Myself and Mike have just about recovered from the National Digital Inclusion Conference 2010 in London on 10th-11th March. It was a busy couple of days – we got to meet an awful lot of people, put a lot of faces to names and get involved in some very interesting discussions.
During the first day we set up a little social media surgery table in the exhibition hall and gave people advice on any aspect of social media they happened to be wondering about – such as Twitter and blogs and how to use these to engage with people in local communities or how they might help a new community radio station.
On the Wednesday afternoon myself and Mike were part of a brainstorming session in the Digital Skills for All workstream, leading our particular table discussing the role of social media in digital inclusion whilst others concentrated on older people & digital skills, reaching excluded groups, qualifications, schools, funding issues and the role of accreditation & informal learning. We spoke about how to help people recognize the relevance of social media for their lives, break down barriers in access and engage. The end result was a list of 6 tips (we aimed for 10, but ran out of time!):
- Social media is all about connecting with people you want to communicate with. Engagement through a trusted person/source is key.
- Community websites are often the work of community activists, not the traditionally excluded. However they will often create online spaces that enable those not so active or included in community life to engage easily – it can be easier to write your opinions online than attend a meeting and speak up in front of a room of people.
- Reach out to people through their preferred medium, such as Facebook and add value/quality to their existing engagement.
- Create a safe, free space where people feel free to express themselves, like On Road Media did with Savvy Chavvy.
- Bureaucracies – let the community take the lead. Enable them to create online spaces that they can control, develop and take ownership of – do not try to herd them into your space.
- Look at what’s already out there – people are often already digitally engaged and creating online content in ways you might not expect. Bring existing online community, celebrate and cultivate their content.
That last point was my response to a lady working with a group of sixth formers, looking to get them using social media and my thinking was that many already are. The conversation bought to mind the hundreds of shaky videos filmed on mobile phones I’m stumbling across on YouTube – I thought it might be good to pool these films and celebrate them, possibly get them to be a bit more creative with it, enabling them continue to tell their stories more effectively. I ended up pitching this idea in a slightly daunting ‘Dragon’s Den’ style session the following day and see it is now on the NDI10 website as a ‘Promise’, so I’d better get on and do something about that, then…
If you’re wondering what all these YouTube videos and Audioboo podcasts are about, I thought carrying on We Share Stuff’s legacy of taking the Digital Inclusion Conference to the surrounding streets might be nice, so myself and the lovely Jennie from UK online centres took a wander around the nearby Borough Markets. As this year’s conference was all about ‘a call for more action’ we not only asked people how they used IT and the internet, but how they might be able to help family/friends/colleagues less confident than themselves and tried to get them to pledge to do one simple thing, such as helping someone send their first email. Whether or not these people have stuck to their promises I can’t say, but hopefully we’ll have planted a knowledge-sharing seed in some.