New project: Be the change – Cambridge (& a refocus towards community action)

August 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: Cambridge, My commissions, Social media 

I announced shortly after the Cambridge City Council elections that I would be moving away from ‘brand Puffles’ and from civil service-related public policy towards social media for social action.

It’s been over three years since I was in the civil service. Although large organisations take time to change, it’s been long enough for the service to evolve into an institution different to the one I was trained in. At the same time, I am a different person to the one that left the civil service. Three years of social media for community action has given me a new focus towards my locality. With that in mind, I started the shift away from ‘brand Puffles’ towards ‘Be the change – Cambridge

“What is ‘Be the change – Cambridge’?”

It is a call to action. Can we make Cambridge become a city that is greater than the sum of our parts? With that in mind, I have been working with Dr David Cleevely CBE, Anne Bailey of the Cambridge Area Partnership and Ceri Jones (@CJonesDigital) to organise an event on Saturday 13 September at Anglia Ruskin University with Cambridge Ahead to kick start this project.

Details are at with the main event aiming to attract over 200 people for a day of scoping the issues and our ideas for achieving a very big objective. Local MP Dr Julian Huppert is closing the event for us, and we’ll have representatives from the three main political parties on Cambridge City Council at the event – all in listening mode.

An introduction to social media for social action

This autumn (2014), Ceri and I will be running a new course for the Parkside Federation. One of the limitations of one-day social media training events is people collectively do not get the chance to explore things in more depth over an extended period of time. Hence piloting this course. See for more details.

Getting into making short digital films for community action

I completed an evening class introducing me to digital video. Looking at the stats on my blog and my vimeo account (where I upload digital videos), blog hits are falling while views of my digital videos are rising – significantly. At workshops I’ve attended where young students have been present, they have told me their generation is moving towards digital video. Long pieces of text don’t engage them nearly as well. Hence moving in that direction too.

I received my first commission from the Cambridge Buskers and Street Performers Festival 2014. A very small commission financially, it was far more significant for me as being the first in this field. I spent a weekend filming as many street performers as possible before producing this video.

It’s come out slightly blurred – but I’m still learning with the new software. Hence I’ll be posting an updated version once I’ve worked out why the footage filmed (mainly on a smartphone and an old camcorder) did not come out clearly when processed.


On standing for election – and a new focus

April 27, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Categories: Cambridge 


Testing out some new ideas on social media for community action – and learning as I go

Some of you will have seen the news reports such as this one. Some of you will have seen the full details of what I’m standing for and why my campaign is going to be very different – for a start I’m not campaigning for votes! (See here).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the direction I want to take my life and career down. Hence taking time about rebranding and re-theming everything. (It’s not just procrastination!) Although I’ve done a reasonable amount of work in a public policy field, I’m moving my focus away from what happens in Whitehall and Westminster and towards community action with social media. The costs of keeping up with what’s going on in London, along with my personal frustrations with traditional politics means that I’m not getting as much satisfaction as I would like from it. That’s not to say I’m closing that avenue off. Rather I’m embarking on an exploration and learning journey, the likes of which I’ve not really done before.

An introduction to social media for social action

I’m collaborating with my friend Ceri Jones have put together a draft scheme of work for a term of evening classes that will help support much of the community work that we both do. This ties in with what I’ve got in my Manifesto for Cambridge. Part of this focus is a geographical one. I reached the natural limits of what I could achieve as a community activist with my existing approach. Also, I felt that my ‘offer’ was becoming dated and spread too thin. While many of the concepts still apply, the world has moved on at such a pace that the case studies I’ve been familiar with are now obsolete. Yet for Cambridge the challenges remain and progress has been slow. One of the reasons for standing for election was to do something radical and unexpected to support increasing the tempo of improvements throughout the city.

Learning new skills

This matters because I’m getting to the stage where I feel that my existing technical knowledge is becoming obsolete, while at the same time I want to collaborate on trying out new things – in particular coding and digital video. At the same time I want to refresh the training videos. I’ll keep the same concepts, but given the pace of change, 18 months/2 years is a nice point for a refresh.

Concepts to test in the election and in the aftermath

The first is getting a baseline for digital democracy. I’ve launched a very basic web page for the main purpose of the election (see here). The purpose is to get a feel for people’s appetite for using social media to engage with local parties in the run up to local council elections, based primarily on social media sharing. What I have found out already is that while social media makes sharing easy, it doesn’t automatically mean that people will share it – no matter how ‘good’ we might think it is for them.

The ‘social’ in social media for social action is based very much on trust. Just posting something on ‘popular’ websites – even ones well-read won’t guarantee click-throughs or people becoming active. Even having a locally high-profile start for the campaign did not bring much traffic for the digital democracy campaign. The Cambridge News placed their online article in the top 3 articles on the day, and placed the printed article on Page 3.

The second is to what extent we can use social media to reach out to communities that might otherwise be less engaged in local democracy. At the same time I want to see to what extent we can encourage people that do not use the internet or social media regularly to start using it in a local democracy context.

At the moment, it feels like I’m starting from a base that is far lower than I thought it was – which is a sobering experience in itself.

Food for thought.

Organising a community action summit

February 1, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Categories: Cambridge 

I blogged about one of these in greater detail in October 2013 – see here. In January 2014 I had a meeting with David Cleevely CBE, founder of the Centre for Science Policy at the University of Cambridge, and Anne Bailey of the Cambridge Area Partnership – the latter aiming to improve the work chance for 14-19 year olds in partnership with local colleges, public bodies and employers.

Both Anne and David challenged me to go further following the publication of my slidepack of ideas for Cambridge – see here. My main aim for publishing these was to put as many of the ideas I had ‘out there’ to generate further discussion. Both Anne and David amongst others picked up on these.

Some background context

A number of things had been coming to a head towards the end of 2013 for me. Much of it was my frustration at the pace of improvements within local public institutions regarding social media and co-operation between the organisations. What was particularly frustrating was the responses from councillors at Cambridge South Area Committee in January 2014 (see the minutes here – note the public questions I put to them, and the councillors’ responses). It felt that some of the specific ideas I had were being either rebuffed or where I was the one who had to take the initiative first. As a result, I posted a very angry blogpost that, along with a handful of blogposts that followed it ended up with over 2,000 hits put together. Not bad for what was otherwise post on a very localised issue. (See the original blogpost here). This ultimately led to me being on the front page of the Cambridge News – a newspaper that I once delivered on a paper round in my early teens!

Me and Puffles on the front page of the Cambridge News

The full article is online here. What’s notable about this is Chris Havergal of the Cambridge News found out about this through social media – Twitter. Although the News normally sends a reporter to cover local council meetings, they didn’t to this one due to a clash with another area meeting. Hence this being an example of how live reporting using social media by a local resident can end up in the mainstream press.

What problem will a community action summit solve?

On its own, I want the summit to re-engage people in how the city is run and for them to have their say in the future of the city. The summit itself is more a catalyst to problem solving rather than trying to resolve a single specific issue. My proposal is to use many of the principles of open spaces/unConferences that have been used successfully at UKGovCamp (see here) and apply them to Cambridge.

Traditional conferences often have audiences that passively listen to a panel of ‘experts’ – panels often lacking in diversity of backgrounds and experiences. This summit aims to bring together people from a diverse range of backgrounds but all of whom have passion for the city in common. Through a series of interactive workshops those attending will be invited to define what they see are the problems and challenges facing Cambridge. They will then be invited in workshops to tackle the problems or challenges of their choice – with the aim of everyone committing to a single one-off action or behaviour change following the event. The intention being that the sum of all these small actions by lots of people will be greater than the sum of their parts.

Sponsorship, the role of local politicians, and outside help


Not so long ago, some of my friends and contacts in the public policy world were lampooning a conference around transforming democracy because the asking price for the conference was around £200. My intention is that through sponsorship and support from key local organisations, this event will be free. That or any charges for the event will be on a sliding scale so that those who can least afford it pay the least, and the most affluent contribute the most to the costs. Perhaps the level of sponsorship will depend in part on the scale of the event as well as the profile of those backing it. It also depends on whether I and other organisers can articulate a ‘vision’ that potential backers choose to be part of.

Local politicians

A number of people have questioned me about this – not least because of my recent criticisms of some local politicians. It’s very tempting to run an event like this and prevent politicians and known/established political activists from coming along – as I’ve seen events in the past do. The reason being is that organisers of grass-roots events don’t like them being hijacked or being used as a platform for loud voices to broadcast slogans. At the same time, local councils are the established public bodies for representing the people at a local level, and for delivering essential local public services. Therefore they cannot – and should not – be ignored.

What should their role be? Cambridge Labour Party held an event in early 2013 where some senior shadow ministers came to visit the city. The event was open to anyone – not just members of the public, hence why I went along – see my write-up here. The event had the MPs in ‘listening’ mode, asking lots of informed questions of the residents that were there, summarising what they were hearing back to confirm they had heard what people were saying. This went down well with the people there, because the workshops were about trying to solve some very tricky public policy problems.

With the above in mind, my intention is that politicians and political activists should not be excluded, but that they should be both clearly identifiable. Furthermore, said politicians could be restricted to the example set by the MPs above: Only allowed to ask questions (and not loaded ones such as “Would you like to buy our paper/join our party?”) or to summarise what they have heard from those attending.

Outside help

This helps explain the need for sponsorship other than venue & refreshments hire. There are a number of very skilled facilitators I’ve met during my years in Whitehall. These individuals are ones that have a track record of successfully running these events across the country while providing a decent level of external challenge to those attending. It’s their ability to ensure that everyone gets to speak along with providing that external challenge (and examples from other parts of the country) that I feel Cambridge needs.

The role of digital and young people

Digital and social media

One of the themes of this event is to try new approaches – in particular ones that have not really been tried ‘at scale’ in Cambridge in this context. The first is the role of digital and social media. A number of smaller events in Cambridge have used digital and social media very successfully. What I want to try at this event is the use of this in a manner similar to UKGovCamp, linked above. Can we use social media to link to audiences outside the venue? Can we use digital media – in particular audio-visual to showcase some new ideas to solve existing problems, or to get people engaged in existing democratic processes?

Young people

Conspicuous by their absence at local council meetings are young people – something I’ve raised regularly recently with councillors. It’s not that young people are not interested. Having met several of the recent Cambridgeshire contingents of the National Citizen Service programme, and having spoken to staff and students at a couple of the local sixth form colleges about their community programs, young people want to take part. But are we making things accessible for them and relevant to them? How can they contribute to the design and content of the day? (As opposed to just inviting them to turn up).

Making things accessible for the parents too

One of the things I’ve become aware of in recent times is the barrier the lack of childcare availability can have on accessibility. At the same time, parents with young children can be some of the most active in local communities. I see this first hand as a governor of a local primary school. Hence creche facilities for the youngest, and perhaps a primary-school-orientated series of workshops may help parents take part. One of the reasons why their participation is essential for me is because the city council in my view all too often overlooks the role that schools can play in local communities. Not surprising given the division of responsibilities between city and county councils – as described halfway down this blogpost by one of my local councillors. My challenge back to the council is how to overcome this divide.

Piloting some of the new approaches

With a number of the things I want to try out, several are ones I’ve seen used successfully before – just not in Cambridge. It was with this in mind I brought together Anglia Ruskin Students Union, the Cambridge Student Hub and Transition Cambridge together to organise a ‘Skillsfest’. Similar to events Transition Cambridge have run before, I wanted to see if the principles and their experience could be applied to, and shared with a student audience. I blogged about our first meeting here. The result of that meeting is that we will be hosting a skillsfest event on Sunday 2 March 2014 at Anglia Ruskin University’s East Road Campus from 2pm. Once we have confirmation of the event details (we’re still at confirming workshop stage), they will be posted on Transition Cambridge’s website and through social media too. The learning from this event will feed into the community action summit.

Next Steps

I’m in the process of writing up a project plan for a community action summit – aimed at attracting an audience (at this stage) of between 200-300 people. (I did say I’m aiming for ‘scale’!) If what I’m describing interests you, please drop me an email at antonycarpen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Puffles at a Cambridge City Council community outreach event, learning about recycling & fire safety

Cambridge Community Action Summit – aiming for spring 2014

November 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: Cambridge 

Bringing together a range of organisations, groups, networks and individuals to kickstart something exciting across the city – and beyond

During my final days in the civil service, I started researching some ideas on how to use social media to help improve my home town – Cambridge. Having spent little time engaging with community groups but lots of time inside Whitehall policy teams, I assumed I had the perfect plan. All I had to do was to turn up, put up lots of social media posts and everyone would come flocking round to the idea. How wrong I was. (This perhaps gives you an insight as to why Whitehall-driven plans involving community engagement seldom reach fruition).

Two years of community engagement

My blogposts tagged ‘Cambridge’ (see here) give some idea of the things that I have done over the past two years – including my continued long-term battles with mental health issues. (That has nothing to do with wandering to events carrying a big cuddly toy by the way. That is simply responding to interaction from social media users).

What I have done – especially over the past year – is to attend as many community meetings and events as I possibly can to get an understanding of where Cambridge currently is. Although time consuming and incredibly emotionally intense, it’s also been a huge learning experience. I’ve learnt how and why a social-media-first plan was never going to work. Essentially I focussed too much on the media and not nearly enough on the social. I also did a huge amount of listening, asking lots of questions as I went. The more people and groups I met, the more myths I busted and the more opportunities seemed to arise. Now is the time to bring all of this together.

The vision

I’ve set some of this out in a very high level community development plan. (See here). In fact, it’s not really a plan at all. It’s more a series of thoughts put together on a set of slides to give people an idea of what I think Cambridge can achieve. But this is only one person’s vision. It now needs the input of lots of people to expand on that vision for the sort of city Cambridge (and possibly Cambridgeshire as a county) can become. This cannot be done virtually/online. For a start that would exclude the many people in Cambridge that don’t use digital or social media. As I’ve found as a trainer, and as a volunteer for the local charity Cambridge Online, we might be overestimating how many people are using social media on a regular basis.

A Community Action Summit

I’ve chosen the name very deliberately – with my original rough thoughts here. The risk with large gatherings is that they remain static. People turn up to them, have a big discussion and then go home again with very little follow-up. I’ve been to more than enough policy conferences where this has happened. More often than not, it has felt like the people who attended them were people paid to be there rather than people who chose to be there. I want this summit to be different. I want it to be:

  • Attended by people that want to make a positive difference to their city – whether in their street, neighbourhood, ward, side of the river, city or even beyond the boundaries
  • Attended by people with energy and ideas to bring to the table
  • Attended by people with a desire to learn and to try out new ideas
  • Driven by the people attending, not set in a rigid, passive structure where a large audience listens to a small number of ‘expert speakers’
  • Finishes off with people inspired to follow up their attendance with some actions – no matter how small or big

Who is interested in the summit?

A number of very passionate and talented individuals, groups and organisations from across the city and the county have expressed an interest in the idea.  I’m also very lucky to have the interest of groups and societies inside the universities as well as those that have deep roots in our residential communities. The input of both is essential – as one of my desired aims is to reduce the cultural divide (perceived and/or actual) between ‘town and gown’. What I’ve not yet asked for is explicit backing as I’m still at the ‘ideas’ stage in terms of what will happen at the summit

What will happen at the summit?

I’m hoping that the day will run primarily on ‘unConference’ lines. This is where there is no set formal agenda for the event, but one where a matrix of workshops are populated by attendees who decide what they want to discuss in workshops rather than have it set for them.

I am anticipating the day starting off with a big exercise that will allow people (in groups – ideally with people they’ve not met before) to come up with what they see as the problems Cambridge and the surrounding areas face, as well as the sorts of things they’d like in their vision for the future of Cambridge. I’m not just talking about the physical or organisational infrastructure, but about the softer things too – such as what do we want our communities to feel like too. In the ‘unConference workshops’, one of the challenges will be to look at the problems and see how we can overcome them, as well as looking at the opportunities/what we want, and ask how we can achieve them.

How will you organise and fund this?

****I have absolutely no idea****

I am completely skint and I couldn’t organise a punch up in a boxing ring when it comes to event organisation. (The logistics of event organising make me panic – the joys of general anxiety disorder). I also have a very short attention span – not helped by frequent social media use. At the same time, I am also very self-aware – almost to a fault. This is why I am seeking the help of people like you – people that might have the skills, knowledge and/or contacts that can help put on an event like this. In terms of logistics, I have in mind the following:

  • A one day event (probably 10am-5pm)
  • Around 100 (possibly more) people attending
  • A venue that has a robust enough wifi network to cope with lots of people using it
  • Lots of social media interaction with people unable to attend in person
  • Live-streamed workshops
  • A venue that has a big main hall and lots of breakout rooms
  • A venue that can either serve lunch or has access to a reasonable number of shops/cafes where people can get food
  • A venue that is reasonably accessible by public transport
  • A venue that is accessible for people with disabilities
  • An event that is a ***safe space*** for the whole community
  • An event, after which people leave both inspired and with a strong sense of what they want to do next, given what they’ve learnt and who they have met.

I also want to avoid:

  • An event that looks too much like a business networking event. There are lots of those in Cambridge that already exist and I have no intention of replicating them. This is about social action, not marketing
  • An event where only a small number of people do the talking.
  • An event where the loudest or the most confident voices dominate.
  • An event where people feel intimidated or unable to contribute

Have you seen an event like this done before?

Yes! Most recently at CommsCamp in 2013 which was aimed at people in and around local government. With that in mind, I also hope to invite (and some have already shown a strong interest, which is splendid) some of the people who are familiar with unConferences and who can help facilitate and guide people through the day, and/or share their technical expertise. Some of these are friends from my Whitehall days. Some are already achieving great things within local government and the voluntary sector. Some run their own businesses but also have a huge amount of expertise and energy they can bring to an event such as this.


If so, please email me at antonycarpen [@] gmail [dot] com with the subject heading ‘Cambridge Community Action Summit

Alternatively, send Puffles a tweet. (Email is probably better though)

Puffles the dragon fairy, waiting to take your call!

Social media for social action

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: Cambridge 

Being distracted by my blog – a refresh

I’ll admit it, I got distracted by my blog (see here) and neglected my website over the summer. That plus illness meant that I was unable to complete the updates (in particular the theme) that I wanted to. It turns out that the theme I wanted to work with requires a greater level of WordPress programming knowledge than I currently have.

Competing with the big boys

I had a discussion with a couple of other freelancers about how the market for social media training is evolving rapidly, and where this leaves the likes of ourselves. For example you may have come across some increasingly expensive and complex social media analytical tools that are available now. For the likes of freelancers, we simply cannot afford (nor have the business need) to pay for some of the subscriptions required to be trainers for those products. The challenge is how to position yourself.

Moving away from big corporations and moving towards the front line

I launched this website in early 2012. Since then, a great deal has changed in the world of social media. But what has been the impact in communities? One of the things I assumed when doing desk-based research for ‘Cambridge L!VE’ (my forerunner project) was that most of the people I would need to make the project work would be social media users. More importantly, they were all waiting there for someone like me to turn up, bring people together and all would be well in about six months. As you’ve probably guessed, things did not turn out that way.

A front line that has many individuals, groups and organisations

Rather than trying to compete with other trainers and firms for the traditional corporate market, I’m trying a different approach. What I’ve been working on for the past year or so is ‘community mapping’. When it became clear that a ‘social media first’ approach was not working, I had to go back to the drawing board. That meant getting out and about across Cambridge, going to places that I had either never been to before, or had not been to for many years. This has been a huge exercise in listening. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been hard work – it has proved incredibly exhausting, especially emotionally.

Building up working relationships with people – without the backing of institutions

One of the things that has been frustrating is trying to get institutions on board. Unlike in the civil service where the weight of your institution has a huge influence, as a single freelancer you are only as strong as your contacts and your reputation. Hence having to compensate by getting out and about. That said, this approach has been far more emotionally satisfying and a far greater learning experience than doing things via institutional contacts alone.

From listening and research to planning and communicating

This is the stage I am currently at. Having done the research, I’m now bringing together different groups and individuals to see what their ideas are for the future of Cambridge. What I have put together is a basic framework and sequence of getting to a place where we have a community development strategy. That involves:

  • Holding a community action summit (and follow-up workshops)
  • Organising a city-wide community societies’ fair
  • Organising a ‘hack day’ to develop the online tools needed to support community groups
  • Compose & consult on the community development strategy
  • Hosting a ‘sign off’ ceremony where people, groups and organisations formally commit to that strategy.

I’ve summarised the main ideas I had in a blogpost on a draft community development strategy  (see here). I followed this up soon after with a suggestion for a community action summit (see here). A couple of town and university societies have expressed an interest in helping organise the latter, under the possible theme of ‘the environment’. The reason for this is that Cambridge has a number of vibrant active groups in this field both in residential communities as well as in the student communities. (The amount of cross-over is surprisingly limited at present). The theme gives a focus as well as a target date at the end of the Lent/spring term 2014 when Cambridge University Student Union hosts its annual ‘Green Week’.



Website revamp

May 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: Social media 

Making my website fit for a maturing social media world

Next month I will be revamping my website. I was originally going to go for a full very expensive overhaul but a very user-friendly and straight-forward existing theme, along with not being able to afford spending lots of money on it influenced my decision.

I’ll be working with Karen Arnott again – she was the talent behind my logo, which I’ve grown fond of and have decided to keep. I’ve also commissioned Karen to teach me about WordPress beyond the basics that I currently use for this site and for my blog.


Making Puffles more…professional?

I’ve spoken to a number of people about this. It’s a tricky one to manage. In April 2013, Puffles broke through the 5,000 followers milestone. Anecdotally, I found that once you get beyond 1,000 followers, you end up with people perhaps more interested in the stream of tweets than in the conversation. The issue that I have at present is that I’ve always thought of Puffles as ‘conversational’ rather than a broadcast stream. Indeed, this website was originally set up as somewhere where I could experiment with different things – not least a single place where I could refer to the digital videos that I have since created.

In recent months however, I’ve diversified beyond my existing niche markets, delivering training sessions within the private and not-for-profit sectors. Given my – or rather Puffles’ growing profile, I feel that I need a social media presence to match. In particular, one that reflects that I’m practising what I am preaching – the big theme being making my social media presence greater than the sum of its parts.


A seamless flow from one profile to another

I have a number of social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, blog, website, LinkedIn, Flickr and Vimeo. Part of my activities prior to the revamp will be working out how I want these to link together, as well as deciding which ones I’ll need to upgrade.

One of the things I’ll be looking to create is a landing page – similar to how Jon Worth has done his. On that landing page I’m looking to have a segment linking to a different digital video each day, a segment linking to my latest and/or a featured blogpost, a feed to my Twitter account, and perhaps links to events that I have either attended or spoken at.


Keeping Puffles’ persona and my independence

This is always the hardest line to tread – both inside and outside of the civil service. I’ve moved beyond social media training too – I’m an associate facilitator/trainer for Westminster Explained for some of their public policy courses. I’m also a volunteer for the charity Cambridge Online, where with some social media-savvy friends we run free social media surgeries. (The next one is on 20 June, but you must phone to book your place!) Finally, I also run Cambridge’s Teacambs Network for public sector social media types. Each one of these requires a different approach as the people I engage with at each of them come from different backgrounds and with different expectations.  That said, it’s a challenge I enjoy.

Hopefully the revamp will go smoothly and that everything will be ready for when everyone comes back from their summer holidays, whether you are staying local (as I probably will) or heading off to far away places.


Digital Women

April 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: My commissions, Social media 

I was one of the speakers at the Digital Women event run by the Whitehall Teacamp Collective in London.

Now, you might think why a man would be on a speakers’ panel talking about digital women. (Fortunately in this case the majority of the esteemed panel are women). My short talk was about the young people – six women and one man – who worked with me to make the digital video social media guides that I keep here.

One of the things all of those that worked with me had said prior to the projects was that no one seemed to be giving them a chance in what is a very competitive working environment. When I landed a couple of big training commissions, I decided to spend a large chunk of the fees on a series of projects to make some digital video guides to social media – hiring them to work both with and for me.

Couldn’t I have done this all myself?

In principle, yes. In reality, no.

I have the software and hardware necessary, and could have sat down and plugged away at it myself. But I chose not to for a series of reasons. The first is the state of my health – mental health – is still not good. Things may look fine on the outside but following a crisis in 2012, I can only manage working a few hours a day and only for a few days per week. A full day working takes a day to recover, and 2 days, up to a week.

Secondly, from a business perspective I found with my early training sessions the ‘live demonstrations’ of social media tools were generally far too fiddly. Far better to have a digital video that can demonstrate these things to an audience – one that they can return to later on in their own time. Finally, having other people’s voices on the digital video guides breaks up the monotony of one single voice doing the presenting. It also gives a separate discussion point for people to comment on too.

For all of them, this was the first ‘commercial commission’ they had worked on. Several of them had social and digital media experience either in an educational or voluntary setting, but none had made digital videos for a commercial environment. None of them had met each other prior to working with each other – they all came from different parts of my social media community. Yet they bonded very quickly and got on with the tasks in hand.

I gave them a clear set of instructions with clear parameters and let them get on with the tasks in hand – intervening only when necessary or only when asked. They also brought in their own expertise to the group. In the case of Dana and Katie, it was their experience with digital video editing that was essential. One of the deliverables I included in the instructions was for them to help train the rest of the group (and myself) on how to use the digital editing tools that we had. That way, everyone would come away with a new set of skills that they could apply to future employment.

Dana wrote up a very nice blogpost of her experience working on the project. The nature of the project meant that we were experimenting a lot of the time, solving problems as and when they came up. What was really nice was when she said that the work she was doing was ‘what she had been educated to do’ – comparing it to past office temping work. This was an interesting and challenging project for all of them – and for me too. I had done project and programme management in the civil service in the past, but it is a completely different experience doing this when it is your own money that you are spending.

Finally – and as you’ll see in the digital videos themselves, you won’t hear my voice on any of them. It’s their voices you will hear. With the exception of Martin (who is one of the most powerful male feminist voices on Twitter anyway), the voices that you hear are female voices. Female voices demonstrating their expertise to audiences far and wide.

One of the kindest comments on the digital guides was this one by Mike Bracken, Executive Director for the Government Digital Service.


There you have it – the talents of a group of very talented young women (and one chap too!) being acknowledged by one of the most influential people in digital services.

One of the other things that we all got out of working together was that it wasn’t all hard work. As well as having a final output that I could use and share in training sessions, I also wanted to use the project to bring together disparate parts of my social media community together. And it did this brilliantly. As a result it has strengthened and deepened the bonds within my social media community.

What’s next?

What we have shown is that our model of making things and problem solving works. Bringing a group of like-minded (but from different backgrounds) people together to produce something or to solve a specific real world problem that you can then go on to use in other environments worked wonders. Not only did I come away with a series of high quality products (that, on reflection I could never have made myself), I strengthened friendships too. I provided an exciting platform for a group of young people to showcase their skills and their work.

We would like to make some further guides, but because what we want to make is far bigger than the amount of money that is available, we are on the lookout for grants, sponsorship and/or benefactors to provide similar opportunities for more young people who otherwise are unable to get the work experience demanded by employers. So if you know of anyone or anywhere that we can apply to, please let me know.


Free social media training in Cambridge with Cambridge Online

January 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: Cambridge, Social media 

As you may have gathered, one of the things I want to do is to help people living in and around Cambridge become more familiar and more comfortable with social and digital media. The local charity Cambridge Online started running social media surgeries in 2011/12 at which I became a volunteer ‘surgeon’.

They are free to attend for anyone – member of the public, small business private sector, local voluntary groups and even those in the public sector. I’ve helped out numerous people at these, mainly people who run their own small businesses or local voluntary and community groups. In most cases I have dealt with, they have got the very basics of social media, but want to take things further. This is the difference between how to use social media vs how to use it effectively in the environment that you are in. What might work for a small business may not necessarily work for a small community group.

While we can do the ‘step by step’ guides, one of the things I find that most people get out of these sessions is the conversation. In particular asking some of the fundamental questions, the answers of which can shape how an individual uses social media.

One of the reasons why I commissioned the digital video guides to social media was because they allowed people to go over the basics of how to use the tools in their own time. This means that they don’t have to spend the whole session taking notes, but rather can engage in the conversation and ask questions knowing they will be able to access the digital videos later on.

The next social media surgery with Cambridge Online is scheduled for

  • 21 February 2013 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm
  • at the Hester Adrian Centre, Hawthorn Way, Cambridge, CB4 1AX. 
  • If you’d like to book a place with them, please call on 01223 300 407 
  • or email them at help [at]

What I’d like to see later on in 2013 is to see if we can hold similar sessions in Cambridgeshire’s libraries as a number of them have the IT suites in which to do so. If you’d like the councils to put something on, drop your local councillor an email via Write To Them.

Digital video social media guide commissions for 2013

December 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: My commissions, Social media 

For those of you that have expressed an interest in these ‘micro commissions’, many thanks – and if you haven’t already, please can you make sure you’ve had a look through here.

Having used the first two digital videos produced by Katie, Martin, Nyika and Alice, the feedback from corporate audiences has been excellent. I also find them extremely easy to use as part of presentations. It breaks up the monotony of a single voice presenting, while at the same time showcasing the work of people who engage with me through social media.

For me, the key word in the phrase ‘social media’ is the word ‘social’ – it implies a conversation and also implies getting along. With that in mind, for those of you relatively new to following Puffles, please have a look at the Twitter lists of politically aware young people here and here. For those that interest you, please follow them and engage (politely) with them. One of my key objectives for these micro commissions is to allow people from across my social media community to meet each other – often for the first time. I’m creating and strengthening a web of friendships. I’m not looking to be the centre of a wheel with the spokes reaching outwards.

The creation of these guides is an ongoing programme for me, enabling to build up a library of digital video guides that can be available for all on a Creative Commons basis. I’ll be working with a small group of new people in very early January, the results of which I hope to have up online by the middle of that month. I’m hoping to have another group together in February/March time, followed by a further group over the Easter break.

If you’ve not already been in touch, please drop me an email at antonycarpen [at] gmail [dot] com

Stuff I need due to a rising profile

October 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Categories: My commissions, Social media 


Due to an increasing number of commissions and increasing awareness of both myself and Puffles, it’s time to overhaul this website and make it look…more ‘professional’.

It was only around six months ago that I actually launched this website following requests to deliver a social media training workshop for local councillors in Cambridge. Prior to that, I had not done any formal social media training for anyone. All things Twitter and blogging were (and still are) things I did for fun. As I originally stated, this site began as something of a playground and a repository for social media things I did outside of the world of Puffles, tweeting and blogging.

What’s changed?

Over the past couple of months I’ve been commissioned by a number of organisations to deliver social media and other training workshops. Given the nature of both the organisations, commissions and commissioners, something is telling me that I now need to sharpen up this website and upskill in a number of areas.

The other thing that has happened is that the commissions that I have completed recently have enabled me to afford paying for the professional services needed to make the changes – either by getting trained myself or commissioning other people to help deliver certain things – such as the digital videos or even the initial logo.

So, what do I need?

The main things I’m looking to do are:

  • Revamp this website with a new design
  • Commission bespoke WordPress training so I can make the tweaks that I need to
  • Have circular business cards produced
  • Provide clarity around my intellectual property – copyright & creative commons

Revamping the website

Given that I want to do something substantially more than what I have at present, best practice is to seek a number of quotations and/or run a tender. I’ve done a number of tenders before within existing frameworks during my civil service days, but this will be the first one that I have done spending my own hard-earned cash. It’s a different ballgame when it’s your own money you’re spending. I’ll provide more details in the next couple of weeks after I’ve picked the brains of people more familiar with micro-tendering. If you are interested, I’m looking at spending between £500-£600 on the revamp. (Civil service best practice is to seek three quotations for anything over £500). Ideally, the successful individual will be someone who is competent with both graphic and website design, and with WordPress. Also, ideally the successful individual will be familiar with Puffles & the environment I work & blog/tweet in, and live within easy/affordable reach of Cambridge as I’d like to meet up to discuss ideas first.

Bespoke WordPress training

I’ve got the books and guides, and have seen a few digital videos, but I’m at a complete mental block with:

  • some of the ‘next steps’ coding – ie doing more than just uploading new posts or new media
  • selecting and using the most suitable plugins for my needs
  • making the dashboard much more user-friendly and getting more of the analytics to work for me

Ideally I’m looking for a couple of hours over a coffee. Again, ideally someone within easy/affordable reach of Cambridge who is familiar with Puffles and the environment I blog/tweet in would be marvellous.

Circular business cards

Q: “Do you have a business card?”

A: “Sorry, I only have a dragon.”

Initially, business cards were on the list of ‘nice to haves’ but were not an immediate priority because no one asked for them – until recently. Hence needing them now. However, I would like something significantly different to the bland rectangular cards that are the norm in business. Hence going for something circular like these ones.

Do you know where I could get something like these made, but with a mugshot of Puffles on the front and my contact details on the back?

What to do if you’re interested?

Please contact me in the first instance to register an expression of interest. For the website revamp, this will allow me to contact you with the full specification of the tender.  For the WordPress training, a short summary about your background and skills, where you’re based and what you know about Puffles and the environment we operate in would be great. For the business cards, details (including costs, timeframes and what format you will need digital materials in) on how to go about getting these made would be lovely.

All the best


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