Circuit Rider 4.0 Conference Round Up

Around 70 nonprofit techies and ICT development workers from across the UK came together in Birmingham for the Circuit Rider 4.0 conference organised by Lasa on 28th and 29th February. As well as those who innovate with technology for voluntary sector organisations here in the UK, some of my favourite inspiring nonprofit technology consultants from across the pond were also facilitating at the event.

I co-ran a session along with David Wilcox from Designing a Civil Society and Nick Booth from Podnosh and with the input too from Paul Henderson from Ruralnet.
Beth speaking in the Naked in a Goldfish Bowl Session
Our session was entitled ‘Naked in a Goldfish Bowl – Web 2.0 and the non-profit world’. Beth Kanter from Boston joined us in the session using Skype (we hoped to have tested out the fab Oovoo but wasn’t to be, with wireless bandwidth issues on the day!). Beth shared her experiences and enthusiasm of her recent fundraising successes and the factors which helped to make it happen by using social media. A big thank you to Beth for joining us, especially with the first time we ran our session being just after midday here in the UK, and only 7.30 am there with Beth in Boston. You can read Beths reflections on her involvement in our session here.

In our session we discussed about purpose, need, openness, transparency, and membership amongst other areas as well as some of the tools or ways that can help make it happen. Resistance from management or committees was raised several times as a potential barrier from adopting social media in voluntary and nonprofit organisations. Our session was very much a discussion and conversation about use of social media and the change needed to help make it happen, rather than us just saying ‘here are the tools and here’s how to use them’. We discussed about the reasoning and about the wider picture too, how people are using different ways to communicate and work together and that organisations should be looking to incorporate social media in addition to their current communications practices to reach to wider audiences. Paul Henderson from Ruralnet was able to share the insightful experiences of his organisation that currently are ‘naked in a goldfish bowl’ themselves, as they are consulting with stakeholders and the wider community in exploring how to develop their future services online and openly.

Playing the game

We also ran the social media game (devised by David Wilcox) which is a really useful way to introduce the range of web 2.0 tools available to help organisations to make choices about what they want to do, and to decide how they are going to do it. The games helps groups to explore and discuss a variety of tools to help. The tools included those for supporting of telling the story of an organisation and the tools to help work in collaboration or partnership with others or that can support more effective internal information management.
feeding back on the social media game
The social media game is often enjoyed even by those who have never encountered ‘social media’ before hand. I’ve now used the game in a variety of settings, from working with committees of small rural groups and often use in workshops training sessions for range of mixed groups as part of a wider session on either websites or publicity and communications for groups and organisations. To get the most out of the game when using it in your own environment rather than that at a conference, it really works best when more time is available. But in the short time we had the first session who experienced the game were able to understand quickly and play the game and decide on a variety of useful tools that would work for their scenario. As with many conference sessions, we only had 90 minutes and on the second run of the session later in the afternoon, our lively discussion and conversation left us too little time to actually play the game, but we equipped participants with lots of ideas and examples for them to take away and use when supporting their own organisations in the field.
If you want to download the social media game as a tool to use in exploring social media with your organisation, you can download it from www.socialmedia.wikispaces.com/social+media+game.

the rest of the conference

Whilst we ran our session, in tandem Marc Osten from Summit Collaborative ran his session on ‘online community building and engagement‘ and on day two, John Kenyon ran a workshop on ‘bringing your organisation to life through digital media and the web’. Much of this years conference had a strong strand of using social and digital media running through it to help support organisations in reaching out and communicating to their audiences or to encourage better or more effective collaborative working practices.

Other workshops at the conference during the two days included open source software, evaluating ICT support and community wireless mesh networking amongst many more. In the middle of both days, ‘Speedgeek’ sessions took place which were quick soundbites on a topic for only a limited time, then move on to the next topic and presentation. Lots of information and topics were covered from healthy computing to using web office tools, as well as hearing about innovative projects and work taking place across the UK to benefit organisations in their work.

reflections

One of the biggest benefits of any conference is the networking element. I finally met with people who I had previously only connected with online through this blog, other online collaboration and networks. Others I’d met at the conference last year and was great to catch up, and also is always a wonderful opportunity to meet with new faces too, many of which are planning new up and coming projects to support groups with their technology needs, which is always so valuable to hear and share new stories and experiences.

and finally…

All the workshop sessions had notes taken and can be seen on the UKRiders site if you weren’t able to make the conference this year. Lasa also set up tags for the event for those using flickr so everyone taking photos could contribute their photos to the pool. You can see all the photo’s taken at the Circuit Rider conference here at www.flickr.com/tags/ukriders. Thanks to everyone that participated in our session, and to the excellent team at Lasa for organising a great conference which all ran so smoothly. And finally a special thank you to Bijal Shah at Support4IT for patiently managing and organising us facilitators with the administration bits and bobs before the event!