Recently a group of interested parties met up in a Bier Café in Bradford to discuss how we re-boot the Bradford Social Media Surgery. Yes, there were some cold beverages taken but the main topic of discussion of how we make the BDSMS more relevant and tailored to the people of the district. The concept of Social Media Surgeries was based on an idea by @podnosh and they have spread like wildfire ever since, with surgeries taking place as far afield as Amsterdam and Tokyo. Basically it’s all about people giving up their time to answer questions from voluntary, community and third sector organisations about the web and social media. I myself have been along to other surgeries in York, Leeds and Huddersfield and these all had a very distinct, very local flavour of their own.
Nick also came up with a very handy site which acted as a toolkit for people wanting to run their own surgeries and the infrastructure provided by www.socialmediasurgery.com has been invaluable. Check it out for further info.
The Bradford Social Media Surgery kicked off in early 2010 having been cooked up by Kevin Campbell-Wright and I in the last knockings of 2009. Since it started we have held six events, taking place on a very roughly quarterly basis and with varying degrees of success. It’s been pretty common knowledge that we’ve been experimenting with the format for about the last nine months having held some private, themed and invite only and events. Assuming that the main barometer of success is attendance then it’s been almost impossible to chart. The people turning up have ranged from an unsustainable thirty right down to an equally unsustainable, but rather more worrying, four. More importantly though, we’d helped some fantastic people and great organisations do some really good stuff and helped people connect a little bit more. At a time when budgets in the sector are being squeezed we’ve noticed a real interest in people and organisations communicating more directly and more cheaply over the web.
We’re really committed to the idea of the surgeries but we’re equally, not to mention painfully, aware that they’ve not perhaps been the success they have in other places. We’re also all really proud of, and committed to, making Bradford a better place and central to that is the idea of helping people communicate and organise themselves better.
For the last six months or so I’ve been talking to people involved and taking soundings from them about what we can do better, what success looks like for us and how we can achieve it. The main sticking point seems to be one of regularity, everybody pretty much agreed that we need to do it more regularly. Some said quarterly, some bi-monthly and some said monthly but everyone seems pretty sure that regularity is the key. Personally I feel monthly is a bit hopeful and it’s also a lot to ask of the host venues. This leads us nicely on to the next item…
Location. The venue of the surgeries to date has essentially been The Gumption Centre (Check them out, they are great and have given a lot to this) and failing that it’s been held at the Central Library’s Learning Zone. The Gumption guys have been great, never charged us a penny and been a superb venue but to make it more accessible to more people we need to move it about a bit. We’d like to take the event out around Bradford district, not just the city centre but to Keighley, to Bingley, to anywhere willing to have us really.
The last discussion point has infrastructure. As I mentioned above, socialmediasurgeryplus has provided a fantastic bit of infrastructure to people looking for an out of the box toolkit type solution for setting up a Social Media Surgery. But for our one to work better, and with the increase in regularity and venues, I think we need to develop our own place for people to find out about the next event, ask questions, get answers and to have an open, honest and peer-to-peer discussion away from the event and to ask for help on specific topics. With this in mind we’ll be putting together a dedicated site, most probably using Buddypress, which does all of these things and, most probably, a few things more too.
What can you do to help?
Well firstly we need you to volunteer in whatever way you can. If you’d like to help people use the web better then we’d love to have you involved. If your organisation can do anything to help then we’d love to have you involved. If you can offer a venue with wi-fi then we would love to have you involved. If you have some spare laptops or desktops you could bring along we’d love to have you involved. If you want to offer tea, coffee, cakes, samosas or pakorahs at a surgery we would love to have you involved. If there’s anything you think you can do to help, even if it’s just advice or ideas, then we would, surprisingly enough, love to have you involved. Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to be in touch.
Also, we’d love your opinions on the discussion points above. How regular do you think the surgeries should be held? Where would you like to see them? Should those who can afford to make a ‘thank you’ payment to the venue? How do we spread the message better? What do you think would be useful to have on the site? Should it still just be for non-profit organisations? Should we even call it a Social Media Surgery any more?
We’re aiming to kick off the new events in September so we need your input right now. Please leave comment below, or if you are shy you can drop me an email. If you want to be contacted when things are live then just leave a comment with the word ‘contact’ in the box.