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Being social in Wickford

18 January 2012

by Catherine Kimberley

We’re often out and about in the East of England but Friday 13th brought a new kind of challenge as we opted to trial social reporting for the first time.

Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois had expressed concerns that organisations in his constituency weren’t being as successful as they might at accessing Lottery good causes cash. We decided that holding an free briefing event would give us an opportunity to show local people in South Essex that BIG is more than just a funder – we’re also keen to listen and learn, supporting people along the way.

We saw this as the perfect opportunity to reflect the work of the People Powered Change Working Group in England which has been busy exploring and recommending ways in which BIG can become more ‘social’ to realise the wider ambitions behind PPC and help projects and beneficiaries share their stories and build helpful networks.

So with no time to spare, we started planning for our event just before Christmas working  very closely with Rayleigh, Rochford and District Association of Voluntary Services and Basildon, Billericay and Wickford Council for Voluntary Services to make sure we invited the people who needed to be there.

Mark had also invited BIG Chief Peter Wanless and the other Lottery distributors Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and Sport England to come along and talk about funding opportunities from their own organisations.

So armed with my I-phone, video camera, tripod and laptop on a particularly cold, dark and frosty morning we pitched up at the office to make our way down the M11. Things got off to a bad start when I couldn’t remember how to drive an automatic …

Once we had set up the venue and made sure the IT was going to work, I was joined by my social reporting mentor for the day, David Wilcox. David has been working with BIG over the past few months on the social reporting site and he had kindly agreed to show me the ropes so, after a quick chat about who had the best equipment (definitely David) we got started.

With the help of the New Media team, we had set up a web page the day before with the intention of populating the space with photos, videos and presentations following the event. We were keen to ensure that people unable to attend could access all the support on offer.

Once we had tackled the rather large queue, our Sara (Betsworth) opened the event and reminded people about our social experiment. Together with my colleagues, Jamie Conway and Jonathan Clarke, we set about recording the opening speeches and started tweeting (using #wick112) to try and create a buzz. Here’s Jonathan and I hard at it…

Proceedings were kicked off by local MP Mark Francois who welcomed the opportunity for local people to hear from the Lottery distributors.

Watch Mark’s speech here

We halted proceedings there for a photo shoot with the local Basildon Echo: remind anyone of a recent and very public civil partnership?!

And then Peter took to the floor to bust a few myths about how and where Lottery money is distributed. Using examples such as BATIAS – a support project for people with learning disabilities in South Essex which was due to close its doors in January but has now had its future secured with a BIG grant of £296,000, Peter stressed how constituents of Rayleigh and Wickford benefit from awards made to organisations with main offices outside the constituency.

Watch Peter’s speech here

Our Ed then talked through what makes a good application and then it was all hands on deck as David and I set off to interview Mark and Peter. You can see the results here:

Watch Mark and Peter discussing their hopes for the future

Following coffee, the other funders set about explaining their own funding opportunities; the local CVSs outlined their support services and then it was off for lunch.

But not for me and David! Armed with the mike, we went forth into the crowd to talk to delegates about what the event meant to them. For intrepid reporter Catherine Kimberley, there was clearly no time to prepare the questions …

Watch Catherine’s efforts

Watching that back makes me a) cringe and b) realise how much I have to learn but there’s nothing like diving straight in. We’re in an amazing position to extend our reach beyond those who attend our events – we will of course have training needs and will need to keep experimenting with new media tools to increase our confidence, but there’s clearly an appetite for this to develop.

It was clear from our experiment that we need to make sure we build space into our events so that people can share their experiences, and provide us feedback so we can plan future outreach work.

Over the next few months, we’ll be following up with groups from the event to see how they want to communicate with us – whether they embrace the new media tools at their disposal, or want to stick to the traditional workshop format, we’ll be in a better position to support them.

Were we more social in Wickford?  Watch this space …

You can watch our other interviews from the day

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