Sometimes when I write these blogs, I worry that I come across as being too negative – flagging up the problems in social care and ignoring the good things that are happening. Time to set that right.
It really gladdened my heart when I attended the Out of the Box conference in Birmingham earlier this week, organised by Patient Opinion, a social enterprise that shares users opinions of the NHS, which was one of the most positive social care events I’ve been to.
The conference focused on how social media – blogging, videos, audio recordings, forums, networks and such like – is and can potentially be used in the future to benefit social care, and was refreshingly free of negativity and cynicism, with a focus not on theory but on practice and how social media can be used in the sector as a force for good.
Out of the Box covered 2 of my main professional interests – social care and social media – so for me this was great; having worked on social media projects that involve adult services, I can testify to how these can work, but it is always good to see what others are doing and learning from that.
It was also not like a regular conference with speakers, err, speaking and everyone else listening, everybody was encouraged to get involved and give their point of view, or take part in the video that was being made of the day, or just chat – or Twitter – in the intervals.
Some of the main points to come out of the morning sessions (I couldn’t stay for the afternoon) were:
- People want to know about other people’s experiences. Too often the media focuses on the heroic or tragic, but in reality people with illnesses/health conditions want to read about everyday stories – including those who struggle to cope – to feel that they are not alone. The internet can do this
- It is the users that are driving the Big Society through the use of networks etc, not the government
- With the internet and social networking sites like Twitter, everyone now has a voice and can be heard; 15 years ago one of the few ways to get heard was to have a letter published in a newspaper
- It is now much easier for people to collaborate, build communities and campaign for or against things and bring about change – and groups already have done
- Social media offers opportunities to influence the ‘off-line’ world, especially in areas such as older people’s isolation
- Social media is relatively cheap and cost-effective.
With the internet and social networking becoming established technologies now and user rates continuing to increase this will only grow in the future.
I believe that social media can help to engage service users, staff and carers in ways that were simply not possible even 10 years ago. From the projects that I heard about, and the ones I have been involved in myself, I know there is massive potential in this to help social care staff, service users and carers, and best of all it is user-driven and democratic – everyone has a voice and can use it to influence what happens to them and their community.
Hopefully there will be more conferences like this in the future, because it is really good to see enthusiastic and positive people in the sector who believe they can bring about change for people.
Also, if you have a Twitter account, check out the hashtag #box10 for more responses and opinions from people who attended.