Last weekend we kicked off the first of a series of Local by Social regional events. We packed our bags and headed over to Coventry to spend two days with local govvies, techies and (most importantly of all) Coventry residents, all looking to use the web and their unique experiences of their community to help local issues in new ways.
The event was divided up into two days. Day one brought together examples of how people are using the web to bring people together and make a difference in their part of the Midlands, as well as inventing some of our own right there on the day! On day two, a group of us from day one got together to make their best ideas a reality.
Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry Council, set the tone for the event on Friday moning:
“We’ve got to adapt and change the ways we talk to each other and come together… We will not be missing the social media boat.”
Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of Coventry Council
We were then joined by a wide range of people doing good things when it comes to connecting communities through the web, as well as hearing from those within local government. Have a peep at the full day two post to see what we learnt from the Soho Foundation, Nick Booth (aka @Podnosh), Talk About Local, Councillor Lynette Kelly and Dan Slee, as well as links to the preliminary presentations from Dominic and Ingrid.
While participants were working in groups on local issues that they think could be helped by social media we grabbed a quick chat with Alan, a 76 year old who has spent a lifetime being active in the Coventry Community:
“The telephone used to be the main thing, but now every one’s on their mobiles, and now [with the web] it’s just the next step up….I can certainly see how technology saves time, and time being money, it’s the way forward… We’re forerunners of some of it, we’ve shown it in the past – we wont be sent to Coventry will we? We’ll be sending Coventry out instead.”
To finish the day off our judging panel decided on three ideas to being forward for the second half of Local by Social Midlands:
1. How can the web improve relationships between young and old in Coventry
2. Could a site exist where police and residents could communicate more effectively?
3. Could we bring together a platform for local residents to use as a hub for their local area?
Day two saw all participants, from local residents of all ages, community police officers, designers and web developers, team up and work on the idea that interested them most. Ahead was a busy day of ideas swapping, sharing experiences and a smattering of building websites to see how far the groups could go in turning their ideas into action.
The groups were a winning combination, with everyone working remarkably hard (some straight through lunch – and on a Saturday as well!), turning their ideas from Friday into a reality. Nick Booth also managed to fit in some brilliant social media surgeries with the residents – which you can check out on the main post.
Sharing the work
The day went in a flash, rounded off with presentations back from the three groups, each idea managing to get something up online and really taking the ideas on to the next level.
MoathouseJam – music through the generations
MoathouseJam will address two challenges: to build stronger relationships between generations, and; to motivate older people to use technology and social media. Music is enjoyed by people of all ages and so this site will use it to bring people together, particularly in local secondary schools where students will be asked to link with an older person – whether their own grandparents or people from local community centres – to discuss music across generations.
Our Shout – connecting residents and deliverers
Over the past few years the social capital in the neighbourhood has increased. Relationships between residents and agencies have improved as they have worked together for ten years jointly making decisions about the area. A local community magazine co-ordinated by Coventry NDC called Your Shout has helped this as has a neighbourhood website, Your Guide – that has been developed by Coventry’s first communication social enterprise Purple Patch and Tribeweb. Our Shout will build on this theme by using social media to increase the ways residents and service providers, public services and others communicate and connect.
Here Vicky, a local community organiser, chatted to us about working on Our Shout – and how she hopes it’ll help to reach out so all Coventry residents can become active in the area:
Safe in Wehm
Police and residents have good dialogues about community safety issues. This can build on this through a website to encourage residents to discuss crime concerns and local policing with each other and the Police and other community safety services.
Ways of doing this might include: encouraging residents to discuss information such as police response rates and causes of crime locally, making use of police tweets and facebook pages; links to useful organisations to promote reporting of crime and a Flickr page celebrating local young people who turn away from crime.
One Coventry resident summed up his lesson about finding his voice online:
“What I’ve learnt from today – is that technology isn’t difficult. If you can write an email, you can write a blog.”
Everyone involved in the day left enthused by what they’d achieved, but also keen to continue using their new found web savvy to make the sites a real success in the area. A massive thank to all involved – we look forward to staying in touch and seeing where next from here.
For Local by Social, the next stop will be Bristol to see how the south-west is using the web to connect their communities.
Want to get involved? You can register your interest for all future Local by Social regional events here.