Weird…But In A Good Way
a 30 something mom's random thoughts on parenting, life and other stuff.

I’m not even sure how I found this website but Lucid Chart allows you to make embeddable interactive flow charts so I thought I’d have a play. This post should really be on my other blog as it’s more relevant there, but I couldn’t get the embed code to word with WordPress.com!

online flow chart

This Way

What is community engagement?

For me it’s about communication with the people who both live and work where I live. It’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, LNP’s etc.  But, how do you encourage engagement? The people that want to will find ways to become part of what is happening 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 with 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.  If the lights go out in our area within a short while we receive a post on our facebook wall “Is anyone else’s 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 with 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 social activities taking place in the local park – from graffiti and vandalism to bullying and loutish behaviour.  One of the targets for the local vandals are a set of newly installed exercise equipment which had been there barely a month before it had been set on fire and destroyed and the locals are getting fed up! They came onto our facebook 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! As  a result of us asking this simple question which basically amounted to “What do you want to happen in your area?” that is asked all the time by various bodies, but in a much more focussed way, many residents who have never before attended a PACT meeting have expressed an interest in attending the next scheduled meeting on 16th August to set this in 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  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!

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 a  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 a  media centre, which includes exhibition spaces I perhaps better understood some of the copyright issues regarding the photography of  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,  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 bring  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 of  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 group  -  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 and  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!

Success

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 this  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!

Walsall Museums Flickr Group.
Dan Slee’s own post on the same project.

constraining

I have been “eavesdropping” in on a conversation on twitter regarding mix tapes,  Dan Slee has done a wonderful job of summing up the “history” of mix tapes so I don’t have to but I love the whole idea of them being the original Social Media – THE way to share in the 90′s and it got me thinking about some of the tapes I received as teen as Dan puts it:

They could be a love letter, a  sign of friendship or the grandstanding of musical knowledge.

…and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

When I was in senior school I used to swap mix tapes with my friend Jess. We were, in our opinion, the optimum of cool and shared  a mutual love of all the artists and bands the supposed “in crowd” hated, Nirvana, Hole, PJ Harvey, Chilli Peppers, to name a few and with our mix tapes playing through the earphones of our walkman we looked down upon the lesser beings with our musical snobbery. It cemented our friendship and I went on to purchase some of my favourite albums on the back of tracks Jess  included on those now long lost c90′s.

Yet the most impressive mix tape I have ever received wasn’t a tape at all, it was a CD and while I’m sure it started out as a “grandstanding of musical knowledge”   it turned into the greatest love letter I have ever received….

In Steph's Honour

“In Steph’s Honour” given to me by James in December 2005  – 4 months before we became us. He told me then it was an “education” as we liked some of the same music, but he  has since admitted that he was trying to  impress me a little and I have to admit it did!!

Disk 1 – The Rock Show

  1. One Armed Scissor (At The Drive-In)
  2. A Box Full Of Sharp Objects (The Used)
  3. Vessel & Vine (The Lucky Nine)
  4. 57 (Biffy Clyro)
  5. If You Don’t, Don’t (Jimmy Eat World)
  6. The Sign (Foo Fighters)
  7. The Graduate (Third Eye Blind)
  8. Corduroy (Pearl Jam)
  9. Sad and Lonely (Secret Machines)
  10. Stockholm Syndrome (Muse)
  11. My Tortured Soul (Probot)
  12. Superunknown (Soundgarden)
  13. Inspire (Cave In)
  14. (I Am) What I Am Not (Idlewild)
  15. I’m Not Okay (My Chemical Romance)
  16. Beating Heart Baby (Head Automatica)

Disk 2 – Late Night Ditties

  1. Wishlist (Pearl Jam)
  2. I Never Came (QOTSA)
  3. Blue and Yellow (The Used)
  4. Switching Off (Elbow)
  5. Between The Bars (Elliot Smith)
  6. Pink Bullets (The Shins)
  7. Walking On A Wire (The Get Up Kids)
  8. The Light And The Sound (Rocky Votolato)
  9. Scary Mary ( Biffy Clyro)
  10. And Then You Kissed Me (The Cardigans)
  11. Drop (Clarkesville)
  12. Amie (Damien Rice)
  13. Those Crimson Tears (Ed Harcourt)
  14. El Capitain (acoustic) (Idlewild)
  15. The Sun (Joseph Arthur)
  16. Title and Registration (Death Cab For Cutie)
  17. My Sundown (Jimmy Eat World)

Four years and a bit years on I still haven’t made this track listing a playlist on iTunes or on Spotify because nothing compares to the feeling of finding this CD off the shelf , remebering just how much effort went into it and putting it into the player and dancing around my living room. It is such shame that with digital music this is a dying art,  and while Philip John is correct when he wrote that “Spotify needs to get social” I doubt a shared play-list on Spotify or a recommendation on Mflow would have the same feel good impact as picking up something tangible and knowing that someone made it just for you!