Peter Couchman is the Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

The Plunkett Foundation is the organisation which promotes and supports co-operative and social enterprises in rural communities both in the UK and internationally. It provides support, networks and knowledge which offers practical solutions for rural communities that helps to create thriving places where people live and work now and in the future.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Social Media: more than just a toy

One of my strangest speaking experiences was when I addressed a workshop at the Canadian Co-operative Congress this week on using social media.  It was strange because the audience was 3,500 miles away at the time. Even stranger was giving a powerpoint presentation to an audience that I couldn't see.

I was presenting alongside Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing, which has supported the inspiring work in Alberta and many other places to get the credit union message across to young people. If you haven't seen the incredible work of Larissa Walkiw, then stop what you're doing and watch this video now. Tim makes a powerful case for what any values-driven business has to get its message across and the price of not doing so.

I was there to share how Plunkett is using these tools and the need to not see them as toys, but as the way to engage people now and in the future. Most of our current tools for engagement, such as meetings, are based on models developed 300 years ago. Few people would want 18th century healthcare or education, but 18th century democracy is still widely used.

The debate around the forthcoming Digital Britain report illustrates this problem well. The issue of broadband access has been well covered. What hasn't been covered is what to do with it. Few communities have shown how they can use this to completely change the way they access services and support each other. The star performer here is Alston in Cumbria with its Cybermoor co-operative and its plans for Alston Healthcare.

What Alston has also shown is the importance of ownership in this debate. No mainstream provider could have provided the additional benefits that Cybermoor has. Hopefully the Commission for Rural Communities report coming out this week, assisted by the Community Broadband Network, will make the case for this.

The choice for rural communities is simple, you can use your hard won broadband to watch kittens on a treadmill videos or to tackle the lack of access to services by changing what it means to access services in rural areas. Plunkett has nothing against kittens, but it will be the latter that we will be concentrating on.

1 comment:

  1. Great to virtually meet you and co-present. The small crowd definitely seemed to enjoy your session and were all feverishly writing notes! Best of luck with everything.