SLIDE SHARE: How pictures can be used for civic good

A good picture jumps from a page with the power to make you laugh, smile, wonder or be inspired.

I’m passionate abut the fact you don’t need to be a photographer to do civic good with images on the social web.

What’s Flickr? It’s a photosharing website. I’m a big advocate of it and I’ve blogged about how it can work in local government before.

The very nice people at Future Gov and Local Government Improvement and Delivery organised Local by Social Midlands ediction in Coventry.

This brought residents, web people and local government together.

The format is simple and powerful. A few speakers to inspire. Circulate a pre-collected list of residents’ wishes.

Then with the residents, sit down and try and work out a solution using digital tools.

This was the presentation I gave on Flickr. Hopefully it helps answer the questions: what is Flickr? How does Flickr work and how can it be used for civic good?


View more presentations from danslee.

It has a summary of how Flickr works and four case studies of it in action.

Case study 1:

The Walsall Town Hall Flickr meet. How photographers from the community can take pictures of a landmark. You can see more of the images taken at the event here.

Case study 2:

How Flickr images taken by the community can be used by a public sector website as a way to celebrate the area and individuals’ work.

Case study 3:

The Caldmore Village Festival. How Flickr photographers recorded an event and shared the images to a wider audience. It’s mentioned on this blog too. Here are some shots taken at the event.

Case study 4:

Newman Brothers: How a campaign for funding harnessed the power of photography through Flickr. Here are some shots taken by amateur photographers and posted to Flickr.

Case study 5

This arrived too late for me to include in the presentation but acts as an excellent way for residents and local government to connect. Paul Clarke took a shot of a street scene when he was back in his native Ormskirk.

When he spent time looking at it properly he was appalled at a right yellow canopy from a cheque cashing outlet. Traditional routes failed but using Flickr and whatdotheyknow.com pressed planners to take up the case. You can read Paul’s excellent blog on the subject here.

Should local government fear this route? No. Not if people want to deliver a better service.

That shows that photography doesn’t always showcase the best of a borough.

Sun rise above Quarry Bank in Dudley. An image posted to several Flickr groups and celebrates this corner of the Black Country.

That’s a point echoed by Mike Rawlins and Nicky Getgood from Talk About Local.

Shaming pics of abandoned cars work on a community blog and can help prod a council into action, they argued.

A functional pic of a pothole can work on fixmystreet.com as a way to report a problem.

shot of the sun rising over an allotment, stained glass in Walsall Counci House or Spring bulbs celebrate an area.

Each stream is just as valid but has an entirely different character.

It can shame, remind and celebrate.

That’s the power of a good image.


BETTER CONNECTED: Case study: How a community festival used social media – with 4 extra ideas for next year

Get out of the social media bubble, talk to real people and you may be surprised.

Digital skills may be valuable online but offline they’re part of a mix of things needed to make an event work.

One blogger has argued that its such a part of her life she didn’t think of ‘social media’ as such anymore. It’s part of life.

That’s fine for digital natives. But that’s not the case for people like Walsall artist Alan Cheeseman.

Together with a team of like-minded volunteers he helped stage a festival in the Caldmore in Walsall in the West Midlands.

Walsall Council chipped in with funding and support. So did social housing provider whg, the National Lottery and one or two other places.

Where’s Caldmore? First, it’s pronounced karma. Narrow Victorian terraced streets crowd around a small green hardly big enough to host a cricket square. Legend has it that Boy George lived there in his Walsall days.

Sari shops, balti houses, pubs and shops that sell cheap calls to the Indian sub-continent dominate the shopping area.

It’s a place where migrant workers settled amongst the indiginous English to take low-paid jobs in factories. The communities have remained while the factories they came to have gone to the wall.

It’s a place a mile square of three churches, a mosque and a Sikh temple.

It suffers from deprivation, crime and suffers the stigma of a prostitution problem that has eased.

But as the Caldmore Village Festival shows, the place has a powerful resilience and a creative and community-minded people.

In part its scores of micro-communities around the mosque, the church, the pub or the temple.

For this event they came together.

More than 11,000 came to 15 venues across three days for the festival.

Kibadi, Bollywood dancing, live music and dance brought people in. So did the Pakistani sport of stone lifting. An amazing sight where men lift carved stone.

Ask Alan what made it worth while and its not the numbers that excite him. It’s the little stories. It’s getting the tearaway kid to put a volunteer’s orange bib on and give him what could be the first piece of responsibility he’s ever known.

But what role did social media have in all this?

“Things like the internet. That’s for educated people really, isn’t it?” says Alan.

“I’m not sure how much of what we did actually helped.”

It’s a fair point and you have to admire Alan’s honesty.

In Walsall,the percentage of people online every day is below the national average of 60 per cent.

Caldmore is the place the Talk About Local project was invented for.

An initiative to bridge the digital divide and equip communities with an online voice the initiative trained Alan and set him up on a blog.

Sessions open to all backgrounds were run at a neighbourhood resource called Firstbase by community worker Stuart Ashmore where the basics of WordPress were explained.

As a tool for communities this blogging platform is as powerful as a printing press in the 19th century.

Easy to use and simple to master it gives an online presence to anyone with an internet connection.

Alan explained: “We used the blog. We’d update it maybe once a month and we had links to it coming from around 50 other sites.”

Alan was quietly impressed at the digital waves he did make: “I was quite suprised to see 1,000 hits in the week before the festival started.”

But as Alan says the main lesson is to see digital as just one part of the jigsaw. That’s something some forget. It may reach some people. It won’t reach everyone. So what does?

“Networking helps,” says Alan. “A piece in the local paper helps. So do leaflets.

“We made contact with several organisations and we found that their agenda was similar to ours in many places.

“But face to face is really helpful too. It is like a jigsaw. By doing several things you’ll reach a lot of people.”

In effect, Alan was doing the things that work on the web in the real world.

The message to the online community? Online is part of the answer. It’s not the answer on its own.

Or to put it simply, the equation is this:

Face-to-face + networking + leaflets + digital + newspaper support + community groups + public sector + council staff + ward councillors = a successful community event

The Caldmore Village Festival’s digital footprint…

Blogging – A WordPress blog with monthly updates.

Flickr – Walsall’s Flickr group members were invited along to the event too  were made welcome. Some amazing pictures came out of it. A group was created as a repository for images.

Plug into the blogging eco-system – Walsall news aggregator The Yam Yam – named after the way Walsall people are supposed to speak – plugged the event through its website, it’s Twitter and Facebook streams.

Twitter support – Walsall Council Twitter stream @walsallcouncil linked to new blog posts.

Link support – Links to the blog ended up on around 50 sites.

YouTube – A short film of the stone lifting attraction helped raise the profile.

Ideas for future online activity…

1. Twitter — A face to the organisation on the @hotelalpha9 would work brilliantly. Or simply a festival stream.

2. Facebook — In Walsall, Facebook is the platform of choice with 197,000 people registered in a 10 mile radius. A fan page for the festival will capture that support.

3. Flickr — Use the images from year one to promote year two. Bring the Flickr group back for a second year.

4. Foursquare — Add the venues to the geo-location game. Leave tips for things to do.

Creative commons pics:

Swissrolli: Police officer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swissrolli/4673534659/in/pool-caldmorefestival

Stuart Williams: Wigs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swilliams2001/4656475393/sizes/s/in/pool-1470631@N22/

Stuart Williams: Parade: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swilliams2001/4656478577/in/pool-caldmorefestival

Stuart Williams: Drummer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swilliams2001/4656478577/in/pool-caldmorefestival