I’m a citizen first!
I just to clarify that I went there, not necessarily as a representative of Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales, but as a citizen and keen blogger with an interest in the public sector and citizen participation. On the other hand, it would be absurd to think that I wouldn’t be networking with people involved in the heritage sector! Heritage is for everyone!
Session 1) NHS Hack Day
Annemarie Cunningham, a GP based in Gelligaer, but originally from County Down in Northern Ireland led the session. She informed us that NHS Hack Day organisers plan to have an event in Cardiff in January 2018. Her question was, “how do we get more people involved in the event?”
Here are a few points that I took from the session:
- Awareness was the biggest hurdle to jump over. Perhaps knowing who to sell the idea to would be more productive in spreading awareness? Targeting those who want to be targeted (to get involved) can be done through research on former participants, which would enable the organisers to grow participation, which Dave McKenna, a Public Servant, pointed out – You need to get to know your audience!
- Of course being a “Hack Day” there would be a strong digital element. However, Sara Long, a Welsh Clinical Leadership Fellow argued that those who may want to participate aren’t necessarily the ones who know how to code or may not be computer literate – so how could they contribute to this event?
- DXW’s Vanessa Williams hit the nail on the head when she said that diversity and inclusion was the key to participation, especially when promoting the NHS; it’s important to have a different perspective and the use of a success story would make the support for the event go even further – People want to relate to something they care about.
- Nathan Williams of ProMo-Cymru asked the group, “How does engagement save you money?” which was answered with “don’t sell a bad product!” (Well, that’s not exactly what was said but close enough). This question may follow the rule of thumb of good practice equalling good engagement, but I’d like to think that there’s more to this question in this digital age that we live in.
- There are definite current global barriers. Yes, we’re talking about Brexit. There were concerns over staffing capacity in the NHS, the danger of cutting off communication and having a lack of digital support, and the hindering of advancements in new technologies which could potentially save lives!
- I briefly mentioned the issues faced with patients, surgeries and NHS services in rural areas. There are multiple factors which stop people from attending including the residents’ lack of broadband service (making them less likely to attend), the lack of health board cooperation and the lack of access to methods of transportation – How can we have a digital revolution without basic internet access? Also, as this event would concern the Welsh NHS would there be by any change a language barrier?
Session 2) Reducing Impact of Welfare Reform in Wales
Though the numbers were small for this session, it gave Gareth Morgan (Benefits Information and Advice Specialist) a perfect focus group full of “key players” who are interested in the Welfare Reform; what I mean by that is they want to support people who have been subjugated by the government’s introduction to the dreaded Universal Credit and government cuts!
We had Emma from Trivallis and a Trustee at Shelter Cymru; Annemarie, a GP (from 1st session) who feels obligated to help her patients – the impact from stress alone has a devastating effect on a person’s physical and mental health; Sarah from Tai Pawb’s Open Doors Project would be aware of concerns from private tenants; James from a housing organisation and who was in tune with housing policy; and then there was me, formerly of the national voice of tenants in Wales – Tenantiaid Cymru – Welsh Tenants.
- Gareth highlighted recent DWP research outlining that claimants were less likely to seek support not because they’re too proud or considered “handouts” as charity, but because of 1) not knowing that they’re entitled 2) they believe it would affect the money that they receive 3) and they may find the process too difficult or stressful.
- He continued by saying that Wales and local people need to consider the advantages if claimant received all the monies owed to them, which included:
1) The money comes directly from Westminster and not from the main pot in Wales. However, some work argue that this strengthens the leash around the corgi’s neck (and I’m not talking about the ones that live in Buckingham palace!).
2) The money would make a positive impact for the local economy as people have the tendency to spend locally, which supporting local companies and start-ups.
Even though I’m all for local investment I don’t think that those who claim would perceive it as simply supporting local businesses. They’ll see it as having no other choice! They won’t be able to afford to go anywhere else due to their inability to affordable transport and other barriers that relate to the rising costs that continue to crash against the cuts to their income.
- We spoke about the impact of the removal of Communities First*, which James described as a “vacuum” as its sudden demise has cleared away any safety net that was established from supporting our most vulnerable in our society. And now there’s a task to build up the trust that’s lost and to fill that void left in the community. We were questioning whether there were any government plans that would act similarly to CF*; this is when I forgot to mention the 3Es – Employment, Early Years and Empowerment, which I’ve written about in a blog[i] from last year.
- Existing services have had to take on extra responsibilities, as cuts to local government has meant that it’s more common for local authorities to transfer those in need of support to other organisations, which may not even be local, as some charities have had to close their facilities and relocate.
- Claimants are more likely to trust the “man in the pub” instead of an expert in regards to legal or benefits advice. This is because they regard experts as people who have the best interest of the organisation or local government – and not them!
Session 3) Universal Basic Income – Should we be thinking about it?
The principles of Universal Basic Income* were covered at the beginning of the session, led by Neil Tamplin, to inform attendees of what were its objectives and potential if it were distributed.
Trials have already taken place in Glasgow and other localities across the globe. However, they’re on a small scale and come with a number of conditions that may not take social factors into consideration. Research is still in its infant stages. Therefore, it’s ideal to have a discussion with such a diverse group of people who have the expertise or a basic interest on this matter. Here are some of the points from the session:
- There was a strong consensus that UBI* would prove positive for the economy in a number of ways including creating opportunities for long-term volunteering, which would have economic benefits as people power suggests that there’d be less spending on resources.
- We should think of Universal Basic Income as a way of encouraging people to work as it would give them a sense of freedom, whether to re-train in a new skill or to volunteer in their community.
- UBI would act as a safety net and could, for a lot of ordinary citizens, give meaning or a new lease of life besides focussing mainly on work or being a full-time carer.
- There was an overwhelming sense that UBI would be beneficial to people’s wellbeing. For example, artists aren’t able to channel their creativity in a 9 to 5 job or when they are juggling multiple jobs that doesn’t support their passion; they’re reliant on these 9 to 5 job/s only because it fixes the bills and helps to clear some of the ever rising debt. Do we just exist and not really live life until it’s too late?
- There’s a feeling that you haven’t got support from the government; you’re pressurised into getting a job that you don’t want but are in fear of being made homeless or being punished in some way – so everyone has to carry on working. Charlie said it best when she said that “our government doesn’t invest in people.”
- One of the social barriers stopping UBI from becoming a real thing is its misconception in that most believe UBI would lead to everybody doing nothing! But, people in the session voiced how they couldn’t possibly do nothing and feel that they wanted, like they do now, to contribute to society and to hopefully make a difference to other people’s lives. These misconceptions (or should I say “fake news”?) are fuelled by the depictions of benefits claimants as seen on social media and tv including “Benefits Street” – all categorised as “poverty porn.”
- Dyfrig Williams, now living in the west country, suggested that hindrance of UBI as an actual universal (well, worldwide at least) support and fair system may stem from the arguments made by right wing and conservative moments; these income puritans and their corporate followers believe that the global market would not be able to adapt from such a move and would link this to a communist way of thinking. Argumentatively, James said that these corporate entities get rich from braking the back of their workforce (who are some of the poorest in our society too!) and they still refuse to inject any of the money back into the country. The lack of distribution of wealth from Silicon Valley needs to go to those who need it and are owed it in other valleys – especially the south Wales valleys!
- Terminology & ideology may be the biggest obstacles for UBI, as it was suggested that UBS (Universal Basic Services) would override the idea of UBI, but this didn’t sit well with the group, as “services” imply that there’s a degree of control, a possibility of corporate influence and has a capitalist approach instead of representing the people. Laumiere stated that the word “income” would imply “choice.” Similarly, Gwenda Owen voiced her anger towards the loss of the term Social Security, which has been jargonised and “governmentised” with Welfare Reform – Has the true meaning of social security vanished in 21st Century Britain?
Do Housing Professionals Want A Revolution?
The group noticed a few representatives from the housing sector including Neil, who works in housing and who pitched this session, which got people (humorously) asking if the housing sector in Wales would be formulating a coup that would flip the coin on capitalism, so it would land on social reformation, or as Gwenda puts it – “come the revolution.” I commented by saying that the role of housing associations has changed tremendously over the years, especially in Wales. As less and less councils own units and have less resources to provide services it has meant that HAs have taken on more responsibility, which pressurizes social landlords to become more social in their community. I do like Gwenda’s push for change though. Maybe she’s right? The revolution starts at home!
Session 4) Heritage Has Gone Digital
Because I would be attending a “design charrette” the following week (blog coming soon!) that will explore the industrial heritage of my hometown, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to get an insight into the digital aspect of the heritage sector, and how it could be beneficial for Merthyr Tydfil’s heritage now and in future.
Illtud Daniel from the National Library of Wales*, outlined the objectives of the session as he wanted to know “What can Welsh heritage organisations supply to you to be more relevant to people of Wales and fulfil the social need (preferably from a digital aspect)?”
The group had the perfect brains to prod from both a heritage and digital marketing point of view including Wyn Williams of Dai Lingual (who provided the event’s bilingual translation); Huw Marshall, an expert of marketing bilingual digital content and who runs social media’s “yr awr Gymraeg” (the Welsh language hour); Dafydd James, Head of Digital Media at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales*; and a staff representative from Cardiff People First who spoke about the engagement of service users in regards to digital heritage including their work on the “museum takeover day” and with the Ely hospital project held at the Cardiff Story Museum; and other individuals with a digital or heritage background.
Here were some of the interesting points made during the session:
- One of the biggest obstacles was the fact that they had no resources to appoint someone who’d be able to travel to give advice, which indicates that digital communication is currently their only method of reaching out to people!
- Huw questioned whether their marketing was at fault; why doesn’t the content reach the right people or why isn’t it able to reach a broader range of people?
- In terms of using the digital collection at NLW* here were a few suggestions:
- Prioritise digital inclusion, which would mean getting the public involved in using digital heritage to build a story. I don’t want to poke holes in anyone’s umbrella but isn’t Casgliadau y Werin Cymru – People’s Collection Wales tasked with this? (it’s a cooperative project coordinated by both AC-NMW and NLW)
- Couldn’t the NLW take advantage of Wales’ industrial heritage? Genealogy and DNA testing features on such programmes as “Who do you think you are?” which has been successful in promoting the subject and encouraging people to do family research. Could this help to market the collections better? Many people here and overseas including America have roots buried in the landscape. The NLW should now be opening its fortress of digital archives to the family historian or genealogy hobbyist (like myself).
- For a different perspective other than NWLs digital platform, the group discussed of others that could be relevant to the heritage sector including HWB meaning hub creates a safe online learning experience for children in schools when examining archival material; Unsplash, a digital platform which caters mainly for graphic designers by providing high resolution images is something that NLW could possibly tap into; Hacio’r iaith, a bilingual digital platform which has built up a community that “explores how technology applies to and through the Welsh language.[ii]” These discussions proved useful; it was proposed that another organisation/ company could be responsible to deal with the marketing and take over the NLW’s digital platform – this got Illtud’s wheels turning.
- Illtud highlighted the volunteers supporting the transference of hardcopy archives onto their digital database. Maybe appointing volunteer digital champions would help to connect NLW and the digital community?
- Angharad from YLab made a great point when she said that “nostalgia is a powerful tool” and that NLW should start with this. Illtud highlighted the work that the NLW has done with the BBC on the project supporting people with dementia connected to memory-loss in bringing memories alive.
As the unconference came to a close the volunteers, the organisers, the sponsors and supporters were all thanked, which included those who attended, like myself, because an unconference can’t go ahead without any people “to conference” it (if that makes sense). Perhaps an unconference for the public sector would now be more associated with an out of chaos comes order reference, as the ongoing cuts and struggle would reflect a need for change. Again, I’m reminded of Gwenda’s push for a revolution! Viva Catalunya! Annibyniaeth i Gymru!
Image Courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – National Library of Wales. “Dog with a pipe in its mouth “(c.1940s) by P B Abery.
[i] Howells, J.D. (Oct 2016) EEE – The brand new approach to supporting communities. https://merthyrranter.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/eee-the-brand-new-approach-to-supporting-communities/