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.

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.

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.

What a long trip to Cornwall taught me about the need for online access to events

Last week I was in Cornwall. A long way from home for me. I was there because I was delivering some Digital Inclusion training to the staff of Coastline Housing on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing. Cornwall is somewhere I have visited a handful of times for professional reasons over my working career, and I have also been there for holidays 3 or 4 times. Distance is a relative thing. Cornwall is a long way to travel for me, living in West Yorkshire, but it may not be so far for you wherever you are reading this. The geography of Britain means that the North of England can feel a long way from the seat of power in London, but, in the North of England, at least we have the advantage of some relatively fast connections to get to London and elsewhere (don’t get me started on HS2, though). Cornwall, on the other hand, is a peninsula. I was reminded during one of the sessions I ran, that Redruth, where we were, is 3 hours away from Bristol. So, you might travel to Bristol and think you are in the South West of England, but you can keep going for another 3 to 4 hours and still not fall into the sea. To get there, I took a train to Leeds, then spent 6 and-a-half hours on another train to Plymouth, and then another 90 minutes on a train from Plymouth to Redruth. If you live in Redruth and want to visit London, it will take you 5 hours on the train. It’s a long way from London, the Midlands, or the North of England to Plymouth, but the train gets there relatively quickly. Once the train leaves Plymouth and heads over the River Tamar into Cornwall it moves a lot more slowly and stops at every little rural station.

I could have flown to Cornwall, it takes not much more than an hour to fly from Manchester to Newquay. But Newquay is still quite a long way from Redruth and the logistics of getting from one place to the other proved difficult. So, after considering all the options, I decided to treat the challenge of spending nearly 9 hours (each way) on trains as an opportunity to get some work done. And I resolved not to complain about it, reasoning that this was an everyday occurrence for the people I was travelling to work with. But, during one of the sessions that I ran in Redruth, participants talked about how their geographic location hinders them; how they find it hard to get to conferences and events; and one particular story about a good practice visit to the North of England involving two hire cars and a plane journey. So, it seems, that even living day-to-day in a “remote” location doesn’t mean you can take the travel difficulties in your stride. In fact it probably means that you just don’t have access to a lot of opportunities that others take for granted.

None of this will come as any surprise to anyone who lives and works in a rural area, or somewhere else at distance from the main sources of population. It is a real issue. And yet it is an issue to which we have the solution. But it is a solution which is still not being used anywhere near as widely and effectively as it could be. Scroll back to earlier in the same week, I was in London (yes that place, the centre of power in Britain) live-streaming the Patients’ Association AGM (video below). That organisation commissioned me because they wanted to take their first steps towards ensuring that their business is accessible by their members wherever they are in the country. In an era when we have the ability to reach beyond the rooms we are in and invite others to join our discussions, why are so many organisations still resistant? This is a genuine question. I’ve been live-streaming events for close on ten years now but there are still too many organisations who don’t want to open up their events in this way. Not only that, but it’s very evident that if you live-stream an event in the evening or at a weekend you get a lot more engagement. And I think that is because people don’t feel able to watch live-streams while sat at their desk in the office. It’s not true that engaging with an event through a screen is the same as being in the room, but it is a good option if you can’t be there. I think people erect unnecessary barriers to engagement with events online, and I think we need to break down those barriers. I’ve long believed that the ability to reach out to anywhere in the world using the internet should change the way we work. In the context of organisations such as the Patients’ Association, their mission is to involve people in influencing how health services are delivered, and that is more effectively done if they are reaching out to members wherever they are.

So I believe that we need to drive a big culture change. The first is in organisations who need to see that involving people who are not in the room is a major aid to their work. Beyond that, climate change means that we need to reduce the need to travel to events, and we can lower travel and accommodation budgets. Now I know that a lot of organisations make some or all of their income from running events, but I also believe that there will always be people who want to be in the room, and if live-streaming an event proves to depress numbers attending, then incentives should be offered to attendees.

The second element of culture change is that organisations should be encouraging their staff to seek out and watch live streams of events as alternatives to attending them. And sitting at your desk watching a live-streamed event should be seen as a perfectly legitimate thing to be doing.

And finally, we need to break down the reluctance that many people seem to have in engaging with live-streamed events. People are quite happy to watch “X-Factor”, “Strictly Come Dancing” and “The Great British Bakeoff” on TV and get immersed in the action, but they treat not being in the room at a conference as meaning it is not worth bothering with. Now, there may be a challenge here to event organisers to make their events more engaging, but that would benefit those in the room as much as it would those watching online.

Put yourself in the shoes of people living or working in areas where travel to most events is difficult or impossible. They are missing out on so many opportunities that the rest of us take for granted. And I speak as someone who regularly complains that events being held in London makes them inaccessible to those of us in the North of England. We owe it to those people to open up those events to remote participation. I want to go further than live streaming. I want to have rooms full of people in different parts of the country interacting with each other and providing active input into events. There are so many possibilities but we are being held back from realising their potential. So I am looking for partners to help me develop a comprehensive service to make crucial events in the public and non-profit sectors truly open and interactive. Contact me if you want to be part of this.

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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

 

Dementia Choices Action Network (D-CAN) – Starting out using video to share

Last week I was very fortunate to be involved, as videographer and digital storyteller, in the inaugural National Assembly of the Dementia Care Choices Action Network (D-CAN). D-CAN brings together a number of stakeholder organisations with an interest in Dementia with NHS England and Improvement, Alzheimer’s Society, the Coalition for Collaborative Care and others, including people living with Dementia. A key aim of the network is to embed the principles of Universal Personalised Care (UPC) into the practice of supporting people with Dementia across the Health, Social Care, and voluntary and community sectors. D-CAN aims to provide a space wherein innovative practice and lived experience can inform practice at all levels.

i am pleased and excited that D-CAN has begun by recognising the power of video in disseminating messages and ensuring that members can learn from each other. Members want to break down the walls that exist between professional disciplines, between different organisations, between organisations and patients, and between people in the room at meetings and those who can’t be there. And it is this latter aspect that I want to talk about here. I have long believed that the public and non-profit sectors are failing to take advantage of the tools that the internet has given us to communicate beyond normal boundaries. Particularly where organisations are seeking to communicate messages and engage people in their work, it seems self-evident to me that using online video and social media will spread their reach far beyond the walls of the room they are in. That this is happening far too infrequently is a great source of frustration. Ian Donaghy, who hosted the Assembly, mentioned a number of online video resources during his comments, and he asked the audience who was aware of them. Very few of them were, and this is telling.

Stepping away from the direct field of Dementia for a moment, I am going to cite the case of Molly Watt. Molly is an inspirational young woman who lives with Usher Syndrome (which causes deaf / blindness). She has created her own Foundation, works as an accessiblity consultant, and uses online video and social media to document her life and how she uses new technologies to live as full a life as possible despite her limited vision and hearing. I know that she has provided inspiration for many others living with the same condition and given them confidence to overcome the barriers they face to achieving their ambitions. Peter Berry was diagnosed with Early Onset Dementia at the age of 50. He has made more than 100 of his weekly video diaries documenting the challenges of living with his condition. Usually his diaries are just him and his camera, but he has occasionally involved his wife, his daughter, and friends to give a perspective on what it’s like living with someone who has Peter’s conditon. A few years ago I was videographer at two North Wales Dementia Meetups. At the first event I interviewed a number of people in the audience who were living with Dementia. Several of them told me that their diagnosis had left them depressed and despondent. A year later, at the second event, some of those people were on the platform telling their stories and recounting how the first event had given them inspiration to turn their lives around and take positive actions to overcome the limitations of their condition.

OK, so the last example is about inspiration coming from the people you directly interact with, but there cannot be any denying that online video amplifies and spreads the ability to learn from how others do things. And that these lessons are all the more powerful when they come from people like you, living daily with the condition you live with than from official sources.

The fact that D-CAN is making some steps towards recognising that online video has a role to play in connecting people beyond physical meetings is, to me, a great, positive step forward. I believe we need to build on this step and roll the use of video into further meetings and into helping those living with Dementia to learn from each other. And we need to extend this practice into many other areas and many other conditions.

The growth of the internet has brought with it an explosion in the use of online video. More than a year ago, a report was published which showed that young people watch Netflix more than they watch the BBC. The millions of hours of online video which exist represent a major learning opportunity that, by and large, our public institutions are not making adequate use of. And they need to be seeding this resource with their own content that people can draw on. I am hopeful that D-CAN can be part of this process.

All the video from the first National Assembly of D-CAN can be viewed here. The video below, of the delegate interviews starts with Christopher Richmond, who lives with Dementia himself, telling his story. This is just the kind of thing I want to be able to support more of.

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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

Could you Sponsor a Live-Stream?

Photo by Duncan Morrow

 

I am looking for sponsors. Does your organisation want to raise its profile in the Public, Charitable, or non-profit sectors?

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I specialise in high-quality, low-cost, live video streaming for non-profit organisations. Not all organisations in these sectors can afford even the low prices I charge to stream their events. So, are you a company or other organisation that wants to raise its profile in the sector? Why not consider sponsoring a live stream for a non-profit event? This can be an event  that your organisation is already present at, or it might be something you want your audience to be able to watch, or it could just be in a market where you want to get involved.

Please get in touch for a chat about how we might work together.

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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

27,000 people at a Local Authority Committee Meeting?

At the recent #NotWestminster event I asked if any local authorities were streaming meetings via Facebook. No one present knew of any, and quite a few people there expressed doubts that doing so would be a good idea as they would be fearful of the kind of comments that would come in during meetings.

And then, yesterday, my attention was drawn to a Facebook Live stream of Luton Council’s Development Control meeting, which was actually being done by the local BBC radio station, BBC Three Counties.

Now, this meeting was very high profile, as the main item on the agenda was a proposed development which included the building of a new stadium for Luton Town Football Club. But, nevertheless, it illustrates my point that this is something that local authorities should consider, as the level of engagement during the meeting would be higher than if they continue to stream via self-contained platforms.

Yesterday’s meeting was broadcast in two halves.

Part one is here. At the time of writing this, this video has had more than 19,000 views and attracted 1,655 comments.

Part two is here. At the time of writing this, this video has had more than 27,000 views and attracted 2,936 comments.

Now I know this meeting is a special case. But I still contend that using Facebook Live to stream Council meetings has to be tried as a way of engaging the public in council business. I can help you do this. If you’d like my help, please get in touch.

After all, there aren’t many Council committee rooms that could accommodate 27,000 members of the public.

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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

Christmas is the Season of Storytelling

Christmas is the season of storytelling. Of course, it is inspired by what many (not just John Wayne) consider to be the “Greatest Story Ever Told”. In recent years it has been the excuse for retailers and marketeers to role out their best efforts at story telling in the form of their Christmas adverts.

I came across the video below on Linkedin when it was shared by Linda Vernon. It’s a great piece of storytelling by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists about the benefits of their members’ work, and it’s Christmas-themed. It rings all my bells as telling the stories of the benefits of the work of professionals who provide a vital service to our society.

 

Which brings me to #Brexit. Bit of a stretch, maybe, but bear with me. Yesterday, while making some lunch, I turned the radio on and I heard someone say, “the position on Brexit has changed because there are now so many more facts available”. That is, of course, patently absurd. There are no more facts about Britain’s relationship with the EU now than there were at the time of the Referendum in 2016. What has changed is that more people are aware of the facts, and that awareness, in some cases at least, has made them question the decision they made in 2016. I used to have a job which required me to sit on lots of different EU funding committees. Time-and-time again at these meetings I heard European Commission officials complain that the British partners were failing to meet the requirements to give due publicity to the fact that projects were funded by the European Union. Now I was convinced then, and I am even more convinced now, that this was a deliberate strategy by British governments, of differing political hues, to ensure that they, rather than the EU, were able to take the credit for the investments taking place. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the British public were unaware of the benefits of being part of the EU when they were deliberately obscured from them? And, as we are all too aware, in many cases, the areas which have seen the biggest EU investments are also those which voted most strongly for Brexit.

Stories are important, and the EU Referendum of 2016 was won by those who told the most compelling stories, while those on the other side were mainly those who had been suppressing stories about European successes for decades.

I rest my case about the power of storytelling. If I can help you tell stories about the work you do, please get in touch.

 

The Chancellor’s Announcement About Rural Broadband – Eventually You Get Proved Right

Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a further funding programme for rural broadband. This is designed to take faster internet connections deeper into the “difficult to reach” parts of the countryside.

There are two notable things about the proposed strategy here. The first is that it is based on what is called “full-fibre”. That means fibre optic cable right into the premises, not, as has mainly been the case to date, running fibre to street cabinets and then relying on the ancient copper cables to take the signal the rest of the way. This can be for miles in some rural areas, and the signal degrades over copper, whereas it doesn’t over fibre. Some of us have been calling for a “full-fibre” strategy for years, and, at last the Government has caught up with this, but only after wasting millions of pounds on propping up the antiquated copper telephone network.

The second notable element is that the new strategy is based around connecting up public sector buildings, especially schools, to the fibre network, and then connecting up the remainder of the community from there.

In 2011, redoubtable broadband activist Lindsey Annison had a plan identical to this to connect up the community of Warcop in Cumbria. Below are some videos I took on the Fibre Walk she led over the proposed cable-laying route. This plan could not be implemented because we were told that it was not feasible for schools to share the connections with non-educational sites. That policy has now been over-turned, but only 7 years later. How much time and money has been expended in pursuing temporary solutions till now?

It is good to be proved right, but why does it have to take so long?