: Enhancing Independence”. Although my role was to observe proceedings through the screen on the back of the camera, I found the whole event fascinating.

The conference theme was about the use of Telehealth and Telecare with older people. I got to see a lot of the conference, as I was asked to capture snippets of all the parallel workshops. As I went around the event, I heard a common theme emerging, which was repeated in a keynote presentation by Professor Heinz Wolff (pictured above). This was that it is essential to get people acquainted with unfamiliar new technologies before there comes a crisis in their lives which means they are forced to use them. There were many examples cited of people rejecting telecare equipment, or failing to use it as intended, because they were frightened of it, or at least extremely unfamiliar with it.

esther

Esther Rantzen at AKTIVE 2014 Conference

This is a similar theme to one of my recurring mantras for Digital Inclusion, which is that people have to be introduced to new technologies in enjoyable ways and in familiar settings, before they have to use them for formal, or in this case, life-saving purposes.

There is an audioboo below, in which I captured my immediate thoughts. I think it is imperative for the Digital Inclusion and Telecare / Telehealth communities to unite around a common agenda to build familiarity with new technologies among older people for whom they can be life-enhancing, and life-saving, tools.

 

The Digital Inclusion Laundry

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Today we had a lovely get together of people with a stake in Digital Inclusion in Leeds. The event was held at Leeds Federated Housing Association and included an update on the HUGO project, one of whose buses is now on the road and taking digital inclusion to the city’s housing estates.

An intriguing idea was presented by John Middleton of JMT Service Ltd. He is working on a proposal for a Digital Inclusion Laundry. His idea is to turn housing association laundry facilities into internet cafes for the digitally excluded. I love this idea as it fits in with my philosophy of taking digital inclusion to where people are, not expecting them to come to you.

In the video below, John explains some of the other projects he has been involved in (as a washing machine supplier!) and then goes on to outline the Digital Inclusion Laundry proposal. Please get in touch if you can help make this idea a reality.

Another Sociable Organisation

I spent a very enjoyable day today delivering some social media training to the Muir Group Housing Association at their head office in Chester. Muir Group is an organisation that has aspirations to be a sociable organisation, and today was a step along that road. They have senior buy-in, indeed Catherine Dixson, the Chief Executive of the Group was on the training course herself.

Introducing the day, Sam Scott said they had asked me in because they didn’t want a PR person’s perspective on social media, they wanted someone who could help them empower individuals within the organisation to tell stories about what they do, and celebrate the benefits they bring to people’s lives on a daily basis.

They really are a lovely group of people to work with, and I look forward to following their progress as they embed public, online, conversations across the organisation.

Here are some tweets from the day:

 

Social Media and Social Change – reaching the people at the top

This is a response to a plaintive tweet from Shirley Ayres reproduced above. I share Shirley’s frustration. We’ve been using social media for getting on for 10 years now. It is not new, but many organisations still treat it as a weird innovation to be distrusted and feared. This is costing them money and causing their service users to suffer.

Many of us have been chipping away at this fear and reluctance, usually from the bottom-up. Where we have failed in large part is in getting to the people at the top, those still wedded to old-style command-and-control management methodologies; those who were already in a senior position before the first computer entered their workplace; and those who still get their PAs to print off their emails. This has to change.

I’m going to do something about this. And this is what:

  • I’m going to try to crystallise the informal community of social good innovators I am connected to via Twitter – I suggest an online community (maybe a Ning) acting as a resource bank for innovation good practice, a source of mutual support, and a rallying point for action;
  • I am going to work with this community of people to try to get us speaking slots at big conferences where the senior people go. I am thinking of conferences like SOLACE and ADASS ;
  • I am going to lobby for funding for this network. Shirley has a really good idea where this can come from below.

Who’s up for this approach? Maybe it’s all happening already. If it is, please let me now. Duplicated effort wold be wasteful.

HUGO Launch – all events should be like this

Me_at_HUGOlaunch

I believe in practicing what you preach. And yesterday was a prime example of that. I did one of my presentations about Digital Storytelling and its role in digital inclusion at the launch of the HUGO project in Leeds. As I usually do, I focused on the fun and joy that is to be had out of using the internet, and how the best method for getting those on board who don’t use it is to focus on the enjoyment, entertainment and education they are missing out on. And I am really proud of the people I am working with at Leeds Federated Housing Association, particularly Sue Jennings and Keilly Harrower, for making the launch event the embodiment of those principles.

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It was engaging and participatory: As well as “talking-head” speakers, of which I was one, each talk was interspersed with a section in which the audience got to do some work. HUGO has been designed around the HUGO family, a fictional family which is moving to Leeds and starting its digital inclusion journey. At the beginning of the day, delegates were asked to choose a badge with the cartoon representation of their favourite character on it, and they then re-arranged themselves into teams representing each character. This process culminated in the last break out session when each team wrote a blog post on behalf of their character, intended to be published, there and then. As Sue Jennings said, we were trusting the audience to have bought into the ethos of the character, and to take it in interesting, but not too incongruous directions, there and then, live to the world. Those of us directly involved in the project will have to live with the consequences of what they publish from hereon in.

Sue_J_HUGO

It all seemed to work. There was lots of positive backchat on Twitter, which was displayed to the room via a screen. And then, as people queued for their lunch, there was one last surprise which caught them all unaware. Take a look below.

No one was expecting that, and it rounded off a fun, exciting, informative event, which, I hope, people will remember for a long time.

All events should be like this. It’s possible.

Using technology to disrupt centralised decision-making

I am starting to write this hoping it will not turn into a rant. I’ve said this before, many times, and I suspect I will say it again, many more times.

Britain is one of the most centralised countries in the world. Decisions are made in London all the time about issues that affect us all. Many of these decisions are taken in small meetings which involve no one with a perspective from beyond the M25. I myself have been at meetings in the capital where I have been the only attendee not based in London but where it has been assumed that everyone present can speak with experience of the whole country.

It need not be like this any more. We have the tools to change this situation. The London-based decision makers who take the top-level decisions are already open to scrutiny. We can watch their discussions on the BBC Parliament Channel.

The internet allows us to take the Parliament Channel principle into all aspects of decision-making. It’s a straightforward task now to live-stream your meeting, involve remote attendees using tools like Skype and Google+ Hangouts, and engender online discussion using Twitter, Facebook or online fora. It’s not happening anywhere near enough. Why not?

One of the factors, that I’ve observed myself when in London, is those serendipitous meetings, where people just happen to bump into each other, exchange views and start working on a collaborative solution. This happens everywhere, but it happens a lot more in London, where there are more people, and where such collaborations can often get direct access to funders and decision-makers very quickly. How we spread those sorts of benefits is a trickier challenge, but, I am sure technology has a role to play.

So, let’s do it. Let’s use new technologies to break down centralism in decision-making.