Connecting Big Society? Bring in the young social reporters.

Reporting from a conference in Cardiff today brought home to me how combining low-cost video, social media, and the skills and versatility of young (and older) people in using these tools could provide a way to develop Big Society … or Good Society … and certainly Our Society. It could also help create some jobs.
Everyone agrees that there’s lots of great projects being developed in local communities, and brilliant people behind them. Case studies are written, activists and social entrepreneurs are invited to speak in conferences … but somehow the stories don’t spread, and policy often evolves uninformed by local reality.
I’m in Cardiff for the Promoting Respectful Relationships on anti-bullying, and you can see on the site a rich mix of streaming video from SwitchNewMedia, live blogging from Tim Davies, and video reporting from a team of young people. I’m adding some too. The communications have been brilliantly organised by Sangeet Bhullar of Wise Kids, who I worked with on this earlier event.
Several things came together to give me some insights into what might be possible in smaller events. Last night over dinner I met up with Tim, and Diarmaid Lynch of SwitchNewMedia (above) and we talked among other things about how difficult it still was to share good stories about local projects.
Diarmaid explained that it was now possible to do low-cost streaming from a village hall or community centre, and by adding some encoding equipment enable a remotely connected professional like himself to connect different events and blend in conversations from Twitter and other media. It can even be done with people just using personal computers and Skype. Events could be staged around particular themes, and content archived and organised to provide learning resources. Maybe this could be one way to develop training for community organisers.
This morning at 8am I turned up at the conference venue, with Sangeet, Tim and Diarmaid to meet a team of six young people who would act as social reporters with a little help from me and Tim. I was slightly anxious, because Sangeet explained that the original team of media students couldn’t make it at the last moment … so we might have to rely to an extent on whatever personal skills the team could muster. A couple of the group knew each other – but they had never met as a group.
Tim had prepared a great briefing on reporting, and together we explained what was involved. We demonstrated a Flip video camera. Then came the hard part. We had to figure out who was going to cover what sessions, who was going to handle uploads, captioning and how to use the equipment. All within 90 minutes before proceedings started. Tim shot a video to show how to do it … but what next?
From a few questions and conversations it was becoming clear who in the group liked organising, interviewing, or doing the more technical stuff. So I just suggested the group work out for themselves how to to cover the event … which they did … as explained here by Bleddyn Perry.

Combining this insight with the conversation with Diarmaid, and discussion with Tim, who specialises in youth engagement and training as well as social media, it seemed to us there could be package.

Why not put together a social reporter kit of low-cost equipment, with some training and professional back up, that could serve several functions. In the Big Society context it could connect communities and policy makers, and help learning between activists. It could also help create jobs, because social reporters could – like Tim and myself – be paid to report from the bigger events, provide training, run social media surgeries. There is certainly plenty of work to be done in helping our public agencies and nonprofit organisations use social media.

Although I’m emphasising the role of young social reporters, I’m sure older folk (like me) could play a part. Sessions to plan and learn about reporting would be a great way to bring together different interests in a community.

Tim, Diarmaid and I will be developing these ideas further, so if they appeal to you too please drop a comment here.

One comment

  • November 26, 2010 - 5:06 pm | Permalink


    I am currently running a film project with young people which is called Youth Lobbying Explained. Here young people come up with their ideas how society could change for the best and thet develop ideas into a short film. With my academic head on I am looking how the Big Society is trying to engage with young people and the idea of Young people as social reporters producing footage for local TV. Please get in touch to see whether we explore this idea further.

    Kind regards

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