Category Archives: Social Media in Public Services

Join our social conversation at @HseParty on the 25th June

This week I am attending HouseParty the first ever unofficial housing fringe bringing together grassroots housing and social change-makers to explore, showcase and discuss the latest innovations in UK housing and beyond organised by  and . Have a look at the innovative programme and follow  to understand what has inspired  . My one regret is that the health and social care sectors have not seized this opportunity to engage with housing colleagues in addressing the challenges of community engagement and digital inclusion.

On Wednesday 25th June at 9.30  and I will be contributing to   by having a very social conversation and we would love you to join us using the hashtag #socialconvo. Helen, Paul and I come from very different backgrounds but we share a belief  that being social is about sharing generously, creating relationships and seeking new collaborations.

Paul has shared 10 Things We Learned About Behaviours From  in this rather stunning presentation.

 

Our first #socialconvo was held in London where , Paul and I discussed how social media can be used for social good.  As Mark so delightfully puts it “how do you move social media from a broadcasting medium to a space where relationships grow and where, sometimes, magic things happen?”

I have long been a fan of Erik Qualmann and his powerful and very popular videos which provides statistics about the global influence of social media. As Erik says “it is not a question now about whether you should be involved in social media but how well you do it” 

It was great to see Erik respond on Twitter to Paul’s comment that “the clip turns as many CEOs off as it excites”

”   thanks Paul. If you know specific CEOs let me know – I may know them – it will help the next edit”

Just in case you have not seen the latest Socialnomics video!

 

Helen, Paul and I hope you will join us on Wednesday 25th June at 9.30 to explore “How social is your organisation and what investment do you need to make to become an influencer in the increasingly crowded social space?” We welcome your thoughts, comments and questions via #socialconvo!

PS: Congratulations are definitely in order for  who was number one on the #powerplayers14 list and who recently won the local government category of the Digital Leaders 100 Awards.

If you would like to explore the benefits of having a social conversation in your organisation do get in touch!

Social conversations, social media and social good

You may have picked up that Mark Brown  Paul Taylor   and I are running an event on the 29th April in Central London. We are exploring “What can social media do to make social good better?”

 

What makes it special for me is that Mark, Paul and I come from very different backgrounds but we have a shared interest in how social media is defining care, support and community engagement both online and offline in the digital age. We are also exploring what it means to be a social business and the importance of seeing social media  as part of a core vision to transform your business rather than a marginal activity. 

We are delighted that we already received sponsorship for a place at the event which has been awarded to Alison Cameron @allyc375. If you  would like to sponsor a place at the event do get in touch!  We look forward to discussing the questions submitted by participants and via Twitter.

Whether you work in the public, private, charity or social enterprise sectors understanding the impact of social media for social good is now essential. We do hope you will join us on the 29th April for a very social conversation. You can follow the discussion on Twitter using the hahtag #socialconvo. Following the considerable interest in my post “Is social media putting the ‘social’ back into care” we particularly welcome people from the care sector interested  why “Social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate” .

Our conversations started when Stu Arnott @MindingsStu and I interviewed Mark and Paul for the Disruptive Social Care podcast. The podcasts have been downloaded thousands of times but just in case you missed these interviews…….

Mark Brown has been described as one of the smartest thinkers in the worlds of social media and mental health. Mark edits One in Four, England’s only national mental health and wellbeing magazine written by people who experience mental health difficulties. Mark is a director of Social Spider a community interest company helping people to make change happen. 

 

Paul Taylor specialises on Innovation, Service Design and Research
and Development at Bromford a social business providing homes and support to over 80,000 people. Paul leads the Innovation Lab and he is particularly interested in the development of preventative social solutions and the power of technology to connect people. Paul was a key part of the team who developed the Bromford Deal which aims to shift resources away from reactive interventions and into more person centred customer care and support.

 

We look forward to you joining us on the 29th April to be part of a very social conversation 

Can Social Media be taught?

I have been on the periphery of a few conversations and discussions about the use of social media both for teaching and learning and about use of social media more formally in training and learning. Some partly alluded to in this post.

I am generally of the mind that use of  social media are best considered broadly within communication skills and that there may be some forms of guidance that can be offered, mostly in terms of modelling behaviours, it isn’t a subject that either can or should be taught as a distinct subject matter.

These are my reasons

1) We are still at the early stages of knowing, learning and understanding the possibilities, format and etiquette of interactions which take place online. By ‘teaching’ we codify a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way where the right and wrong should merely be an extension of what we consider to be ethical practice and conduct in all spheres of life and communication.

2) We are confusing the tools and the medium for the content. Platforms come and go – from Usenet, bulletin boards, IRC (Internet Relay Chat), MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs – the media can, does and will change. Teaching someone the basic IT skills to set up a WordPress blog is one thing and can be enormously helpful but teaching them what they should or should not put on it?

I think that’s better left to the community around them. Yes, mistakes will be made but that’s how learning grows. If someone doesn’t realise that disclosing details of a visit on their own blog is counter to professional codes of ethics, it isn’t because they don’t ‘get’ social media, it’s because they don’t ‘get’ professional codes of confidentiality.

3) Identifying self-appointed ‘experts’ who do the ‘teaching’ is a tricky area. What makes someone an ‘expert’ in social media? Is it someone with 5,000 followers on Twitter? Numbers are meaningless – followers can be bought and it’s more important who those followers are. Is an expert someone with a blog that has a following? Well, they might be an expert in writing a particular blog about a particular subject but I don’t think that gives them an authority globally. Or is it an academic that has written extensively on and about social media?Perhaps but it is a sector where the learning by doing is particularly prominent.

Learning about the theory of social networks is fascinating but does it help with the practical implementation? And what is ‘good use’ of social media anyway? Building a supportive network of people who think in the same way? Extending ideas and focus of knowledge? Learning about new research? We have different and fluid outcomes that are personal and individual – so how can a syllabus capture that? I’m not sure. Should it try? That’s a really key question.  If there’s one area that self-directed learning and understanding really should flourish, I suspect it may well be this area.

4) Social Media is about building relationships and trust. No one can teach you to be authentic if you aren’t. No one can build an authority for you. You live or die on the content, information and relationships you build.

5) I worry that by creating a culture of ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ we are imposing a hierarchy of a system of ‘people who know’ and ‘people who don’t’ into an area that thrives particularly because it is able to break things down.

So how do we learn and ensure that people learn to use these networks safely?

I say by relying on just diving in and perhaps modelling some behaviour around ‘mentors’ – asking and helping as we go. Perhaps when we see people new to these networks we all take a responsibility to offer suggestions and advice.  When I helped someone set up their facebook account, I went straight into the privacy settings with them and explained them.

Sometimes people need to be guided around the etiquette within different networks and forums and a gentle guiding hand can be useful.

My worry is that more formal teaching/learning will lose the instinctive learning-by-doing and learning-by-experimenting which have led to some amazing opportunities.

I’d be really interested in the views of others about this though. After all, we are all still learning. I don’t have the answers and I am willing to be swayed on this as it’s based pretty much on my own experiences and thoughts. So please do feel free to persuade me otherwise!

Reflections from #localgovcamp

I spent Saturday in Birmingham, attending ‘LocalGovCamp’ an ‘unconference for local government’.  I want to share some of my initial thoughts, impressions and reactions and look at ways forward particularly for the social care sector where I work.

This was the third ‘unconference’ I’ve been to but I’ve not been specifically to LocalGovCamp before. As it’s my third, I feel almost like I’m beginning to understand the process but each have their own flavours and soon I realised that the melding of blogging/tweeting anonymously and turning up at events which have an underlying assumption of openness don’t always meld!

There are a lot of people with a lot of confidence, experience and knowledge and they actively want to share. I felt that at times I had to stop and absorb in order to learn and the live tweeting tailed off as I found it difficult to think, tweet and reflect simultaneously. As someone who is a bit ‘arms length’ from my employers, it was good to feel a part of the ‘local government’ community and I think it’s really important that people like me (not necessarily me personally, I’m probably less confident at these things than I should be) who are on the frontline of practice and service delivery attend as we can add something to the mix – I think!  It’s easy to be a bit intimidated around impressive and confident people but everyone was very kind, warm and welcoming.

I attended a number of sessions including one specifically about social care. I was able to get a broader idea and impression of the place of social work within social care and the place of social care within local authority services.

I want to reflect particularly on that for a moment.

The broad theme of social care drew more interest than I’d expected. I think I always assume that there’s little interest in our work in the ‘town hall’ because we don’t get much feedback and feel a bit distant – especially as I’m seconded into a Mental Health team and can’t get my intranet/email from my local authority employers, let alone accessing any of their databases!

I kind of suspect that they forget we exist so even by proxy turning up at broad ‘local government’ themed events maybe tips a few people off that we are out there, visiting people in their homes every day and actively conducting local authority business, implementing the  policy decided in offices and being a crucial contact between the citizen and the organisation.

A lot of opportunities exist at present in the context  of the recently published Adult Care White Paper which pushes a ‘digital by default’ agenda to local authorities in terms of ensuring information is well propagated beyond those who are ‘eligible’ for care services. There are also increasingly going to be stronger pushes forward to ‘ratings’ sites and responses being collated into information that is vibrate and responsive rather than static.

So where is this work going to fall? Will it be a task given within a back office in commissioning or communication departments? Probably.  I made a plea that there is some involvement from the frontline services that currently exist and hope at least that will be considered in parts.

In some ways health are further ahead with more useful information sites and some of those will be rolled out into social care including 111 telephone response services  – I wonder if local authorities really know what they have been tasked to provide at this point.

Social care is an area where work and progress can make an immediate and active positive impact on the lives of those who might not be those who are shouting loudest.  Broadening commissioning will help, as explained in the White Paper and that will be done by broadening conversations about commissioning and honestly about what is working badly as well as what is working well.

One day, I’d love to see some more  senior people within my own council attending events like this.

Could there be a similar event specifically around social care? I’d like to see it. There are a lot of people who have great passion for the sector but the true value in these unconferences, particularly those outside working hours, are that the people who attend are those who choose to and who want to make things better, differently.

It isn’t all about new technology and new media. It’s sometimes about those meetings, those one to one conversations and discussions by people who can inspire and jog each other to promote change in the areas they work in.

A last thought, which is to mention #lgovsm . I attended the session discussing the community that meets ‘on Twitter’ between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Tuesdays and provides an opportunity to build discussions outside our specific areas of specialism and expertise across local government as a sector.  It was great to meet some of the people behind the conversations and I’m enthused to follow and attend these chats more regularly.

Top down and bottom up conversations are becoming more common as some of the ‘traditional hierarchies’ are being challenged by new ways of communicating–  let’s have more of the cross-sector horizontal conversations. Let’s learn in social care from health, housing, environmental health and street cleaning about ways to engage and grasp the imagination of the public and the sector in terms of promoting new ways of doing things. Let’s learn from our comms teams about how they work and operate and the stories they want to hear from us.  Let’s not hide in a ‘social care’ silo when there is so much information, knowledge, sharing and desire to share with us. Those are opportunities and they should be grasped in any and every way possible.

Let’s make social care and social work work better, but let’s also make local government and local government provided services work better all round. The two are inherently linked and I am passionately committed to being a part of a local authority that delivers the best services it can for all the citizens for whom it works – yes, my ‘specialism’ may well be social care and health but my interest is in involvement and participation at a fair broader level. Thinking ‘holistically’ needs thinking beyond the sector and that’s the joy of these events.

That’s what I learned.  That wasn’t bad for one Saturday in July. I’ll take that.

Thanks to those who organised, coordinated and sponsored this event. It was a pleasure to attend and be a part of it and like a slow cooker, I’m germinating a lot of ideas that I expect will take a good few months to bubble to the top.

Reflections on Digital Health Conference and Hack 2012

Leeds

I spent a couple of days last week in Leeds, attending the Digital Health Conference and Hack.  I wanted to fill in some initial reflections today and write more about some of the sessions I attended over the coming week.

The Conference

The first day – the ‘conference’ part – was put together with thought and care towards the participants with an excellent balance of speakers, workshops and opportunities to talk to one another (or ‘network’).  Having been to many conferences which have overdone the ‘being spoken to’ elements – particularly in a day – I was genuinely delighted by the opportunity to feedback.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the day was the other participants and attendees. There were people from across the health and social care sector, including users of services provided (although as was pointed out, we are all users to a degree), voluntary sector organisations, technology based companies, commercial organisations and people from national and local government.

One of the themes that jumped out at me most spectacularly was how much was gained by putting us all in a room together where otherwise we might have no opportunities to meet, to create a positive energy (tinged with scepticism of reality to a degree) about what is actually possible to ‘make things better’.

Whether it was a discussion about the Department of Health Information Strategy for Health and Social Care (which will be the subject of it’s own post later in the week!) or a closer look at the Department of Health ‘Maps and Apps’ project or a discussion with clinicians about the way they use social media or a look at the ‘Patient Opinion’ model for providing useful communication and feedback between users and services.

Both ‘Maps and Apps’ and ‘Patient Opinion’ will be moving into the Social Care space directly and for me, it was a useful chance to discuss and think more deeply about the ‘social care’ angle on these processes and how they might directly relate to the work I do clinically on a day to day basis.

The second part of the day revolved around planning, discussions and moving forward but it’s hard for me to get away from the realisation that the most important thing that I took away from the day was inspiration and connections.

I met some truly inspirational people (primarily Claire Jones, the organiser of this event) and had some intensely interesting conversations. I connected with people across the traditional hierarchical structures that we are sometimes constrained by as well as some of the traditional ‘silos’ of interest groups that can be seen to exist within health and social care more broadly.

The Hack

The Hack Day on Saturday was a chance to discuss in more detail some practical ideas and uses for technology at work. The group I worked in provided me with an enjoyable, engaging and thought-provoking discussions. We came from very different angles to look at the problems we faced in working/using/dealing with NHS and Social Care systems and how not only technology but better communication and relationships could solve them.

The projects that were presented at the end of the Hack Day were genuinely useful and provided a chance to see change in action. It isn’t just talk although it’s impossible to underestimate the possibilities of talk.

The Conclusions

My main lessons from the event:-

1) Moving away from top/down and bottom/up models of communication as the sole way of transmitting information and ideas. The real change comes from horizontal as well as vertical chains of discussion. Look at other sectors as well as those at all levels of our own.  How is agriculture managing this? What is education doing? We can get lost in our own world and of course, we need to look across health and social care. It’s a VERY big place. Many people who use and need our services to operate well can tell us best where we need to improve. Skills and knowledge is not a top down transfer.

2) Social Care is in genuine danger of being squeezed out in the ‘Health and Social Care’ debate and discussion. I was gently reminding some of the health people that we existed but I’d love to see more input from the sector and perhaps input more myself.

3) Social Media opens opportunities. I would never have come across this event without it. But sometimes, face to face meetings can reinforce ideas and relationships too.

4) Sometimes just sitting a few people together and talking about ‘making things better’ from completely different ‘starting points’ can be both inspirational and revolutionary. Let’s do more.

5)Leeds is an exciting and beautiful place. I want to move Winking smile

I hope to write more specifically over the week about the ‘Maps and Apps’ project and the Information Strategy for Health and Social Care but all in all, I can’t think of a more satisfying and reinvigorating weekend I’ve spent in a long, long time so can only thank Claire for doing rather than talking about doing.

These are the people who will change the world. Rather than talk about changing the world. Thank you, Claire. Thank you, Leeds. I’ll be back and in the meantime, I’ll be plotting, planning but most importantly, talking.

photo by Leah Makin Photography at Flickr

Reflections on Blue Light Camp #blcamp

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Thoughts from an unconference

Last weekend, I found myself in Manchester to attend Blue Light Camp. I went to my first ‘unconference’  GovCamp 2012 earlier this year and was both thrilled and compelled to attend another and booked myself up to go to BlueLight Camp at that point.

The purpose of Blue Light Camp was focused particularly on the use of social media/technology solutions and problems faced by first response services – particularly police, fire, ambulance but including social care and auxiliary services which have attached involvement.

The power of the ‘unconference’ is to (as was said yesterday) to capture more of the networking that happens around more traditional conferences and growing some of the more interesting conversations that develop and pushing them to the centre rather than keeping them at the periphery.

After large scale introductions, the pitches for the sessions started and I could see some of the difficulties in making decisions about where to go.

I started at a session based around ideas in the ‘Art of Deception’ and took part in a fascinating and wide ranging series of conversations about some of the darker forces and concerns about the use of social media as well as drawing and sharing experiences of the benefits.

It’s easy to be swayed and entranced by the power of the digital and new waves of communication but there are still rules and patterns of behaviour to be learnt. Some ‘mistakes’ are made through the spread of misinformation unintentionally but there can also be mischief-makers and worse who can see different ways of spreading and using the power of the tool in malicious ways.

We can (and often do) make mistakes in our uses of social media. Sometimes the best thing to do is to apologise and move on. We should treat our ‘users’, ‘customers’, ‘the general public’ as adults (if they are!) and we will gain more respect through honesty and reliability as a result – but there’s a lot of latent fear of ‘bad use’.

It was a conversation that I continued over lunch with some of the other attendees and one that made me realise how near we are to the beginning of our learning cycles about both potential perils and opportunities afforded to us by our use of networks of communication and that today’s Twitter will be tomorrow’s MySpace. Platforms change,  but ways of communicating change more slowly.

Immediately after lunch, I attended a session on co-production. This is an area possibly where social care are slightly ahead of the game with the push for more user involvement/engagement. What followed was an interesting discussion on how to use the ‘general public’ to have a stake in the services we need and use – even if we are not aware of it – like the fire service. There was a lot we can learn in social care as a whole though from the suggestions shared – such as encouraging engagement and responses through the use of Bubblino.  How do we encourage ‘micro feedback’ and use it in our services as some of the traditional feedback mechanisms (long PDF documents and filling in ‘response’ forms) can be dry and encourage the same people who are time-rich to have the louder voices. It is an area that definitely needs more creative thought and it was useful to share information across different services rather than – to put it bluntly – to reinvent the wheel in an infinite amount of ways.

I  then attended a session of brainstorming about a new potential platform/web site/forum/online space for First Responders to collate and share information outside the silos that are currently in place. It’s an area that interests me particularly as I think we naturally allay into our ‘work based’ personae in order to build protective silos and can easily forget the sometime crucial element of who we are ‘working for’ ultimately.

It’s often seen between and within health and social care. My simplistic solution to some of these problems in the past where they have existed locally is to co-locate training or even visits so that we can meet and understand the ‘people behind the telephone’. Grumbling about ‘district nurses’ is easy but when you know Amy who was very friendly and made you a cup of tea, it’s more difficult to grumble and then, when you have an immediate issue, you make a point of calling Amy because she’s ‘easier to talk to’ than ‘some of the others’ then you can see the differences breaking down.

When Joe from the local police station visited and you had a laugh with him, you’ll feel less intimidated or concerned about calling him over what you might think is a minor issue or question. It doesn’t always work like that of course, but knowing people makes it easier to speak to them about the little things that come up. So that’s how it is face-to-face – can these relationships grow in parallel ways online? I have no doubt. There are some people who I have built up relationships with online and would seek to enter conversations with them to ask questions/support in a more private forum (email/DM) and I can see that happening more frequently. Again, it’s all about trust.

The final session I attended was a fascinating breakdown of information about how twitter in particular  was used during the riots last summer.  Farida Vis, a communications academic who has been researching the use of social media as a part of the Reading the Riots research gave a presentation/initiated a conversation about the way the social media was used in a civil emergency situation. She has written a blog post here which I highly recommend as she explains the premise and results of her research directly.  The slides she spoke from were also shared here. Particularly interesting is the visualisation which she represents about the spread of rumours and the ways the rumours were quelled.

I may well return to a more extensive post about the use of social media during the riots so I won’t feedback more extensively now except to recommend you read the links I shared above.

So after some initial anxiety about attending, I found Blue Light Camp both invigorating and compelling. I have more ideas, more contacts and more incentive to return to work and ‘make a difference’ – what I am struck by is how many motivated, interested and exciting people there are in this sector and how  much we can do when we ignore some of the barriers which are often used to divide us into different sectors.

And I got a blue pig.

Photo1 (2)

So thanks to the incredible organisation team and sponsors. Thanks to all the attendees and thanks for the kindness, friendliness and openness.  It was a compelling and thought-provoking Sunday in Manchester. I hope to be back.

Top photo from Metropolitan Police/Flickr