Workshop: Social Media for Community Engagement, Fife Rights Forum (2nd May)

Last week Third Sector Lab’s Ross McCulloch and I were invited through to Kirkcaldy to host some workshops at the Fife Rights Forum event.

About FRF:

Fife Rights Forum is the partnership organisation for Fife’s advice and rights groups. Responsible for co-ordinating the strategic development of advice, rights and financial inclusion work in Fife, Fife Rights Forum strives to support the delivery of high quality advice, rights and financial inclusion services to the people of Fife by:

Promoting co-operation, information-sharing and joint-working across the sector
Sharing and promoting good practice in advice provision
Supporting the design, delivery and review of advice, rights and financial inclusion services
Liaising with other partnerships and networks to promote integrated, quality service delivery
Encouraging community involvement and engagement through effective client/agency interactions

Fife Rights Forum has more than 300 members and holds quarterly meetings to network, exchange information and discuss topical issues within the advice, rights and financial inclusion sector. The work of the Forum is guided by the FRF Partnership and is supported by the FRF Co-ordinator.

Below is the slides and notes from the workshop that I delivered based on some of the case studies that I’ve been working on in my role as a Community Media Development Worker at WHALE Arts Agency in Wester Hailes and through ongoing research/projects at the University of the West of Scotland.

Social Media for Community Engagement:


The increasing ubiquitous nature of social media and growth of emerging mobile technologies such as smart phones and tablet computing make it increasingly easier for people to access and produce their own media content in the form of digital storytelling. Using a variety of case studies, this workshop will focus on the importance of immediacy (of content generation and upload), connectedness (physically and virtually), locality (as the origin of stories), empowerment (to become media makers) and participation (the ethos of accessibility) as features of successful community engagement initiatives using social media.

Three case studies – talked about the 3 recent projects that I’ve been working on.

  • #citizenrelay (networked)
  • #digitalsentinel (hyper-local)
  • #celebrateitscot (national)

Describe the technical changes, from community newspapers/forums to a more fluid, networked approach (hashtags to pull together content, rather than the curation of the website by one or two people)

one to many -> many to many


  • content generation and upload, using mobile tools that are already connected to the internet so that you can find the story, capture it and get it online and reduces the time spent actually doing the technical parts of the content generation.

(use examples of #citizenrelay and the digital sentinel – perhaps even show videos from citizen’s eye as an example of the whys and the whats.)

  • the important qualities is capturing interesting story telling in a non-evasive manner.
  • Demonstrate how easy it is to do by interviewing a person and getting them to upload content?


  • Talk about local identity and how themes cut across location and topic (bedroom tax)
    • Citizen journalism (explanation)
      • ‘cutting edge of mundane’
  • You do not need to feel that you have to comment on the ‘big’ stories that the mainstream media focus on. It is about story telling (show the video from the homeless demostration – but also of the services)


  • Taking control of the message and developing an understanding of how media is made.
  • Show the video of John talking about the digital sentinel and how empowered he feels about the process. Breaking down some basic techniques so they can get over the fear of how the technology works and focus more constructing it back together. We have a basic understanding of video and the written word.


  • Meeting spaces, places to come together to work together (offline just as important as the online to keep the momentum going)
  • storytelling, why you are doing something and what prompts a person to tell stories about their community? needs a motivation
  • Make it accessible, it does not need to be big and fancy.
  • needs to be a purpose for the community, recruitment can be a challenge if project isn’t communicated successfully. Although organic, need to have some leadership.

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Workshop: @UWSDigital Social Media Masterclass at Bournemouth University


On Thursday and Friday of last week (16th and 17th of February) David McGillivray and I were invited to Bournemouth University, School of Tourism to deliver a full day workshop around social media and higher education for their staff and students in the department.

The day was split between a two hour workshop designed to demystify some of the risks and opportunities of social media in the university environment through a (short) presentation of some conceptual ideas about online identity and talking through some examples of projects and websites that we have recently used at UWSCreative.

This was quite an honest experience, as it hasn’t always been a smooth ride in terms of being ‘allowed’ to manage our own presence as a school, but I think by reflecting and tracking of the process of where we have came from and what we have achieved in terms of negotiation with corporate communications and wider spread uniformed strategies of the university, was useful for both us and for our Bournemouth colleagues to see.

WordPress, oh lovely WordPress.

For example, we have had to rely on external WordPress websites (either on or on staff’s own servers) to host project websites that need a more dynamic, realtime online environment that the corporate website. This is because there is not currently a server within the institution that can handle multiple WordPress installs (so I’m told) and there are a number of restrictions on the current website that allows for full integration with social media platforms (beyond share buttons and embedded content.)

Bournemouth, like DMU and Lincoln, already have a WordPress ‘blog’ system at play, so we spent much of the workshop explaining the language of the system and how to ask for things that you want from the people who are charged with looking after the system. Through speaking to staff individually, we learned how they came about getting the wordpress system installed and how it is referenced to within the university (important for arguing the case for it at UWS) and they learned how to utilise it a bit better in terms of what a school might want from having access to individual, module, subject area websites and how powerful it can be when you have access (as a tool and as a learning experience.)

Social Media Surgeries revisited.

Again, like the work we did in the South of Scotland before Christmas, the 1-2-1 social media surgeries that we held in the afternoon were a good opportunity to focus specifically on each attendee, rather than simply rely on a 1-2-many workshop for disseminating information. They allow for interested participants to ask questions in an informal space, perhaps about things that they may not feel comfortable asking in a larger group.

Never a dumb question…

Interestingly, the ‘dumb’ questions that people think they are throwing at you, actually vary so much that it is impossible to say that there is a particular level of social media expertise that people need to work towards. In fact, it is more down to curiosity and willingness to learn than it is to ticking a box to say you are now an competence in social media.

One person’s idea of a ‘dumb’ question is another person’s aspiration and you can see that very clearly when you exposure yourself to them in the same space. Ideally, groups of people who work under the banner of an institution need a support network, rather an individual technical person, for it to work as a long term movement. As always, I’m happy to try and fix things for people, but I’m even happier if I can empower people to try things out themselves.

Hell, I need to ask around to solve most problems online, social media as a departmental tool relies on individuals to work together and seek out the best practice in their area. Twitter (and other platforms) allow you to monitor it, but the best solution can sometimes always be sitting down and having a coffee (other drinks are available) and a chat with a person. Social media can encourage that, which often leads to better, more open work environments through the act of communicating better and more often with others in your area.


Overall, it was useful for me to try out the ‘workshop/surgery’ model in a university, my home territories, as I’ve been struggling with the pedagogy teaching such a subject area and managing the expectations of those who have signed up to come along. There is something interesting in teaching social media in itself, as it isn’t just about tools and practices. The closeness to a person’s identity to the subject area can play a huge part in the usefulness, and I don’t like objectifying it away, you, the person is as important as the tools that you select. The personal is political and will dominate the fact you prefer LinkedIn to Facebook for instance, and dominate the predijuces you may have against how other people chose to use it.

I always say to people that you have to give yourself permission to use the web in a way that you feel most comfortable. I’m not going to say you ‘have’ to do certain things, but it is always worth noting that it isn’t going to go away *at the moment*, if there is a way that you can use it to make your workplace, your social life, your interests a happier place to be, then the benefits will emerge on their own.

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Workshop: Social Media for ASBCI Student/University Network (on behalf of @SkillsetSSC)

Through my recent work as part of the UWS Skillset Media Academy, I was recommended by Skillset Scotland to Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) to lead workshops on Social Media to their student and College / University Network at the University of Huddersfield and De Montfort University. Today (8th Feb) I spoke at Huddersfield.

 The overall aim of the sessions are to give an introduction to social media in the context of fashion and textiles industry, by demonstrating forms and practices through the use of free (and easy to use) online platforms. Rather than focusing on tools and the how to use tools, I used a range of ideas, contexts and case studies to explore the use of social media platforms that would be currently used as a personal space and more them towards a network-based professional environment. Rather than telling students “not” to do something, instead I encourage them to think about being searchable, contactable and letting their legacy of their online behavior reflect what would like to achieve in their chosen career.

The slides from the session are below and can be used in various contexts (beyond fashion and textiles) as the focus is less on the industry and more on creating personalised professional environments online.

I will be delivering similar workshops for the Fashion and Textiles department at De Montfort University in Leicester on the 22nd February.

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Social Media for the School of the Midwifery Workshop #uwsltas

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of running a session about social media for the school of midwifery at the University of the West of Scotland, something, based on my experiences when trying out new contexts, that I thought would be an unusual request and a challenging topic to deliver. It turns out that it was actually one of the most engaging sessions that I had done in a long time, and so far removed from the backlash that I am used to hearing from at least within my own discipline.

Although I had prepared some materials, I decided that it was better to focusing on the whys and the hows, rather than acting as if I was pitching a various range of platforms (that many of these sessions end up being, a sales pitch for the latest web technology platform) – where the common role was to establish a dynamic presence that allows for the particular subject area to create a site that can promote department events, share interesting information, encourage reflective discussion online and as a service for students who are out on placement. Something that can be managed across a number of people, rather than relying on an ‘official’ top down process that currently exist.

We’ve been doing this for a while now on the likes of @UWSCreative, our school’s blog which is literally ran on the free and hosted version of and has been in use for the last 4-5 years as a portal for just sharing the things we are up to in the same place. Much of these things, although important, aren’t really press release material but still deserves recognition on an internal and external level – that is, communities of practice, student work, research outputs, presentations, events, stuff we life and so on. Although it’s not perfect, and will probably benefit from a redesign soon and a review of strategy, it has been the start of something that has led to other wordpress-hosted projects such as the creative futures research centre that I’m part of, the skillset media academy and the uwsdigital consultancy site.

The freedom to establish coherent identities in the same way that the ideas have been constructed in the first place – fluid, organic, creative – is one of the reasons why it is important that as a university that we allow/encourage people to build their own sites for groups, projects, courses, schools and any other circumstances that could benefit from a working-space online, rather than simply an official website and a VLE. This is not a space that should be corporate and controlled (there is a purpose for them with regards to making sure information about institution is uniformed and a window to the world), this is a creative, autonomous, conversational space – similar to the environment you get when you hang around a university canteen or local coffee shop – a space to generate ideas and work through them with the community that benefits from them. Equally important as the ‘official’ top-down strategies, which may mean well but require much more than simply projecting/enforcing policy in a hope that it might stick.


Rather than it being a technical workshop (as I promised myself I would never do one of those again, despite getting a bit of a confidence knock when I gave a session before xmas where the participants were resistant to changes to format and delivery, expecting a straight forward lecture and chalk and talk.), the session worked more as a brainstorming/myth busting session, focussing on what they might do after when they leave the room, rather than bombarding with the possibilities on different levels. The point of this should be that it is easier to do than to get somebody else to manage it or to outsource it to a commercial company and can be picked up through the practice of doing it, rather than the ticking of a box to say that a social media training session has been attended. It is a collaborative process, which works when people use it and have a purpose to – rather than the assumption that building it that people will find it and use it.

From the two hour discussion, we prepared a set of objectives and processes that would lead to the potential development of a website that acted as a hub for the particular program. The elements that it would contain would be discussed and planned out, as well as brain storming ideas that potential content could be. We also looked at the possibility of working on ongoing social media surgeries, a discussion that myself, David McGillivray, Gordon Hunt and others -such as the Skillset Media Academy – have already been having in terms of ongoing support and development, that would feed into the general maintenance of the site, that would also allow for the process to be reviewed organically and new ideas tested and tried out across faculties. Encouragingly, one participant Linda, went away that evening any set up her own wordpress blog just to experiment about how quick and easy it was to do, and tested the possibilities as a space for sharing discussions and content. All very positive and encouraging in terms of outcomes of a session.

As promised, a list of links to the websites that were discussed that you can have a go with using: Free blogging/website building platform. Dead versatile, can be used for personal projects, group projects and can be customised to suit purpose. It’s also transferable if you ever want to leave or import existing content into it. There are a bunch of simple tutorials available here – but you can also use google to search for more specific problems. For sharing and hosting slides, documents and .pdfs so that you can ’embed’ them in places such as a VLE, a website or even facebook. Good for getting more people to see your work, but also a really useful resource for getting ideas for slides or inspiration for presentations. A photo-sharing website where you can host your own photos and can feed into a website easily. It’s also a good place for finding photographs for your own posts (if you don’t own a suitable one) – you can use them freely if available on a creative commons license. Same goes for open access journals and exploring alternatives to copyrighted materials.

AudioBoo and ipadio: Quick, easy audio-sharing sites. Great for making podcasts using a smartphone – or with ipadio, from a bog standard landline.

There are also the usual suspects such as facebook (for groups and student related discussion, an additional space to share content), twitter (an official department account would be a good start, but also encouraged to set up your own account to stay in touch with others in the university and in your field) and youtube (for tutorials, but also really easy to upload video of your own from events or discussions).

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