The #HousingDay RoadTrip

The RoadTrip has now begun! Follow the action at

♦♦♦ Exciting announcement time ♦♦♦

Thanks to sponsorship from the lovely people at Documotive, as well as Leeds and Yorkshire Housing, and Barnet Homes, I can now announce the schedule for the #HousingDay RoadTrip.

#HousingDay is the day in November (12th) when the UK social housing sector comes together to promote and celebrate the work of its staff and the stories of its customers online. This year is the second #HousingDay, the first one last year was a great success, and the plan is for this year to be bigger still. Last year was great for following live updates on what housing staff were up to; this year the plan is to add to the mix by bringing in the element of telling stories about the great work they do, and the fabulous communities which they foster. And, as far as possible, providers are going to be encouraging communities and customers to tell their own stories. #HousingDay will be celebrated across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and maybe even Linkedin too! You can find more about #HousingDay here, and in the brilliant video featuring Richard McCann below.

And, as previously announced, I will be doing the #HousingDay Roadtrip. My intention is to tour the country (well as much of it as I can fit in) visiting housing providers, and helping to amplify their great work. Because there is so much to cram in, my #HousingDay is actually going to last 2 days. I will start on Tuesday morning (#HousingDay-eve) in Leicester, before moving on to Barnet and West Kent. On #HousingDay itself I will begin in Neath Port Talbot in South Wales, before motoring to Macclesfield, and finishing in Leeds. I will be covering something like 800 miles in 2 days.

It will be an epic trip, and I want to involve as many people as possible in my odyssey. So, I will be documenting the whole of the journey using Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Youtube video, Audioboom and other social media platforms. The journey itself will be epic enough, but what I am really looking forward to is the opportunity to meet with staff and customers of so many different housing organisations in such a short space of time, in such varied parts of the country.

At each organisation I will run a brief social media / digital storytelling workshop, and while there, we will seek to capture resident and staff stories and ensure they are disseminated to the world. I want to use the buzz created by the tour, and the event of each visit not only to add quality content to the material being produced during #HousingDay, but also to attract the attention of local, and maybe, national, media, who may be persuaded to join us at the stopping off points. So I need as much support in possible in getting the word out, and, if you are anywhere near any of the venues I am visiting, and can spend some time there, then please come and join us.

Here is the itinerary for the 2-day trip:

Day 1 Tuesday 11th November
Asra Housing Group 3 Bede Island Road, Leicester, LE2 7EA 10am to 11am
Barnet Homes Barnet House, 1255 High Road, Whetstone, London, N20 0EJ 1pm to 2pm
West Kent Housing Association 101, London Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 1AX 4pm to 5pm
Day 2 Wednesday 12th November #HousingDay
NPT Homes Tŷ Gwyn Brunel Way, Baglan Energy Park, Neath Port Talbot, SA11 2FP 9am to 10am
Peaks & Plains Housing Trust Ropewalks, Newton Street, Macclesfield, SK11 6QJ 1pm to 2pm
Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association 2 Shire Oak Road, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 2TN 4pm to 5pm

The trip and the individual visits will be documented live, and afterwards, I will produce “#HousingDay RoadTrip – The Movie” which will collect together all the material from the trip, including multimedia offerings from staff and customers produced at the visits.

You’ll be able to follow all of the action by searching for “#HousingDay RoadTrip” on Twitter, or on this site, which will be updated live

This is going to be exciting; so please get involved in whatever way you can.

#HousingDay RoadTrip is sponsored by Documotive


Podcast – Talking to Phil Jewitt about the Sociable Organisation

This is the first in what may be a series of podcasts in which I talk to people whose work I particularly admire about some aspect of what they are doing.

In this podcast, I met up with Phil Jewitt, Senior Communications Manager, with Leeds City Council, to get some insights into the Sociable Organisation project which he is leading. This is a project which is using social media to drive collaboration and co-creation, both within the city council, and across the city involving partners.

There are some lovely stories in here which illustrate the point I make continually that telling stories usually has more impact that quoting statistics and writing reports.

Please let me have any comments below.

Statistics versus Stories


Sometimes when I walk the dog in the mornings I just take in the scenery and listen to the birds singing. I am very fortunate to live in an urban area, but to have some great bits of raw nature close to where I live where the dog can be let off the lead to get his exercise.

And, then, sometimes I put the headphones in and listen to Radio 4’s Today Programme to keep up to date with what people are saying about the world.

This morning I did the latter, and caught Anne Atkins speaking on “Thought for the Day”. She posed the question as to why the death of Robin Williams had dominated the news agenda, while the deaths of thousands in genocide in Iraq and from Ebola in West Africa, are dismissed in a few lines. The latter are statistics, she opined, the former is a story that Western people can empathise with.

It reinforces a point I keep making. People who think that reports full of statistics are going to change the world are deluding themselves. If you really want to affect people’s behaviour, and change things, then tell stories about how what you do impacts on people’s lives. People just like you and me. Stories affect people’s emotions and generate empathy. Statistics are just numbers.

Sustaining the energy generated by great events


More years ago than I care to remember, I went to see a showing of the film of “West Side Story”. I had thought that it would not really be my thing, but I went because it was at a new venue and I was curious to have a nose around the place. As it turned out, I was very glad that I did go, as I found it a joyous experience, and really surprised myself with my reaction.

As I came out into the street, I looked around and I thought there was something major missing. After a while, it dawned on me that, having been immersed in the musical for 2 hours or more, I was now expecting everyone to be singing and dancing around the streets. It took me quite a while to accept that this wasn’t going to happen.

I’ve had a comparable experience a couple of times recently. And both times it was because of innovative events. The first was Resource‘s Comms Hero; the second was HouseParty, organised by Matt Leach of HACT and Esther Foreman of The Social Change Agency. At both of these happenings, I was swept along by a tide of enthusiasm, energy, and vitality, and began to believe that the world was now like this; that we had won the fight to convince everyone in the Social Housing Sector and beyond, that the principles of openness, sharing, innovation, and the embracing of new technologies, are the way forward.


Now, it’s somewhat easier for me than many others at those events. I don’t have to go back to an office or workplace where I am in a minority of one in holding the views I do. And, believe me, I had a number of conversations at HouseParty which confirmed to me that there are plenty who are in that unenviable position. But, the truth is, that we don’t leave events like Comms Hero and HouseParty and find the rest of the world dancing in the streets to the tunes we have been singing in the venue (singing literally in the case of Comms Hero). There is still much work to be done to convince the doubters and the blockers. But, the strength of events such as these is that they create and strengthen networks that can support the lone advocates and give them the confidence to take on workplace inertia. Let’s make sure they do.

Conferences – Let’s see the speaker


At last week’s Comms Hero event in Manchester I diverted a little from the main theme of my presentation to have a little rant about the lighting at conferences. This was partly as a result of a conversation I had during one of the breaks about how well staged Comms Hero was, compared to a lot of other events.

One of the things I do, in a varied portfolio, is to video conferences. Usually live streaming, but sometimes recorded video. I do this on a low-budget basis. This means that I don’t carry a lighting rig with me, I rely on the lighting at the venue. And, all too often, this is inadequate. I find there is very often no lighting at all on the speaker. And, this is often compounded by the fact that the speaker is silhouetted against the bright light shining from the screen where their PowerPoint slides are displayed. On video, this can render the image of the speaker completely dark, which requires quite a bit of editing to lighten it up. And, it is not much better for the eyes of the people present in the room. And, on the occasions when I have tried to rectify this by shining a light on the speaker, I either get complaints from the speaker that they can’t see the audience, or complaints from the audience that they cannot see the slides.

Some speaker tips from Lee Jackson

One of the themes of my presentation at Comms Hero was speakers who stand and read out bullet points kill conferences. In this context, I question how we got to the stage where speakers present in darkness with their PowerPoint slides shining out behind or beside them. I think there is a growing recognition that bullet point slides are an insult to the audience and detract from the speaker’s message. Most of us who attend conferences can read, and, personally, I am much more interested in seeing the speaker than the slides. I want to see how passionate they are about what they are saying. I think that bulleted slides are a screen to hide behind for people who don’t really believe in what they are talking about.

So, I call on conference organisers to light the speakers not the slides. Events are about human interaction, and I want to see the human being not the written words.

Some more speaker tips from Bettakultcha‘s Richard Michie


First Housing Stories Workshop #housingstories


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


Using Social Media to tell the other side of the story

Reading this post this morning, on the important role that social media has played in social uprisings in Ukraine and Venezuela , made me think once again about the important opportunities which are missed by so many in the UK to tell the stories the mainstream media are not interested in.

When you are in a crisis situation like that faced by people in the Ukraine, and all the big media tools are in the hands of those you are struggling against, you can now turn to social media to get your story out. We have seen this happening during the Arab Spring and in places like Syria.

But, in Britain, this is still not happening to any significant extent. While the mainstream media uses its power to stigmatise and berate communities in programme like Benefits Street, we still see people with leadership roles in disadvantaged communities in the UK (and I am talking mainly about paid professionals here) shying away from using the tools we all have at our disposal to tell the other side of the story. Most of them will have multimedia storytelling devices (otherwise known as smartphones) in their pockets, but they don’t seem to want to use them to unleash the power of that storytelling. Is it that they don’t want to, they don’t know how to, or they are hidebound by health and safety and data protection rules from doing so?

It’s really not that hard, and I am getting increasingly frustrated about how many people are failing to realise this potential.

Here’s me talking about how I this can be done. Get in touch if you want to know more

21st Century Meetings

I am hearing reports that papers for meetings of Clinical Commissioning Groups, which are key bodies within the new structure of the NHS, are routinely running to more than 500 pages. How on earth can anyone be expected to absorb that amount of information and use it to make an informed decision? In my opinion, and that of many others I talk to, it is an impossibility, and smacks of deliberate obfuscation.

It’s the 21st Century, we have the tools to do this properly. So, I suggest that instead of papers, video presentations of the issues containing interviews with those affected by the policy should be the norm. How about something like this?

And these should be backed up by presentations at the meeting done in Bettakultcha style; i.e. 20 slides, 5 minutes. Here’s how to do that

We can do this, can’t we?

365 Goodwill

Happy New Year.

So, the festive season is coming to an end, and things are returning to normal, although I suspect many people will not yet be back to work.

I have a great ambivalence about what I call “forced jollity”, I’ve written about this elsewhere; I much prefer to chose my own terms about what and where to celebrate, and to celebrate things that mean something to me personally and to those around me. But, that aside, one of the things that makes me uncomfortable is the concept of the mid-winter festivities being the “Season of Goodwill”. That’s because I think it encourages the view that we can all continue being beastly to each other for the rest of the year, and that point is about to kick in again.

I think the world would be a better place if we all treated every day as a part of the Season of Goodwill; one of the key problems with society is that people don’t treat each other with respect. I have always believed in treating others the way you would want to be treated yourself, and I would hope that others would adopt the same approach. But, the evidence suggests too many do not; which I find odd in societies which supposedly follow doctrines which preach this kind of thing.

So, when you wish someone a Happy New Year, please make sure you mean it. You want them to be happy for the whole year, not just the rest of the day. And now we all have tools, social media, and video and audio via our smartphones, to tell the stories both of how we help create a little happiness in other people’s lives, and the effect of that happiness on the people who receive it. If you believe in New Year’s resolutions, then please make it your resolution to promote goodwill to all people every day, and to use the resources at your disposal to tell the stories of the impact of this to counter the blanket negativity the mainstream media loves to spread.