From the box bedroom to the boardroom: how social media is coming of age with care act

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While good web pages are paramount social media must form a key part in how local government communicates the care act, a survey has revealed.

While 95 per cent will use a search engine, 60 per cent of people think that platforms like Facebook and Twitter will be used by people to find out how the change will affect their family.

The care act came into force on April 1 and has been hailed as the most significant change to social care for decades.

The poll for IEWM / West Midlands ADASS was carried out by comms2point0 in March and April and targeted people who work in a social care role in councils and the third sector as well as residents with a loved one who receives care and those who don’t.

The study, which will be presented to the ADASS Spring Seminar, maps out the challenges that local government faces when they are communicating the changes.

While search engines and the web remain the most important channel, the survey shows that social media is vital.  Overall, those believing that social media would be used by people to research or ask a question about the care act reached 59 per cent with 28 per cent thinking it would not. People in the third sector were most likely to think the social web would play a role.

The survey shows that social media has evolved from something once dismissed as something used by teenagers in a box bedroom to something that is used day-to-day and needs to be taken account by decision makers.

Will social media be used by people to find out how the social care act may affect them?

It is clear that all sectors see the importance of web tools like Twitter, Facebook and others with those who work in the third sector most valuing the role they can play. The figures remain broadly constant.

Will social media be used to find out how the care act affects them?

  • People who work in social care:  59 per cent YES and 29 per cent NO with 12 per cent don’t know.
  • People who work in the third sector: 68 per cent YES and 26 per cent NO with 6 per cent don’t know.
  • People with a relative or friend who receives care: 59 per cent YES and 21 per cent NO with 19 per cent don’t know.
  • People whop don’t know anyone who receives care: 60 per cent YES and 24 per cent NO with 16 per cent don’t know.

RECOMMENDATION: Accept as a council that social media needs to be part of the communications strategy.

Which will be the most popular social media channel used?

There were no surprises in the survey with 88 per cent of people naming Facebook and 72 per cent Twitter. YouTube was third with 46 per cent with other channels registering less than 10 per cent.

RECOMMENDATION: A better and evaluated use of Facebook is vital with targeted advertisements an option.

What social media response do you think councils should have to help people understand the care act?

It is clear that the expectation is for all people who are responsible for a council social media account should be briefed on where to signpost people be they social care or not. Six out of ten people thought this level of action is needed.

There was also a surprisingly large number looking for a dedicated social care account.

  • Brief everyone responsible for a council social media account 61 per cent
  • Brief people responsible for the corporate account 50 per cent
  • A dedicated social care social media profile operated by social care staff 43 per cent

RECOMMENDATION: The organisation needs to compile a list of individual members of staff who have access and brief them of where to direct people.

RECOMMENDATION: Consider a dedicated social care account.

How else will people find out about the care act?

Search engines dominate as the first port of call with 95 per cent of those surveyed saying they would use a tool like Google or Bing to look for help. The second highest was the council website with 81 per cent followed by a charity or voluntary sector website on 42 per cent. Just over a third would call the council or rely on the local Press to keep them informed. Less than 30 per cent would rely on a face-to-face chat with a council officer in person. Just 1 per cent wouldn’t try to find out, pointing to a thirst for information that needs to be filled.

  • Search engine 95 per cent
  • Council website 81 per cent
  • Charity website 42 per cent
  • Call the council 35 per cent
  • Read the Press 35 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a council officer 27 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a GP 23 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a charity 19 per cent
  • Call a third sector group 16 per cent
  • A face-to-face chat with a voluntary group 11 per cent
  • Call a GP 11 per cent
  • Wouldn’t try to find out 1 per cent

RECOMMENDATION: It is vital that councils have a good webpage that is in plain English and can be found easily. Many people won’t go through the council website so the right search terms and search engine optimisation need to be done.

Overall, 247 took part in the survey with 46 per cent declaring them to be social care staff, 16 per cent working for a voluntary group or charity, 18 per cent knowing someone who receives care and 30 per cent not knowing anyone who receives care or working in the sector.

by Dan Slee, Director at comms2point0, for IEWM and West Midlands ADASS

Photo credit: afagen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

“Inside out and upside down” – how preventative vision of the Care Act has been embraced in the West Midlands

Lets Talk Local (Diagram 1, p. 4)

Lets Talk Local (Diagram 1, p. 4)


The prevention report “Inside out and upside down:  Community based approaches to social care prevention in a time of austerity” showcases six councils that have developed their approaches to asset based community development in a climate of austerity.

As part of their wider Improvement Plan, West Midlands ADASS and Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands, committed in 2014 to undertake some work to look at the different approaches being taken across the West Midlands towards prevention and ways to support local communities.

The report draws out some of the themes that are emerging from these approaches and highlights some of the common factors that have been seen to be successful in both reducing costs and encouraging partnership working.

In the context of the imminent implementation of the Care Act and its emphasis on preventative approaches, the report is timely in highlighting the good work being done by West Midlands councils in this area.


You can view the report here.


What do you think of the report? Let us know using #bestbywm.

2014 IEWM #bestbywm local government social media survey


Social Media


In 2013 IEWM’s Best by West Midlands whitepaper and website raised the bar for local government social media by celebrating and sharing best practice.

The region continues to be at the cutting edge of using digital channels to communicate and listen better to the people they serve.

As in 2013, a survey to captrure where the region is has been conducted by comms2point0 of people working with social media in local government and the findings are striking.

Here are key conclusions from the numbers:

  • Social media use in West Midlands is getting mainstream. Senior officers  who use channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and others have almost doubled to just over 60 per cent compared to last year.
  • West Midlands local government are concentrating on the platforms with Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube the leading five.
  • West Midlands local government are missing out on the chance to communicate effectively with young people through the rise of new platforms such as Whats App and Snapchat. Both have almost zero take-up. This is worrying when they are so popular with young people.
  • Social media is getting gradually more effective on 36 per cent (up from 25 per cent) but the low rate of effectiveness may be a worry.
  • Who is using social media in West Midlands is also changing. Communications remains a bastion with 100 per cent use but frontline use creeping up to 65 per cent from just over half that  12-months ago.
  • But use amongst practitioners is dropping with respondents rating themselves as ‘high’ users dropping from 47 per cent to just 15 per cent.
  • There needs to be more resources given to using social media. Trust, training, tactics and risk are no longer the main barriers but resources with 54 per cent is now the number one factor.
  • West Midlands local government maintain their recognition of the importance of social media with almost 100 per cent thinking it is important or very important.
  • West Midlands authorities are not shifting more emphasis on social media. Unchanged too is the volume of use of social media with 40 per cent on ‘high’ use and 56 per cent ‘medium’ – figures almost unchanged year-on-year.
  • 18 channels are now being used – up three on previous years.
  • Fewer people are using internal social channel Yammer – a drop of just over 10 per cent to 31 per cent – the only major drop in 2014 when compared to last year.
  • Fewer organisations have a strategy falling from more than 60 per cent last year to 42 per cent in 2014.
  • More authorities are relaxing restrictions about sharing platforms such as dropbox which allows people to access documents stored in the cloud.


There are growing examples of good social media use being nominated including leaders regularly blogging to communicate with staff and residents including Birmingham City Council’s Mark Rodgers blog and Sandwell Council Leader Cllr Darren Cooper’s blog as well as Twitter from key officers such as head of environmental health and planning Marc Wilmott who uses Twitter.


Survey findings

There were 26 responses from 20 councils from the IEWM area including Birmingham City Council, Bromsgrove District Council, Coventry City Council, Dudley Borough Council, East Staffordshire District Council, Herefordshire County Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council, Redditch Borough Council, Sandwell Council, Solihull Borough Council, Shropshire Council, Stafford Borough Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council Telford & Wrekin Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Walsall Council and Worcestershire County Council.


Question 1: In your opinion, how important is it for councils to use social media?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, don’t know 4 per cent.


Question 2: How important is it for you to use social media in your role?

2013: Very important or important: 100 per cent

2014: Very important or important: 96 per cent, 4 per cent neutral


Question 3: How would you describe your council’s use of social media?

2013: High 37.5 per cent, medium 55 per cent, low 7.5 per cent.

2014: High 40 per cent, medium 56 per cent, low 4 per cent


Question 4: How would you rate your council’s effectiveness of social media usage

2013: High 25 per cent, Medium 65 per cent and Low 10 per cent

2014: High 36 per cent, Medium 56 per cent and Low 8 per cent


Question 5: How would you rate your personal usage?

2013: High 47.5 per cent, Medium 32.5 per cent and Low 20 per cent.

2014: High 15 per cent, Medium 58 per cent, Low 23 per cent


What are the barriers stopping your council from using social media more effectively?

Cost 8 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Technology 0 per cent (down from 10 per cent)

Training 0 per cent (down from 37.5 per cent)

Trust 4 per cent (down from 35 per cent)

Risk 0 per cent (down from 32 per cent)

Lack of guidelines & governance 0 per cent (down from 22.5 per cent)

Resources 54 per cent (up from 12.5 per cent)

Time 33 per cent (up from 20 per cent)


Who uses it?

Elected members 81 per cent (down from 85 per cent)

senior officers 61.5 per cent (up from 32.5 per cent)

Frontline teams 65 per cent (up from 47.5 per cent)

Communications 100 per cent (no change)


Do you have an up-to-date social media strategy/action plan?

Yes  42  (down from 62.5 per cent)    No    58  ( up from 37.5%)


Has staff training or guidelines published ?

Yes 77 ( up from 75 per cent)


Which platforms are your council OK with you using?

Position, platform, percentage in the 2014 survey (percentage in the 2013 survey)

1 (1) Twitter 100 per cent (100 per cent)

2 (2) Facebook 96 (100)

3 (3) YouTube 81 (82.5)

4 (4) Flickr 65 (75)

5 (5) LinkedIn 46 (40)

6 (7) Google Plus 38 (22.5)

7 (6) Yammer 31 (42.5)

7 (-) WordPress 31 (n/a)

9 (9) Pinterest 19 (10)

10 (15) Dropbox 19 (2.5)

11 (15) Instagram 11 (2.5)

11 (15) Soundcloud 11 (2.5)

11 (8) Audioboo 11 (15)

11 (-) Vine 11 (-)

11 (12) Cover-i-Live 11 (5)

15 (-) Tumblr 8 (n/a)

16 (-) Whats App 4 (-)

17 (15) n0tice 4 (2.5)

18 (12) Foursquare 4 (5)

19 (-) Snapchat 0 (-)
Question 6: Please list top three examples of good social media use in your council.


Walsall Council

Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers @walsallwildlife

Walsall Council area of outstanding natural beauty Barr Beacon @BarrBeacon

Walsall Council park ranger @ArboRangerMark


Staffordshire Moorlands District Council

Engagement with residents, highlighting issues with service delivery and promoting key Council messages.


Worcestershire County Council

Crisis communications – e.g. getting quick information out to the public about road closures, weather, school closures etc, Chief Exec twitter account – to share top council news and personalise the Council as a whole and  Smaller service areas Facebook pages – e.g. Children’s Centres, Library services etc. Allows services to link up with service users to share information and build relationships with those members of the public who are harder to reach ()


Dudley Council

Facebook community forums – engagement directly with deputy leader of the council supported by comms, Flickr – over 500,000 views and huge engagement tool for the authority and Twitter customer services (comms worked with colleagues in customer service centre to create bespoke twitter handle for service requests…potholes etc – works v well and lets comms continue to do day job)


East Staffordshire Borough Council

Notification of suspended services due to weather.
Promotion of events and activities at leisure centres and arts centre
Using facebook during the redevelopment of a leisure centre. (

Bromsgrove District and Redditch Borough Councils (shared service)

Social media incentives
Retweets to and from other partners.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Pinterest board created to support city literary festival,

Redirecting traffic queries via Twitter to online roadworks site,

Developing LinkedIn jobs and careers presence


South Staffordshire District Council

Twitter – customer services encouraging more people to contact them via twitter to save on phone calls
Baggeridge Country Park – continually engages with customers and enthusiasts, sets exactly the right tone
Recent site allocations consultation – first time we have included Twitter in a consultation and people seemed to like it!


Stafford Borough Council

Dog fouling – social media built upon the successful work of this ongoing campaign by encouraging people to stop offenders
Fly tipping – similar to the above in which dumped rubbish is pictured with details such as time date and location and encouraging people to give information
Torch relay 2012 Facebook – dedicated site set up to encourage people to turn out and interacted with are partners on the day to connect residents who were posting their pics to it


Sandwell Council

– Our Facebook page continues to grow in Likes and is a really effective way of communicating with residents – despite some users claiming it’s no longer flavour of the month. On a weekly basis we can reach 15-20,000 people and Likes continue to grow at about 100 a week.

– We’re quickly expanding how teams around the council use social media themselves, rather than relying on Comms. Public Health, Libraries and HR are the latest to be joining the party!

The CEO and Council Leader are regular bloggers – we’ve recently revamped the council leader’s blog to give it a responsive design and a cleaner look. Check out


Herefordshire County Council

Hereford Library
Herefordshire head of planning
Hereford libraries Facebook page


Cannock Chase District Council

A Facebook campaign to get victims of domestic abuse to contact help organisations
Live tweeting from Council meetings


Shropshire Council

Corporate twitter account

North Warwickshire Borough Council

Twitter and Facebook used by our Leisure Centres.
Facebook used by the team that managed our skate park.
The past major used twitter during his term.


Coventry City Council

Tweeting live from planning committee
Posting pics of election night count on flickr
Tweeting infographic of election stats


Warwickshire County Council

Monitoring lobby groups (Siblings at same school)
engaging with campaign target audiences (ex smoker factor)
alerting people to incidents (WFRS)


Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Facebook page for new £10 million leisure centre to alert customers to class changes, new courses etc.
Elections – we tweeted all results as they happened and linked to live results page on our website. We won praise locally for that.
Working with Town Centre Partnership to encourage greater sharing of news and issues among local businesses.


Telford & Wrekin Council

monitoring and updating during periods of bad weather has helped us increase our followers significantly.
Our policy is always to respond quickly to comments/reports/questions so that confidence in our brand grows all the time.
Effective use of Facebook advertising to help grow our audience and raise awareness of specific campaigns such as fostering and free school meals.

Web casting of meetings working local voluntary group
Seeking residents views or particular issues – eg. asking them to vote in favour of one thing or another


Birmingham City Council

Local Elections coverage 2014
The corporate Google+ account 55,000 followers
Promoting live webcasts on social media. Opening up democracy to the public 400,000 views for meetings since Feb 2013


Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

1. Answering concerns – answering queries about empty buildings and potential enforcement action – Graffiti removal action.
2. 24 Tweets for Christmas – recycling reminders
3. Posting of elections results


Solihull Borough Council

Facebook posts have a high reach and usually garner a lot of feedback/comments. 2. Everyone involved with social media in SMBC meets every month at the Social Media Cafe to discuss ideas and get advice/help etc. 3.  We have a lot of enthusiasm from across the board for social media, a lot of new start ups and people willing to get involved.

Will have to think about that one!


Good use of social media in the West Midlands across the public sector

  • Police/environment agency during the floods – really great to share information quickly and link up with LAs
  • Coventry – Facebook – snow = high number of likes
  • #WMGRIT – partnership we were involved in around gritting roads in the region
  • Staffordshire County Council – Ironman promotion Comms 2.0 always continues to impress me with the breadth of knowledge about digital communications
  • Staffordshire County Council – Treated Badly domestic abuse campaign
  • I am only impressed if I know the evaluation. So although it may get lots of publicity, it may be funny or people like it (ie police comments around major football matches on twitter) I would need to know if there has been a reduction in drink driving for example to make me ‘impressed.’
  • Really impressed by WMP neighbourhood policing teams’ use of Twitter – good to see the “sweets” being shared right at the frontline. They give a really good insight of what’s going on on the ground.
  • Gritters. Birmingham City’s recent Hidden City campaign.
  • West Midlands Police’s use of Twitter.
  • Birmingham CEX blog and twitter
  • BCC Barbara Nice campaign – integrated mix of channels;
  • @HealthyBrum – excellent public health messages.



by Dan Slee, comms2point0

Comms2Point0 logo







Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Make:Shift 2013



The workshop banner at MAKE:shift 2012

The workshop banner at MAKE:shift 2012

Make:Shift 2013 followed on from the success of Make:Shift 2012, which took place in September last year. In 2012, 250 people joined together over the course of two days to get behind four plans (selected from over 60 submitted) to ‘Change Wolverhampton with an idea.’

The four ideas were:

  • Free Organic Gardens – establishing gardens where anyone volunteering could take food for free
  • Gap Fillers – making use of vacant land and buildings for short-term community activities
  • Scribble and Scribe – establishing a team of volunteers to help people fill in complicated official forms
  • Wolvopedia – make Wolverhampton a Wikipedia city

This year’s event sought to learn from last year’s evaluation where participants told us that, whilst the event was excellent, they would prefer it to be less structured. We therefore decided to run the event as an unconference, where participants controlled and drove the agenda.

The Oxford Dictionary defines an unconference as “a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.”


Make:Shift 2013

Make:Shift 2013 took place on 9 November. Over 70 people attended the event at the Newhampton Arts Centre.

Prior to the event an intensive social media campaign (Facebook, Twitter and WordPress blog) was conducted. During the event, a team of volunteer social media experts socially reported the event. (The material recorded on Storify will give you an idea about what took place).

Attendance was free and we encouraged people to book in advance using Eventbrite (an online booking system). Approximately 70 people did so and a similar number attended the event (although not all the same people that had booked on – some people turned up on the day and some people who had booked on didn’t turn up).

At the start of the event we encouraged anyone who wanted to pitch an idea to speak to other participants about it in the Make:Shift marketplace.

The opening speech was provided by Councillor Elias Mattu. He spoke about ideas from last year’s event and how, by working together, we can make Wolverhampton more resilient.

Elliot Lord, who pitched the Free Organic Gardens idea, then spoke about how his project had developed since last Make:Shift, and the importance of Make:Shift in helping to make his idea a reality.

After this the ideas for 2013 were pitched. There were 15 ideas in all. Each ideas champion had a maximum of two minutes to pitch their idea. They then chose a time and a room in which to discuss their idea.


The ideas discussed on the day were:

  • Custom Home Build and Self Build
  • Book swapping Network
  • Wolves in Wolves
  • Finchfield Church/ Community Centre
  • Social Media in Communities
  • Off the Grid
  • Art and Craft Co-op
  • Up cycled Furniture Enterprise
  • Art on the move
  • Look Up Wolverhampton
  • Social Steam Engine
  • Creative Conversations
  • What Should be Free?
  • International Links Association

Make:Shift 2013 was a considerable success. Attendance remained constant and there was a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm throughout the day. Participants embraced the free-flowing nature of the unconference. All of the ideas champions were joined by other participants eager to support and add value to their ideas.

After Make:Shift, it was important to maintain the energy and momentum created. We have now allocated mentors to each of the fifteen ideas champions. The role of the mentor is to provide light touch support to the champion and help them overcome any bureaucratic difficulties they might encounter.

We have also organised a series of Make:Shift get togethers to enable the ideas champions to provide each other with peer support. We have even had new ideas pitched at these events.

The council will continue to support the champions to deliver their ideas and it is intended to deliver the next Make:Shift in 2014.



by Sam Axtell

Consultation and Community Involvement Officer

Wolverhampton City Council

Photo Credit: jamesdclarke via Compfight cc

Me, Myself & I


At Staffordshire County Council, our aim is to make sure that people who use our services are at the centre of what we do. One initiative that has used technology to help us do this and make services more accessible is a game called Me, Myself and I.

First developed as a board game that could be used to ask people with learning difficulties or vulnerable adults in supported housing what they need to live independently, it soon became clear that an electronic version could be even more useful.

So linking with Coventry University, and after extensive testing with service users, we developed an interactive web and app version of the game.

Me, myself and I is used by care and support staff to engage with a broad range of people with verymemeselfandI different needs and experiences. Its aim is that it is easy to use for people, from young to old, no matter what challenges they face so they can express their needs and preferences easily in an enjoyable and cost effective way.

By using the interactive game as an aid, people are signposted to information on the county council’s Staffordshire Cares website (@Staffscares)based on their needs and preferences. This can range from healthy living advice to staying safe at home and in turn helps individuals navigate their way through the care system.

The app is highly intuitive so has helped to really improve the experience for users. It is fully personalised and is more fun than traditional approaches that we used before, which is really important. It also puts people in ‘control’ of the support planning process rather than feeling done onto.

Using technology in this way has allowed us to be really creative in how we involve service users and citizens in care planning and to really promote ‘personalisation’. It puts individuals at the heart of making lifestyle decisions no matter what their circumstances and it has had really good feedback that it’s making a difference. In a survey with users, 91% said the game had helped to explain what is important to them. Me, myself and I has also been used by care workers as a way to consult with communities and as an improvement tool to help set organisation priorities.

We’ve recently been piloting how the app can be used with young people who are in care to look at how they are supported which has had some massive positives. For example we found the app allowed conversions that wouldn’t necessarily have happened and it helped to engage with more young people who traditionally haven’t responded to other approaches.

Based on this, we are now working to develop a young people’s version of the app so the content reflects the issues of relevance to them. So far Me, Myself and I has really paid off in Staffordshire so we are hoping that it will be used by other local authorities to support the Pathway planning process nationally.

Comments from people who have used the App

  •  I love the app, its different, it’s not boring

  • I like the app because it’s personal, it’s about you

  • I like how it shows you links to useful information if you need it



Emily Skeet

Commissioning Manager
Staffordshire County Council

Picture credit

Public meeting live on facebook

Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle

Bums on seats at public meetings can be a real challenge for any local authority.

Unless there is a big local issue to engage people, a date with local councillors in a community centre on a rainy Wednesday night can be a tough one to keep. Equally, people lead busy lives and a public meeting is one too many balls to juggle along with work, family commitments and Coronation Street.

So when Dudley Council came up with the concept of community forums, making it as easy as possible for people to get involved was a top priority. There’s 10 held at community centres and village halls across the borough every other month.

They reflect the council’s desire to become a “community council” and the authority is keen to build on local democracy and transparency and give people a greater say in how their council is run. After all, there are lots of stories to tell from the borough’s communities about the work people do, and there’re lots to let them know about how the council can help them continue that work.

Turn out is good, but how do you get more people interested without having to leave the house? Step forward the biggest social media tool on the planet.

The two thousand or so people who like our Dudley Borough Facebook page regularly share posts and let us know when we’ve got things right and, well, not so right. So we decided to use the platform to give people the opportunity to ask questions and raise issues, and discuss them with senior politicians, they were more than happy to take part. It’s a meeting of people and it’s in public, and the early response has been excellent.

The idea has also attracted regional, national and global praise from the media and communications professionals.

Armed with a coffee and a PC Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council, sat for an hour discussing local issues and answering questions as they came in on the page. On the first one, we had over 1,000 post views and 17 individuals actively take part – more than any single attendance at a physical public community forum. Numbers have stayed steady ever since and the council has gained a real insight into what makes people tick and offered up useful pointers for people including how to access up to £5,000 in funding for community groups. Importantly, people have been able to do all this without leaving the house.

In more recent forums we’ve shared key messages and discussion topics on twitter as they crop up during the hour to widen the audience. The Facebook forum has also now been added as an official council meeting with Cllr Lowe and the communications and public affairs team tasked with maintaining and improving the way they work. The online session is held before each round of 10 forums covering the 24 wards of Dudley borough with the offer of further face to face discussion with elected members if they need it.

The key to their success is buy-in from senior politicians and a genuine desire to hear what people have to say. Luckily we have both in Dudley.


Chris Howes

Communications and Public Affairs Officer,

Dudley Council

You can follow and connect with Dudley via multiple channels:






Photo Credit: ringsofsaturnrock via Compfight cc

‘Fails’ campaign drives home alcohol fail message for 11 – 14 year olds

Alcohol Campaign Fail Banner

Alcohol Campaign Fail Banner

Up and down the country, one of the biggest health and financial costs to the economy is alcohol. This is no different in Staffordshire where we’re clear that to change behaviour, we need to intervene earlier than ever before.

At the same time, one of the biggest traditional challenges for councils is communicating with so called ‘hard to reach’ audiences. This can include young people who quite often would run a mile from people perceived as being ‘in authority’ – never mind a ‘stuffy council’. This is particularly true when it comes to lifestyle issues such as alcohol.

Recent blog posts have also talked about how we need to make sure we go to where the audiences are and walk in their shoes (see Dan Slee’s Create content without boundaries as one example).

We felt the same about this and so last summer, we decided to take a different approach in Staffordshire to target these issues, after asking young people directly about their drinking habits and what ways they like to communicate.

This work told us that there was a big difference between how often young people are actually drinking and how much and how often they think their peers are drinking.

We also knew from national statistics that children who had their first drink before the age of 10 sadly are considerably more likely to become a frequent drinker (once a week or more frequently).

It was clear we needed to be smarter to appeal to our target age group, who said friends and social media are the top ways for them to find out information and news.

So working with a variety of partners including Police, Fire and district councils, we set about developing with 30 young people an ‘alcohol fails’ campaign designed for other 11-14 year olds in Staffordshire.

‘Fail’ is a popular internet slang for short videos depicting situations with unfortunate outcomes and are used to point out a person’s mistake – a fail. They’ve got their own dedicated channel on You Tube that gets 1,000s of views on a daily basis and are extremely popular with young people.

One of most well-known fail virals is the Dumb Ways to Die public announcement ad campaign by Metro Trains Melbourne which provided inspiration for the campaign.

Using a leading Staffordshire based animation studio, we worked with young people to develop a series of animated videos with the aim of delaying drinking within that age range and to promote behaviour change towards alcohol.

The animations were based on simple alcohol related stories – future prospects, social life, education – followed by a clear fail message.

Their aim was to engage with young people in an appealing way so that they could easily see why drinking alcohol is a ‘fail’ but in a way that didn’t preach.

The style adopted is reminiscent of  retro ‘8BIT’ style computer graphics and music, which we knew to be extremely popular with 11 – 14 year olds and the animations, while not branded, had signposting to how to see more and access further resources. In designing the characters and scenarios the young people drew on their experience of popular video and online gaming.

It was a risk and at times, challenging but the young people who were involved were really enthusiastic. They had great ideas and really helped us to build something that could appeal to other young people.

We took a multi-platform approach and the resulting animations and visuals were shared on-line via the social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, young people being encouraged to share the fails with their peers (with parent’s permission if they were under 13).

This was supported by targeted activity in venues popular with young people, including the animations being shown at cinemas in the county before blockbuster 12 rated movies. And for free – a real coup for us.  Thanks to Comms2point0 who helped us crowd source clarity from Matt Bond and others on whether we needed British Broadcasting Film certification for the animations. That saved us £2,000 in the end so wasn’t something to be sniffed at.

Large visually cut out stands and counter top dispensers were created, depicting characters from the animations, and placed in video shops, cafes and restaurants and bowling alleys with postcards signposting to a bespoke styled website.

We also managed to get the animations shown at popular age appropriate Christmas ‘light switch on’ events, and at ‘nappy nights’ – targeted youth events at nightclubs in the county.  We also held a series of special town centre events, taking the message directly to young people in places where they regularly hang out.

It was a really different approach and it wasn’t all plain sailing. We also had quite a few ups and downs along the way. One of the toughest challenges was how did we evaluate the campaign and to be honest Public Health England who I asked if we could work with to agree a suitable behaviour change evaluation, weren’t much help. Their view was that the only true measure was the impact on alcohol sales. Given that the campaign was targeted at 11- 14 year olds, this didn’t really correlate. We’ve got some measures that we think can work now but there is probably room for improvement.

But we did secure funding from the IEWM social media ideas fund (part of the Best by WM social media white paper initiative) which really helped as it gave us breathing space to try out things we’d not tried before. It was still low budget overall coming in at £10K which the service paid for.

So far the results are making a difference.

To date, there have been 1,319 views on You Tube, 1,000 visitors to the blogging site which also includes step-by-step updates on producing the animations, and 1,881 likes on Facebook.

Out of 250 young people across the county that we asked about the campaign, 89% said they would share the animation fails and many of them had. And even more importantly for us, 89% also said they would think twice before drinking alcohol as a result of the campaign.

But for me, it’s summed up best by James Skidmore aged 11 from Heath Hayes near Cannock who worked on the ‘Disco Fail’ video.

He said:

“I went to a workshop, and helped design one of the characters in the disco video. It’s really good to be able to watch one of your creations come to life, and I feel proud that my ideas have been used. I hope these videos will stop the next generation of children from drinking and ruining their lives, and it is nice to feel I have helped to make a difference.”

You can see the videos at: on youtube at or on facebook at:

There is also a behind the scenes documentary about making the fails including showing how all the animations and sounds were made by Tentacle. It’s really fascinating to see. Unfortunately it also includes really bad footage of me looking like a 1970’s over enthusiastic tv presenter (as a colleague described me) but hey I can live with that for a campaign that I’m really proud to have been part of, especially given the role young people played in making it happen.

We deliberately didn’t brand it so that it had more appeal to young people but similarly we want other councils to maybe take the approach and adapt it in their areas. If you’re keen to do this, do get in touch and let us know.

Finally, an appeal,  if you haven’t watched them yet, please do so and tell us what you think. Tweet me or leave me a comment below.

by Emma Rodgers

Staffordshire County Council

Social Care Curry Club


Biryani Rice with Goat Masala and Lamb Rogan Josh

The Social Care Curry Club is an opportunity for people (anyone) to come together and discuss social care over curry. A lack of hierarchy is at the heart of Social Care Curry. Anyone can attend; what you do is less important than who you are; we also ask you to leave organisational baggage at the door and not sell stuff. Food is both a common language and a great leveller.

Funnily enough chatting over food isn’t a new idea. The Lunar Men were a dinner club and informal society of industrialists, natural philosophers and intellectuals who met regularly between 1765 and 1813 in Brum (more details here). No constitution, minutes, publications or membership survived. In short, the amount of structure was very limited. This was a place where people met over food and discussed ideas they were passionate about (as it happens some of those ideas involved electricity, meteorology and geology). A statue of Boulton (the original host), Watt and Murdoch can be found in Birmingham today opposite the fantastic new library.

Happily you don’t need to be a big wigged aristocrat to attend Social Care Curry (wiggy aristos also welcome). Many people who attend Social Care Curry remark on how intimidating and oddly exciting it is to walk into a room with total strangers and have no clue how the evening will go. So far so good!

Why do we need an opportunity to come together? No-one has ever experienced financial pressures like we are as a sector at present. It impacts on everyone, above all people who use care and support services and carers. The potential for anger, disenfranchisement and isolation are high and tragically for many a part of everyday life. Going for a curry won’t fix this but it does offer two things; connection and a sharing of ideas and experiences. The beauty of the format is it can mean totally different things to everyone who attends. Topics range from caring for people with Alzheimer’s to creative usage of technology in India. Talk or listen to whatever interests you.

Positive change starts with relationships and Social Care Curry offers many opportunities to connect. Equally the big wig wearing Lunar men had it right, formality and rules can kill creativity. The great works of literature were not written in a board room or the greatest songs of our time composed using a stopwatch. “Stop the clock, itzy rhymes with bitzy, what is the song about again? Yeah yeah bikinis, got it.”

Richard Humphries (Kings Fund Fellow and thrice Social Care Curry Club attendee) tweeted the following Charles Handy quote which draws the whole experience together perfectly:

“The hope lies in the unknown, in that second curve if we can find it. The world is up for reinvention in so many ways. Creativity is born in chaos. What we do, what we belong to, why we do it, when we do it and where we do it- these all may be different and they could be better. Change comes from small initiatives which, imitated, become the fashion. We cannot wait for great visions from people, for they are in short supply at the end of our history. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness.”

So, you are welcome to light a little fire with us at the next Social Care Curry on the 6th March.
Venues will be confirmed in the coming weeks and you can book your free ticket at our Eventbrite page (bookings ready late Jan/Feb). All you pay for is the cost of your food and drink.

Follow @socialcarecurry on Twitter or click here to find out more about us. Thanks for all the connections so far; there are many more to come….


Matt Bowsher

Matt is an Assistant Director of Adult Social Care at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.

Picture Credit

Oatcakes and time for change at Oatcake Camp

Oatcake Camp logo

Oatcake Camp logo

At the end of November, the second ever Oatcake Camp took place. This time in Stoke-on-Trent. The venue was the newly refurbished YMCA and even better Oatcake Camp itself took place in the amazing Skyroom which has superb panoramic views of the city.
Oatcake Camp is a chance for people to come together, mainly from the public sector, to discuss ideas, debate and share learning, often focussed on social media or different ways to do things. It’s in its early days and the second session had a very different feel to the first, which was held in Stafford.
Carl Plant was first of our three speakers. Carl’s from a company called BitJam Ltd which specialises in digital innovation, research and training. His session looked at measuring community engagement on-line. Carl recapped on some of the techniques that can be used to measure whether you’re reaching the right people on-line and took us through the project he’d done looking at Stoke City Council’s twitter feed. While Carl designed his own technical solution for this, there were three top learning points I took from what he said and the debate that followed:

  1. You can do amazing things using people’s biogs and common words as useful search filters. This can help you find the social capital or glue that forms between friends, workmates, neighbours and others. One really good example of this was the common bond around the area’s local premiership team – Stoke City – which is bringing people together on-line regardless of their job or class.
  2. There is, and continues to be, pressure for people to prove the value of their social media channels. As we know this often results in a demand for high stats increases like more followers or likes, but these aren’t always the right things to measure. This is especially true if your followers are Californian weight loss companies and not the people from your local area that you actually want to talk to.
  3. It is clear that a lot of organisations – public sector & others – are revisiting what they want to achieve through social media. They’re realising that just getting on social media isn’t enough and they do need a strategy. So they’re going back to the drawing board and re-thinking their approach.
Staffs Oatcake

Staffordshire Oatcake

Clare White was next. Clare is a Health Education Project Manager with the Workers’ Educational Association, a national learning charity, as well as a writer and Stoke-on-Trent enthusiast. Clare used her passion for all things community to talk through Liam Barrington-Bush’s crowdfunded book Anarchists in the Boardroom as a starting point for how we can look at connecting excluded communities and give everyone access to power.
The top three gems that came from Clare’s session were:

  1. The people in Stoke are truly unique. If you live or work there, you’re naturally drawn to fix it and because the people in Stoke-on-Trent will quite happily talk to strangers, they have a natural tendency to be good at social media.
  2. Stoke’s got 6 towns and 58 villages. Parallels were drawn between Stoke and Dudley, Manhattan and New York in the 70’s. With the loss of its traditional industrial base, there’s a real opportunity to look afresh at how to do things. This is not dissimilar to experiences in other cities up and down the country.
  3. Anarchists in the Boardroom talks about social change, technology and how lessons from our personal relationships can change how we relate to the world. In essence it’s about how organisations can be ‘more like people’. (If you haven’t yet got a copy, it’s well worth a read – pick one up from

Last up was Comms2point0 joint founder Dan Slee. Dan’s session was on whether the public sector can truly innovate in 2013 when budgets are being cut and jobs are being lost. Top things shared were:

  • Communities in Stoke and Staffordshire are highly motivated. Rather than waiting for people to do things for them, they’re getting on and doing themselves. Top examples include Leek’s Shop Local initiative which they’ve shared in Burslem and as far afield as Australia and a tweet up with the local paper where good connections were made. Other areas could learn a lot from this approach.
  • People who were at Oatcake camp are getting on and doing even if their organisations ‘aren’t’
  • If you can do one thing to think differently within organisations, make it that people are given creative space to think and innovate
  • A cracking suggestion made was to get an independent matchmaker or facilitator to pick some of the best ideas the community comes up and broker them.

For me, all the above reflects exactly the type of conversations that are happening in the public sector up and down the UK including the LGA’s Rewiring Public Services campaign which was recently hosted in the West Midlands by IEWM (more information can be found on IEWM’s blog).
With rising demand, decreasing funding and the opportunities being provided by technology, it’s a unique chance for communities and public sector organisations to completely reframe public services. The time has never been better to do this than now. So go on, see what you can do differently.
Both Oatcake events were sponsored by IEWM, without whom – and the time given by the speakers – they wouldn’t have happened. They have helped people to connect, been a solid source of new ideas and brought communities closer together. In my view it is by supporting and growing opportunities like this, that we have a real opportunity to rethink how we can do things in the public sector.

by Emma Rodgers

Senior Campaigns Officer at Staffordshire County Council

Photo Credit: deadmanjones via Compfight cc


GalleryCamp13 poster

#Gallerycamp13 was held at The New Art Gallery Walsall (NAGW) on 9th September 2013. It was the first national ‘unconference’ for people interested in discussing the future of galleries and their programmes with a specific focus on the role of digital.

I have worked closely on a number of projects with The New Art Gallery Walsall for a few years now, and they were massively supportive, giving up their whole gallery for the day, demonstrative of their commitment to exploring new ways of engaging through digital.

We were also fortunate to welcome a number of new faces to unconferences as well as a number of unconference veterans such as Andy Mabbett (who facilitated the pitching sessions), Dan Slee, Lorna Prescott and Simon Whitehouse.

The event was funded by Arts Council England with additional support from IEWM but also from Futuregov, indicative of the drive towards maximising the potential of digital in public spaces.


The event was attended by over 60 people to discuss, debate and influence the current and future state of digital in galleries and how to make the most of technologies.

We ran number of sessions with a wide range of topic areas including

  • supporting ‘digital’ as a medium
  • how can galleries use data from social media to create new work / income funding
  • a demonstration of Leapmotion and gestural/interactive tech
  • looking a 3D printing/accessibility
  • how can galleries allow crowd curation and/or interpretation of exhibitions / content
  • digital + disabled access (online communication)
  • how do we share our projects better, learn from each other & evolve
  • how can DIY museums & community archives work with professionals in museums

What was especially encouraging was how receptive many attendees were to embracing digital technologies in their work.

 #Gallerycamp13 is just the beginning.

I ran a follow up event on 26th November 2013 called #Letsmakestuff in partnership with Birmingham City University which was around making stuff inspired from a number of challenges posed at #Gallerycamp13.

The event was two workshops using the MakeyMakey, a simple device giving people an opportunity to enable simple solutions, turning everyday objects into keys and use them with their computer (Youtube link)
A big part of #Gallerycamp13 and its legacy is giving gallery and other arts/creative professionals  the opportunity to have with accessible tools and acknowledging the benefits that these tools can provide on one off projects but also in day-to-day work.


Participants from #letsmakestuff have said they they will buy, or have already bought new MakeyMakeys, and put them into action as part of their own work. A precedent has been set to enable gallery staff, artists and other creatives to use simple technologies that can transform the ways in which they engage.
I am extremely grateful for the support shown by IEWM as a continued champion of open space events such as #Gallerycamp13 and in their continued work in supporting public innovation and access.

Plans are already afoot for #Gallerycamp14  and I am working with Birmingham City University to plan further digital workshops involving MakeyMakeys and other accessible technologies into 2014. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Additional links:
Storify coverage of #gallerycamp13:
Pinterest page

post by 

Tim Wilson, Chief Action Man at Creative Knowledge