Earlier this week I blogged about City Camp Brighton, an amazing event that took place over last weekend. But there has been something that has been troubling me with a couple of people noted on Twitter: where was everyone from community and voluntary organisations? I may have missed someone (if so apologies) but I think that there were just a small handful of us from the community and voluntary sector: Mark Walker from SCIP, Cat Fletcher from GreenCycle Sussex, Sally Polanski and Emily O’Brien from the Community and Voluntary Sector Forum, and Paul Sweeting and me from BHT.
Whatever you think of new media and technologies, failure to engage will result in individuals and organisations being left behind. And if we are being left behind, there will a knock-on impact on our clients.
The City Council, the Police, the NHS and the private sector are there, and new media and technology is beginning to dominate agendas. The pace of change is rapid and it will be an extra challenge to play ‘catch up’.
So why are voluntary and community organisations so noticeable by their absence? The first, and most obvious, answer is how busy everyone is. Events such as City Camp Brighton can be seen as yet another forum, meeting or conference, and don’t we do so many of those already? Perhaps, but maybe we should be looking at dropping other things to make capacity.
A second possibility is that many organisations are so taken up at the moment with reacting to budget crises that something such as City Camp Brighton is seen as a distraction, possibly an indulgence.
Thirdly, there is an attitudinal problem. We in the community and voluntary sector boast of being innovative, at the cutting edge, being in the front line. But when it comes to new ways of engaging or using technology to innovate and evolve solutions, it is the City Council, the police and private businesses that are in the forefront. Often community and voluntary organisations are not just following up in the rear, we aren’t even on the same journey.
At BHT, several of my colleagues have dismissed my enthusiasm for new media and technology, saying that they know it is something I am into but it’s not for them. I’ve let it go …… until now. I’m still learning the tricks of this trade and recognise how far I have to go to become an effective communicator through blogging and Twitter. There appears to be an expectation, backed up by strong leadership within the City Council, that community engagement through new media is required. BHT can learn a lot from our Council colleagues.