Social Media Surgeries are an idea initiated by Nick Booth of podnosh.com in Birmingham. An idea well-established now in the West Midlands, has really taken off in Yorkshire & the Humber with Digital 20/20's backing, resulting in regular surgeries now being a feature of the landscape in Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield, York and Grimsby, with new Surgeries being planned in Bradford, Barnsley, Doncaster and Hull. Social Media Surgeries are relatively informal events at which people with some knowledge of social media give up their time to pass on some of their knowledge to people who want to use it to communicate their message for social good, and build relationships with their users and supporters. Most of the people who come for help at Social Media Surgeries are from voluntary and community organisations, some from arts organisations, and a few sole trader business people. What they all have in common is that they have a little bit of social media knowledge, but want to find out more about how they can use channels such as Twitter, Facebook, blogging and online video to communicate their messages.
Image courtesy of Luke Beaumont
Social Media Surgeries are not about “experts” demonstrating their technical knowledge, they are about people who want to use their skills for social benefit helping those whose work is all about social benefit to use social media. As far as possible, Surgeries are about advisors (or “Surgeons” as they have become known) providing advice on a one-to-one (or one-to-a-few) basis. The key skill for a Surgeon, beyond their technical knowledge of social media applications, is the ability to listen sympathetically to what people are seeking to do and help them to find the right tools and tactics to communicate their message. And Surgeons need not be worried about being asked questions to which they don't know the answer, as that offers the opportunity for a rich learning process where the Surgeon and the person they are advising can learn the solution together.
Social Media Surgeries are just one part of a comprehensive approach to the use of social media in regeneration and development being developed by Digital 20/20 working with partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors. A key aim of the Surgeries is that they act as hubs for further activity, with the people who learn new skills and strategies at the Surgeries taking them out into their work in the community, and also, that main Surgeries in city centre locations spawn neighbourhood surgeries in local communities as has been the case in Birmingham.
Image courtesy of Luke Beaumont
The use of social media, such as community websites, local blogs, community reporting, video and audio reporting, etc., can be powerful tools, in building community cohesion by raising awareness of community activities, making a reality of the promises about the positive role technology can play in people's lives, and developing practical technology-related skills. Digital 20/20 and its partners in the region are working hard to ensure these benefits can be realised in some of the most hard pressed communities.