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.

Using Technology to reconnect older people with their communities

These are some more thoughts on using technology to benefit older people based on my Connected Christmas experience.

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I’ve been struck by meeting a number of older people who are actually quite fit and healthy, but who seem to have slipped into a way of behaviour that is almost “expected” of them by society. Like the gentleman I met in Urmston who told me that his confidence has gone, and that means he rarely goes out or socialises in the lounge of the sheltered accommodation complex where he lives. I firmly believe that we can use new technologies to re-engage people like this with their communities, and to allow those who are not so mobile to have some degree of contact with what goes on around them. Instead of people sitting at home, or in a care home, a day centre, or sheltered accommodation lounge, depressing themselves by absorbing the latest bit of back-biting or family-feuding from the TV soap operas, why not engage with something local which has the potential to contribute positively to their lives?

I think these are compelling reasons for increased efforts to to get local community organisations to use social media, live video streaming, podcasting and other methods to cover local events. At Urmston, the video pub crawl proved particularly engaging, suggesting that even simple video tours of the neighbourhood could help to re-acquaint people with their surroundings and increase their sense of engagement with their communities and their former lives. And what could be achieve using gadgets such as Oculus Rift to immerse people in the lives of communities they formerly had strong ties with?

As I often argue, I think we can use technology to “re-humanise” society, rather than going along with the dystopian predictions of everyone forgetting the personal connections while they stare at screens. This is something I think we need to work on, urgently.

 

Cricket and Social Media

New Year, New Project.

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I am very pleased to announce that I will be working with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over the next couple of months to assist grassroots cricketers to make better use of social media to celebrate what they do, and, crucially, to reach out to what the ECB defines as “occasional” and “cameo” players (i.e. those with varying degrees of commitment to playing the game regularly), with a view to engaging them more fully in the activities of their clubs and leagues.

Participation in cricket is declining, and the key aim of this work is to try to address that by encouraging club cricketers to use social media in imaginative ways to raise the profile of the benefits of playing the game on a regular basis.

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This is a pilot initiative, and during January and February, I will be running a programme of 3 evening workshops for club cricketers in each of the Bradford and Huddersfield areas. If this goes well, then there is a strong possibility of extending it into other areas. And the first session in each of the workshop programmes will be an informal discussion over a curry, an idea that I have unashamedly pinched from the Social Care Curry movement.

I am very excited about this, and also grateful to Twitter-friend Graham Hyde for mentioning my name to the ECB. I’ve been a cricket-nut since a small child and I am really happy to be able to combine my loves of cricket and social media. Watch this space for reports of progress.

Stand up for positive uses of the internet

This morning’s edition of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 was guest-edited by the musician, Tracey Thorn. There were two sections of the programme which were about how the internet can help vulnerable teenagers find support online. There were some great, inspiring stories, but, both of the items were topped and tailed by negative comments from the programme presenters suggesting that this kind of thing is a rarity on the internet, amongst a sea of trolls and threats.

We can’t allow the mainstream media to go unchallenged when it pedals this line, partly out of self-interest as the web eats away at its audiences. There are millions of positive interactions every day online, many of which go ignored by TV, Radio and Newspapers. Just look at all the offers of free Christmas Dinners for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone, as only one example. The web is a powerful force for social good, and the media cannot be allowed to get away with suggesting otherwise.