David Cameron has recognised the work of Birmingham volunteers who run social media surgeries to help community groups, by handing them the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.
Entrepreneur Nick Booth, founder of Digbeth-based Podnosh, received the award on behalf of volunteers who have taken part in the surgeries since they began in 2008.
The events bring together people with experience and expertise in social media platforms, such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube, and representatives of voluntary and community organisations who want to learn how to use them.
The aim is to help the organisations get online and make full use of the opportunities offered by the internet to communicate directly with the public.
The informal events, which are free to attend, began in Birmingham with support from local bloggers.
Surgeries are now held in 60 locations around the UK with nearly 400 volunteers giving their time to help nearly 1,700 local groups and individuals take advantage of the internet to support their cause.
Mr Cameron said: “This is an excellent initiative – a simple idea and so effective. The popularity of these surgeries and the fact that they have inspired so many others across the country, is testament to its brilliance.
“Congratulations to Nick and all the volunteers who have shared their time and expertise to help so many local groups make the most of the internet to support their community.
"A great example of the Big Society in action.”
Mr Booth said: “It’s wonderful to have recognition for everyone who has organised a social media surgery or turned up to volunteer their help.
“I think the surgeries work because they are simple. They are easy to organise, fun to do and not intimidating for people who want help.
"They give active citizens and community groups the confidence and skills to use social media to campaign, organise and hold power to account. They’ve grown because of the passion and energy of bloggers and voluntary groups up and down the country.’’
The Central Birmingham Neighbourhood Forum was one of the first to benefit, creating a blog to share news and to campaign for better planning in the city centre.
Karen Caine used the surgery initially to get advice and help, then became confident enough in using social media to become an expert helper in her own right. She also uses video to capture and share residents’ stories. (brumcitycentre.wordpress.com)
Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery, in Birmingham, now use social media to organise, share news and raise funds.
Sarah Courbet said “The surgeries are such a perfect way to learn. You get what you need: friendly approachable help.” (fbec.org.uk)
►More information at www.socialmediasurgery.com