It started with a conversation


Last Thursday was a good day and a bad day.

It was good because an idea that made things happen was recognised with an award. The award was ‘Best Communication for Change’ at the Comms2point0 Unawards. The folk behind the awards and those in that network are top people. The Un is quite befitting in the context of why it won and I’ll come back to this later.

The idea was a real simple one. What if we explored what a more sociable place to work might be and then did stuff to make it that way? So things like what if we made it easier to find people, connect and share? What if where I worked was a more sociable organisation that helped make a more sociable place to live, work and play?

Being nominated, getting short-listed and winning is great recognition and reward for all those that have contributed. The real winners however are those who have benefited from what happened as a result of what they did, how and what they changed and what the benefit to others have been. The various stories of the #trulysocial campaign were documented in a blog.

It wasn’t until it was nominated for an award that happened to best fit a category about ‘change’ that #trulysocial was really considered a change activity.


The idea came about after a snowman I built became the focus of many conversations that led to better understanding of a few things. The last comment on the snowman story is the title of this post. It starts with a conversation and not always with a plan. Wise words and thanks Mike for your support and nudging.

We didn’t spend money on posters, exhibitions, a campaign website. I mostly encouraged people to listen and spread the word that many things they do might be able to be done in a more sociable way and perhaps be more about outcomes and less about outputs. It was mostly done by stealth, which I suppose reflects the ‘Un’ part of the award in that it wasn’t a traditional in your face campaign. It probably wouldn’t have worked as well if it was.

And there is still a long way to go on this sociable journey. I still see where things can be improved, where conversations aren’t started or where listening isn’t an outcome and where things don’t meet basic expectations. Times are getting tougher but that’s no excuse for not having a conversation and seeing what might be. If ever there was a time then here we are. And sometimes this stuff works best one person at a time too.

On Friday when I returned to work, a colleague said to me “why don’t I know about this campaign? you should have told us. You should be shouting about winning this award from the rooftops.” My response was “You’re, not a target audience, besides you already do these things.”

We had bereavement in the family last week. This seems to happen on a regular basis at Christmas. Some of my colleagues are going through tough times too. That was the bad week stuff. I feel for those in a similar position and I will continue to be there for them.

As my colleague said I should have shouted about this but I’ve never really been one to blow my own trumpet and the timing wasn’t personally right.

But, hell yeah, we won and by doing something that really mattered.

It won’t stop here

Simplifying my quantified self


Not that I entered the communications profession for an easy ride but some topics are more sensitive to talk about than others, as is finding the most appropriate way, places and times for people to access and understand what is being communicated. Having trust in those explaining things is a big issue too. “I’m a PR guy I would say that wouldn’t I” etc More on that here.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if not everyone knows about something. There are times when people do find out about things but they might not be interested. There are however times when people need to know the implications of something as they might need to make a choice that affects them or others. Times when they need to understand what is being talked about so they see it as being for them.

Big data, open data, and use of people’s health and care and personal information are some of these topics. And there are many organisations involved in this which makes it even more complicated.

This isn’t a post about what ‘big’ or ‘open’ data is or the pros and cons of using personal data or who owns what or what will be done with data and whose quantified self  is better than another persons. There are many attempts covering that elsewhere on the web. What I’m musing on here is how you might bring about a useful discussion so that people have the chance to understand what is happening, how people can find out what it means and what their options are once they are informed. Similarly how those coordinating discussions get a feel for how a wide range of people feel about the communication and engagement opportunities and the topics being discussed.

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Walking the digital corridors

IMG_20130325_125339A couple of years ago I ran a pilot project at Leeds City Council looking at ‘voice, context and digital identity’ as we looked to introduce social networking. I’d been intending to write about the subject of digital confidence once the follow up work to the pilot was more developed.

During the last couple of years I’ve also being following the work of Catherine Howe on networks and democracy. A particular post ‘Digital leadership or just leadership’ was particularly relevant to the work I’ve been doing. Following Catherine’s latest update on Social Media why bother?, I had the opportunity to meet her to discuss and which spurred me to now post on digital confidence.

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More with less – really?


About three years ago I went to a conference. The promotional strap line included the term ‘doing more with less’. Now you know that feeling you get when you read or hear something and think – ‘not quite sure about that’?

I was at a meeting last week and again the term was used; “we are in unprecedented times – we need to do more with less!”  I heard it used by someone on the TV news this morning too.

I recently read a post by Paul Taylor which included a section ‘Language matters’. Much discussion followed another great post and for me, that section and title says it all.

Language really does matter, especially if you are in a position where you need to enthuse and encourage others to get through tough times and need people to be innovative and creative in how they do things. Statements like “we need to do more with less” really don’t help – they might even have the opposite effect.

Sentiment aside, is it even possible to do or get more with less?  ‘Work smarter with less’, yes. ‘More for the same’ – dig deep, share things out, perhaps. ‘Work together and pool smaller budgets for a better deal’, okay. But more with less? Really?

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A different faith

yemenOf all the films I’ve seen, the one that made me think the most was Salmon fishing in the Yemen. I don’t know what the pull to this film was as I’d not heard others rave about it and it didn’t catch my eye when it was a trailer to other films. Fishing is not my thing either. I’ll come back to why it resonated with me shortly.

This has been an unusually tough week for me and perhaps others I work with too.  I’ve attended two leaving dos and have two more before the end of the month. I know a fair few people who will be leaving next year also. I realise it’s tough for everyone, however national and local messages about difficult times to come in public sector service provision are increasing and are clearly changing in tone.

The implications, and weekly reality, of less folk to do what is needed are increasingly being felt. Some things need to change to accommodate this.  ‘More with less’ isn’t going to work and hearing it being said switches people off rather than engages them in what might be. ‘Less with less’ is the reality, and isn’t universally recognised as there’s perhaps still too much “we’ve always done it this way.” 

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Becoming an older person


We often use the term ‘I feel old’ rather than ‘I am old’. Maybe there’s something telling in how we express our age. My gran always dodged the age question by responding with “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.” Never would she tell us her age.

In six months I will be 50. Five. Zero. That’s a notably half decent number in cricketing terms but not so much if you were playing darts. I suppose it’s a significant number, as is any birthday with the zero on the end, apparently.

When I fill forms in I know that shortly I won’t be in the 45-49 category anymore but I’ve never really felt different because I’ve reached a certain age. With everything I’m involved in at work with colleagues and at home with family and friends, I’ve really not thought about it as ‘the big Five O’. Until today that is.

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The kite


I was rummaging around in our box of family photos, (from before digital!) when I came across this image. One of those chance shots that captured everything. So I took a photo of it with my phone, made it square and there it is; digital.

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