The other day I was asked where I worked – Podnosh I replied….which resulted in a quizzical look and the follow up, “Huh – What do you do?”
This isn’t a unique response – I get it often when I respond to the “Where do you work?” question. Podnosh – it just doesn’t resonate with people as much as If I worked for a big retailer and so people can’t make the usual assumptions that they would if I replied “Sainsburys”.
So what is Podnosh – what do we do?
The simple answer would be “We teach people to use the internet”. It’s accurate, technically – but it down playing everything we stand for – and everything else we do.
We work towards making things better. We do this by teaching people to use digital skills and online tools to improve things for themselves, be this by building relationships, teaching better communication skills or improving access to services – and we’ll work with anyone. Individuals, big structured organisations or small community groups, and anything in between – anywhere that our support will help make a difference.
We’ve worked alongside individual community volunteers, business managers and staff, cabinet members, councillors and MP’s – and we work even better when we can bring these people together in the same room to learn together and improve their togetherness.
We’re also so very close to finishing developing an app that will really allow us to help people to tell the stories of how they are improving things for the people they work with too – the Podnosh Impact Assessment App. One of our clients Gateway have been using for a while – and we’ve already seen it make a difference in the way they are able to tell the stories of the people they support and the impact they have to their lives.
Making things better
Our company values are Think, Make A Difference and Give A Fuck and we work with those values in mind whatever we do.
Think: Can we help? Are these the right people to be working with? are we the right people for the job?
Make a difference: Will something be improved by our inclusion.
Give A Fuck: care – want to deliver the best we can – for ourselves and the people we work with.
So where do I work? Podnosh.
What do I do? I think, I make a difference, I give a fuck! – and I’m really proud of that!
Last night while the country seemingly went insane with looting and rioting in London, Nottingham, Liverpool, further afield and closer to home in Birmingham, the WV11Â Facebook page andÂ Twitter feed came alive with rumours that there was rioting and looting at Bentley Bridge, Wednesfield and further afield in Wolverhampton.
We were very pleased to report this was NOT true.
There was no trouble at Bentley Bridge and while there have been some reports of “minor damage” in the city centre this morning â€“ there is nothing obviousÂ that IÂ couldÂ see on my way to work. I am shattered we spent a large part of last night relaying police updates to our Facebook and Twitter followers Â and talking online toÂ WednesfieldÂ residents who could see that there was no trouble going on on their doorsteps.
At times it seemed like an uphill battle when twitter searches determined there were so many people convinced the main retail park in our area was burning to the ground – even though if they’d looked out of their windows a distinct lack of smoke in the sky could have waylaid that particular rumour, but we stuck at it and eventually we stemmed the tide and finally after much effort we got the point across. The people spreading misinformation started repeating our message that there was nothing going on, directing people to the official police streams – and in some cases saying they “Feel awful and a right scare monger” when they realised they were wrong. Some residents were also going out to prove all was well and posting photos to our wall.
So imagine my utter frustration when the “main stream media” of our area The Wolf radio station, who were distinctly absent last night when we trying to allay peoples fears, posted this on there facebook page this morning trying to make something out of nothing:
James and I tried our best to stem this too and then followed it up with this news piece – and it prompted Â the subsequent response on facebook:
I feel they didn’t quite go as far as lying but mostÂ definitelyÂ reported in such a way that anyone who wasn’t aware of the truth of the situation would have probably questioned what was going on and then they chose to ignore our calls for openess and tried and get a resident to talk to them on the phone because they said they were scared!
Personally I think it wasÂ incrediblyÂ irresponsible of their radio station to report in this way.There were no problems of note in Wolverhampton last night andÂ definitelyÂ NONE at Bentley, and I can testify to this having passed by the retail park and walked through the city this morning. Keeping people afraid and giving them a platform, inviting them to fuel the rumour mill will Â create an atmosphere of fear that could become a breeding ground for a situation to arise Â similar to those we saw in Birmingham last night – Â The media should have aÂ responsibilityÂ to report facts not conjecture and local media more so as they are much more accessible to the local people than the national news outlets .
Yes there were reports of looting and rioting in Wednesfield,Â particularlyÂ on Bentley Bridge last night BUT they were false and The Wolf should have takenÂ responsibilityÂ in this instance and reported as such!
For me it’s about communication withÂ the people whoÂ bothÂ live and work where I live. Itâ€™s about conversation, Saying hello asking questions and listening – and that comes from the community and any partners working in the community, local government, police,Â LNP’sÂ etc. Â But, how do you encourage engagement? The people that want to will find ways to become part of what isÂ happeningÂ locally, they will attend the PACT (Police and Community Together) meetings, they will become members of the residents association – they will give themselves a voice. But what about the people who live in the community but quite often don’t have the confidence to communicate withÂ each other – let alone people in so called positions of authority – How do you encourage them to engage?
You encourage them to talk to each other – that’s how!
We set up the WV11 website 2 years ago this week and we’ve watched it grow from a site that we stuck articles on in hope someone would read, to a community who actively seek information from each other. Â If the lights go out in our area within a short while weÂ receiveÂ a post on ourÂ facebookÂ wall “Is anyoneÂ else’sÂ power out?” – When one of the water mains burst it was quickly established through conversation how far spread the outage was and how long it was likely to last as individuals shared information withÂ each other, no longer just looking to us for the answers.
But how do you move that conversation away from talking to each other – to talking to the partners that can make a difference in their area?
Recently there has been a spate of anti socialÂ activities taking place in the local park – fromÂ graffitiÂ and vandalism to bullying and loutishÂ behaviour. Â One of the targets for the localÂ vandalsÂ are a set of newly installedÂ exerciseÂ equipment which had been there barely aÂ monthÂ before it had been set on fire and destroyed and the locals are getting fed up! They came onto ourÂ facebookÂ page to express their displeasure at the situation so we asked them straight out – Do you think patrols of the park to combat anti social behaviour should be made a PACT priority at the next meeting? – They answered a resounding YES!Â As Â a result of us asking thisÂ simpleÂ question which basicallyÂ amountedÂ to “What do you want to happen in your area?” that is asked all the time by various bodies, but in a much moreÂ focussedÂ way, many residents who have never before attended a PACT meeting have expressed an interest in attending the next scheduled meeting on 16thÂ August to set this inÂ motion, and one resident who is unable to attend herself has found her voice and penned a letter she forwarded to us at Wv11 to pass over on her behalf.
Some of these people are the same ones who 18 months ago when we first started listing the PACT meetings on our website were telling us “there is no point going as we never get listened to anyway” – maybe it’s because finally they’ve found a cause which they really want to see a fix for that has made them engage – maybe it’s after 24 months of Â listening to each other online that they feel empowered to take action, or maybe it’s just because we asked a direct question and with over 60 responses they feel they have a united voice to get something done – who knows – all I know is I’m looking forward to the next PACT meeting and seeing what it brings.
Hopefully we can get the patrols a priority and prove that an engaged community does have a voice and that they can make things happen!
Last year I helped set up a hyperlocal website to cover the area I live inÂ and we’ve just passed the first year anniversary – To celebrate we had a stall at Wednesfield Community Fayre trying to make more people aware of the site and invite community input -What do you think we should be writing about? Would you like to write for us? and so on…
While I was there I got into conversation with a teacher of one of the local high schools aboutÂ WV11.co.uk and what we – the individuals that run the site get out of it.
He couldn’t believe that we did all this for free – That we volunteered our time for no financial reward or recognitionÂ and it made me sad that he struggled so much to see why we were doing this – that he was so surprised at the idea of someone doing something for perceivably nothing that he actually implied that he didn’t believe we didn’t get some financial gain!
So I thought it about time I shared my story about why WV11.co.uk came into existence and why it’s about a lot more than money for me!
I have pretty much always lived in the area and as I grew older I moved briefly to Lichfield and when I moved back I could really appreciate the community vibe of the my estate,Â I was surprised at the negative attitude from some of residents – It’s not something you get everywhere and I think people who have always lived and worked in the area sometimes take for granted.
Then they proposed the closure ofÂ Danesmore Park Primary School, the school my son attended. We fought long and hard to save the schoolÂ (and we all know how that ended) and in doing so we quickly realised that there was nowhere online that communicated the sense of community I felt on the streets and in the playground, and I now know to be evident at all the schools in the area – Conversation and coordination was hard because there was no where already established online unbiased enough to let the conversation unfold – the ONLY forum we could (and did) use that was relevant locally and that was available at that time was heavily moderated by an extremely biased hand or the then local councillor!
So the idea for a local site was born -Â we wanted somewhere unbiased we could try and highlight the positives of our area and hopefully over time encourage community engagement and conversation. It started as an idea for a forum, orÂ chat room where local people could talk to each other about local issues but quite quickly evolved into something else.
I was one day trying to find some information out on the council website – I can’t even remember what it was now something to do with my bin collection I thinkÂ but whatever it was I became increasingly frustrated with how hard it was – The city is a HUGE place so trying to pinpoint specific information for my area was hard – and I’m fairly Internet savvy – so how would my MomÂ for instance found *it*, if she was looking for the same information?
So we decided the local site should also be of good use to people looking for information not just for discussion – a lot of time was spent before the launch building the resource page – listing local amenities and hopefully other useful information relevant to our area, and other handy tools such as houses to let and for sale, jobs and traffic updates have been added since – and it went from there, a news feed was included and Wv11.co.uk came into fruition
We launched the site at 11pm one night by inviting a few friends that I knew were local to become a fan of our facebook page, within a couple of months we had 600 fans and a nearly 2000 visits to the actual site.
Now, 12 months on, the site is going from strength to strength,Â The visitor numbers are still going up, any one so inclined can see a break down of our visitor figures here but as an overview 16,000 unique visitors in the first 12 months – that’s nearly half the population of Wednesfield – and the conversation between the community is starting to take place aroundÂ what we hope are considered non-biased articlesÂ (which can be hard when we’re talking about things we care about or things we’re directly affected by!). Users will comment on articles – some people are by nature negative and some are positive but what’s good is both sides get a chance to voice their opinion and these things are getting discussed – we’ve had discussions based on graffiti and anti social behaviour to home improvements talk about local bands and GOOD news stories from our area – we don’t pretend bad news doesn’t happen but we do try and be balanced.
We never moderate comments unless they are libellous or abusive and then we inform the individual involved why we’ve removed the post and so far we’ve received no complaintsÂ – The only thingÂ we are guilty of is playing devils advocate if a discussion or sometimes arguments become too negative, – don’t tell us there’s nothing good happening, nothing interesting to do or no way you can fix a problem for yourselves because we’ll give you the information to prove you are wrong.
For me this is why the WV11 site is so valuableÂ and rewarding I don’t have to get paid to do it because this is my opportunity to put something back into the community- Be it an easy way for someone to find out what time the local library is open, or the chance to combat some of the negativity by showing people what’s on their doorstep !
The site and associated facebook page are used by all ages, with people asking questions which the community can answer.Â For instance – what’s happening this weekend I can take my kids to? or does anyone know the opening time of x,y or z? or where can I find a window cleaner?
As an “active” member of Flickr (I say active this peaks and wanes depending on how busy I am in the real world) I try to get involved with the local groups – some groups are more active than others (and some are more welcoming too) but the one I am most active is the Walsall group – this is for two reasons. While I live in Wolverhampton my house is actually right on the Walsall/Wolverhampton border and a lot of my friends and extended family live in Walsall so I spend time there, and also as I have real world friends in the Walsall Group who like to organise things – photography walks, days out etc so it’s easy to get involved.
Recently however I’ve been doing some organising myself -
Walsall Council in the form of Dan Slee has been using social media, with particular focus on Flickr as a tool for community engagement. Courting the Walsall group via Lee Jordan and arranging exclusive behind the scenes trips to some of the councils buildings – the first of which was at the Council House:
After that meet the talk turned towards the museum and aÂ potential project there, or rather in the area the public never gets to see – in their stores.
Dan went away and approached the museum and it seemed there was a couple of concerns the curators had regarding copyright, and this is where I stepped in. As I work for aÂ media centre, which includes exhibition spaces I perhaps better understood some of the copyright issues regarding the photography ofÂ other peoples art and artefacts and it was decided by Lee that I was best placed to liaise on this venture.
A meeting was arranged and Walsall museums sent me a copy of their permissions form to preview… It was archaic to say the least ,I had my work cut out for me!
The restrictions they’d placed,Â that they wanted us to sign away copyright of our images and retain the right to demand us to delete our images off Flickr at any time, were going to be a problem – No member of the group would be willing to go on a shoot under these terms so it would be a none starter, yet we (Dan and the Walsall Flickr Group) were still eager to get behind the scenes.
So what did we do?
In principle the Museums team were o.k for us to visit the stores but in practice it seemed to me that they didn’t fully understand Flickr and “the internet” so maybe wouldn’t really the bigger picture and the benefits a visit like this could bringÂ to them. The only way I could see around the problem was to find a precedent for museums allowing photographers into their “domain” and also find good examples of another museum or arts institute using Flickr.
Also I knew if I was going to ask them to let go of the reins I also was going to go prepared to offer something in exchange – I got researching!
Where to start…..
My first port of call was of course Google, I started searching for names ofÂ UK museums + Flickr – looking for official groups – set up by the institutions and not by an enthusiastic member of the community or museum websites with direct links to Flickr, within minutes I struck gold with The V&A. .
They have a flickr group which they invite visitors to post their photographs to, they’d set it up themselves and had a very good level of activity within the groupÂ -Â so there was my precedent of a Museum using flickr and not only allowing, but actively encouraging photography.
Now what could I offer to Walsall that would make this idea more appealing….
Marketing – I work as a digital marketer so the idea of using the internet as a marketing tool isn’t new to me so all I had to do was sell it to the museum, so when I met with Dan, Jennifer and Catherine I went prepared, I printed off the V&A’s own guidelines to their flickr group from their website and the pages I wanted to use to highlight our perspective to the museum and I set out with a plan.
I asked the museum to loosen the reins it wanted on us putting forward a few less constraining rules as alternatives andÂ then put it to them that they could set up it’s their group on Flickr group BUT include a disclaimer saying any images added COULD be used for marketing purposes, We could then choose to add our photos to it if we wished. By doing it this way the museum has another point of web presence with Flickr – a pool of photographs to advertise the museum and more importantly a tool at their disposal to encourage interaction with their visitor on another level.
I suggested that once the group was established they could even invite photographs to be added to the pool to coincide with exhibitions – Having a show featuring 1970′s toys? – Get the community to add photos of their toys to the pool and then if they wanted set a laptop/projector up in the museum with with access to the Flickr group page OR a power point presentation of the images submitted – complimenting the exhibits the already have on show and encouraging visitors to see if their photo made it into the gallery!
My ideas went down well – I liaised with the Walsall team and put forward my suggestions and met with no resistance what so ever. I explained the benefits for the Museum and for us in the group and why and how I thought it would work. I answered a few questions and asked a couple of my own and left the meeting on a real high – and with good cause, within days a new, less prohibitive permissions form had been drafted and a date for the visit set.
So on a cold spring morning thisÂ is how it came that a group of photographers met in an undisclosed location and were allowed access to an area of Walsall that wouldn’t normally be opened to the public and the Museums opened their world up to a whole new marketing opportunity!
Since then Dan has informed me that the Walsall Museum Flickr Project and received national profile and was flagged up as best practice by the IdEA – this is the government organisation that seeks to raise standard across local government.
I call that a win for the Museum, a win for the Flickr group and a win for the Council!
Today I’ve downloaded WordPress for Android, an handy app for my hero that will let me blog on the move.
I’ve added multiple accounts so I should be able to post to here and to www.WV11.co.uk by selecting the correct blog at the log in screen.
This is my first post from it. Let’s see how this works. Post written, tags and categories added now to hit publish and fingers crossed!
Edit: It made it here and retained all the information I’ve added but now I’ve come to use the Wv11 account it doesn’t seem to want to work despite the proper bits and piece over there being enabled… I love the interface but I really need it to work with multiple accounts. Will keep playing and see how it goes…
Edit: It works hurrah, multiple accounts set up* think I’m going to LOVE this app