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Teacambs 27 February – with Rich Hall of Cambridgeshire County Council

Hello everyone

Apologies for the slightly short notice – we’ve been busy bees over here.

Teacambs will take place as normal – 4:30pm at John Lewis Cafe, where we’re hoping to have Rich Hall of Cambridgeshire County Council talking about all things data.

Look out for the table that Puffles the Dragon Fairy is at.


Teacambs in 2014 – Thurs 30 January, John Lewis Cafe, 4:30pm

For those of you on Facebook, add the event in your calendar by clicking here.

Hello everyone!

We hope you all had a restful Christmas break, and have kicked off 2014 with lots of energy and new ideas. Well…nice to try and start on a positive note despite the very tough times many of you are experiencing in the workplace.

Some Teacambs regulars will be heading to UKGovCamp on 25 January 2014 at City Hall, London. This is traditionally where the great and the good from public sector social media gather for a big unConference – where we decide the agenda on the day rather than in advance. It’s also on a weekend so none of us get paid for it either. Puffles will be helping out on the day as per last year, and lots of us will be live-tweeting on the hashtag #UKGC14 too.

The outlook for 2014 in Cambridgeshire

There are a number of interesting social and digital media-related activities that a number of local councils are involved in – something that we hope several of you will be willing to volunteer to speak about at teacambs gatherings this year. We also hope to have our first teacambs gathering outside of Cambridge this year, following conversations with our friends at Huntingdonshire District Council and with some of the town and parish councils in late 2013.

Shape your place – social media for social action

Other parts of the county are beginning to catch up with the early pioneers of the county’s community website (see here). Ashley Whittaker and friends on the SYP team in Cambridgeshire County Council have been training up more people across the county on how to use the website, and have also been training up young people on becoming community reporters. Puffles and Antony, being outside the public sector have been turning up to council meetings in Cambridge to encourage elected councillors to use the website too. 2013 saw some firsts for Cambridge, including a live surgery with Cllr Amanda Taylor (see here), and first time users experimenting with digital video and photography to show what is going on in our local communities.

Connecting Cambridgeshire

November 2013 saw the launch of new broadband services for rural areas otherwise not served by the market. (See the news release here). Expect to see more on this throughout 2014.

Open data – Cambridgeshire Insight

This might sound very technical or a dry subject, but open data is now becoming the backbone of services that some of us perhaps now take for granted. Think of the live bus times, both the app and the website (see here). These services are enabled because of the release of live real-time data that means citizens don’t have to spend ages at bus stops waiting for buses. On electronic media, we are also seeing more imaginative ways of displaying data in a way that people can understand quickly and easily. See Cambridgeshire Insight for more.

Teaching people how to use social media

It’s all very well making things available online, but is there something to be said for helping people use social media in their communities? This is where the charity Cambridge Online is helping. Through the Net-Squared Cambridge group (see here), their free social media surgeries have increased in frequency from once every quarter to monthly. Numbers of people attending has also risen. If you know anyone or any community group that wants to learn more about social media, put them in touch with Cambridge Online on 01223 300 407 or at “help [at] cambridgeonline [dot] org [dot] uk”.

Reaching out to students and young people

There are a number of interesting activities that the further education colleges and universities across the county are undertaking. The National Citizens Service programme in East Anglia has social media at the heart of what it does with young people. Participants have been live-tweeting on their outward-bound activities, posting Facebook updates on their community action and creating digital videos for their graduation presentations. In early spring, as part of Cambridge University’s ‘Green Week’ we will see a large ‘Skills Fest’ event being kindly hosted by Anglia Ruskin Students Union, supported by Transition Cambridge and the Cambridge Hub. This event aims to bring several different societies and communities together under a sustainability and community-building theme. This might also be an opportunity to experiment with some new approaches to social and digital media with younger audiences too.

Teacambs for Thurs 30 January – John Lewis Cafe, 3rd Floor, Grand Arcade, Cambridge. 4:30pm

We’ve had an offer from the Cambridgeshire Insights team to introduce their work, plus we will also be feeding back new learning from UKGovCamp in London scheduled for the weekend before.

Is there something you would like to discuss or showcase at Teacambs?

In the past, we have had guest speakers from community groups, local councils and from Whitehall. We get a good range of people coming along to teacambs too – it’s not just public sector local government types. We’ve had friends from schools and colleges – students, teachers and management, community activists, the uniformed services, freelancers and those in the private sector, civil servants and even elected councillors coming along.

Would you like to come to teacambs but are having problems getting management approval?

Sometimes this can be a barrier – but one that we can help try and overcome. What matters is not what grade you are at, what your expertise is or even your current role. What matters is that you are interested and passionate about social and digital media in the public sector. Some people come along with expertise to share, others come along to listen and learn, – though most do both. People who come along have often found it useful to meet with people who are coming up against similar issues in their workplaces, or perhaps have met someone who has helped resolve a problem they are facing in their organisation.

Find us on Facebook (see here)

Find us on Twitter at @Teacambs


Photograph by Alex Jackson from UKGovCamp 2013 of Antony with Puffles the Dragon Fairy

Last Teacambs of the year – 28 November 2013

Hello everyone!

This month will be our last Teacambs for the year as the last Thursday of December is Boxing day this year.

We’re still in the process of confirming our final speaker for this event, and will update the website as soon as possible.

We’ve got a number of visitors lined up for 2014 from outside the county, including some specialists in community engagement using social media as well as some experts from Whitehall and Westminster. We also hope to have updates not just from local councils on what they’ve been doing with social and digital media, but also from other public sector organisations and higher education bodies about what they have been doing too.

Other things that are on our horizon too include:

  • Our first Teacambs gathering outside of Cambridge
  • A skills-sharing event similar to CommsCamp 2013 where we can bring lots of you from across the county together for an ‘unConference’ style event to share problems and ideas with each other and with some of the brightest minds in the field of local government social media.

One of the things that we’ve been able to do in recent months is to get in touch with a number of student and university societies – both Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University. Throughout 2014 we hope to see how public sector institutions across the county can collaborate with some of the exciting work coming out of these societies.

2013 has also taught us that digital inclusion remains an issue across Cambridgeshire. Our good friends at the Government Digital Service in Cabinet Office have now taken over as policy lead for digital inclusion for central government (see here). One of the ‘watching briefs’ that we’ll have is on how that policy develops – as well as looking for opportunities for how you can feed into it. If you and/or your organisation (irrespective of your sector, so private and voluntary as well as public) are interested in this policy area, please let us know.

Otherwise, hope to see you at Teacambs

  • When: 4:30pm on Thursday 28 November 2013
  • Where: 3rd Floor Cafe, John Lewis, Grand Arcade, Cambridge CB2 3DS
  • Find us at: The table with Puffles the Dragon Fairy
Puffles at the table

Puffles at the table



Is Cambridge a Smart City?

This follows on from an event (that’s all but sold-out at the time of writing) being hosted by Cambridge Festival of Ideas. (See here)

A couple of articles that explain what a smart city is include:

What features of a smart city does Cambridge have, and what is it missing? What about those that live close to but outside the city? What also are the local public policy challenges for institutions in and around the city?

Time: 4:30pm

Date: 31 October 2013

Venue: John Lewis Cafe, Grand Arcade, Cambridge CB2 3DS

Look for the table that Puffles the Dragon Fairy is perched at

To sign up or to add to your calendar, click here.

Teacambs for August – Community outreach

Following Ashley’s talk about the expansion of the Shape Your Place website (see here) in July, this month’s session will be on community outreach. One of the other reasons being a very poorly-attended community safety event in Cherry Hinton on 24 August – which I blogged in detail about here.

In a nutshell, there are some significant lessons to be learnt, because a significant amount of resources were used for that event – far outweighing the numbers of people that turned up. How can we avoid similar outcomes? What specific actions need to be taken and by whom? I don’t want it to become a slanging match – rather, I’d like to guide the conversation towards the formulation of a wider community development plan. In terms of events alone, it would allow institutions to analyse a calendar of events and co-ordinate things so that school holidays, bank holidays, local festivals and even major sporting events are accounted for.

Finally, what is the role of social media use in all of this? How are local institutions currently using social media? What is working for them? What isn’t working? What would you like to improve and why?

As always, Third Floor of the John Lewis Cafe from 4:30pm on the last Thursday of the month – which will be 29 August 2013. Look out for the table that Puffles the dragon fairy is sitting at. If you’d like to come along, please sign up here, or simply drop by.


Teacambs for June & July

Hello everyone

There have been a few things that have happened locally that might be of interest – two of which we are going to cover at the next couple of teacambs gatherings.

June’s Teacambs: Networked Councillors

This is a Public-i project that is covering the East of England. The meeting that Puffles went along to on 17th June is summarised here. Given the more informal nature of social media, what are the expectations of local councillors and citizens given the move towards people using social media in greater numbers? What are the opportunities and risks?

One of the other things people may want to look at is how to engage with councillors using social media where they have an official role within an organisation. Is this something that should be reserved for ‘formal correspondence’ only, or is there a role where councillors, officials (in particular in ‘partner’ organisations such as hospitals, colleges, the job centre and the emergency services) can engage with citizens at a local level?

If you’d like to come along to June’s Teacambs (and/or for a glass of wine afterwards), please sign up here.

July’s Teacambs: Shape Your Place Cambridge & South Cambs

Ashley Whittaker who runs Shape Your Place Cambridge will be joining us to explain how everything’s going as SYP expands to cover the whole of the county. There has been comment already on SYP Cambridge – including here from Richard Taylor, and also here from myself at A Dragon’s Best Friend.

Who needs to do what to ensure SYP Cambridge is a success?

If you’d like to come to July’s Teacambs, please sign up here.

Teacambs – 30 May – Social media in universities and colleges

Teacambs this month moves towards all things further and higher education to have a look at some of the efforts of a number of organisations and societies in and around Cambridge to embrace social media.

If you would like to come along to this month’s Teacambs, please sign up on our eventbrite page here.

Cabinet Office comes to Teacambs 

This month we will also be joined (assuming no last minute briefing requests from Whitehall) by a good friend of Teacambs, Mike Todman of Cabinet Office – who is their East of England Regional Researcher. He is also based locally too. Mike will be saying a few words about why it’s important for people in both further and higher education to engage in public policy-making.

Cambridge public policy institutes

Some of you will be aware that Cambridge University has launched a Masters in Public Policy course, dovetailing with a number of interesting science policy events put on by the Centre for Science and Policy – of which a number of civil servants are policy fellows. The Ashcroft Business School at Anglia Ruskin University on East Road is also hosting a number of very interesting events too.

Challenges and opportunities

How many people outside of academic circles are aware of the growth of university public policy institutes? How can academia use social media to reach out both to the local geographical community as well as specialists from all over the world? For local authorities, how can and how would you like to engage with the growing outreach efforts coming from our educational establishments?


Puffles pictured with Dr Miranda Gomperts, Director of Programme Development
Cambridge Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, Lord Gus O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary, and Dr David Cleevely of the the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge