Digital Inclusion on Wheels

This is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while, and I’ve had significant encouragement recently to take it forward, so, I’m about to launch a crowfunding campaign and sponsorship proposal for a Digital Inclusion Campervan.

The Story So Far

Our Digital Planet Internet Station in Bristol

If you’ve been paying attention (and, if not, why not?) you will have seen that I’ve been experimenting over recent years with different methods of taking digital inclusion to where people are, as I am a believer in seeking out people in their natural environments rather than expecting them to come to centres or courses. In 2012 and 2013 I managed Nominet Trust’s Our Digital Planet Project, which took a giant photographic exhibition on how people use the internet to various city centres around the country and backed it up with a shipping container full of volunteers and laptops.  I learned so much from this project, and it was such a pleasure to work with so many people who wouldn’t have dreamed of searching out a digital inclusion “centre”

But, the thing about Our Digital Planet was that it was expensive. It took a lot of resources to move all that stuff around the country, and there came a point at which the numbers of local partners able to find the cash to bring it to their area just ran out. So, I then set about seeing if the same principle could be delivered in a more mobile form.

I was fortunate to bump into Sue Jennings from Leeds Federated Housing Association at a digital inclusion get together, and this led to a collaboration which became the HUGO Project, featuring the HUGO Bus (in reality there are two buses), bringing a more mobile facility to the housing estates of Leeds, and available for hire to go elsewhere.

2014-09-11 17.15.06But even the HUGO Bus has a significant cost to moving around, and there are some places where that size of vehicle cannot go, so I am still frustrated that there is more that can be done.

And so, I now want to downscale things a bit more still. I’ve already gone from Our Digital Planet which took 2 flatbed trucks to move it around, to the HUGO Bus which is pretty mobile, but bulky. Now I want to go to the Digital Inclusion Campervan. It will be a go anywhere, reach anyone, digital inclusion facility with free wifi, tea and coffee, kit and support.

I need to raise the money to make this happen, so I am seeking sponsorship, and maybe will go down the crowdfunding route too. Scouring eBay, I reckon I can acquire a semi-decent campervan for about £7500, and I will probably need another £5k or so to kit it out and put a livery on it. To cope for contingencies, I’ll be looking to raise £15000 in total.

So, any sponsors out there want to pitch in? Sponsors will get the opportunity to have their branding on the bus, promote their products through its work, and, well, you tell me what you’d want in return.

I am excited about this, but I need to test the water first as to whether there are sponsors interested.

Please get in touch if you’d like to support this project.




Sun, Sea and Social Media, the Intinerary

Excitement is building for the beach-based social media event of the year.  And now, we can announce……

Sun, Sea and Social Media, The Itinerary 

Subject to change (if we find something more fun to do)

Sun, Sea, Social, Media

Saturday 16th August 2014

The Beach, Filey, North Yorkshire

11am   Meet, share notes, and agree roles for the day.

[Meeting point will be announced Friday afternoon]

11:30am Opening of the Social Media Surgery [Surgery will be open all day]

12 noon Video Workshop

1pm Sandcastle Competition

2pm Beach cricket tournament

3:30pm Knobbly Knees contest

4pm Vine Superstar Competition

5pm Close

Tell us if you are coming

Are you really, excited, you should be!  Here’s a taster

This event is sponsored by Coast and Country Housing

Click Start logo FINAL-01

Would you ban your employees from talking to anyone? At any time?

According to this post which was drawn to my attention by Paul Taylor on Twitter, the number of employers blocking their employees’ access to social media at work has INCREASED over the past year from 29% to 36%. I find this flabbergasting, I thought we were winning this battle.

Social media is a modern form of communication. Ask yourself how you would feel if your employer banned you from TALKING to anyone. Not just in your working hours, but at all times, because, after all, anything you say could be seen as reflecting on your employer, because; even though it might be a private conversation, it is easy to find out who you work for and attribute your views to the organisation you work for.

Banning social media at work is effectively closing off a modern communication method to employees. It is virtually the same as banning them from talking to anyone….  at any time. That is a recipe for dissatisfied, frustrated employees, and an organisation that is secretive and whose motives will be open to question.

Please don’t do it….

Sun, Sea and Social Media



Saturday 16th August 2014

11am to 5pm

Filey Beach, North Yorkshire


the internet

Join us on Filey Beach, or online on Saturday 16th August for an extravaganza of social media, digital inclusion, and general internet capers by the sea.

This is event is sponsored by Coast and Country Housing Limited.

Register here

Sun, Sea and Social Media is:

  • a social media adventure, featuring a number of experienced social media users who will document their journeys to Filey and their activities on the day;
  • a social media surgery, offering real-time, practical advice to people on the beach on how to get the best out of using social media to enhance their holiday and beach experience;
  • a digital inclusion event, helping people new to the internet get online by demonstrating what enormous fun can be had on the internet;
  • a demonstrator, showcasing the power of new technologies in a beach setting, including a LIVE linkup with the Costa del Sol in Spain; and
  • a lot of fun! featuring live streamed beach cricket, knobbly knees contests, sandcastle championships, and other beach-based shenanigans

Join in the fun on Filey Beach any time between 11 and 5. Or follow the action online using the hashtag #smbeach with occasional live video at


any queries

tweet @johnpopham

Register here

photo credit Paul Stephenson on Flickr



I’ve always been a great fan of storytelling. I loved having stories read to me as a child, I loved reading them to my own kids, and I ended up studying English Literature at university, largely due to my great love of the Victorian novel, many of which were epics of storytelling.

Over recent years I’ve developed a growing interest in the power of storytelling to change people’s lives. I think, in part, this may have been stimulated by my frustration at observing how often stories are used to prevent change; TV soap operas being a case in point, which present society with a reflection of the worst aspects of human nature, and seem designed to dampen ambition and instill pessimism.

So, I’ve been looking at how organisations and individuals can use storytelling, and, in particular, digital storytelling, to spread messages about their work, and inspire others to do similar good. In 2011, David Wilcox and I did some work for the Big Lottery Fund documented here, which sought to assist them to encourage projects they work with to use digital storytelling as part of their evaluation processes. During this work I was fortunate enough to see a presentation by Nick Jankel about the process of storytelling and interview him afterwards. Talking to Nick helped me crystallise a lot that I instinctively knew about storytelling, and gave me a framework to put things in.

All my work, whether it be in assisting organisations to adopt and deploy social media, leading people towards digital inclusion, engaging communities in the process of securing better rural broadband, or live video streaming events and celebrations, is aimed at enabling people to tell their stories. It is stories that engage people, and show them that people like them can achieve great things.

That’s why I was particularly pleased when Duncan Hodgson of One Blackpool asked me to deliver a short session on Digital Storytelling as part of the series of Breakfast Seminars they are running. And, despite having to get up at 4am on a freezing cold morning, I really enjoyed it and was bowled over by the positive reaction. Duncan did a Storify of the tweets from the session

[View the story “Digital Storytelling Breakfast Session” on Storify]

The reaction confirmed to me that I am onto something here and that there is a real appetite to learn more about storytelling. So, I’d love to do more of this. If you’d like me to do a digital storytelling session for your organisation or network, either as a presentation like I did in Blackpool, or as a longer session giving time for practical work, I’d love to hear from you. My contact details are here.

National Smartphone Recycling Scheme

More evidence from Leeds Social Media Surgery last night of the need for a National Smartphone Recycling Scheme.

My “patient” was someone who had been charged by her employer with communicating with young people, but was struggling to do so effectively. All the different methods I explored with her would have involved using a mobile phone of some kind, preferably a smartphone. The barrier we kept coming across was that her “work” phone was an ancient non-smart phone, which even struggles to send text messages, and she had been unable to persuade her employer that she needed a decent tool to do her job. She has a personal smartphone, but is understandably reluctant to use that for work purposes. Even using the Whatsapp application to send free messages was ruled out because it would have meant revealing her private phone number.

Organisations of this kind that fail to see the benefits of deploying smartphones are sending people like my “patient” out to do their jobs with both hands tied behind their backs. A low-cost source of recycled phones might start to chip away at this reluctance.

Our Digital Planet – The Story of Ron


This morning has made the whole Our Digital Planet experience worthwhile for me. The first customer into the unit was Ron, who happily told us he was 84 and had no interest in the internet at all. But he was interested in photography, and had been looking at some of the photos in the exhibition. So, Rachael from Nominet Trust took him on a tour of the images. Ron came back into the Internet Station enthusing about the big image of old Bristol on the side of the unit, and reminiscing about the trams in Croydon where he used to live. So, Rachael showed him some online images of Croydon trams. Ron was pretty amazed about how easy it was to find such things, and, within minutes he was asking us to look for some pictures of himself dancing in a nightclub, which he had been told were on Facebook. We didn’t manage to find them. but we did find images of some of the places where he was due to go on holiday and trip advisor ratings for them, which he found fascinating. Ron’s a photographer and a painter, and, when he realised that he could upload photos and images of his paintings, he left bubbling with enthusiasm and promising to come back.

This experience fills me with the kind of “Social Glow” that we experience from Social Media Surgeries.


Ron returned to the Internet Station another FIVE times during its stay in Bristol. On his last visit I recorded this video about his experience

Social Media from the inside (of 10 Downing Street)

Outside 10 Downing Street

From Left to right: Nick Booth, Monica Tailor, John Popham

This week I was part of an interesting, and not a little exciting, first. Monica Tailor, who runs Leeds Social Media Surgery with me, and myself were asked by Nick Booth, the originator of the of the Social Media Surgery concept, to accompany him to 10 Downing Street to accept the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award on behalf of the Social Media Surgeries movement.

This was interesting enough, but, a few days before we were due to make the trip to Westminster, Nick was contacted by Nick Jones of the Downing Street Communications Unit, suggesting that, as the three of us were “Social Media Surgeons” we were ideal candidates to conduct an experiment in being the first external visitors to be allowed to use social media from within 10 Downing Street.

So, as we arrived at Number 10, we were met in the lobby by Nick Jones and his colleague, Anthony Simon, and ushered into a private room for a briefing. All this happened while all the other guests were being required to hand in their phones as they entered the building. And, a number of times during the evening, members of staff not in the picture asked us why we hadn’t handed over our phones.

Nick and Anthony gave us a list of things we were and weren’t allowed to do, all sensible things mainly to do with ensuring we didn’t compromise security, and then we were off into the reception, phones in hands, unlike all the other guests.

And below is the content we were able to capture. It’s not as much as we might have hoped, because, as luck would have it, Twitter suffered a world-wide outage during the early stages of the event. Oh, and there was the small matter of having to break off from social reporting to chat to the Prime Minister, who, incidentally, seemed to be genuinely interested in the power of Social Media Surgeries to spread skills and capacities through communities.

[View the story “Social Media from 10 Downing Street for the first time ever” on Storify]

I think the experiment went well, certainly Nick Jones and Anthony Simon seemed pleased as we left. Hopefully, we have set a precedent that will see more social media being used in the building.

Prime Minister addresses the Big Society Award Winners

“Have you seen any of my children that I haven’t left in the pub”

My First Week on Twitter – An Idea

I’ve been thinking about those shared twitter accounts, where a different person tweets on behalf of a place, an organisation, or an idea every week. Some of them are really good, some, I have to say, are banal in the extreme.

So, I’ve had an idea for a twist on the concept. I’ve set up an account called @First_week, which could be shared by people who are in their first week on Twitter. And I’m thinking that contributors could be recruited at Social Media Surgeries.

It could be a good way for newcomers to be initiated to the world of twitter. It would be more like joining a conversation that’s already going on, rather than having to go and and seek new acquaintances, and it could be that people pick up more followers in their early days, because they could direct people to their new personal account when they hand over.

What do you think?

The IslandGovCamp Odyssey

I’m thinking there should be a klaxon going off at this point and a flashing banner, reading DAFT IDEA.

But… here goes anywhere.

Announcing the IslandGovCamp Odyssey… or, at least running it up a flagpole to see who salutes.


Image shamelessly stolen from the IslandGovCamp Facebook page

I’ve never met Sweyn Hunter in person, but I’ve talked a lot to him online, mainly on Twitter, and he seems like a good guy to me. His day job is in IT at Orkney Council, but he also loves cricket and The Archers, so we have quite a lot in common really. It was over cricket that we first connected, as he was a great supporter of #twicket, the world’s first live online broadcast of a village cricket match that I ran (with a lot of help from others) on Easter Monday last year.

Any way, for some time now, Sweyn has been planning IslandGovCamp, an unconference for people working in the governance of islands (and those with an interest). I love this idea, and really want to attend, particularly, as Sweyn says, it makes perfect sense for me to be there live-streaming the event to people on other islands who can’t make it. Perhaps I can help some people find their way to making things easier when they are prevented from travelling by the presence of stretches of water in the way.

So, as I say, I really want to be at IslandGovCamp, which is taking place on 26th and 27th May, but Orkney is a very long way from me, probably about 600 miles, and there’s a stretch of water in-between too. And I’m operating on a limited budget. So, here’s a potential solution, but, before I dive in, I need to know how much support there for the proposed course of action.

Random Welsh Beach

Oh, and there are at least 4 other people who want to make the trip as well. I’m not going to name them here, because some, at least, of them have regular office jobs, and I’m not sure if they’ve all got permission to make the trip.

So – this is the idea:

Jumping in and laying cards on the table….. I reckon if we do this in the preferred way, it will probably cost around £1,000. My proposal is to crowd-fund this cost. The money would be for a week’s hire of a campervan, food and subsistence, site fees, ferry crossing, etc.

The proposal is for a Social Media Odyssey from the Midlands / North of England to Orkney. I’ve done something similar with “Can’t Get Online Week” last November (see, that was 1300 miles, or a similar distance to Orkney and back, and that was modeled, in part, on Christian Payne‘s epic trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats in November 201o.

So, can we get five (or so) people in a campervan, trek up the country to Orkney, documenting our progress as we go, and stopping off to do interesting social media things on the way? I’m thinking we might take three days to get there, stopping to meet people and doing things like:

  • a social media surgery
  • a half-day unconference; and
  • a lightning talks session

as we go.

So, what do you think? Is this a wild and wacky idea? Would you like to see it happen? If we did it would you chip in some money to help us raise £1000? Would it be a mad waste of resources? Could you offer support in kind in any way to help us reduce the costs? Are there companies out there who might sponsor us in exchange for a high profile during the journey?

And, if you did chip in, what would you get? I’m open to suggestions on this, but, here are some ideas:

  • It will be fun and you’ll get to share in the enjoyment;
  • We’ll do some useful events and live-stream them, so you might learn something;
  • You’ll get to watch IslandGovCamp on live-stream as this might be the only way I have of getting there;
  • …… please make any other suggestions in the comments below.

IslandGovCamp is only 7 weeks away, so, if this is going to happen we need to make a decision pretty soon. The first step will be to set up a crowd-funding site, but, I’m not even going to do that unless I know there is some support out there.