This event provided a hands-on opportunity for Friends and community groups to explore the range of communication tools to make and maintain contact with green space ‘non-users’.  This workshop was not just about Twitter (although this seemed to be participants favourite!) but about sharing experiences to show how social media and other forms of communication can be effectively used to target harder-to-reach residents and to help break down any barriers (e.g. fear) towards technology held by some Friends groups.

Emily Redmond from Tinder Foundation shares her experience of using social media.

After an overview that explored ideas about how to ‘get the word out’ and included the Liverpool Friends of the Flyover as a successful example, workshop participants were introduced to Twitter using the Department of Landscapes iPads. The Place-keeping Group gained many new followers as twitter accounts were set up and tweeting began. Sue @shefgreenestate declared the experience was ‘scarier than email, better than cake!’  Place-keeping Group member Dr Nicola Dempsey kept track of proceedings tweeting responses from Bangalore, and in the process demonstrating that potentially anyone, anywhere can read your tweet.

Rosie Duncan, a place-keeping champion, helping budding tweeters!

The plan had been to demonstrate ideas for activating spaces by carrying out a mini-consultation event outdoors, ‘on-site’, before returning inside to explore ways to communicate ‘on-line’.  However, heavy rain put paid to that idea, and we instead transferred some of the activities indoors – it had to be said though that the hedgehog and its home were less convincing in the Showroom Workstation than among the vegetation outside!  Fiona was still able to explain the idea – to have a ‘moving focus’ (hedgehog), and a ‘fixed focus’ (hedgehogs home) to attract attention and give people confidence that they were at the right place for a planned event.  The plight of the hedgehog (trying to find a new home in the big city) was used as a way of way engaging peoples’ interest in a green space (that might otherwise hold little interest for them) and a series of postcard-based activities was used to both gather user feedback about a space and contacts of people who might be interested in being involved further. Those participating were rewarded with badges featuring the hedgehog's favourite foods and were a way of communicating a little about what hedgehogs need to survive.

Yes, everyone should have a hedgehog onesie

The day ended with ‘advanced tweeting’ and introduction to other communication devices such as Storify to create stories of events.  The presentations from the workshop and hand-outs will be made available on our website shortly.

The workshop, which was funded as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences built on successful workshops that we ran as part of our Place-keeping Conference this year. Many thanks to Chrissie from the University of Sheffield Enterprise, Emily from the Tinder Foundation, Fiona from Landlayers and Rosie, for their fantastic support, enthusiasm and expertise in delivering this workshop.

AuthorMel Burton