Bringing Cambridge together

Summary

This blogpost is aimed primarily at people in Cambridge – my home town – who can “make good stuff happen”.

“For quite some time now I’ve felt Cambridge has the potential to be far greater than the 
sum of its parts,” Puffles told Cambridge First.” [A local weekly that has since folded]

The above is still my view. #IAgreeWithPuffles. I want to see more people and community organisations using social media to break out of their silos and get more people involved in whatever it is that they do. It was one of the final observations I made at a social media seminar I delivered for councillors in Cambridge at The Guildhall this evening. It was when I mentioned Teacambs (that Puffles helped launch in March 2012) that one of the councillors asked why I was launching another one. Quite.

I still think the Teacambs is a good idea – one that will grow because of the size and nature of the public sector institutions in and around Cambridge. Yet the point remains. Haven’t we got lots of networks already and how can we bring them all together? Cabume, the news outlet of Cambridge’s technology cluster produced a growing guide of Cambridge’s existing networks. 47 at the last count – and these are just the work related ones. Is there room for some merging and linking up? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

What about the community sector?

Ah! Public sector jargon. Now you’re talking my language! No, wait – I’m not in that sector anymore. And this is sort of my point. Just as social media use blurs the professional and the personal, it also blurs the lines between the various sectors. I can’t see why the various ‘professional’ networks shouldn’t engage with and get involved with things going on at a community level – say with Transition Cambridge and Cambridge Carbon Footprint both of whom which have started bouncing off each other in recent times.

One of the big ‘areas for development’ locally is with Cambridge’s CVS. I’ve been in touch with them about social media things and will be getting in touch with them again shortly about using social media to bring people together. At the moment they don’t seem to have any social media presence – which is a shame because they are the ideal umbrella and connecting organisation for all the networks and community groups in Cambridge. In an ideal world there would be seamless connections between the CCVS and networks such as the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridge Network. For example whenever there is an event of interest to wider audiences, simple links and messages via Facebook or Twitter can make things so much easier for people, widening participation and increasing audiences too.

A number of organisations have said that they are in the process of writing social media policies and strategies. One of the best quotations (I think from the brilliant Steph Gray) at the Whitehall Teacamp that both he and I spoke at was the following:

“People who read social media strategies don’t use social media, and people who don’t read social media strategies use social media.”

Exactly. There’s only so many ways you can say: “Set up an account, play with it, and play nicely”. (Even though organisationally the little trade unionist in me says there must be a 100 page in depth guidance document that covers every possible eventuality to protect both staff and managers. But I’m weaning myself off of that!)

“Come on Pooffles, what’s your big idea?”

Well (My former team leader from my civil service days used to call Puffles “Pooffles”), my big idea takes its inspiration from the societies fairs hosted by universities. Can we have one that goes beyond the universities?

Cambridge Societies Fair

That’s my big idea. Hire out the Guildhall or the Kelsey Kerridge Hall – somewhere central and accessible and invite all of the professional networks and community groups to set up shop. Then invite people in. Have lots of multiple plug sockets and functioning public wifi (but check with the technical staff that neither of these will explode under the demand) and allow people to use laptops and smartphones to join up online and link using social media, allowing them to follow things up in their spare time.

The best timing for this would be in the autumn – early September just after the kids have gone back to school and when lots of people are considering which courses and evening classes they want to do for the year. You never know, this could be a nice little task for the new council administration that comes into power after the local elections in May 2012. Can they bring the interested groups together to deliver this? One for Cambridge CVS, Cambridge Network and JCI Cambridge perhaps?

The outcome? A more connected and integrated city, stronger friendships between people, groups and organisations and more sustainable, vibrant groups and organisations as people find out what’s really available throughout the city.

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One Response to Bringing Cambridge together

  1. Beatrice Bray says:

    Count me in on this one. Would love to help – that is if you are prepared to tolerate the presence of someone from one of the villages! Concept reminds me of when I worked on the Time Out Student Guide. You could probably draw in some advertising/publicity from local media.

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