Monthly Archives: October 2011

Why social media is important for social care

At a time when public support is urgently needed for social work and social care why are we not using social media to engage with our stakeholders?

“it is not a question now about whether you should be involved in social media but how well you do it” @equalman

We have a big battle ahead to engage the public in the critical debates about the care crisis, the Dilnot recommendations for the future of social care funding and the Caring for our Future consultation.

The phenomenal engagement that takes place through social media channels suggests that we have to take seriously the importance of digital engagement for social care.

Social Media Revolution 3 (4:15 version via Erik Qualman)

My favourite #Twitter quotes w/e 30th Oct

I find Twitter an endless source of inspiration. Having access to real time thoughts, knowledge and ideas shared across the world is very powerful social learning. Through Twitter I am able to join in the debates at local, national and international conferences which are exploring broader definitions of social care which encompasses all of the services which contribute to an individual feeling safe, secure and supported in their local community.

My favourite quotes from Twitter this week

“I will be a President for all the people” – Michael D. Higgins newly elected President of Ireland @md_higgins #aras11

If we value ‘meta collaboration’ across competitive silos where better than Twitter can these conversations merge? @2healthguru via @clarkmike

“Young people don’t see the risk of social media but older people don’t see the power” shared by @nickkeane speaking at #cepolsmap the European Conference on Social Media and Policing Lisbon

Wise Twitter words “don’t tweet what you would not shout to a stranger in the street” @SebastianDenef #cepolsmap

“Telling your story and translating your organizations work to a broad audience is such an important part of social media” @melgorka #begoodbesocial Toronto @BeGoodBeSocial started as Scotland’s third sector social media gathering and is now extending across the world. You can join in the Be Good Be Social Edinburgh event taking place on Thursday 3rd November 6-9pm through Twitter using the hashtag #begoodbesocial

“important message @nesta_uk #Alliance4Evidence Joint policy making needs researchers, policy makers & practitioners to interact & share information” at the launch of the NESTA UK Alliance for Useful Evidence

“We have no money so now we have to think” Ron Haskins response to a question about the impact of budget cuts on research activity @nesta_uk #Alliance4Evidence

What is your favourite Twitter quote of the week?

On Metrics and Influence

There have been a few discussions, not least #nhssm which have discussed ‘metrics’ (ways of measuring influence) relating to social media over the last week. This has coincided with a change in the way that Klout, one of the ‘standard’ measures of ‘influence’ has changed their algorithm, causing much distress to those who have seen their numbers plummet.

I’ve never had a high Klout score so didn’t have much to lose – perhaps that’s why I’ve not taken the change as hard as some. I haven’t been ‘involved’ in social media for too long either so probably wouldn’t mark myself very highly but it’s been interesting watching the fuss and focus given to these measures.

Claire has described in her blog here,  background about Klout and measures of influence in general and I won’t repeat her – not least because it is a great post.

I think more broadly about what it is these measures, not just Klout but PeerIndex and others which are popping up all over the place  actually mean.

A part of the problem is that there is no obvious transparency. The reason for this is clear. The companies doing the measurements are private ventures and don’t want to share their innovative new ways of deciding who has ‘influence’ in the social sphere. However the clear problem with that is that we, as users, don’t know exactly what and how we are being measured.

The second problem is the issue of assigning influence a number in the first place. I have a vague difficulty with this as I do think that ‘social media’ is not separate from ‘mainstream media’ influence.  Influence means different things to different people and to different recipients of that knowledge. People who are very influential to me, my close family, for example, would not figure on a ‘metric’ designed to quantify all manner of relationships and interactions and these metrics don’t take account of the real  human relationships of a partner or a friend or a respected boss/colleague.

Your salary level or rather, disposable income isn’t measured in this metric but that is one of the key factors that determines my ability to consume products or not (often something advertisers would be most interested in).

By measuring follower counts/retweets/shared information/conversations, the metric is not able to measure the quality of content.

The fact that Justin Bieber has a Klout score of 100 is case in point.

My thoughts are that human beings, by our nature, like to quantify and classify everything. We have names for species and like to ascribe values to anything that might possibly be quantifiable.

This is because we like to compare ourselves with others and ‘do better’ – the natural competitive streak, perhaps.

But knowing ‘influence’ regardless of the way it is measured also allows for cash value to be ascribed to particular types of users of social media and it also implies that there are ‘right’ ways and ‘wrong’ ways to use the medium. Those with high scores are somehow judged to be ‘better’ than those with low scores which for me, goes against the principal of everyone finding their own way and what works for them.

These figures and numbers won’t be going away though as they provide useful data to a variety of companies who want to target campaigns and make all kinds of relationships and interactions quantifiable.

The future is in metrics, whether they mean anything or not – I suspect we will increasingly see  more specialised services which allow different aspects of interactions to be measured.

In the meantime, I take these scores and marks with a pinch of salt and as a bit of fun. I am a name not a number!

What are your #socialcare information needs?

This post was inspired by @daveneenhan following a recent Guardian article about Bromley’s MyLife approach to choice and control. The new portal aims to provide “a route for self-support in adult social care” This was followed by a Twitter discussion about the value of static online Directories of Social Care services which do not encourage or engage with people who use care services to comment or add to the Directory. In fairness to Bromley they are not alone in providing what is basically an online list of local care services. Most local authorities such as Lewisham My Life My Choice have adopted a similar format.

We would love to know about local authorities who are actively using social media channels to inform and engage their residents aboput social care so please do share good practice. A special mention here for Monmouthshire County Council and Helen Reynolds @HelReynolds who have opened up access to social media channels for all their staff and provide excellent case studies of digital engagement.

‘The future for personalisation? service users, carers & digital engagement’ highlighted the urgent need for people to be signposted to relevant information. Research from the Institute for Public Policy at Oxford Brookes University (2011) and Melanie Henwood Associates (2011) suggests that despite the massive investment by local authorities in providing online social care directories the situation has not changed since 2007.

“Time and again, people described the struggle to obtain information, advice or advocacy to help them in making life-changing decisions”.

There are an increasing number of ‘bottom-up’ and community led initiatives that harness the power of the internet to provide information and resources so why are local authorities not using them?

A few examples which are not included in most local authority Directory of Social Care services websites:

Enabled by Design a community of people who are passionate about well-designed, everyday products that challenge the one-size-fits-all approach to assistive equipment. An excellent example of a website that encourages service users with a disability to share information and thoughts about products and services that are improving the quality of people&’s lives. @enabledby

Netbuddy is for swapping practical tips and information on all aspects of supporting people with learning disabilities. The site includes forums and downloadable information packs @netbuddytoptips

Go Genie Making the inaccessible accessible. Crowd-sourced access information for any place any time any where. @go_genie

Chill4usCarers actively uses social media to raise awareness and support for carers. The Carers’ forum provides information, news and views. Chill4usCarers organises Computers4carers which provides free laptops for carers. It also offers a chat room, open 24 hours a day @Chill4usCarers

The Amazings help people who are about to retire or have retired create amazing experiences with the skills, knowledge and passion they’ve picked up throughout their life. @theamazingsuk

Martyn Sibley has used his personal experiences to create a series of disability webinars interactive sessions providing information to people living with long-term health conditions and disabilities. @martynsibley

This is only a very small sample of the many new and innovative approaches which are being developed to improve social care services. Can you find this information through your local authority website?

We believe that research which actually asks service users & carers about their information and advice needs is required urgently. This is a very important debate and we would love to hear your views!

5 Concerns for Social Workers using Social Media

I wrote at the weekend about some of the positives of using social media for me as a social worker in frontline practice and was almost immediately asked about some of the dangers of using this medium so thought I’d follow up quite quickly with a post about some of the things to be aware of.

1. Social Media is not a Panacea

It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new project or idea and get carried away and believe that with social media and the ability to crowdsource ideas and share problems, we are finding new ways of working that will provide the answers to all those ills. It doesn’t remove the need for face to face communication and there are as many pitfalls as there are benefits.

We should not assume that it is the only way to discuss and share information with each other. Last week, in fact, I attended a meeting with social workers from other sectors and areas and one of the things we collectively decided was one of the most important positives of the day was the human contact and the actual ‘meetings’ that were taking place over cups of tea.  It is good to remember that behind the sentences and the avatar is another human being who has good days and bad days and not to overemphasise the importance of a ‘name’ on a social media challenge.

2. Identity

I write anonymously. Others don’t. It is an issue that exists because of the work I do. I am very proud to identify myself as a social worker in social situations and in ‘real life’ but on the ‘internet’ a pseudonym makes me feel more comfortable. That’s a personal choice for me, it might not be the right choice but the fact that there are these choices to be made is one that can be particular to professions such as ours.  While I would say that with or without the veil of anonymity, we should always remain responsible in what we say (my motto is to always imagine that my boss/mother/service users/colleagues can both read and identify me when I write whatever I write) and remember that it will reflect not only on us personally but on the profession.

3. Privacy/Confidentiality

This relates to the last point. Of course, it should go without saying that no bounds of confidentiality should ever be breached and while some networks can seem to be ‘safe’ if you only speak to friends, there is no need for details of work to be shared and you are on very dangerous ground if you decide you want to tweet some of the details of cases you are working on (yes, unfortunately I have seen it happen).

Regarding privacy, that is mostly your own. Know the different levels of privacy and security settings on the networks you use and use them appropriately to protect yourself.

4. Put the ‘Social’ in Social Media

Remember the social part of the social media. This is the beauty of it but don’t forget it isn’t about metrics or figures about how many people you have following you. It’s more about the quality of connections you make and the way you are able to build conversations into relationships. This can be forgotten sometimes in the rush towards Facebook ‘friends’ or Twitter ‘followers’ but the technology is just giving us new ways to connect and use our communication skills, it is not an end in itself.

5. Personal and Professional Ethical Values carry over

I can’t emphasise this enough. You might have an anonymous identity but that doesn’t exempt you from the GSCC Code of Conduct. True, you  may never be caught but there is an expectation of a type of behaviour that includes all aspects of life. It’s mostly about respect. Respecting other people and their rights to privacy, respecting the profession and the type of work you do, respecting the ability to find new ways to communicate. Of course there should be a distinction between ‘home’ and ‘work’ which is why things like ‘facebook friend requests’ from people you have worked or are working with come into this. These lines may become more blurred as more of the private moves into public space. It doesn’t mean not to use these tools, but to always use them responsibly.

For me, the positives massively outweigh any cautions but this is just a very basic list. As always, I’d welcome more ideas and suggestions to add to it!

Finally this PDF  document produced by the BMA providing social media guidance for doctors and student doctors is highly recommended. It puts the issues and considerations across far better than I have!

Running a #socialcare event? Share your # with @cscsm

A lot of interest has been generated and new links provided through our Twitter Chats are Booming post. We are very aware that there are lots of social care related events happening every week and we would like to share the hashtags and links through Twitter. Do let us know through @cscsm if you are running an event.

We are adopting a silo busting global definition of what social care is! We believe that social care encompasses all of the services which contribute to an individual feeling safe, secure and supported in their local community. This includes: social care, health, education and learning, housing, family and informal care, services for children and young people, employment, transport, police, leisure, community activities, third sector and social enterprises.

5 reasons Why Social Workers should use Social Media

Firstly, thanks to Shirley for setting up this site. It looks like an exciting space to share information about using social media for people in the social care sector.

I’m very far from a ‘pro’ when it comes to getting to grips with technology but that’s part of the reason I find the world we are living in so fascinating at the moment. Technology is a part of daily life in ways that it never was even five years ago. Yes, for some who are involved in the industry, this is all ‘old hat’ but for people like me who have always shown an interest rather than an enthusiasm, the opportunities to engage and enjoy different ways of making contact is both fascinating and exciting.

I wanted to start by writing up a few of my thoughts about the proliferation of social media and technology over the past few years and how I, as a currently practising social worker, have found them useful and why I think other social workers like me, should ‘take the plunge’.

1. Knowledge building

Last week, I wrote on the College of Social Work site about the importance of knowledge as a social worker. Knowledge isn’t static it is a work in progress. I now have access to blogs and websites that allow me to read and understand social work in a broader context and allow me to take much more responsibility for my learning and knowledge base through ‘standing on the shoulders of others’.

I can follow Twitter feeds and draw in links from those who work in different practice areas and internationally. I can follow publications through Facebook and join conversations there.

Since jumping into the ‘social media’ pool, my knowledge base has expanded exponentially. I follow the news from different countries and organisations with more interest. I can hear ‘voices’ directly from those areas affected rather than relying wholly on the mainstream media interpretations of those events. I can ‘speak’ to people in local authorities and health services and understand where my role fits in among wider systems.

I learn and I grow as a social worker but more importantly as a person.

2. Making Connections

The fact that I am writing this post now is a testament to my second point – one of making connections. I am a frontline social worker and I am not involved in any of the social work management type career path. I do my job and I hope I do my job well but I don’t have a wider ‘voice’ as relates to the ‘leaders of the profession’ or at least, I didn’t until I started to use Twitter more frequently.

Mainstream Media uses Twitter and Facebook to build stories and follow stories so ‘being there’ helps me understand how news cycles work and how journalism works and as such, it means my critical analysis about the ways that stories are put together and fed to us are sharper. The Guardian is using social media to share it’s daily newslist. Community Care has a very strong and responsive presence on Twitter and Facebook. You go where the influencers are and you can join in with the influencing.

If I say pertinent things, people will listen but it isn’t just about making connections with those who are influential in much easier ways, it is also, perhaps far more importantly, about making connections with those who use services in very different ways and learning directly about what makes a good social worker from people who have met many bad social workers. It makes my practice more person-centred and gives me a voice in dimensions that would not have been possible in previous generations.

I also think of people who might be affected by disability or illness who are able to make broader connections to feel less isolated. I have been involved in providing direct payments for people to include use of PC and broadband connection.  I was told it would improve the quality of life of the service user and carer and  I experience it so I understand it.

This is going to become much more common. As  I connect with people who use the services not directly by me but in similar settings in other areas of the country and in other service areas. When we connect in the  social sphere, I learn and I understand better  and it will make me a better practitioner as a result, I have no doubt of that.

3. Building conversations

Connections are built on relationships and they are grown through conversations and one of the real bonuses I’ve noted recently are the ways that conversations can grow – either planned, like the Twitter Chat from SWSCMedia or on an improvised basis around particular topics. Facebook and Google+ are also good spaces for more extensive discussions to develop and extend beyond the 140 character limit that Twitter imposes (which has both advantages and disadvantages).

The great thing about ‘Twitter Chats’ or any chat that takes place in the open ‘social’ space is that it allows anyone from students, users of services, heads of services and run of the mill practitioners to join in, speak to each other and contribute – a real stride on the path towards equal voices being heard and a true revolution in terms of the way that information is shared and the way that knowledge can be shared.

4. Constructing and Reinforcing a Professional Identity

Social Work suffers from a image problem. Social media and non-traditional media offer us – as social workers – an opportunity to really reclaim that image without having to rely on organisations or management to do it for us. We do that by using this media responsibly and building links with service user organisations. We do this by sharing the work we do and the way we do it according to our ethical standards and by emphasising that one individual’s bad experience with a particular social worker does mean the whole profession is rotten.

We can explain and expand on what we do and why we do it directly with the mainstream media when we haven’t been given space to in the past. We can prove that it is a valuable and honourable – but oft-ignored profession – which is worthy of respect.

Social Workers are all about Social Networks. We use theories to explain relationships and networks so we have to use them too and prove we can use them successfully.

Social Networks are useful to me because they make my world bigger. They can also be very useful to the people I work with and if I am going to meet people where they are, sometimes that will be (and more increasingly so) the ‘social space’ created by technology.

5. Building Support and Resilience

I’m fortunate enough to have very supportive managers and colleagues but I’ve worked in situations where that hasn’t been the case and it can feel very isolating. Sometimes it feels like no-one can understand the stresses and pressures of the job as much as someone who is actually doing it and social media allows us ways to make contact, from home, both with other social workers who can share their own knowledge and experiences but also with our own friends who we might not have as much time to see as we would like.

We can remain in touch with our support networks and build new support networks which can help us understand what are acceptable and unacceptable expectations by our managers and find ways to talk to each other about things we find difficult (but always remaining conscious of confidentiality issues).

And sometimes, all you want to do is browse kitten photos to lift your mood.

It is important to have fun and have interests away from work – to chat about Strictly Come Dancing or follow the X Factor or to post, yes, .. kitten photos!

I’d be interested to know other reasons. These aren’t meant to be definitive and this is an area I’m interested in exploring and continuing to explore.

The point of this is to learn from others so please do share reasons and examples of positive uses for social media platforms!

Twitter chats are booming for #socialcare

Twitter is about sharing thoughts, ideas and conversations. It helps you find new people you may never meet otherwise and it is breaking down the silo thinking which is such a challenge for care and health. Encouragingly there has been a significant increase in Twitter chats and I would like to introduce you to some of the chats I follow and contribute to.

Twitter chats are scheduled gatherings of people on Twitter to discuss pretty much anything that interests them, using a #hashtag to keep track of the conversation. There are chats for everything from blogging to health to education and now social work and social care.

An excellent post by Jane Hart @C4LPT of The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies explores synchronous learning with live Twitter chats. I recommend reading Jane’s How to use Twitter for Social Learning a free downloadable resource.

Social learning is an important element of Twitter chats and it certainly keeps me informed about new social media initiatives across social care, health, work with children and young people, education, the public and third sectors and social enterprises.

@SWSCmedia recently launched a Twitter chat about social work and media #swscmedia Find out more here The next discussion on 1st November will explore “Developing Leadership in Social Work”.

@lgovsm recently relaunched their weekly tweet chat about social media & digital technology in local government #lgovsm Tuesday 8pm Find out more here

@NurChat is a fortnightly nurse Twitter chat about nursing care #NurChat Tuesday 8pm Find out more here

@OTalk_Occhat Launching 25th Oct a weekly Twitter chat about occupational therapy. #OTalk (Occupational Therapy) will alternate with #Occhat (broader Occupational Science focus) on 1st Nov Tuesday 8pm Find out more here

@nhssm runs a weekly Twitter chat to get the NHS talking about social media and how it can benefit patients. Wide ranging debates #nhssm Wednesday 8pm Find out more here

@lrnchat is a weekly Twitter chat where social media and Learning meet #lrnchat Thursday 4.30pm Find out more here

With thanks to @clarkmike we now have a link to the Healthcare Hashtag Project which aims to make the use of Twitter more accessible for providers and the healthcare community as a whole. The Healthcare Tweet Chat Calender provides an international list of health related Twitter chats. Find out more here

What are your favourite Twitter chats? What advice do you have for running or participating in a successful Twitter chat?

Information overload for social care?

I have been impressed and, to be honest slightly overwhelmed, by the number of new personalisation and social care publications launched at the Children and Adult Services Conference 2011 last week. Excellent information and case studies but I do wonder who will have the opportunity to read, digest and act upon all of the many conclusions and recommendations. My starting point for this post was helpfully provided by Jackie Rafferty asking the question “what support do I need to live as independently as possible?

One of the key publications for me is the Think Local Act Personal Partnership (TLAP) “Making it Real: New citizen-led approach for councils, organisations and people to check progress with personalisation and community-based support” This provides a set of statements from people who use services and carers which set out what they would expect, see and experience if personalisation is working well in an organisation. The markers will help organisations involved in commissioning and delivering care and support- from councils to providers of in-home, residential or nursing care – to look at their current practice, identify areas that need improvement and develop plans for change.

In early 2012, everyone involved in care and support will be able to go to the TLAP website to declare their commitment to use Making it Real as a way of showing they are committed to personalisation and be awarded the TLAP logo. An approach to assess the quality of an organisations declaration and use of a TLAP logo is currently being tested. There will also be a nationally-led citizen survey which will allow citizens to feedback on an organisations progress against the markers. The Care Quality Commission are undertaking a mapping exercise to see how the markers fit with relevant essential standards of safety and quality.

How will progress be evaluated – what are the Key Themes and Criteria?

1) Information and Advice: having the information I need, when I need it

2) Active and supportive communities: keeping friends, family and place

3) Flexible integrated care and support: my support, my own way

4) Workforce: my support staff

5) Risk enablement: feeling in control and safe

6) Personal budgets and self-funding: my money

My recent report ‘The future for personalisation? service users, carers & digital engagement’ produced in collaboration with The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services highlighted the many charities and social enterprises who are using social media channels to provide innovative responses to the need for social care information and support. In contrast there is a real need for managers and leaders within public service organisations to develop and extend the empowerment of front-line staff, to support their engagement with people and communities.

It does occur to me that it would be useful to have some benchmarks now to share current good practice and social innovation in social care. “The marketplace for social care good and services is likely to continue evolve as the online marketplaces mature, as the mainstream providers players extend their offering and as service users continue to exploit the opportunities for networking afforded by social media. Because of its inherent decentralised, or bottom-up, nature, social media may offer the key to sustainability.”

The support that each person requires to live independently is unique and can be provided in many different ways. I believe our biggest challenge is connecting people, ideas and knowledge across the whole of the care sector to make a reality of person-centred care. And as a matter of urgency we need to simplfy and demystify the language of social care!