Thursday, 30 August 2012

A top-down approach to scaling up (aka making stuff happen)

I was talking to Tessy Britton and Laura Billings yesterday and Tessy mentioned this post, in which the following TEDx Talk by Jason Roberts features.

 During the talk Jason shares three steps to making things happen:
  1. Show up (or be present - bring your skills to the table)
  2. Give it a name (and a nice logo)
  3. Set a date and publish it (blackmail yourself)
I’ve had the luxury in my work over the last 10 years or so to let things evolve, take time planning them, ruminate over them and work to quite nice or just self-imposed deadlines. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t get things done, I hugely over commit myself and can find myself involved in delivering activity on a range of different projects all in the space of about 36 hours if I don’t manage my calendar well. But think I’m also having a bit of a go at Jason’s way of working which, for now at least, I’m rather enjoying. And, inspired by Jason’s talk, and my chat with Tessy and Laura, I have developed my own version of the three steps. 

  1. Put yourself in the presence of (aka keep pestering) people as energetic and enthusiastic as you are
  2. Steal a name - and an idea: take a top-down approach to scaling up
  3. Set a date and publish it (and then get really worried about how soon it is!)

I’ve learned some of this by watching. In March 2011 I participated in some training which would help me to be a host of a social media surgery. Luckily for the social media needy of Dudley, my colleague Mel also participated in the training with me. Left to my own devices, it would have taken 2,3 or maybe even 4 or months before a surgery was up and running in Dudley. The idea of finding a venue willing to have us for free and finding volunteers to surgeon all felt a bit daunting to me. But thankfully not to Mel. She just asked, offered a little in a return, called a few contacts who could give time to help others and within a month we were hosting Dudley’s first ever social media surgery.

I’ve been sharing an office with Mel for 18 months now, and something must be rubbing off on me. I’m getting ideas or being offered opportunities and then going straight to people I suspect might be up for making them happen quite quickly and without too much fuss. 

Pestering tools

A key tool for pestering people who you seek to collaborate with is twitter. Within hours of suggesting something to a couple of people you already know reasonably well you can have your collaborators roped in and, if necessary, a time and date in the diary to get it all sorted.

Other social media tools are good for longer chats with the more the distant folk - Tessy, Laura and I chatted via Skype yesterday, and having trialled it with Honey Lucas recently, I can see the potential for Google Hangouts for progressing things with a group.

Taking a top-down approach to scaling up

What on earth does this mean? I’d never heard of it until Tessy mentioned and explained it to me. And I’d been doing it without knowing it! Social media surgeries are one example. The social media surgery + platform enables new people to come along and use the social media surgery model in their own locality or community, utilising the resources provided by the platform. The more people that do this, the better the idea becomes - because there are more options for people who want to attend or help out at surgeries.

Perhaps my experience with social media surgeries was useful when I came across the idea of Jelly on the Coffee Birmingham website. The more I read, the more I liked the idea, so I tweeted Marc Carter and Lorna Reid. We agreed a meeting date two weeks hence, I did a little more reading about Jelly on the UK Jelly site and some preparation for the meeting, we met and divvied up the tasks required to promote and run a first event. I made a record of what we’d agreed, also shared it with Odilia from Hub Stourbridgeas they may well run Jelly events in Stourbridge in the future ... and that’s it. A few tweets, a bit of planning, one meeting, getting stuff done... and launch (it will be on 24 September in Brierley Hill). No time for stalling, over-thinking it, or putting any organisational barriers in the way. I am making use of contacts I’ve developed in Birmingham to explore how other Jellies work, and will go along to the next Birmingham Jelly, which is before our Brierley Hill Launch, but that’s all stuff I’m doing in my own time, out of interest, it’s not really required to make this work. We’ve used what’s already there online and are helping to scale things up.

Encouraged by how easy this has been, I’ve now somehow got myself involved in the (international!) launch of a new Pot Luck initiative, thanks to Tessy and Laura, who emailed me about it less than two weeks ago, the launch date being less than two weeks from now! If all goes to plan, the website will be up in the next day or two, invitations will go out via me and anyone else I can rope in to this. Organising this has involve no meetings at all. The boundlessly enthusiastic Marc Carter is hosting the dinner at the Secret Coffee Club and hopefully I’ll have some lovely photos and video to share in couple of weeks, proving that Brierley Hill can do Pot Luck just as well as Glasgow ... Rotterdam ... and wherever else gets involved.

And my learning so far: I’m starting to understand how some of my colleagues in the public sector feel when they think I’m trying to make them do things too quickly. I’ve made myself write this blog before the websites are up for either Brierley Hill Jelly or Pot Luck, because I need to experience sharing things before they are finalised, as it’s what I will increasingly be asking of others.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Karen and Margaret

Karen Strunks (@karenstrunks on twitter) is probably known to most people who might be reading this. A generous online communicator, someone who makes things happen and who builds bridges between online and face-to-face relationships, in person Karen is warm and welcoming with a big friendly smile.

Scrolling through my twitter feed this morning I spotted this tweet from Karen:

I felt immediately worried and at the same time bad that I hadn't spotted earlier tweets about this. A quick click on Karen's profile and I found these tweets:

Still worried about what was wrong with Karen, I clicked on to @createdineire's profile and tweets, wondering who this was. It took me to Margaret, Karen's mum, who I recognised as I had met her at the most recent Social Media Cafe in Birmingham. (Karen organises the Social Media Cafe.) And reading through Margaret's tweets I saw the most lovely thing - updates on Karen's health and lots of thoughtful and caring conversations between Margaret and Karen's friends on twitter. Here's just one of many examples:

I quickly ascertained from Margaret's tweets that Karen had an operation on gallstones, and felt very relieved to read that she is getting better and Mum approves of the care she was getting in hospital.

When I started using twitter two and half years ago I never anticipated seeing it used in such a caring way. The public conversations and updates from Margaret have enabled Karen's followers and friends to keep track of her improvement and send get well messages. I feel as though I'm always learning, from people like Karen, about helpful and creative ways to use twitter. Now Margaret has become my twitter heroine, which is why I wanted to write and share this story. (I also love this poem on Margaret's blog, which I will now follow.)

Get well soon Karen x

In case you don't know Karen, here's some of the stuff she does and makes happen:

She initiated, runs and is the Creative Director of the 4am Project (it's brilliant, check it out)
She runs the Birmingham Social Media Cafe
She manages a hyper local blog for Wake Green Park in Moseley
She is part of the brilliant Talk About Local team
She blogs about all sorts at A bit more of Karen
And somehow she also has time to be a professional photographer! (site here)