Podcast: Tom Murtha on How Social Housing saved his life, and giving a platform to views of a certain kind

Tom Murtha, a well-respected senior figure in the social housing movement, caused a few waves recently when he twice walked out on speakers at the Homes for Britain rally. So, for my latest Podcast, I wanted to ask him why he did this, and why he thinks giving platforms to people with certain views is potentially damaging to the housing sector.

We also discussed Tom’s wide-ranging career in social housing, and how he believes he owes his life to social housing and to the advent of the NHS.

I interviewed Tom over Skype, which was Tom’s first experience of using the tool. It all went (largely) remarkably well, as you will hear:

 

The First Digital Makeover

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Well, we did it! The first Digital Makeover is complete. Helen Reynolds and myself are offering organisational Digital Makeovers in which we go in and try to reach every part of the company with some digital magic over the course of 2 days.

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We had a great time working with some wonderful people at Yorkshire Coast Homes. The feedback was fantastic, the energy of the staff and board members we worked with was infectious, and it all carried us through the barrier of tiredness which hit us towards the end of the second day. We even managed to fit in a great Tweetup on the Monday evening, which allowed us to make further contact with some of the Scarborough digital community.

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Here’s the Storify of the 2 days http://sfy.co/a0Lbe

Having done one, we are desperate to do more. It’s such a fantastic way of working. If you’d like us to visit you next, please email us at enquiries@powerplayers.info

Making Digital Inclusion Mainstream

Digital is vital, it is central, it is at the heart of so much the majority of us do.

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But, as we know, that is not true for a significant, if dwindling, numbers of people. I believe it’s important that we help as many of these people as possible to realise the benefits from digital as the rest of us do. But I continue to be frustrated at the way many go about this.

Digital is vital, central and fun. Why then separate it off from the rest of life?

To an extent I am reiterating here, but maybe the message is not getting through.  This is what I believe we need to do to make Digital Inclusion mainstream:

  • stop separating it off from other activities. If you’re an agency that believes digitally including the people you work with is important, then demonstrate that. Don’t make it the responsibility of one person or one division. Your organisation needs to be imbued with digital, your staff need to be digitally skilled and enthusiastic about it, and they need to want to pass both the enthusiasm and the skills on. Have a look at Halton Housing’s Digital First programme.
  • most of us use digital for fun activities. People’s introduction should be fun, or of personal value, or, preferably both. Stop sitting people in front of computers (give them tablets instead) and making them fill forms in, or complete courses. Show them where the fun is, and where they can find information on their personal interests.
  • go to where people are, don’t expect them to come to you. Stop putting all your digital inclusion resources in rooms that people have no reason to visit; go to where they are and want to be. Have a look at Leeds Federated Housing Association’s HUGO project.
  • Digital Inclusion and community development should be aligned. Digital is so important to well-being and quality of life that I fail to understand how any community development strategy can be pursued which doesn’t put it at the centre. And the techniques of community development are vital to coaxing people to take their first steps in the digital world. Look at the work of Communities 2.0 in Wales.
  • Digital Inclusion is not a one-off hit. People need continuing support. And this support is best received if it comes from people like them. We need many more volunteer digital mentors on the model of the Making IT Personal project.

Digital inclusion needs to be fun, integrated, and sustained. And it need not cost a fortune.

Cricket & Social Media – Conversations aided by food

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Last night was the first Huddersfield session in the  Cricket and Social Media project I am running with the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board). When I devised the format for these workshops I borrowed the idea of kicking off with a discussion over a curry from the Social Care Curry movement.

So the Huddersfield workshops began at Saims Restaurant. And, judging from what people said at the end, and on twitter later on, it proved to be a great success.

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This proves my theory that food is a great facilitator for conversations. Now all I need to do is to persuade all my clients to build a curry into every project I do.

 

 

Cricket & Social Media – Building on Community

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Last night was the first session of the Cricket & Social Media work I am doing with the ECB (England & Wales Cricket Board). I’m running 3 social media workshops for people involved in local cricket clubs and leagues in each of Bradford and Huddersfield. The intention of this work is to ensure that those who play cricket regularly can make the most of social media to engage those who might be casual players, in danger of dropping out, or not know where to go to join a club.

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The first session in each location takes place over a curry as a convivial start to the process which breaks the ice and gets the conversation flowing. And last night’s event, held at Omar Khan’s restaurant in Bradford proved to be a great kick off to the process. We had 25 people in attendance, from a wide variety of clubs, and the conversation was wide-ranging. It was evident that some people are already making use of social media, and there is much to build on in terms of experience, content, enthusiasm and ideas. There are so many benefits to be had from regular involvement in the game, and, over the next few weeks, we are working out the best ways to promote and sell these benefits to those who might be undecided about them.

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A key issue which came out of last night’s session was how to discourage people from inappropriate “banter” on public fora associated with the clubs. This kind of thing is a minority activity, but nonetheless important for clubs who are trying to build and maintain their reputation, and, in particular, who are trying to attract young people to get involved. And this presents particular issues for clubs whose members are volunteers and not in a position to monitor what takes place in their social media spaces 24 hours a day. Cricket clubs are essentially communities, and one our key aims in this initiative to extend this community spirit into online spaces.

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I think we’ve made a great start on this process, and I look forward to telling you more about our progress over the coming few weeks.

Engaging with your neighbourhood or the world via your TV screen

I came across this video via Twitter a couple of days ago. It’s a marketing campaign run by Norwegian Airways promoting its new service from Oslo to New York. They have fixed a remote camera to the roof of a special taxi cab in New York City, and installed a touchscreen in a shopping centre in Oslo from which people can manipulate the camera as well as speaking to the occupants of the cab.

OK, it’s a marketing campaign. But I think its a very clever one, and, for me, its important in highlighting some of the possibilities of technology. In the context of the work I have been doing with older people (see here), it shows what can be done in terms of giving people real-time, remote, access to things that are going on elsewhere. There’s some quite sophisticated, and no doubt expensive, tech involved in this campaign, but similar things can be done with much less expensive kit. You could have done something fairly similar to this, if a bit less flashy, with a couple of smartphones.

The event I attended at the House of Lords last week further convinced me that one of the keys to engaging older people with technology is the use of smart TVs, or the adaptation of existing TVs. Something like the Chromecast, can convert a TV into a smart device for only £30, and it will allow people to watch much more engaging, tailored, and interactive content than that currently pumped out by the mainstream TV channels.  Controlling a New York taxicam from Oslo may generate headlines, but I believe far more social good can be generated by engaging people in what happens in their neighbourhoods or interest groups using similar methods.

Using Technology to reconnect older people with their communities

These are some more thoughts on using technology to benefit older people based on my Connected Christmas experience.

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I’ve been struck by meeting a number of older people who are actually quite fit and healthy, but who seem to have slipped into a way of behaviour that is almost “expected” of them by society. Like the gentleman I met in Urmston who told me that his confidence has gone, and that means he rarely goes out or socialises in the lounge of the sheltered accommodation complex where he lives. I firmly believe that we can use new technologies to re-engage people like this with their communities, and to allow those who are not so mobile to have some degree of contact with what goes on around them. Instead of people sitting at home, or in a care home, a day centre, or sheltered accommodation lounge, depressing themselves by absorbing the latest bit of back-biting or family-feuding from the TV soap operas, why not engage with something local which has the potential to contribute positively to their lives?

I think these are compelling reasons for increased efforts to to get local community organisations to use social media, live video streaming, podcasting and other methods to cover local events. At Urmston, the video pub crawl proved particularly engaging, suggesting that even simple video tours of the neighbourhood could help to re-acquaint people with their surroundings and increase their sense of engagement with their communities and their former lives. And what could be achieve using gadgets such as Oculus Rift to immerse people in the lives of communities they formerly had strong ties with?

As I often argue, I think we can use technology to “re-humanise” society, rather than going along with the dystopian predictions of everyone forgetting the personal connections while they stare at screens. This is something I think we need to work on, urgently.

 

Cricket and Social Media

New Year, New Project.

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I am very pleased to announce that I will be working with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over the next couple of months to assist grassroots cricketers to make better use of social media to celebrate what they do, and, crucially, to reach out to what the ECB defines as “occasional” and “cameo” players (i.e. those with varying degrees of commitment to playing the game regularly), with a view to engaging them more fully in the activities of their clubs and leagues.

Participation in cricket is declining, and the key aim of this work is to try to address that by encouraging club cricketers to use social media in imaginative ways to raise the profile of the benefits of playing the game on a regular basis.

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This is a pilot initiative, and during January and February, I will be running a programme of 3 evening workshops for club cricketers in each of the Bradford and Huddersfield areas. If this goes well, then there is a strong possibility of extending it into other areas. And the first session in each of the workshop programmes will be an informal discussion over a curry, an idea that I have unashamedly pinched from the Social Care Curry movement.

I am very excited about this, and also grateful to Twitter-friend Graham Hyde for mentioning my name to the ECB. I’ve been a cricket-nut since a small child and I am really happy to be able to combine my loves of cricket and social media. Watch this space for reports of progress.