How many expectations? or 7 years of Social Media Surgeries in Dudley Borough (part one)

There have been social media surgeries in Dudley for more than 7 years.

Since Melissa Guest organised the first on Dec 8th 2010 a varied group of volunteers have run 65 different events in Dudley, Halesowen, Stourbridge and Brierley Hill.  We really didn’t expect this, in fact we expected pretty much nil, nada.

327 of you have signed up for some sort of help,  and we’ve recorded 45 website and social media sites we’ve helped you set up and run. (although we reckon it’s much more than that).A network of committed people have run social media surgeries in Dudley, Stourbridge, Halesowen and Brierley Hill. We even made the news.

Life is likea cup of tea. (2)

These posts are a chance to look at three things…

  1. What is a surgery and how does it fit in with other support for community groups in Dudley and..
  2. What you make of the format – the way of working
  3. What some of you have gone on to do, resting on the skills and confidence you’ve picked up through the surgeries

So lets start with the first…..

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

Alison Mel and Becky at a social media surgery in Dudley

What are they?

A social media surgery is deliberately informal.

  • It’s a place and a time where people with some experience of using social media can sit alongside local community groups, volunteers and charities and help them make better use of the web.  These places are deliberately relaxed, typically a cafe, where you can talk and think and explore and learn together, and say thank you by buying the person who helped you a quick cuppa.
  • It’s the opposite of training.  You don’t get lectured at. Instead someone will ask you what you are trying to achieve, listen to how you already use the internet and offer suggestions.  If something appeals to you you can dig deeper, together. And it is practical. People will help you set things up, there and then, wwhether on facebook, twitter, a new website.
  • A social media surgery is a loop of generosity.  The surgeries are much more than an expert volunteer surgeon supporting a local community group. They  recognise that helping each other can be far more rewarding than passively receiving help. Whether you think you’ve come to learn or to teach everyone tends to end up sharing what they know with each other.   This is a intentioanl, it’s the loop of generosity.
  • They shrug off key performance indicators and unrealistic aspirations.  Surgeries are run with zero expectations.  They are built on a principle that expectations often lead to disappointment.  If you think 20 people ought to come, but ‘only’ 10 do then you end up demoralised. You may even give up.  Zero expectations means that even if one person is helped that’s a win, 10 turning up is a spirit-lifting-humdinger-of-a-fantastic-thing.  By taking this approach they are more fun to do, so more likely to be there, so better able to help.
  • A social media surgery is a platform.  By providing a space for people to share skills the surgeries underpin so much other work. They help boost the flow of civic information within a neighbourhood and across the internet.  This can be about local services, activities, events, campaigns. It can be information from the third sector or the public sector. It can also be the possibilities tied up in relationships people nurture through being able to share and support each other online.  It can also be the unexpected happenings that spring up because people get to be in the same space and learn together.    All this nurtures connections and grows the civic conversation online.  Upon those connections and those conversations can rest a more vibrant, richer place to live.

The surgeries are run by a group of committed people, some may happen to work for the CVS, but the surgeries sit in a wider movement of people who simply want to share digital skills, for free, with local active citizens.

For your next social media surgery please look at 



Celebrating Small Charity Week in Dudley borough

SCW Loz Logo Date 2015

Small Charity Week (15th-20th June) celebrates and raises awareness of the essential work of small charities (defined as charities and CICs that have an annual turnover under £1.5million).

This year, we’re joining in with the celebrations and running special activities and workshops across the week including:

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Missed opportunities? Demonstrating our worth online

Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: mkhmarketing / Foter / CC BY

A study published by Lloyds Bank has reported that more than half of charities lack ‘basic digital skills’, especially compared with small business. You can read the full report here.

The study particularly focuses on the lack of understanding about how a web presence can increase donations and other forms of finance, but it also chimes with one of Dudley CVS’s priorities for the forthcoming year and one of the key findings of our recent state of the sector survey –  voluntary and community organisations would like some support with telling their stories online.

Being able to demonstrate your impact online, at a time when organisations cannot solely rely on grant-funding alone to survive, might expose your organisation to new sponsors, supporters, crowd-funders, investors, donors, businesses looking to fulfil their corporate social responsibility principles. But the reasons may not be purely financial. Having a web presence can be empowering for your organisation and the people you support; you can run campaigns, dispel myths, inspire people, connect, share and learn.

But what do you think? What do you think about the report? What has an online presence allowed you to do more easily? What are the barriers to getting your organisation on the web? Is it resources, skills in tech and design or anything else? How could we all support each other to grasp new opportunities that the digital world might offer?


Social Media Surgery dates for February and March 2015

You may have read recently about how a nationwide community of surgeons have supported people and groups to get started with social media at social media surgeries, including how social media surgeries have helped people across Dudley borough.

Now my colleagues Lorna and Melissa have announced dates for the next round of surgeries for Dudley and Stourbridge. So come along to one of the friendly and informal surgeries to find out how to get started on social media, all over a cuppa and cake! Maybe I’ll see you there!

Digital Dudley

Melissa Guest and I will be running Social Media Surgeries throughout 2015.

Social Media Surgeries are completely free advice sessions for community and voluntary groups, clubs and societies. Find out how to use how to use blogs, video clips, photo sharing sites, Facebook, Twitter or other free web tools to help your group. We can help you to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate easily and for free.

Upcoming dates and venues are:

Photo of Deepak and John at a cafe table with a laptop Deepak from Dudley Libraries giving his time and social media know-how to help John from Community Transport at a recent Dudley Social Media Surgery

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Getting to grips with social media to communicate, campaign and collaborate

Photo of Alison, Mel and Becky huddled around a laptop

Alison, Mel and Becky at Dudley Social Media Surgery

An ever increasing number of people who volunteer or work for our local groups, clubs, societies and charities are using social media. But for the uninitiated it can feel overwhelming and difficult to know where to start, never mind the technical requirements of how to start.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just sit and talk to someone who knows about social media? Ask them questions which might feel a bit daft, but which they will understand why you’re asking  and how you’re feeling. Perhaps they might show you the basics of how something like Twitter or Facebook works, even how to set up an account and profile and post your first message.

Wouldn’t it be just amazing if all this social media support was available for free, in a relaxed environment, over a cuppa ? And available regularly, so you could come back if you had forgotten something, or wanted to go further, or find out about something else new?

This is exactly what the clever people from Podnosh in Birmingham thought, so they made it really easy for this sort of support to be made available anywhere in the world. They called the idea Social Media Surgeries and set up a website to help people who want to run them.

Melissa Guest and I have been hosting Social Media Surgeries in Dudley for nearly 4 years. The most recent one took place at Cafe Grande in Dudley town centre on 25 November, and is a great example of the diversity of things which happen.

It was John Sanders’ first time to a Social Media Surgery. He was paired up with Deepak Rana, who by day works for Dudley Libraries service and expertly manages their social media channels such as the @dudleylibraries twitter account and their Facebook Page. It was Deepak’s first time giving his time as a surgeon (that’s what the helpers are called). John works for Community Transport in Dudley and Sandwell and wanted to learn how he could use Twitter and Facebook to help communicate with people who might enjoy volunteering with Community Transport, and generally to raise awareness of the service. Deepak talked through and showed John how to use Twitter, then they set up a twitter account for Community Transport. Next they looked at Facebook. John was shown how to set up a Facebook Page (which is different to the personal profiles people use on Facebook to connect with family and friends) and how to link Twitter and Facebook to each other.

Photo of Deepak talking to John. Deepak has a laptop and coffee, John has a notepad and pen.

Deepak showing John how to use Twitter

John was surprised to learn he could come back to Social Media Surgeries whenever he wanted to. He was interested in learning about blogging – he said he had heard the word blog, but didn’t know what it was or what it meant. This is exactly what Social Media Surgeries are here to help with.

Alison Sayer works for Halas Homes, a charity based in Halesowen who care for people with learning disabilities. Alison had come along to Dudley Social Media Surgery in July last year and learned to use Twitter, and has never looked back! (There is a Digital Dudley post about that surgery and you can find Alison’s fantastic twitter feed at @HalasHomes) This time she booked places for herself and Marion, Jennifer and Libby from her staff team. They wanted to learn together how to use Facebook in an appropriate way for their charity and people they support. Surgeons Becky and Mel listened to what their particular needs and concerns were, then helped them to set up a Facebook Page and use the privacy settings. Alison said at the end of the evening “Mel engaged all of us in to it, which is what I wanted. I think we’ll be coming back for WordPress!”

Karl sitting in a comfy chair by a cafe table with guide dog Quasi at his feet

Karl and Quasia

Karl Denning is a guide dog owner from Dudley who campaigns for equality and raises awareness about behaviours which make day to day life difficult and even dangerous for partially sighted people  – see this great video he made with Dudley Police. Karl first came along to Dudley Social Media Surgery a year ago, when he learned some new tips and tricks to use Twitter more effectively (he’s on twitter as @KarlDenning). He returned to the next surgery for help to set up a new blog on WordPress.

It was great to welcome Karl and his guide dog Quasia back to Cafe Grande last month. Karl wanted some help get started on Instagram, which is a free online photo and video sharing service. It was the first time anyone had been to one of our surgeries asking about Instagram, and as someone who enjoys using it I was keen to help Karl get to grips with it. As usual, the surgeon learns from the person they are helping, as well as the other way around. I was fascinated to see how the software on Karl’s phone made using social media a breeze for people who are partially sighted. Looking at a photo based site with Karl was a great reminder of the importance of adding alternative text descriptions to photos when uploading them to blogs and so on. And Karl introduced me the most amazing Instagram account which I hugely recommend having a look at: NASA’s. It truly is out of this world and the images are jaw dropping.

Social Media Surgeries will be running through 2015 in Dudley and Stourbridge, dates to be arranged. We arrange and host them in our own time, surgeons give their time and knowledge freely, the cafes we use give us their spaces for free, and Dudley CVS help to promote them. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more – I’m on email and @dosticen on twitter.