Introducing Community Hour

For a long time now I have been raising the question as to why there are so many Business programmes on TV and radio, indeed daily slots on many channels, and hardly anything about community activities. It’s all part of a culture which celebrates money-making and gives far too little prominence to those people and organisations which put the wellbeing of their fellow human beings at the forefront of their agenda. Of course, this has changed during the Coronavirus crisis; not only has there been an increased focus on mutual activity to reach out to those most affected by the current situation, but we have seen a a welcome change of emphasis so that we are at last seeing an increased recognition of the people who toil to make our society function with low levels of remuneration. It’s ironic, nevertheless, that one of the most prominent campaigns, the fight to get the Government to fund free school meals during the summer holidays, has been spearheaded by Marcus Rashford, a highly-paid Premiership footballer, albeit one who drew on his own background in receipt of free school meals to frame the message. It demonstrates, however, that the megaphone of public voice resides largely in the same corridors of wealth and power.

Having spent most of my life working in some form to encourage people to be more community-spirited, I have been much encouraged by the recent upsurge in attention on such activities. This has coincided with the publication of a seminal book “Humankind” by Rutger Bregman. Bregman argues that the prevailing story of most of our society, that people are fundamentally bad and need leaders and laws to keep them in check, is wrong, and that evidence shows that most people are actually good, and their first instinct is actually to be kind, collaborative and helpful to each other. The “people are bad” story is one designed by the rich and powerful to justify their position in society and legitimise the need for coercive laws and control. I would argue that the predominance of business- focus in our media is a key part of this agenda, celebrating money-making over the health and well-being of the majority of society. And now, before you jump in and say that society needs money-making for a successful economy, or that most people are involved in some kind of business activity, I’ll counter that the business programmes served up by our TV and radio tend to be focused on multi-billion dollar corporations whose principal aim is to syphon resources into the bank accounts of their shareholders rather than the entrepreneurial activities which keep most of our communities ticking over. And they are part of the representation of the hero entrepreneur whose role is to save society by generating bundles of cash.

So, I’ve decided that the time has come to stop moaning about this imbalance and do something about it. A few weeks ago I started the Doctor Tech Show, a weekly live-streamed YouTube show about how people are using technology to communicate in times when they cannot see each other face-to-face. That show aims to showcase gadgets and gizmos developed to make online communication easier for people with low levels of digital skills, and to amplify stories about how people overcome the barriers to getting online and communicating.

I now want to take this approach and apply it to community-based activity. So, shortly I will be launching Community Hour and I am now appealing for content. Community Hour will be an hour-long show live-streamed on YouTube (and possibly elsewhere) showcasing what people and organisations are doing to improve the lives of their communities. It will include interviews with people involved and video content illustrating projects. If you would like to be interviewed and / or have video content to share, please get in touch. I want this to be the start of a movement to place coverage of community activism on the same level as business, and, eventually, to act as a model for community slots on mainstream TV and radio.

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I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020 see here

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation, which is obviously made worse by the current pandemic. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, please get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

Can we Create a Social Movement for Social Distancing?

Barnard Castle

As the UK gradually relaxes restrictions imposed to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus there remains a significant proportion of the population which feels that this is far too much too soon. Those of us who are sitting at home, not going out, but watching the TV reports of people crowding together on beaches or leaping around in close proximity to each other celebrating a football triumph, might be forgiven for wondering if we’re living on a different planet. And for those of us who have additional health reasons (I’ve been living with cancer) for avoiding getting Covid-19, it can seem a doubly scary situation as confused messaging coming from Government, coupled with the Rubicon-crossing moment of the failure to censure the Prime Minister’s principal adviser for breaking lockdown rules, seems to have given many people either the belief that the crisis is over, or perceived sanction to ignore any rules that may be in place. Elements of social distancing remain in the official Government advice, but this is meaningless if sufficient numbers of people are ignoring them enough to make the rest of us feel uncomfortable at the least. And there is extensive experience that large numbers of people are not just ignoring social distancing, they are aggressively breaking it and in the process threatening those who want to observe it. Like me, you may not want to get the virus, you may not want to pass it on to those you are close to, and you may not want to be responsible for spreading it to wider society. It feels increasingly like we don’t have any choice, if we want to leave the confines of our houses. I speak as someone who, since lockdown was originally imposed, has only been leaving the house for medical appointments and to walk two boisterous dogs who do not thrive on inactivity. Even then, I have a number of times encountered people who appear determined to come as close as possible, as well as having to take avoiding action to sidestep large gatherings of people who seem unlikely all to be from the same household.

So how do we deal with this situation? Are we to be faced with a future where part of the population goes about its daily business as before, while everyone else cowers in their houses? This is obviously untenable, particularly as the ending of Government furlough arrangements will mean that more people face no choice other than to leave home to earn a living. I was struck recently listening to an RSA Podcast interview with Audrey Tang, Deputy Prime Minister of Taiwan who ascribed the success of Taiwan’s measures to combat the virus to the fact that the government was careful to persuade people that they were measures worth taking which would be fun and life-enhancing. This got me thinking. There is definitely a mood in British (or maybe more accurately English) society to get back to normal as soon as possible, and this tendency has at least implicit encouragement from Government. But, for those of us who will not be comfortable circulating regularly in society until either the virus is eradicated or a vaccine is widely available, need to be able to counter those who proclaim in public that we are being Government lackeys for wanting to continue to keep our distance.

Could we, therefore, create a social movement for social distancing. Could we make it cool to be a social distancer? Would you be proud to wear a T-shirt saying “I only do it from 2 metres away”? Could we create a market for 6 foot long shepherds’ crooks to be used to keep others at their distance? Could we give those reluctant to leave home the confidence that they can do so safely?

What do you think? Who’s in?

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I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020 see here

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation, which is obviously made worse by the current pandemic. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, please get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

 

Calling Dr. Tech!

So Monday 18th May 2020 marks the first episode of the Dr. Tech Show. With the help of some friends, namely Sweyn Hunter and Pauline Roche, I’ll be broadcasting a live tech surgery on my YouTube Channel every Monday at 12 noon UK time.

This is something of an experiment. I’ve been trying to find a way to reach out to digitally excluded people and test ways of getting them online on a mass scale. For a long time, I have thought that BBC local radio is the best option. I still do, but radio stations have their own agendas and it is very difficult to get air time for this kind of thing. But, of course, the big irony is trying to use digital channels to reach out to people who don’t use digital channels. The Dr. Tech show (title taken from the nickname given to me by a BBC Radio Leeds presenter) will be a Zoom meeting live streamed on YouTube. By using Zoom, I am allowing the opportunity for people to join remotely via video conferencing, and the other thing about Zoom is that you can call in from any telephone, so that there is the possibility of someone who is digitally excluded calling in that way. I’d be very surprised if that happened. The inital target audience will be people who want to get their digitally excluded friends and relatives online but are struggling to do so.

To this end, I’ve been collecting stories of people’s efforts to get their digitally excluded relatives and friends communicating digitally during Covid-19 using the hashtag #LateAdopters on Twitter. And Pauline’s “Digital WM News” newsletter has lots of inspiring examples of how, in particular, voluntary organisations are using digital tools at the moment.

So, please join us for the first live Dr. Tech Show on YouTube on Monday 18th May. Click here to join the show. And please get in touch if you’d like to be part of the show. See you on Monday!

EDIT

Here is Episode 1 of the show

 

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I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020 see here

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation, which is obviously made worse by the current pandemic. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, please get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

Would the UK be better served by an Online Parliament?

A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch some of the debate in Parliament about how that institution is moving to hosting its business online during Coronavirus Lockdown. I found the whole thing immensely depressing. The first thing to note was that the MPs were having to debate this in the House of Commons Chamber, although all duly socially distanced from each other. The second point that struck me was how every speaker I heard went to great pains to stress that any new measures introduced would be strictly temporary. A number of MPs (from all sides of the House) waxed lyrical about what a wonderful place Parliament was, and how it would be impossible to do their jobs if they weren’t there every day.

Now I agree that the Houses of Parliament is a wonderful place. I’ve been there numerous times, and I never fail to be impressed by the grandeur and history of the place, although a lot of that grandeur and history is false as the majority of the buildings were actually constructed in the mid nineteenth century to a faux medieval design. But it’s an awe-inspiring place, and it must take a while to get used to it if you work there. But, is sending thousands of people (I’m including all those who work there, not just MPs and Lords) to an out-dated building in the most expensive part of the country a good use of our resources? And is it the best way of ensuring our interests are represented? From my point of view a lot of the reasons MPs gave in the debate for needing to be in the physical institution are not necessarily healthy. There was talk of bumping into Ministers in the corridor, and chatting to officials in the tea rooms, all valid ways of getting things done in the Palace of Westminster. But are they the best ways of practising democracy? Do they lead to open decision making? Or do they give potentially unfair advantages to those who can play those kinds of games over those who can’t? 

I think it is undeniable that moving Parliament’s workings to a largely online operation would amount to huge cost savings. It’s equally undeniable that a lot would be lost in this process. But could anyone logically argue that the things we would lose are (a) essential and (b) value for money? If we were inventing Parliamentary democracy from scratch today, would we design it as it exists in the UK now? Could it be better for democracy if MPs spent nearly all their time in their constituencies with a few hours each day on video calls with each other and Ministers, and maybe a day a week attending a physical Parliament? 

The coronavirus lockdown has revealed quite a few things our society has shied away from until it has to confront them. One of these facts is that it is a lot easier to work from home than a lot of people, particularly, employers, had envisaged. The rise in popularity of Zoom has also introduced people to the concept of live-streamed online meetings to a much greater extent than before. Parliament is, belatedly, taking advantage of these developments; but it appears to be doing so reluctantly, and with big caveats about this all being a temporary move. I think questions need to be asked about the costs associated with running Parliament as a totally physical entity. These questions are particularly pertinent because we know we are heading to a period when Parliament will need to relocate so that the Palace of Westminster can be brought up to modern standards. I think that the very least we should be asking for is that plans for an expensive temporary replication of current Westminster arrangements be scrapped and that members be required to work from home during this time. That will provide a further interval during which they will be able to get more used to remote arrangements and more skilled in using them. After that, I can’t see how we could possibly go back to how things were before March 2020.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments below.

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I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020 see here

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation, which is obviously made worse by the current pandemic. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, please get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

Simple tools for community engagement

I’ve pulled this post out of my drafts folder where it has sat for more than a year. I thought it deserved to see the light of day. Obviously, don’t do this until Lockdown is well and truly over

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April 2019

Yesterday I was doing some community consultation work in Birkby, Huddersfield, on behalf of the social enterprise I work with, Locorum Ltd.

The Lark in the Park, in Norman Park was a lovely little event, which achieved considerable success in bringing together a community which has had more than its fair share of trauma recently.

There were two tools which really provided the catalyst for conversation and interaction. One was some lovely food, served at very reasonable prices. Food is always good for stimulating exchanges between people.

The other tool was a bit more surprising; a simple piece of rope. Someone produced a length of rope and started an impromptu tug-of-war competition. Teams were formed and their supporters gathered round to cheer them on. This was the biggest success of the day in terms of bringing people together, starting some social bonding, and encouraging interaction.

Sometimes the most simple tools are the most effective. Remember this when you are trying to get people to interact with each other.

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Meanwhile back in May 2020

I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2020 see here

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation, which is obviously made worse by the current pandemic. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, please get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

Living with Cancer in the time of Coronavirus

These are strange times. Living through the current Coronavirus crisis is something probably nearly all of us could never have envisaged. Living through it while undergoing cancer treatment is even more surreal.

As I have now finished my Radiotherapy treatment and have a date for my Surgery (21st May), I thought this was a good time to reflect on where I have got to.

It was only 2 months ago, but the day I got my cancer diagnosis almost seems like it happened in a different world now, Of course, in late February we knew something was amiss, but, even after the diagnosis I carried on working as normal, videoing events in Reading and London, and delivering a workshop in Glasgow, which involved my first ever trip on a sleeper train. In the runup to my first Radiotherapy session I had to negotiate with various people in the NHS about getting transport to the sessions. Although we were not yet in lockdown, I was increasingly uneasy at the prospect of travelling from Huddersfield to Leeds by train and then getting a bus from Leeds Railway Station to the hospital 25 times. After the intervention of my GP it was eventually agreed that I could get NHS-provided transport to each session. And that has been something of an illustration of the changes that Covid-19 has brought about. For the first few sessions the NHS transport consisted of an ordinary taxi, and usually involved detours to pick and drop off other patients on the route. Then it switched to always being an NHS Patient Transport ambulance, but still with other patients on board, and then, for the remainder of sessions, it was always me as the only patient, as the NHS policy switched to one patient per vehicle. It wasn’t always an ambulance as the army of volunteers recruited to help the NHS during coronavirus kicked in, and I met some lovely people who were giving up their own time and using their own vehicles to add to the NHS’ resources in these troubled times. A couple of times I even had to do some impromptu digital inclusion work as new volunteers struggled to come to terms with their mobile phone-based reporting systems and satnavs. But 25 times I travelled to St. James’s Hospital in Leeds, and 25 times I came home again.

The Radiotherapy itself was pretty straightforward. You lie on a bed and are strapped into a mask which is designed to make sure you don’t move during the treatment (mine is pictured above). The machine rotates around your head, and then emits a concentrated dose of radiation into the targeted area for about 5 minutes. I never experienced any kind of discomfort during the sessions. I did, however, experience some side-effects, although it is difficult to distinguish which of these are directly attributable to the Radiotherapy, and which could be caused by the multitude of strong painkillers I have been taking throughout the period. The painkillers were necessary because the cancerous tumour was impacting on my nerves causing intense pain. But, whatever the cause, I have had bouts of nausea at various points during the treatment, as well as times of extreme tiredness. There was one particular weekend, early on, when, without the discipline of having to get up for Radiotherapy, I slept for the majority of the two days.

And as the treatment progressed, the lump and the area around it got more and more sore. For the last two weeks, or so, I had to visit the nurses after every Radiotherapy session to have what became an increasingly elaborate dressing applied to protect the skin and reduce the soreness. I, of course, put up with this because it’s a necessary part of banishing the cancer.

And so, things have progressed quite quickly in the past week. On the day following the end of the Radiotherapy I met with the Surgeon who will be doing the operation to remove my tumour. At that point I was told it was likely to be 6 weeks before the surgery could take place. Two days later I got a phone call to say that, pending a satisfactory outcome to an examination on 19th May, the surgery would actually be conducted on 21st May, so the 6 weeks has been truncated to three. The surgery will involve removing the tumour and grafting skin from my back onto my arm. I will need to spend a week in hospital, part of which will be spent draining the wound. Following that, I am told that it should take around a month to regain most of the function of my left arm. And, as I may have indicated, I am left-handed.

So, I am approaching the surgery with a certain amount of trepidation as well as impatience as I want to get it all over with. The only other surgery I have had was 20 years ago on a broken leg, and I don’t have good memories of that with, in particular, the intense pain I felt after waking up, plus the fact that the shape of my oesophagus resulted in a tear caused by the anaesthetic tube which, to this day, causes me to experience acid reflux. I have made sure that the medics are aware of that latter factor. But the fact that the end of the process, and, hopefully, the end of my cancer, has been brought forward is a sense of relief to me. Apart from anything else I need to get back to earning an income.

And that brings me back to Coronavirus. Who knows where we will be in June / July when I should be back to full health? One thing that is pretty likely however is that conferences in the traditional sense will be thin on the ground. I will need to pivot what I do, but, above all else, I hope to have my health, and that overrides everything else.

There are a small amount of lovely people who have been providing me with some financial assistance to help me get through this situation. I won’t say who they are because I am not sure they want me to publicise it; but I am extremely grateful.

If you feel like helping me out in any way, pleas get in touch or you can support me on a regular basis via Patreon or as a one-off here.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all again when this is all over.

 

Hardwiring Kindness and Compassion into Service-Delivery

Did you ever get that feeling that what you do has suddenly become a lot more personally relevant? I’ve always believed in “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Since my cancer diagnosis this adage seems all the more pertinent. And then the coronavirus panic set in and all of a sudden I realise that I am in a vulnerable category. So the reality is, that I am self-isolating. And yet I have to travel from my home in Huddersfield to Leeds every weekday for radiotherapy. A dilemma. I am so grateful for the NHS transport which gets me there and back every day.

If you read this blog regularly and follow my work elsewhere, you will know that I am an advocate of kindness and human compassion in everything we do, in public services and in all our inter-actions. And I’ve written in the past how these qualities get emphasised during incidents such as heavy snow and flooding and at times of the year like Christmas. The advent of Coronavirus has brought all this to the fore again, especially with the emphasis on older people and people with longterm sickness being more vulnerable. Social media, TV, radio and newspapers are filled with exhortations to look out for vulnerable people who might be self-isolating. Now supermarkets are having protected times for older customers to visit so they can avoid the panic-buying crowds. Heart-warming, isn’t it?

But how long will this public compassion survive the end of this crisis? Can we bake humanity into the actions of our organisations, institutions and policies. What if every single person evaluated their every action at work to see how they would feel if it was being done to them? What if their organisations supported them in making the changes necessary to make this a reality?

Let’s not go back to how it was before.

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While you are here, can I please ask you to take a minute to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

If you would like to support me to do more of my work in using Digital Storytelling, social media, and video for social good, please consider making a regular contribution via Patreon or perhaps, just buy me a coffee here. I would be especially grateful for this support as I enter my cancer treatment phase.

Is Devolution really “taking power from Westminster”?

I’ve just seen the West Yorkshire devolution deal described as “taking power from Westminster”. This raises a number of questions, a couple of which are (a) is it really taking power?; and (b) who in West Yorkshire has taken this power?

The West Yorkshire devolution deal has been haggled over for years, and is one of the last “devolution” deals to be agreed between Westminster and local politicians. It is an agreement. And I am 100% sure that it would not have been agreed at all if politicians in Whitehall hadn’t approved every last detail of it. Is this really taking power? I don’t think so. The UK is one of the most centralised states in the world. No subordinate body, beit a Parish Council or the West Yorkshire Combined Authority does anything without the sanction of the national government. And now this national government claims to be giving away power. The devolution deal sets out the terms in which that power is to be given away. It maps out very clear perameters within which the money it is supposedly handing over can be spent. So, in reality, the power stays where it has always been, in Westminster. And you can be pretty sure that if the local bodies deviate in any way from the agreement, then the money won’t be forthcoming.

And to answer my second question. The local body to which the power is supposedly being transferred is the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Who? I hear you ask. Precisely. Next year we are to be privileged enough to get the opportunity to elect a Mayor to head up this body, and that might give it a raise in profile and focal point, but, up to now, most people in West Yorkshire will not have heard of the Combined Authority, let alone know who makes up its membership. So, even if we accept that power is indeed being transferred (which I don’t), do we know who the people are who exercise this power on our behalf?

The flagship project which these new powers and money are to be deployed on is a rapid transit scheme (tram network to you and me). It would be great to have such an initiative in place, it would solve a lot of problems. But, if the power was really being handed over to the people of West Yorkshire, would this be their priority? What about having enough money to put food on the table? What about social care? What about better and cheaper buses? There are probably very many issues which the public would want to be tackled before we got to putting trams on the region’s streets. But oh, the powers over those issues are not being devolved. So is this devolution worth having in any case?

What do you think?

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While you are here, can I please ask you to take a minute to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

If you would like to support me to do more of my work in using Digital Storytelling, social media, and video for social good, please consider making a regular contribution via Patreon or perhaps, just buy me a coffee here. I would be especially grateful for this support as I enter my cancer treatment phase.

Practice what you preach (sub-title: I’ve got Cancer)

For more than 10 years now I have been advocating and practising the use of Digital Storytelling for social good. I have worked with professionals in the public and voluntary sectors and businesses to help them tell the stories of the differences they make to individuals and communities, and I have worked with people who have turned their lives around and changed track. I passionately believe that these approaches can be effective in making the world a better place, gaining support for effective approaches, and helping people find solidarity from others in similar situations. I have been a particular champion of people telling the stories of how they deal with certain health conditions so others can learn the lessons they have.

So, it would be hypocritical of me not to practice what I preach wouldn’t it? Well I think it would, and that’s why I am here telling you that last Friday (February 28th 2020) I was told that I have cancer. I was told in a very reassuring manner, and I was immediately told that the doctors think that it is extremely likely that I will fully recover from it, but, nevertheless, I was told something that nobody wants to hear. I have a cancerous tumour in my left armpit. A small lump that I noticed some time ago recently started growing rapidly, and then it started causing me pain, which has got more acute by the week. So, last Friday, I found myself sat in front of a cancer specialist at St. James’s Hospital in Leeds as he told me something that I had been expecting to hear after a series of tests of differing natures. I was expecting it by then because I don’t think you get to meet cancer specialists face-to-face if you are going to be told that you don’t have cancer and have never had it.

The doctor set out the treatment options, which were basically a choice between an operation to remove the tumour followed by a course of radiotherapy; or a course of radiotherapy followed by the operation. I asked what the difference would be, and was told that the former would be the option that got rid of the pain I am experiencing the quickest, but the latter offers the best likelihood of retaining as much of the function of my arm as possible. I chose the latter because my left arm is important to me, especially as I am left-handed.

So, on the 19th March I start a course of radiotherapy. This will involve me attending St. James’s Hospital for an hour-or-so every week day for 5 and a half weeks. Following that, there needs to be a four weeks’ resting period before I can have the operation. After that, the doctor has every confidence that I will be free of cancer.

So, it’s as simple as that really. Of course, nothing is ever certain, but I have faith in the NHS, and I really have no choice to be optimistic about the future. I have some short term pain and inconvenience to endure, and then it will all be back to normal. That’s how I am viewing it, any way.

The biggest immediate issues, are 1) the pain, which can be pretty intense at times, but the doctors have been prescribing increasingly powerful painkillers, which are more or less managing it now; and 2) the inconvenience and disruption of having to spend part of every week day for 5½ weeks in a hospital more than 20 miles away from where I live.

I’ll take those inconveniences, however, if it means that the cancer is dealt with. I’d like to mention that my family, particularly my wife, Portia, have been immensely supportive, and that all this is much easier to deal with knowing that I have their support.

Work-wise, I am going to carry on working through this, so if you, or anyone you know, has a need for digital storytelling, video, live-streaming, or social media support services, please get in touch. It is ironic that I was in too much pain a few days ago to attend a meeting about setting up a support mechanism for self-employed people unable to work (this was before my pain meds were increased). I have no choice but to carry on working, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Since my diagnosis I have live-streamed a two-day conference, as well as live-streaming an evening event in London, jumping on the sleeper train to Glasgow, and delivering a digital inclusion workshop in that Scottish city the next day. I am still capable of working to full capacity and will continue to do so.

And, I will be digital storytelling my way through the process of dealing with my cancer. I hope that, by doing so, I will be able to be of some help to those going through similar challenges.

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While you are here, can I please ask you to take a minute to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

If you would like to support me to do more of my work in using Digital Storytelling, social media, and video for social good, please consider making a regular contribution via Patreon or perhaps, just buy me a coffee here.

 

2020 Vision

Sorry, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a little while. Is it too late in the year to reluctantly add to the myriad of “looking forward to the New Year” articles?

2019 was the first year for a while when I didn’t run some kind of #ConnectedChristmas campaign. After a number of years of attempting to prove that technology can be used to connect socially isolated people together at the time of year when loneliness tends to be highlighted by the media, I decided to give it a rest for at least a year having really struggled to achieve traction with what I was doing in 2018. The activities I ran that year confirmed to me that the people who have remained resistent to new technologies are becoming tougher nuts to crack in their reluctance to engage. It gets harder and harder to find the killer application which will open people’s eyes to what technology can do for them if they have made an active decision to avoid it. Some of these people have had bad experiences of previous attempts to engage them. Others have looked at what their friends and family are doing and have decided it’s not for them. I documented here back in 2012 how some people just don’t want to learn new things, and technology is just one of a long list of things that they are determined to avoid. This has reinforced my belief that we need to step back from seeking to push technology at people, and look at the earlier steps of encouraging a culture of lifelong learning. #FOMO (fear of missing out) is a well-established concept, paticularly among younger people, and on social media, and one of the tactics we can deploy with older people is the sense that their younger friends and family are doing things they are excluded from.

And the other thing that working with older people on new technologies has taught me is that a lot of people exhibit behaviours which prevent them from making friendships. They may be socially isolated, they may even recognise this and want to do something about it; but the way they behave keeps people at arm’s length.

So, 2020 is the year when I want to make a reality of my longterm ambition of creating an independent technology advice service for older people. Over the past 12 years I have seen lots of examples of technology solutions aimed specifically at older people, to varying degrees of success. Most of them have failed to gain sufficient adoption to succeed in the long run. I love working with people who are passionately creating a bespoke service, and I hope to work with many more in the future, but a key issue for me remains how do we get the mainstream technologies that already have widespread adoption to get more traction with older people. In most cases, there are apps and technologies (whether it be Facebook, Facetime, or Netflix), which younger friends and family are using and which older people can join in with given a bit of prompting, coaching, and encouragement. I wrote here about Facebook’s Portal and whether that might be a new, simplified, route to videoconferencing which people uncomfortable with other forms of new technologies might find easier to adopt. But the thing about Portal, is it’s relatively expensive, so the other aspect of what I am seeking to do is to find and test those technologies which can reduce the costs of joining the online world, but which actually work and are straightforward to use. The video below is an example of the kind of thing I am talking about.

 

So, here is what I want to do in 2020.

  • YouTube reviews of technology which is reasonably priced, easy to use, and likely to enhance older people’s lives;
  • Funding to offer independent technology advice sessions in shopping centres, community venues, and in conjuction with initiatives such as Repair Cafes;
  • Funding for a technology helpline

Please get in touch if you can help with any of these ambitions.

 

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