Social Reporters Network

Describe your idea. What will you do?

We will coordinate the setup and running of a series of 1-day workshops run by freelance social reporters for people in their communities.

There is no shortage of free tools that can be used to improve democracy and connectivity within communities and to government. The problem is that they are not used because of lack of confidence, knowledge of them or time. This is a widespread issue, but the most voiceless communities are those that suffer high levels of disconnection and poverty.

There is plenty of evidence to show that where a community group can build a website, it has an impact on their ability to contact the local council, run campaigns, collaborate on projects and make new acquaintances in their neighbourhood.

This project builds a network of social reporters who will train around 700 community activists in the use of social media.

Using a wiki and tagging tools, freelance social reporters will develop a common resource bank and workshop content in order to deliver a training session for community activists who have themselves volunteered to become social reporters for their organisations.

In many cases, this project will be an extension of social reporters’ normal work and a paid element (£200) is designed to be compensation for time in seeking out participants (ideally from community groups that want an online presence but currently have none), delivering the workshop and follow-up to reinforce online content. With a budget of £15,000 around 70 workshop days for around 10 people could take place, with a budget also available for coordination, room hire (hopefully libraries could be used, adding to the public visibility of the project) and coordination/evaluation/liaison.

The developed workshop content, resource bank and any other resources developed within the project would be available for use by anybody applying for funding to improve community connectivity and engagement.

What will the benefits be?

– clusters of supportive volunteer networks who will build new online communities and assist in connecting online and offline spheres of conversation, ideas and concerns.
– a development in collaborative working between social reporters and further definition of the concept itself, potentially sparking new projects and raising their awareness of community work in voiceless areas
– a strong resource bank of tools and websites from the grassroots to government level, possibly linked to existing resource banks or tools
– greater presence of community groups from disconnected areas on the internet that can be listened to by policy makers and political representatives.

Who will you target?

– People who are already active in their communities and who are interested in widening participation – the natural reporters – but may have little or no experience of using the internet.

– The project will be delivered through networks of journalists, social entrepreneurs/voluntary sector and IT specialists – anybody who is already familiar with social tools would be able to apply – who are interested in making a difference in disconnected communities.

Is your idea linked to a particular town or region?

Social Media CIC works in North Staffordshire and would coordinate the project nationwide, aiming to build a network in 70 different communities, prioritising districts with the highest levels of deprivation according to the IMD 2007 figures (these cover England, I don’t know if these projects are UK-wide?). As well as districts, there might be groups that are particularly voiceless.

The project would hopefully have a catalyst effect on volunteer activity and would give a body of evidence for use by local councils or other organisations to continue funding time for social reporters to build connections and skills.

What kind of assistance would you like from others?

Initial indications of practitioners who would be interested in delivering a workshop in their communities or supporting the project, plus any more suggestions on the project would be welcome.

The figures given are quite specific to illustrate potential impact, but obviously this is all open to development.

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