Posted in Blog News

11 things I learned …

… while planning and during #vcsscamp


1. Starting with a good team with a blend of skills and a gender balance is important. Pauline, Paul and I found it easy to work together, even though we had some quite complicated things to think and talk through. This was probably mainly down to our shared vision and the different things we had to bring to the planning and organising, making it simple to allocate tasks as there were natural takers. Pauline insisted on a majority female organising group, for good reason.
This blog view stats at 25 June 2013
This blog view stats at 25 June 2013

2. Having an event blog (this thing you are reading now) is really worth it. Despite my concerns that people don’t engage much on blogs, we generated 19 comments from 7 people (including me and Pauline), 12 people followed the blog, our main page had 657 hits and overall the site had 1292 views by the end of the day of the unconference.

3. It is helpful to involve participants in a very active way in the pre-conference discussion. Over a few tweets on a Friday afternoon I invited my colleague Eileen (@EileenFielding2) to contribute a guest post and it was by far the most popular post on this site with 73 views, 3 likes and a good conversation in the replies.

4. I want to learn more about WordPress Multisites and will probably use them! Thanks Duncan (@TawdryMe)

5. Much as I am averse to chalk and talk style instruction, showing a group of 8 or so people around Storify was actually a lot of fun. Hopefully it was a teacher-student / student-teacher interaction thanks to use of Google searches to find answers to questions about whether Storify could reverse the chronology of content (yes) or have more than one curator per account (we concluded no). And thanks to @francisclarke happily sharing both his story and his use of Storify in a most engaging way.

6. It really works having people who are new to social media in a room with people who are more familiar with it and wanting to push their organisations on to the next thing. The discussion topics were great and varied (see below) and I think everyone got something useful from the day.

VCSS timetable
7. Unconferences are surprisingly liberating for those who haven’t experienced open space before. The majority at VCSS Camp hadn’t attended an unconference before and their feedback on the process was fantastic. For example:

“I liked the process for setting the agenda”
“The un-agenda let to some really interesting discussions”
“I liked the relaxed way the day has worked”
“The format was very enabling”
“The format has been fab, very open and laid back atmosphere”
“I liked the ‘free form’ of the event – informality really breeds free discussion”

8. There are lots of people out there in organisations like mine who I hadn’t yet/haven’t yet connected to on twitter. I’ve started following at least 15 more people on twitter as a result of VCSS Camp, and no doubt there will be more connections yet to come.
9. Organising this in my own time made it more fun and more relaxing than if I’d done it as part of my job. (Though I am very fortunate that my job is also great fun most of the time.)
10. Tweetwally is a nice alternative to Visible Tweets, partly because it supports some images and partly because it’s a bit easier for people who don’t use twitter and might find the onslaught of @’s and #’s a bit overwhelming and like something written in Klingon. Tweetwally felt much calmer and simpler to take in.
11. Writing a numbered list of things is a useful and simple way of gathering a few thoughts together and sharing them after something like an unconference. I’ve learned this from reading blogs posts by the amazing and encouraging @danslee  (e.g. GOAL! @9 good things and a poor football anecdote from #localgovcamp 2012) and the creative and wonderful @lloyddavis (e.g. 10 (OK 11) things about #bigpix #bigpictureday)
Posted in Blog News, This is VCSSCamp

The role of civil society with LEPs

In this post Ted Ryan considers ways that infrastructure support to local groups could help their involvement with their local LEP.

LEPNetwork_logo    EC_logo

The European Commission (EC) is clear, in its guidance on partnership working, that meaningful engagement with all stakeholders, including social partners, must form an integral part of the prioritisation and investment of EU funding.

As outlined in the recent guidance from BIS (April 2013), building meaningful strategic relationships with Civil Society organisations adds significant value to the strategic analysis, planning and effective delivery of EU funding within the LEP area.  We would like to take this opportunity to outline the support available through Civil Society in delivering this new and exciting element of LEP strategic development.

The VCS is capable of providing a vital multi-level support and delivery function to LEPs, from both a cross sector and partnership delivery perspective, as well as in relation to specific thematic Partnership Groups that will be required as part of their strategic development and delivery role.  In relation to engagement with economic development and structures, both the EC and the UK government refer to the VCS as forming part of ‘Civil Society’, encapsulating what we might consider previously as the ‘third sector’, and including co-operatives, CICs / social enterprises, mutuals and trade unions.

The structure and role of Civil Society across each LEP area is diverse, from business development, youth engagement, skills and employability, health & wellbeing, community reach and sector development & support.  As a result, each LEP will require the support of a mix of civil society organisations to help identify and deliver against local priorities.

The VCS/Civil Society makes an important contribution to the programme. It is capable of providing local, and through a number of networks, a regional perspective. The sector has strong contacts on the ground, and the long term experience of working to promote economic and social cohesion. It has particular strengths around the support and development of Social Business, including Social Enterprise, as well as in Social Innovation. The Sector has a track record in working with disadvantaged groups, including women, with individuals who have poor or inadequate skills, BMER communities and people with disabilities.

The above is an extract – read the full briefing on ‘LEPs and their role in the 2014-20 EU Funding Programme’ from RAWM website here:

Posted in Blog News

Handy stuff for the day

It’s only 2 days until we gather for VCSS Camp!

Here are a couple of things we’ve pulled together which might be useful to have a quick read of before you set off.

Participant information (updated 4.50pm on 24 June with correct event hashtag – #vcsscamp)  pack includes:

  • What the day is all about
  • What to expect
  • An outline of the day
  • How to contact us (feel free to text, tweet or call if you get lost or anything)
  • Guidelines to help us work well together
  • Advice on getting to the venue if you are walking from the new New Street Station – otherwise see information here (parking is available in a basement car park and is £5 all day)

Social reporting hints and tips -this is a 2 page document for anyone who would like to have a go at sharing online live from VCSS Camp or afterwards, whether by tweeting, blogging, or making and sharing photos, audio or video content. The hints and tips include getting started, remember it’s a conversation, generosity and usefulness, and 3 essential things to remember. There will be lots of seasoned social reporters at VCSS Camp so please do ask us for advice or tips – we;re the sort of people who love to share!

Looking forward to the conversations 🙂

Posted in Blog News

Supporting small local groups with social media

Leasowes Nature Reserve (photo credit: Lorna Prescott)

In this post Lorna Prescott considers ways that infrastructure support to local groups could facilitate offline networking and collaboration.

Officers from Dudley CVS have been hosting and/or helping out at Social Media Surgeries since December 2010. The 28 surgeries to date have involved 22 volunteers helping 167 people from local groups and charities to connect, share and campaign online.

Social Media Surgeries come up in conversation quite a lot. For example I was recently part of a panel assessing nominations for Green Spaces Awards, part of an annual recognition event at which Dudley MBC invites celebration of the work and dedication of volunteers of Friends of Parks and Friends of Nature Reserves groups. One of the criteria for judging groups was their use of new technology. In looking up the websites and Facebook pages of the groups I spotted a few things which, with some basic support, could be improved quite easily (such as websites having links to Facebook and or twitter accounts). I discussed with council officers ways that we could promote Social Media Surgeries to the Friends groups, perhaps even taking a surgery to one of the parks.

Later that same day I was involved in planning a Sports Clubs networking evening, and heard from a colleague from Black Country BeActive that in some research they had carried out with local sports clubs a demand for support with social media was clearly articulated. Later the discussion moved to ways to link up small sports clubs with other local groups, such as those with an interest in activities in local parks.

This got me thinking. What if we held Social Media Surgery type sessions in different parts of Dudley borough, specifically to bring together sports clubs with Friends groups, and other groups with an interest in health and activity in the locality? Might this help to make connections that we’d struggle to facilitate otherwise? (It’s hard to get volunteer led groups to networking events). I reckon it’s worth a try. I would keep expectations low, let serendipity take it’s course, and hopefully as a minimum help those that want to use or improve their use of social media to do just that.

Does you have examples of how infrastructure support around social media has bought groups or people together in new ways? Or how bringing people together has changed the conversations online?

Posted in Blog News, This is VCSSCamp

Is it different for trustees in a voluntary sector infrastructure organisation – CVS, Volunteer Centre etc?

This is a post which the VCSS Camp team and our colleagues are posting to keep the conversation going before the 25 June. Below Pauline Roche shares her thoughts on the role of a trustee in an infrastructure organisation.

Trustees Week 2013 logo
Trustees Week 2013 logo

This is the way I prepare for things – I research them – mostly on the ‘interweb’ (jovial term for the internet used by many of my friends) but also…no, hang on, I use only the net for research. And yet, I am reminded of the many contacts I have who know loads of stuff about loads of other stuff – maybe I should use my networks more.

I do use my networks, but I get impatient with ‘human’ time (the time it takes the average human to respond), and often end up surfing the web looking for the answer to something while waiting for a phone or email to be answered. One of my closest colleagues always says if you ask the right question, it will answer itself. But what’s the point of that? I’m asking a question because I don’t know the answer.

So I’m preparing for #VCSSCamp, the first ever (as far as we know) Unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations in Britain, and I’ve been looking on the web for stuff to inspire me as a trustee of a voluntary sector infrastructure organisation (IO). I couldn’t find that much (and I’m a qualified librarian with years of desk research experience).

There are 3 sessions of 1.5 hrs each on infrastructure in a section called ‘Infrastructure Organisations in a Changing World’ on the second day of the 19th Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference in September with the following titles:
• Investing in innovative infrastructure: What are the distinguishing characteristics of support for innovation which is channelled through infrastructure organisations?
• Bridging the gap? The repercussions of the economic downturn for volunteering
• Local infrastructure organisations and chargeable services: a multi-sited ethnography

As a trustee, I can’t say that any of these particularly ‘speak’ to me about my role in supporting an IO, but maybe I need to re-think my role and the roles of my fellow trustees in the coming period. I don’t think there’s a specific group for trustees of IOs anywhere – do we need one? If I set one up, would anyone else come?

I’m posting this on the VCSSCamp blog and will also link to it on the UK Charity trustees group on LinkedIn and see if anyone else wants to at least discuss this topic. I welcome others thoughts and ideas.

In the meantime, here’s a few tweets I tweeted while I was prepping this prep – hope you like them:

Prepping for #VCSSCamp, came across this from @nesta_uk – are we in the #volsec abt #innovation? See pp 167-179

Tech & social media skills are best taught by sharing & passing on experiences. 2013 @CloreSocial Fellows storify

Another useful piece of reading for #volsec staff / #volunteers / #trustees coming to #VCSSCamp 25/6

Interesting reading for #volsec coming to and/or otherwise participating in #VCSSCamp 25/6, incl. #trustees:

For a start to my blog abt #trustees for #VCSSCamp on 25/6 at @innobham here’s a list of resources via @karlwilding