Somewhere between the loos and the valley of desolation, good things happen

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Were you aware that other than Shrove Tuesday and of course Pancake day, apparently 17th February, 2015 was Random acts of kindness day?  Nope? Me neither. It seems everyday these days is something or other day.

So when did this #world[insertthing]day start and might we be missing the point? Will I look for fewer impromptu opportunities on other days? Course I won’t.

Now I’m not talking about the proper stuff like Pancake Day or Yorkshire Day (1st Aug! – just in case) or days on the UN List of International Observances and I get that there are some things that need increased awareness so they might be improved or bad stuff reduced but kindness; really? Do we need reminding to be how we should be on any other day?

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The personal touch

IMG_20130826_181316As usual, the seasonal break has been a time of contemplation and self reflection. I’ve been considering what’s happening and changing in my area of work, around where I live and at home as myself, colleagues, family and friends prepare to move on to the next chapters of our lives.

It’s made me consider and appreciate what I have. I’ve also read far more than I usually do and I’ll share some of that shortly.

The family was reunited as firstborn returned from Russia before heading off on his travels again in February. Russia is a communication culture we’ve recently learnt about by experience. It’s not as easy to access folk in Russia in some ways but compared to how things were when I was studying away from home it’s a lot easier. We did however Skype him every week and perhaps spoke more often than when he was at university in the UK. It was good to actually see him talking with us. It certainly narrowed the distance but it’s been really nice to have him home.

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It started with a conversation

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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.

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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

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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?

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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 explain the relevance in a bit.

I realise times are getting tougher for most folk. National and local messages about even harder times to come for the public sector are becoming more blunt in tone.

The implications and weekly reality of less folk to do what is needed are increasingly being felt.

Some things will have to change. Some things will stop. Less or different with less is the reality and isn’t yet universally recognised.

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