Announcing AgeCamp

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UPDATE: AgeCamp 2016 will take place on Monday 4th April at the Shay Stadium, Halifax, West Yorkshire

 

As you probably know, I have been working on initiatives to assist older citizens to use social and mobile technologies for a while now. It’s a frustrating field of work, frustrated on so many fronts by:

  • the reality of technophobia among older people (which IS a reality, but is often vastly over-stated)
  • technophobia among the staff of organisations working with older people (which can often be a bigger problem than that of the older people themselves)
  • inertia in the system, and reluctance to adopt new ways of working
  • risk aversion
  • lack of equipment and infrastructure in institutions, centres, and people’s homes
  • focus on the crucial role of telehealth and telecare equipment, which can often crowd out the potentially important role of social and mobile tech.

Often it can feel a lonely business, trying to get recognition of both the need for older people to use social and mobile technologies, and to get into the system to try it out with them.

So, I’m announcing AgeCamp, an unconference for people working with older citizens. This will be an opportunity for anyone who works with older people (and older people themselves) to get together in a mutually supportive environment, discuss their issues and plan joint responses. And, this is meant in no way to be an event which focuses exclusively on technology. Any issues about working with older people are open for discussion. So, if you want to re-invent the care home, or start a community minibus service, all topics are welcome.

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If you’ve never been to an unconference, here’s a pretty good description of how they work. AgeCamp will be led by the attendees, there will be no fixed agenda in advance, you come along, you pitch an idea, and if at least one more person wants to talk about it, you have a session (in fact you can run a session on your own if you really want to!).

Date

I don’t have a date or a venue sorted yet. (UPDATE: The first AgeCamp will be on 4th April 2016)

Venue

See above. Maybe someone could offer a venue, that would be great. (UPDATE: Courtesy of Calderdale Council, the venue will be in Halifax, at The Shay Stadium)

Sponsorship

I am also looking for sponsors. We need sponsorship for venue hire, catering, maybe some travel bursaries, and for post session drinks. This will be a great opportunity for people with products or services relevant to older people to promote themselves to a range of people working in the sector.

Please get in touch, using the form below, if you can help with any of these issues, or if you just want to get involved and make AgeCamp happen.

See you at AgeCamp!

“Non-Core” – An Urgent Call to Save Social Housing’s added value services

The last few months have not been good for social housing. Or at least not good for those who believe that low-cost rented accommodation provides people on low incomes with a vital bit of stability in their lives. It has become clear that the current government doesn’t share this view, and, indeed, as Jules Birch pointed out recently, it appears that their view is that social housing actively contributes to people’s poverty by diverting them from the aspiration of owning their own homes. Whether you share this latter belief or not, you cannot ignore that major changes are happening in the sector, with funding being shifted away from subsidising rents to encouraging low-cost home ownership, a 1% rent cut being imposed across the board, and Right-to-Buy being extended to housing association tenants, albeit the latter now being arranged via a “voluntary” agreement brokered by the National Housing Federation rather than by legislation.

And now housing magazine “Inside Housing” has produced a survey [paywall] which suggests that 72.1% of social landlords are cutting back on “non-core” activities as a result of the changed situation. They have decided that reduced funding and an uncertain policy environment mean that concentrating on managing the bricks and mortar is their best chance of survival. And so, community development, employment generation, and digital inclusion are just some of the activities which are being jettisoned as the hatches are battened down.

But if social landlords are not going to deliver these services who is? It can be argued that people who live in social housing need these services more than ever in the current climate, and, certainly in the case of digital inclusion, cutting back on such services is classic cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face territory, as the advent of Universal Credit will severely threaten landlords’ ability to collect rents if tenants are unable to manage their finances online. And I can tell you this is happening as I am experiencing loss of work myself as organisations disinvest from such actions.

Local government is hardly in a position to step in and pick up these services as it has experienced its own series of drastic cuts since 2010. And, despite the current Prime Minister’s early championing of the Big Society, it has always been clear that unpaid voluntary activity thrives in leafy suburbs and villages, not necessarily on social housing estates. So, activities which aid tenants’ well-being, incomes, and ability to pay their rents are starting to disappear. This will surely exacerbate the situation.

Something needs to be done about this. I am therefore starting a “Non-Core Watch”. If you know of a social landlord cutting back on activities which improve tenants’ lives beyond the provision of a house then please describe it in the comments below, and raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #noncore. We need to understand what is happening and begin to organise action to save such services before it is too late for our communities.

Where is your passion?

While walking the dog this morning I heard an interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme with one of the victims of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal. Towards the end of the interview she questioned the motivations of some of the officials who had failed to act when she had approached them with complaints. She said, “if you do a job you should do it because you are passionate about it. Where was their passion? Where was their desire to save children’s lives?”

I often question how we have come to a way of organising society which treats far too many people as wage slaves who spend their days wishing for the clock hands to come round to 5pm so they can escape their drudgery. I myself have experienced having my passion for making the world a better place crushed out of me by risk-averse management and structures. Does it really need to be like this?

There are oh so many factors behind the Rotherham situation, but a good part of it must be down to organisational cultures, where people who did want to make a difference were blocked or squeezed out of the system to avoid rocking the boat. I know, I’ve been there.

So, if you are a manager, please think about what you are doing to allow people to flourish in your organisation and to pursue their passions. Passionate people make good employees. Compliant and subservient people do not. And, if you are an employee who is being prevented from following your passions, then, if you can, get out now and find somewhere where you can be happy in your work.

#ageingdigital – Pushing through the frustrations

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On Tuesday, 30 or so of us gathered at Age UK’s headquarters in London to discuss the issue of using technology to improve the quality of older people’s lives. The story of what happened on the day is here.

It was a great event with lots of passionate discussion, and not a little frustration being expressed. The really big frustration is that relatively large sums of money are being dedicated to older people’s quality of life initiatives with no mention of technology in their plans. This has been true recently of the Big Lottery’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme, worth £78m, as it has of the £50m investment the same body made into the Centre for Ageing Better. The room on Tuesday was full of the frustration of people struggling to help older people benefit from the digital world on small resources. Key messages from the day included:

  • Nobody is too old to benefit from new technologies – we should stop assuming they are;
  • Many of the older people who express no interest in new technologies radically change their view when the possibilities are demonstrated to them.

If you still don’t believe this last point, then, please just watch the TV series “OAP Internet Virgins”.

I made an appeal at the event for suggestions on how to engage with organisations that lead policy on ageing. Freelancers like me don’t have the resources to spend lots of time lobbying people face to face. But, if organisations are immune to any kind of digital engagement, then how else can we do this?

David Wilcox has written a great post on where we go from here. From my point of view I will carry on doing the work I have developed so far (see here for some examples), and will be helping to curate online conversations around the hashtag #ageingdigital. I’m also thinking of starting a regular series of live Hangouts on the subject, please shout out if you would like to participate in these.

The Social CEO – The Future of Leadership

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One of the highlights for me of the brilliant HouseParty event last month was the Fireside chat on being a Social CEO by Lisa Pickard, Chief Executive of Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association. I was fascinated to hear Lisa’s journey, through using social media to becoming one of the best known UK social housing Chief Executives on Twitter. Of course, it is true of a chief executive, as it is true of anyone else really, that their online presence basically reflects their everyday personality, and it is pretty impossible to graft a sociable online presence onto a antisocial person. But it is equally true that not every sociable person understands the importance of a social media presence, or of making it more than just a link farm.

The advent of social media is changing what it means to be a leader in the 21st Century, and Lisa is just one example of a leader who has grasped this fact and is making use of it. In the modern world leadership does not come about through status, it comes from what a leader says and does, and how this is conveyed to others. Thus there are many examples of people who have come to be seen as leaders even though their position in traditional hierarchies might not suggest such. And social media can be scary for senior managers, used to being deferred to because of their status, who have to start from scratch with zero followers and take time to build online influence.

There is no doubt in my mind that this investment in time is worth it however, and that people who embrace social media are better leaders. Lisa herself said that she now felt that her small housing association was punching above its weight because of her profile on social media.

Inspired by Lisa, and some of the other leaders I know such as Nick Atkin, Shaun Tymon, and Jen Barfoot, I have for some time been putting together a programme for a workshop on being a Social CEO. Having formulated the programme, I then approached a number of organisations which run seminars to see if they would be interesting in collaborating on it. The response I got surprised me. It was, in effect, that they were not prepared to take the risk on it as they didn’t believe that a group of chief executives would ever sit in the same room and admit that they didn’t have all the answers. If this is true it is disappointing. Maybe it illustrates the point that some make that traditional hierarchies are threatened by social media, and that the people at the top are threatened more than most. But those, like Lisa, Nick, Shaun and Jen (sorry to those I am missing out), who have embraced it are reaping the benefits. Those who are not yet on board might well find their position being undermined, both by other, forward-thinking organisations, and by those within their own institutions who get it.

So, what do you think? Is the idea of a workshop for SocialCEOs a non-starter. Or should I just go ahead and do it?

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General Election 2015 – Touring the Polling Stations

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It’s a matter of extreme frustration to me that the benefits that digital technology is bringing to all our lives are seemingly not allowed to touch the world of politics. And so it is that most of us will pick up a piece of card which came through the letterbox a few weeks ago and trudge off to a drafty school hall to place a cross on a piece of paper.

I think younger people in particular find this ridiculous, and it is a reason why many of them don’t vote. We need secure, online voting, and we need it well before the next General Election.

So, to highlight this absurdity, I have decided to spend a substantial part of this General Election Day touring the 10 nearest Polling Stations to my house. And I’ll be doing this on foot. I expect to have to buy a new pair of shoes by the end of the day. I’ll be recording my reflections on the way.

Watch out for the updates, on my Twitter account.

See you later. And, whoever you support, or don’t want to get in. Vote!

Here is the map of the polling stations. It is on Google Maps at https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zPzr7KA767V8.khe9J9CRM4Dk

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Stories not Statistics

You know me I like stories. I promote storytelling; particularly Digital Storytelling.

I am constantly being told that evidence is what matters. That you cannot tell stories without evidence. Well, that may be true…. but….

Most people would agree that social housing and the people who live in it have been unfairly stigmatised. Despite all the efforts to get social housing to be a key issue in the 2015 General Election, whenever the subject of housing is raised, the politicians end up arguing over which party does most to promote home ownership. It’s like Mrs. Thatcher’s oft quoted view that anyone over 30 who uses a bus is a failure. She also changed the paradigm so that society’s prevailing view is that anyone who doesn’t own their own home is a failure, or at least that is what everyone should be aspiring to.

And so, social housing tenants are stigmatised, and the media pile in reinforcing this stereotype by pumping out poverty porn like “Benefits Street”, “How to Get a Council House”, “Skint”, and “Immigration Street”.  And still, people tell me that he only way to counter this view is by producing evidence to the contrary. And the evidence they want to produce comes in the form of reports, statistics and infographics.

But, stop to think for a moment. Where is the evidence that backs up the viewpoint promoted by the purveyors of poverty porn? It’s not there. They go out, they find a story they want to tell, and they tell that story, whatever the evidence might suggest. And they are the ones whose world view prevails. The public is not interested in evidence. If they were, news channels would have larger viewing figures than soap operas.

So, please; by all means produce your reports, your statistics, and your infographics. But don’t kid yourself that any of this wins hearts and minds. It’s the stories of people living happy and productive lives in social housing that will be much more persuasive.

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:

 

Why I won’t be joining your Twitter Thunderclap

This is by way of explanation to the many people who ask me to join their Twitter Thunderclaps.

If you don’t know what a Twitter Thunderclap is, it’s a service whereby you can encourage people to sign up at a website, and then all the accounts which are subscribed send out the same tweet at the same time. It is used in support of campaigns.

I won’t be joining it because I hate it. I constantly tell people that social media is about being social. It’s about conversations. What happens when there is a Thunderclap is that people’s Twitter timelines get blitzed by hundreds or thousands of identical tweets. To me, this is a blunt instrument. It’s like loads of people running simultaneously into the room where I am and yelling at me. And what does it achieve? Only the people online at the time the Thunderclap goes out see it. The rest miss it completely. I suspect that only reason it persists is that most of the people who participate don’t actually see what happens. They are too busy doing other things.

To me, the essence of social media campaigning is engaging people in conversations about your cause. It is about building up momentum through posting different kinds of content over a period of time. It is about being engaging, being human, and being entertaining. I believe Thunderclaps are the antithesis of this. So I won’t be participating. And, I hope you will consider the impact of yelling at me in this way before you sign up for your next Thunderclap.

 

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 john.popham@johnpopham.com