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.

 

Engagement Through Live Streaming

I first started live video streaming events in 2010. Have experimented with live streaming as a fun exercise, I was prompted to take it up on a serious basis when a former employer complained about the cost of live streaming an event and I offered to do it for them at a much lower price.

Over the years I have evolved my practice, changed the way I do things, and improved the quality of the output. And I have also operated through a period when live streaming has become mainstream, and a thing that lots of people think they can do. This has resulted in a proliferation of live streams, some of which have been OK in quality, but many more of which have been blurry video with indistinct and/or echoey sound. It takes a lot of effort and some additional equipment to produce a live stream which people are likely to want to watch all the way through, and you can certainly forget it if the sound is poor.

One of the big game-changers on the live-streaming front has been the advent of Facebook Live. In many respects, Facebook Live is just another video platform, but something that makes it unique is that, for those organisations which have built communities on Facebook, whether through Groups or Pages, it adds an opportunity directly to address that community and engage them in events and other work.

Just recently I have live streamed two events for Rethink Mental Illness (formerly the Schizophrenia Foundation). The first event was a panel discussion to mark National Schizophrenia day. To date, the live video has been watched by more than 10,000 people. You can see this one here. And then, yesterday, I live streamed Rethink’s Members’ Day in Sheffield. Only a day later, the video from the morning session has had more than 3,500 views, and the afternoon workshop has over 4,400 views.

And in September, as part of Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria’s Digital Transformation Programme, I live streamed a Patient Participation Group Meeting for Library House Surgery in Chorley. I think it is safe to say that everyone involved was bowled over by the fact that more than 500 people watched this meeting on the night, and that, within 48 hours that figure had gone up to more than 2,000. This is for a group that regularly attracts an attendance of fewer than 15 people.

To me, these projects have provided powerful evidence of the power of live streaming for social good organisations to engage people in their work. But I think one of the most prominent lessons is the use of live streaming to build on communities already built up on Facebook. Both Rethink Mental Illness and Library House Surgery already had thriving, interactive Facebook communities, and that greatly increased the reach of their live videos. Rethink were able to draw a wide audience into their events, and, for Library House Surgery, the live video drew people in to participate in development of their services who would not otherwise attend meetings.

The public and third sectors are populated with organisations which have missions to engage members or the wider public in their work. Social media and live video streaming, separately or combined together, have amazing potential to draw people into events and other aspects of an organisation’s work. But the live streaming has to be done well. Broadcasting low quality video, particularly if the sound is difficult to hear, could put people off rather than engage them.

I have a mission to use video and social media to help organisations engage with their client groups. One of my specialisms is high quality, but low-priced, live video streaming. I would love to work with more organisations to use live video to engage large audiences in their work. Please get in touch if you would like me to work with you.

Engagement has to be Fun

I present the Bradford Safeguarding Adults Board Community Engagement Event – held on 27th June 2018 at Manningham Mills Community Centre

It was a real privilege to be part of this event. I think the video pretty much captures the essence of the day, which was described to me by one of the participants as “joyous”.

“Joyous?” I hear you ask, “but isn’t Safeguarding a really serious, and potentially scary, issue?”. Safeguarding is certainly serious, but there is a pressing need to make sure it is more widely understood. And it is commendable that Bradford’s Safeguarding Adults Board is committed to making sure that the most vulnerable people in society not only understand the nature of abuse and what can be done about it, but that they can also contribute to the strategy being implemented across the District to keep residents safe. An important element of the Board’s approach is attract people to participate in setting policies and strategy by ensuring that events like this are fun, and genuinely engaging.

So people had a lot of fun at the event, and in amongst the fun, they learnt some really serious stuff; they were provided with tools to deal with abuse in their own lives, they learned about different kinds of abuse, and they contributed to the Safeguarding Adults Board’s strategic plan. And they did all this because they wanted to, not out of a sense of obligation or duty.

I found it particularly encouraging that storytelling was central to much of the message of the day, with a powerful video illustrating a particular kind of abuse, and participants being encouraged to use picture stories to explore issues. This was just one day, but it brought together individual service users and organisations that support their participation on a regular basis. Personally I believe that storytelling, and participation in storymaking, has to be deployed on a wider basis to develop understanding of complex issues and ensure that consultation is genuinely informed via deep understanding of the issues.

I was proud to be part of the day as part of my mission to raise the profile of social care, of the fantastic work so many social care organisations do, and the difference they make to people’s lives. And a key part of the message, which the Safeguarding Adults Board, and other social care organisations in Bradford are central to, is the emphasis on social care being an empowering service which provides the underpinning for people to live full and fulfilled lives in recognition that people know best what is good for them, and the role of professionals is to support them in achieving their personal goals.  In this year when we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS, it is vital that we also recognise that the same act gave birth to the modern social care system, and that the two are different sides of the same coin.

There is a playlist of videos illustrating what participants said about the day here, and the presentations and games played on the day are below.

 

Why I do Digital Storytelling

This is a brief post about why Digital Storytelling is so important to me.

I believe the world needs to change so that there are more opportunities for people to improve their lives, so that organisations are more responsive to people’s needs, and so that power structures are more representative of the diversity of society.

Every day I come across examples of great initiatives which are contributing to these objectives, but all too often they exist in isolation from each other and from policy and power mechanisms which could translate them into coherent social movements.

As an example, I have only today seen someone from a major organisation revealing in a tweet that they have only just become aware that Britain has a Housing Crisis.

The digital storytelling I do aims to shine a light on people and organisations doing great work to make the world a better place. The most powerful stories of all are those which enable the people who benefit from such work to describe and demonstrate the difference it has made to them.

Here are some examples:

Most people think that social care is in terminal crisis. While no one could deny there are huge problems, every day millions of people work to deliver the best care they can in challenging circumstances.

Policy makers have for years believed that Britain’s South Asian communities did not want professional social care organisations interfering in their family relationships. Probing beneath the surface can reveal the truth.

All too many people believe that a diagnosis of dementia is a death sentence. Events like the North Wales Dementia Meetups prove that people can continue to live fulfilling lives with the condition.

It is not true that older people don’t use technology. Some get great benefits from it, but most don’t. Here are some of those who do use it to enhance their lives.

And sometimes it’s all about having fun.

 

I’d love to help as many people as possible to use this kind of storytelling in their work. If I can help you, please get in touch

Live-Streaming Comes of Age

 

I’ve been championing live video streaming since I first starting playing with the late, lamented, Qik app in about 2009. I first used it on a BlackBerry, believe it or not, and then moved on to applying it on a Nokia N95 the phone that had remarkably advanced video capabilities for its time and type. I first live-streamed an event professionally in September 2010, and I have gone on to make a specialism of doing good quality, low cost, live-streaming, mainly for non-profit organisations.

I have done this at the lowest possible cost, which has involved using free (or almost free) apps, and budget equipment.

Last week I had enormous fun live streaming the Academic Archers 2018 Conference from the British Library in London. This was a truly joyous event, in which academics with an interest in The Archers long-running radio programme came together to present the results of their research into aspects of the programme. If this sounds a bit dry to you, check out the laughter quotient on my summary video of proceedings.

And I was very pleased, and a little bit proud, that the BBC, both from the Archers twitter account, and from its website was happy to promote and link to my live stream of the event. I started out doing this as cheaply and efficiently as possible, and it is gratifying that a major broadcasting organisation feels my content is of sufficiently quality to be recommended.

If I can help you live-stream an event, and / or provide a cost-effective quality recording. Then please get in touch. The section of the live-stream linked from the BBC website features Charlotte Martin who plays Susan Carter in the programme. I present it below.

 

Finding Inspiration in Our Public Services

Yesterday I happened to catch a bit of a Sport Relief TV programme. There were lots of “fun” activities interspersed with sections on what the money Sport Relief raises is spent on. These sections were accompanied by inspirational music and language designed to pull at the heart strings.

Then a bit later I watched a YouTube video about the history of one of my favourite rock bands. I enjoyed the video, except for the bit about how they structured their activities to avoid paying tax in the UK. This was presented as a wholly acceptable and desirable thing to do. They were perfectly open about it.

For me this strikes at the heart of a key issue in our society. Every day people are doing fantastic, inspirational, and life-saving and enhancing things funded by tax-payers’ money. And yet, our society is happy to be moved and inspired by what Sport Relief, Comic Relief, the National Lottery, and other charitable fund-raisers do, while denigrating public services and resenting the tax monies that go to pay for them. No matter how much you might think you are an entrepreneur who doesn’t rely on the state; every time you use a publicly-funded road, have your bins emptied by the local authority, or rely on the NHS, you are using tax-funded services.

This is why I do things like the Civic Story Factory. The people who work in our public services are every bit as essential and inspirational as those funded by charitable telethons. They just don’t shout about it often enough.

Here’s an example of people doing some great work in our much derided Social Care sector. Homecare providers in Bradford.

 

How Digital Storytelling brings out the nuances

This is a piece of work I did a little while ago working with Locorum, a West Yorkshire-based social enterprise which exists to help health and care services adapt to the needs of under-represented groups. Locorum were commissioned by Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group to undertake a survey of care needs among older Asian people and then to take the results of the survey and interview people about its findings.

Comments we received about this confirmed my views about the importance of this kind of storytelling. There were a couple of interesting points that came out in discussion about it.

Firstly, the video brought out a number of nuanced views that could not have been gained from a survey. Surveys are OK for capturing statistics, but they don’t get to the “yes, but” views. The issues we were canvassing people’s views on were often complex and the way the interviewees addressed them help very much in shaping responses.

Secondly, I believe it is important to capture people saying what might be quite difficult things to say in public. There is a received wisdom that South Asian communities are highly resistant to letting professional carers into their family relationships, and, if we had just relied on the results of the survey, that is probably the message that would have come through. But the interviews revealed that, because of changes in society, that view is changing. Families are struggling to provide the necessary care in some cases, and they are reluctantly coming to accept that outside help is necessary. But it is acceptable only on certain terms, which include the need for cultural sensitivity, and that it needs to accept that the family is the principal means of care and thus professional care is there to fill in the gaps and must step back when asked to do so.

I’d love to help as many people as possible to use this kind of storytelling in their work. If I can help you, please get in touch.

When did we allow the Public Sector to become “other”?

When did we allow the Public Sector to become “other”? I’ve just read yet another article about people doing things for themselves rather than leaving it to the “impersonal” public sector. All power to them, but why the contrast?. We have allowed the media and certain politicians to paint public organisations as being separate from the public, and, it has to be said, a certain kind of management culture and jobsworthiness kind of fosters that within a lot of civic organisations.

But, we should remember that public organisations ARE us. The public funds them through various kinds of taxes, and we elect politicians to oversee them. The public sector represents people’s desire to act collectively to get things done that we cannot achieve on our own. But still there are those who would like us to forget that. This is the reason I have formed the Civic Story Factory to unlock the stories of people doing great work on our behalf.

Bridging the Gap Between Young People and Politicians

Some good news.

I’ve been working with Global Diversity Positive Action (GDPA) an organisation based in Huddersfield which has a particular focus on unleashing the potential of young people who may have been denied opportunities by mainstream agencies. GDPA will shortly be launching an exciting shop-front project in the centre of Huddersfield, which will include a coffee shop, a co-working space, a recording studio, IT training facilities, and hireable meeting space.

A few months ago, I helped GDPA apply for some funding to run a project which addresses some issues which are close to my heart. And last week we heard that The Community Foundation for Calderdale had approved the application.

Lower Valley Chat (working title) aims to engage young people in political processes by bridging the gap between the language they commonly speak, and that used by those who make decisions about their lives. We’ll be working with young people in the Brighouse, Rastrick and Elland areas of Calderdale to help them create multimedia content which identifies the issues of greatest importance to their lives and expresses the actions they wish see taken to address them. We will then present this material to local politicians and other decision makers and invite them to respond.  There has been much talk about increased youth involvement in politics following the recent General Election, one of the things we’ll be testing in this project is whether this involvement can be sustained, and whether the politicians will really listen to their views, or is it just a case of courting their votes at election time. We’ll be working with colleagues at Calderdale Council’s Youth Service to engage with the young people they work with.

It will very much be up to the young people involved to decide what they want to say and how they want to say it, but we envisage they will build their case using a mix of YouTube videos, SnapChat messages and Instagram posts, with maybe a bit of Facebook and Twitter mixed in as well. The challenge will be to get the decision-makers to engage with them on those platforms. It’s a challenge I am looking forward to.

We are already planning a launch event in a local park featuring a performance by a popular local Grime artist. And the project will culminate in an event where we present the content to the politicians.

We are looking for businesses (local or otherwise) who’d like to get involve by donating prizes to be presented to the young people. Please please get in touch if you can help with this.

Watch this space for news of the project as it develops.

nEW-SILVER-LOGO

Why does it take a tragedy for the good stories to come out?

On Tuesday of this week I tweeted the following

There were some amazing stories that came out of the aftermath of the bombing at Manchester Arena, not least of which being the heroics of Steve, the homeless guy, who subsequently was offered 6 month’s accommodation by the co-owner of West Ham United Football Club.

But, why does it take a tragedy for the mainstream media and the public in general to start paying attention to our dedicated NHS workers and other public servants? And, it has to be asked, why does a homeless person have to perform heroic deeds before he is offered accommodation?

Health workers and public servants are doing great work every day of our lives, and there are homeless people on the streets of every city who have not had the opportunity to respond in the way Steve did. Are they any less deserving?

People doing good work need to tell their own stories. Because there are few occasions when the mainstream media and public pay attention to them.

We are a society that believes in sharing, in helping each other, and in being there when needed. That is our story.