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.

Can’t attend an event? Why not commission me to live stream it?

You might know I’m a bit of an evangelist for live video streaming. No, not that Meerkat thing, where you click on a link and the video has disappeared, but proper live streaming that you can actually watch, and that will still be there for you to catch up on later.

I am amazed that in 2015, organisations are still not opening up their meetings and events to the world. I’ve peppered this post with a number of embeds of live streams I have done, and there is a list of many of the events I have live streamed here.

My latest live stream commission was Southwark Council’s Housing Scrutiny Committee meeting, which you can see below.

If you’d like me to live stream your event, at low cost, please get in touch. But, also I’ve got another proposal I’d like readers to consider. Is there an event you’d really like to go to but can’t make it? If so, have a word with the organisers, and, if they are happy for it to be live streamed, then why not commission me to live stream it? And if you can’t afford to pay all the cost yourself, then get together with a few others and spread the fee among you. I’d love to help people out in this way.

Please contact me to discuss any of these approaches.

 

 

 

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 enquiries@powerplayers.info

Local Democracy for Everyone #notwestminster

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Yesterday I walked from my house for 10 minutes and joined a national event. And an excellent event it was too. It was Local Democracy for Everyone – We’re Not in Westminster Anymore. I was pretty staggered when I walked into the Huddersfield Media Centre to find the place packed and buzzing with around 70 people, all desperate to discuss how we can adapt our democratic processes for the needs of the 21st Century. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I live in Huddersfield, I am biased about it, I think it’s a great place. I also think it has fabulous transport links. Using the Transpennine rail line, I can be in either Leeds or Manchester in around half an hour, and there are direct trains to Liverpool and Newcastle. But, the fact that the town does not have direct rail links with the likes of London, and Birmingham had made me believe that people wouldn’t travel here for national events.

#notwestminster proved me wrong. It helped that it was a really good event, with an exciting agenda put together by the people who comprise the Local Democracy Bytes section of LocalGovDigital. There was some great discussions and some very useful meetings of minds. You can catch up with most of what happened via the Storify of tweets here.

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And it was really good to catch up with the likes of Ken Eastwood, Tim Davies, Councillors Tim Cheetham, Simon Cooke, and David Harrington, all of whom I hadn’t seen for far too long, and Dave McKenna (and others). And it was doubly nice that they all came to the town where I live, rather than me having to travel long distances to meet up with them. The previous time I saw Tim was at a seminar in London at which he was talking about the reasons why he had abandoned Twitter. The #notwestminster event must have been pretty powerful, however, as it got him tweeting again. Tim has always been one of the wittiest and sharpest contributors to my Twitter stream, so I really hope that this is a permanent return.

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I’ll let others blog about the detail of what went on at the event. I’m just writing here to capture some of my impressions of a really good day. I am encouraged that so many people want to contribute to making democratic processes fit for the modern day.That really makes me feel good.

Cricket and Social Media – Finding the Stories

2015-02-03 20.10.36This week was the second Workshop in the Bradford element of the Cricket and Social Media project I am undertaking with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

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Towards the end of the workshop, I asked attendees to suggest their favourite cricketing stories. One person said, “well we did have a naked cricket match at our club once”. That was unexpected, and caused a fair degree of hilarity in the group.

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I’d like to thank Colin Beveridge for tracking down the Daily Telegraph report of the match for me. Just goes to show, you can never predict what kinds of stories you are going to uncover.

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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.