Hello, My name’s Rosie and I’m the media and new media officer at Oxfam Scotland. I hope you’ve been enjoying this evening as much as I have. There are certainly lots of great ideas. I know there are lots of people with all different levels of knowledge of social media here, so rather than doing a “ how to do social media” I thought it would be more helpful to talk a little but about our experience and about what we plan to do.
Although my job title is media and new media officer, we are a really busy press office, and the new media part is relatively small, with social media being an even smaller part of that. We are really lucky to have brilliant volunteers who help us out, like Liam who’s here tonight, but like the rest of you. The last thing that we want is an extra thing to have to do. That’s why, for us, it’s really important that we’re not just “doing social media”. We want to look at what we’re doing and ask how we can use social media to achieve it. Our overall aim is to work with others to overcome poverty and suffering. It’s an ambitious aim- and I’m not sure that social media- or the media unit- is the solution to it, but as part of that aim we want to influence decision makers, and we want to gain grass roots support and we want to influence the way the media deals with the issues we’re concerned about. That’s something that we’re already doing- and if social media can help us to do it better, then we should give it a go.
It’s a funny thing that we all do, working in the voluntary secto. Our jobs are to change the world. That’s a really big deal. It could mean changing the world for one young person, or it could mean influencing world leaders to ask them to take action on climate change, but ultimately that’s what we aim to do. Maybe social media can help us with that. I know the phrase “knowledge is power” is a bit of a truism, but it really is true. There are countless times in history when finding new ways of sharing information has changed the world. For example, in England in the 17th century, there was a king in power who was out of touch with the people. He spent his time relaxing, eating grapes and drinking wine and spent all of the country’s taxes on luxuries and dancing girls for his pals. And moats, that sort of thing.. Now, nothing in history is ever straight forward, but around that time, the printing press was invented. For the first time, instead of having to go to the town square and hear someone talk, or spending a fortune on a hand-written book, ordinary-ish people were able to get their hands on printed material. Political groups were able to print pamphlets and distribute their ideas to the people. It was quite revolutionary. There was a civil war, the king was overthrown and for the next 11 years England was a republic, ruled by a parliament. Whatever your views on the merits of that- it’s quite amazing to think that a change in technology that gave people access to information in a new way was able to play such a role in change. Social media has the potential tobe that powerful.
We’ve been using social media for a while. We have a twitter account, a facebook group and a blog, and I think we’ve had fair success with it. So far, it’s played an important role in getting news out to new audiences quickly and motivating people to take action. But what we’re really excited about is the next stage. Our plan is to harness the power of the people who use social media to make real change. Oxfam has always relied on a strong base of voluntary activists. We’re told that there’s been a decline in activist behaviour and political engagement. This is something that’s across the board- it’s not just an oxfam thing. Fewer people are voting, it’s a real struggle to get people to turn up to meetings. There’s a sense that there was a golden age and now, because of apathy, or because people’s lives are too busy, or just because it’s not fashionable, there’s been a decline. With our robin hood tax campaign, that certainly appeared to be the case. It was a great idea, and seemed to have public support, but it was difficult to get people to turn up to meetings about it. However, when we asked people to make a film making the case for the robin hood Tax, we got 175 submissions. I don’t know if you’ve ever made a film- but it takes time. We’re talking about people committing many hours and a lot of creative effort to speak up about this. And by doing that they reached out to a lot more people than if they’d sat in a church hall discussing it. Some of those videos have been viewed tens of thousands of times on youtube. I think that’s pretty amazing- I think it’s important that we value that, and that we tap into it. So, our plan is to capitalise on that and find a way of bringing people together. We’re calling it a citizen journalist network and it’s basically a way of bringing people together to share ideas on how to get more people talking about the big issues of injustice. For us, this is the next step and it’s really exciting.
There are thousands of conversations going on every day. Oxfam Scotland paid staff can’t possibly respond to every one of them, but a network could give us a broader spread. There are some issues that can feel too complicated for Oxfam Scotland to state a corporate position, without a drawn out sign-off process. A network offers a chance to engage in debate and put forward opinions without “nailing our colours to the mast”.
Our network shouldn’t just be another channel for disseminating news. It is a chance to consult, to learn and to develop new ways of doing things. People listen to people. Our citizen journalists can reach out to people who trust them and make them re-think their views on aid, climate and poverty. Sometimes, the issues we campaign on can be represented poorly in traditional media. Citizen journalists can respond in their own right, not just as representatives of Oxfam Scotland. This can be very powerful. We have many supporters who want to support Oxfam Scotland and its campaigns, but who can’t give up a lot of time to give up their time to volunteer in the office. In some cases, it is those who are most experienced and most skilled who are least able to volunteer. This allows us to tap into their skills
So- what’s a citizen journalist. Andrew Marr said we are all inadequate, pimpled and single. Maybe he’s right. I’m pretty sure he was half-joking, but the fact that he even felt the need to say it suggests that he, and other people in mainstream media see the idea of citizen journalism as a threat. I personally don’t want to undermine journalism as a profession. I think it’s important- and it need to be done properly. But there’s no doubt that every one of us can think of a situation where what we do has been misrepresented by the media in one way or another, and we just want to redress that balance. So, our citizen journalists will blog, tweet, write to their local paper, use carrier pigeons… and then tells their friends about it. That means they tell each other,a nd thath they pass it on to their other networks. The media has an important role in holding governments accountable- and we see citizen journalists as doing the same in holding the media accountable.
So- what sorts of people are they? Well, we’re right at the start of this process, so we don’t know too much, but of the people who have expressed interest so far, they’re people who are concerned about injustice, but they’re also people who are skilled and experienced. They’re people who are looking for that deeper level of engagement. There are some people who are concerned that online engagement with campaigning is just about the click of a mouse and doesn’t actually require a time commitment, or an emotional one, but with people who are making a video, or writing a blog post, that’s not the case. They’re also people who are busy. They’re often not going to be people who would go along to meetings, but they are keen to get involved.
Helena is a young woman who’s been involved with Oxfam for a couple of months. She made a great wee video about the robin Hood Tax, which we then tweeted to our followers, saying it was her favourite of the week. From there we built up a relationship and she’s gone on to make two more films- one about the floods in Pakistan and one about finding the perfect outfit for an interview in an Oxfam shop. She’s busy, she works, and is a student, and she lives in a rural area, so there’s no way she could come in to the office to volunteer or even to go to a meeting, but she’s making a real contribution, and she’s delighted to be involved. And she’s so enthusiastic- if we had a hundred Helenas we’d be sorted.
So- I’ve spoken a lot about what’s good, I suppose we should probably address some of the risks. I think that a lot of charities, and I include Oxfam in that, are worried about losing control of our messages. We spend a lot of time distilling them and promoting them. And it seems scary to let other people take those messages and play with them and disagree with them. The first thing that’s important is to say that these conversations will happen no matter what- whether we’re involved or not. Any person who’s ever done a day’s volunteering in an Oxfam shop would be quite within their rights to claim to represent oxfam on a forum, and there’s nothing to say that they will agree with our current thinking. So, we hope that by doing this we’ll actually reduce these risks. When people sign up to the network we ask them to sign up to some basic values and guidelines. And we also hope that, by giving people the title of citizwen journalist it will confer a sense of trust and reponsibility and make them more mindful.
Oxfam Scotland's plans for a citizen journalist network - Be Good Be Social 27th Oct 2010
Making Media Social
Why bother using social media?
It’s not about “doing social media”- it’s about
looking at your aims and then asking how
you can use social media to achieve them.
Can social media change the world?
New ways of communicating have changed
Our aims are ambitious- we can’t achieve them
on our own.
We’re very excited
We’re told there’s apathy- but we get an amazing
We want to bring together a network of citizen
journalists who share our values.
The next step in using social media.
Why we’re doing it
A Right to Reply Skills
What’s a citizen journalist anyway?
Inadequate, pimpled and single?
Someone who blogs, tweets, makes films, writes
to their paper, uses carrier pigeons…
… and then tells their friends about it.
Who is a citizen journalist?
Concerned about poverty- at home or abroad.
Want to move beyond “clicktivism”.
Busy- a new way of volunteering.
Not necessarily interested in meetings.
Who is a citizen journalist?
“ It’s incredibly important to discuss these
things. If they aren’t discussed, how will
they be changed? ”
What if people say things we don’t like?
Guidelines and values.
People say things anyway… this way at least we
can be part of the debate.
Being a citizen journalist is a responsibility.
How it works
Posterous blog- a place to share.
We stay in touch.
Cheap- and simple.
What the network is NOT
A new social network.
A closed group.
Where could this lead?
A network of people who can take action when
Making it global- international voices.
If you’re interested: