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?

Posted in Innovation, Leadership, Public Services, Social Media, Story-telling | 5 Comments

“Restrict social media access and you may lose your followers”

I’m inspired by something Mike Clark said in this post on Shirley Ayres‘ blog.

In one of the points in Mike’s excellent post about digital leadership he suggests:

Restrict social media access and you may lose your followers”

I think this is an incredibly important point. There are still organisations who block access to social media. But, these days people look all over the place for leadership, and many find it on the internet. Restricting social media in the workplace will not, ultimately, prevent people from seeking out sources of leadership and inspiration, it just will make it more difficult. And, it may well make them less likely to respect the leadership of those in their organisation who have made it so difficult for them.

Posted in Leadership, Social Media | 1 Comment

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary thinks Social Media is a waste of time

Thanks to Helen Reynolds for highlighting this story on Twitter.

Apparently, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary thinks Social Media is a waste of time. He said: “Those who participate in social media and blogs and so on are people who’ve got time on their hands.”

So the person in charge of making sure the police do their jobs doesn’t think they should be using the modern communications tools the public use to inform them about their work? Well done to the police force concerned for standing up to this out-dated nonsense. Let’s hope it doesn’t affect their performance in inspections. Social Media use should improve their efficiency and effectiveness, not detract from it.

Maybe Mr. Winsor should get a special invite to this year’s Blue Light Camp.

Posted in Public Services, Social Media | 1 Comment

The perils of not looking where you are going

This is a rare post from me which is probably not going to relate much to what I do for a living. Well, it might not, any way.

Do you remember how you spent Millennium Night? I do. I spent it in front of the television with my left leg up on a stool in front of me. The leg was in plaster. 6 weeks earlier, I broke it in three places when, not looking where I was going, I stepped off two steps from the bottom of my home staircase. When the paramedics arrived, one of them asked me what I had done. When I told him, he expressed disbelief that such an action would cause much damage and proceeded to lift my leg off the ground to investigate further. My screaming convinced him that he might have underestimated the problem. He and his female colleague then proceeded to manoeuvre me into one of those sit-up stretchers, and nearly dropped me out of it into the street as they lifted me into the ambulance.

At the hospital, the Orthopaedic Surgeon asked if I wanted my leg set naturally in plaster, which would take longer and might not work, or operated on and pins inserted, which would result in that leg being half an inch shorter than the other one, and carried a risk of infection. I chose the first option and went through a painful process of having plaster applied on the whole of my leg, followed by 2 days in a hospital bed.

A week later I was back in the hospital for X-Rays to check on progress, and was told that the breaks were not healing and, therefore, option 2 would have to be implemented.

Following the operation, I awoke in a hospital bed in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life, worse than the pain of actually breaking the leg, which, at least, subsided relatively quickly. This was a constant feeling like my leg was being sawn off, which persisted for about 24 hours, no matter how many painkillers I was given. But, eventually, the pain subsided, and, after 4 days in hospital, and lessons in using crutches, I was allowed home. Beyond the pain and the boredom, one of the issues about lying in a hospital bed at this time was the embarrassment. I was in a ward populated by men with broken bones. Of the 4 beds in my section of the ward, all the other 3 were guys who had had motorbike accidents. When they were swapping their stories, I pretended to be asleep; I just couldn’t compete.

I was in plaster for a total of 13 weeks, the latter part of which was a bit more bearable as the plaster of paris was replaced with fibre glass, which was a lot lighter and more manoeuvrable.  But on Millennium night I was still in the heavy plaster, and struggling to get around.

One of the things I hadn’t realised was that, after 13 weeks on crutches, you have to learn to walk again. So, a programme of physiotherapy followed. But, something that drew my attention when I went back to the hospital was the room at the end of the physiotherapy department filled with specialist equipment. This was where the professional footballers and rugby players went for their rehabilitation. This was not for us ordinary mortals. So, the physio programme came to an end, but, to be honest, it was a very long time before I felt that I was walking normally again. It was a long time before I could walk, or even stand, for long periods without my leg swelling up and becoming painful. And, it was years, probably 7 or 8 years, before my leg stopped being hyper-sensitive to the slightest touch. A year after the break I had to go back into hospital to have the pins removed from the leg, which entailed more pain.

And I still have two long scars down my leg where the surgeons opened up it to insert and remove the pins. When I was having the plaster removed I spotted two big circular scars on opposite sides of my leg. I asked what those were, and was told that was where they had inserted an iron bar through my leg to hold on to while they performed the operation. And, nearly fifteen years later, I still get sporadic periods of pain in the leg, and the occasional swelling.

I suppose what I am saying is that, although I love the NHS and am extremely grateful for the support it has given me, in this and other matters, because I am not a professional sports person; what happened to me was that I was patched up and sent on my way. Unless something like this happens to you, you don’t realise the longterm implications of injuries. If anything like that happens to you, fight hard to get a proper rehabilitation.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Why switch social media off when you leave the office?

This week has been that time when the part-time users of social media have “turned it back on” after their Christmas break. I find this quite annoying, mainly because it means that those of us who don’t turn it off get inundated with stuff which is new to the part-timers, but is pretty old-hat to the rest of us.

It’s annoying, but I also think it misses the point. Social Media is changing the world. It’s changing the way we communicate, and it is changing the world of work. For me, it is changing the world of work much for the better. Gradually, more people are seeing the benefits of expressing their real personalities at work, and those who have public faces which are different to their personal attitudes can now be found out and dismissed as the fakes they are. Switching social media on and off when you enter and leave work, shows that you still haven’t woken up to this reality. You are a real person, why not show it? If you can’t trust yourself to use social media when you are away from your desk, you need a long hard think about yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

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.

Posted in Celebrations, Social Media, Story-telling | 1 Comment

Live-streaming Council Meetings

I really should have got round to writing about this earlier.

I did some work recently with Wakefield Council to help them to live stream their Council meetings. I gave them an insight into my live-streaming methods, we worked together to ensure the connectivity to the council chamber was optimised, and then I live-streamed a meeting, observed closely by a member of council staff who has since live-streamed a meeting himself, solo.

I am all in favour of council using hi-tech methods and multiple cameras to showcase their meetings to the public. But, as I have written elsewhere, not every council can afford such methods, and they don’t always know there are cheaper ways of doing it.

We had a major hitch for the first live-streamed Wakefield Council meeting. The internet connection went down 5 minutes before the meeting was due to start, and wasn’t restored until 45 minutes in. But, despite the fact that people were left looking at a brief test recording for the first 45 minutes, there were 415 live viewers for that first broadcast. A result, I think.

Here is that first broadcast (missing the first 45 minutes), although the rest of it is archived here.

If any other councils (or other organisations) are interested in doing something similar, please contact me here

Posted in Innovation, Local Government | 6 Comments

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:


Posted in Digital Inclusion, Housing, Innovation, Social Housing, Social Media, Story-telling | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Digital Inclusion, Innovation, Local Government, Older People, Public Services, Rural, Social Housing, Social Media, Technology and Older People | 17 Comments

HUGO Launch – all events should be like this


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.

2013-11-28 12.28.43

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.


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.

Posted in Celebrations, Digital Inclusion, Events, Housing, Public Services, Social Media, Story-telling, Twitter | 3 Comments