Facebook’s Wake-Up Call for Jive and Enterprise Social Networks

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Last week Patrick O’Keefe invited me to be on his latest podcast for Community Signal. We’d been back and forth over twitter about my views on Facebook breaking into the enterprise social network (ESN) space and what this might mean for the other ESN players.

As you can expect I had a view, you can listen to the full interview on the community signal episode. I had said Facebook’s move into the ESN space “should act as a wake-up call to Jive that they need to put collaboration back at the heart of their product” I stand by my comments and my team and I are spending a lot of time talking about how we can work around the technology limitations to bring this energy back to our community.

But on the topic of Workplace by Facebook there is a lot of chat happening among those of us who’ve been in this space for a while. Sharon O’Dea shared this great article from Talk Social to Me, Making the Switch from Jive to Workplace by Facebook And she also wrote this article Facebook’s freebie suggests they don’t understand the enterprise. I can’t do their articles justice by trying to summarise them, so I highly recommend having a read.

I can clearly see the appeal. If I was starting over, would Workplace by Facebook be a serious contender? Maybe – but knowing what I know now about managing an ESN over a sustained period of time, in the same organisation I see their proposition through a different lens. I share Sharon’s view ‘selling enterprise social in is hard, because you need to get approval from any business unit that might be affected by its use – i.e. all of them. And that takes ages’. ESN vendors have anticipated and continually try to diversify their product to respond to all those decision makers needs. I think this is a MASSIVE fail. Working this way responds to the traditional organisational design, what I believe made ESN’s great is that they broke down those silos, they destroyed the layers of the organisation and drove collaboration like a steam roller through an organisation – WE NEED MORE OF THIS!!

To me it feels like the current big players aren’t listening to their customers and the new players are after a slice of the pie but don’t fully understand what that means. What is clear is the prize is big, according to the latest market report published by Persistence Market Research titled ‘Enterprise Social Networks and Online Communities Market: Global Industry Analysis and Forecast 2016-2026’ they predict ESNs and online communities will procure US$12.189mn by 2026. We are talking about some big numbers.

Jive were acquired in May for $462m they will sit under the Aurea portfolio, we await news on what this will mean for their customers and the product.

And last week there were multiple reports that Amazon and others are sniffing around Slack, Business Insider UK said ‘Amazon is one of several tech companies interested in acquiring the Slack chat platform’

Dion Hinchcliffe was not wrong when he wrote Why enterprise collaboration is exciting again the burst of innovation is interesting and the shifts in the big players is what gets me really excited. I’m looking forward to watching this space.

 

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Running out of time…

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In my last blog post which was…31st March I said that working out loud doesn’t come naturally to me and it was something I was going to have to work very hard at. I wasn’t kidding. When I returned from maternity leave I eased myself into working life gently. I had a lot more time for thinking and but very quickly a few curve balls brought me back to reality with a bump. I am committed and that is why i’m here writing an update from the passenger seat of the car, kids asleep in the back whilst we drive up North to see family.

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Sometimes you have to work where you can
I have beaten myself up a bit about not keeping the blog up to date but actually I am going to give myself a break because I also made a commitment to my personal health and fitness this year and on that front i’m kicking ass.
And then I realised as I sat here writing this blog I have actually been working out loud just not quite how I envisioned it at the start of the year.
In March I signed up to join 10 of my neighbours on a couch to 5k programme run by another neighbour Phil. i’m including a link to his facebook site Gazelle Running MK. He offered the 10 week course for free. I jumped at the chance and over 10 weeks I made some new friends and got fitter.
I had to be accountable to myself and others, we shared our progress and achievements with each other through Whatsapp. We encouraged each other when we were having bad runs or we were not feeling it and we met every week to improve our speed and distance. Our hard work paid off and we ran our first Park Run together and loved every second. Spurred on by my new love of running I signed up to a 10km in September and so to support my training i’ve also signed up for the Phil’s 10km programme we start next week. We basically created our own WOL circle.
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We made it 27th May Couch to 5K graduation day
And as my running has improved i’ve been spurred on to try and beat my personal best times and to do this I need to also work on strength as well as diet. I started to talk to the various communities I belong to and decided to commit to The Body Coach. I’ve signed up for a 90 day plan and have now been doing his HIIT workouts every other day for 3 weeks. I can already feel the benefits and i’ve roped my husband and mum into joining me.
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No excuses even when we travel.
Between work, two kids, running a home and the fitness sessions i’m committing to there isn’t a lot of free time but right now the balance feels right and i’m happy.

Working Out Loud

I’ve been following John Stepper’s journey for many years, we met in person at a Melcrum conference where we both had to do a terrifying quick fire presentation. He’s as amazing in person as he is virtually. And you can find out more about his work here Working Out Loud

On my return from maternity one of my colleagues shared that she’s starting to work out loud through the Community Roundtable and on a weekly basis she is sending me her list and in our one to ones we have started to discuss the book a few chapters at a time.

I am a big fan – in fact one of the areas we’ve been looking at within our Jive community is how can we encourage working out loud amongst colleagues. Over the years iterations of the Jive platform and changes to UI has pushed the ability to work out loud deeper into the weeds. At Pearson we used to ask the question “what are you working on?” front and centre of our homepage.

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One of our first homepages in 2011

Alas we no longer have this capability and I think our community is suffering because of it. I no longer hear the anecdotal stories describing the serendipity moment that we had in the early days. I miss it.

What is the answer? Do we bring the status update back to our homepage? I’m not convinced this is the right way to go…our community is more mature some of our users are now more sophisticated than that. Which brings me back to Working Out Loud. John recommends creating WOL circles and we’ve talked about creating a dedicated space in our community for working out loud.

The challenge is bringing 36,000 people with you. It is a change in behaviour and change in the way people work and we all know change, engagement and communication can be really really hard.

Never one to step away because something is hard, we’re going to start small we’re going to model the behaviour ourselves and we’ll bring people along with us.

Of course this also means a massive shift for me because I’ve discovered working out loud isn’t coming naturally to me. But I am committed and I want to change my behaviour because I am a massive believer in setting out your intentions.

So here I am committing to working out loud and sharing my experience with you.

Doris Day

On the day parts of the country ground to a halt courtesy of Storm Doris, I took a risk and commuted down to the big smoke. The journey took a little longer than usual but afforded me some delightful conversation with my fellow commuters.

A little wind swept, I joined Wedge and Brian at their Digital Transformation crowd sourcing day. The high level topics were as follows:

  • Levels of digital maturity
  • Engaging your allies
  • Workflow Process Design

There was some great discussions captured throughout the day and i’m looking forward to collaborating with the group on the output.

I then spent the evening with my colleague Dina Vekaria attending our first Culturevist event. Led by Matthew Partovi we discussed the topic “Shifting our team from HR/People/Comms Operations to Employee Experience”. It was clear that almost every conversation i’ve had internally and externally has centered around the employee experience this week. And I seem to be attracting people who are working on the same things as me, which is great because I love sharing ideas and experience.

On reflection this week i’ve made some pretty awesome contacts, caught up with some old connections and immersed myself in some thought provoking articles.

I highly recommend both these articles:

From disrupted to disruptor: Reinventing your business by transforming the core  By Peter Dahlström, Liz Ericson, Somesh Khanna, and Jürgen Meffert

De-mystifying Digital Transformation By Christine Overby

And if like me culture and brand get you out of bed in the morning and you’re interested in spending time with like minded people, who are “turning our brands into movements, by developing our company cultures and energising our customer communities” consider checking out Culturevist’s website and sign yourself up.

 

 

Customer Journey Mapping

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of joining Brilliant Noise  at their customer journey mapping event a full summary can be found here. The event was billed to explore how effective customer journey mapping will:

  • Improve customer experience by identifying creative ideas and improvements to systems or processes.
  • Deliver against your business objectives through targeted, measurable change projects.
  • Constantly improve customers’ journeys with a sustainable improvement programme.
  • Identify the KPIs to evaluate improvements, quality and business outcomes.

Iain Nokes Chief Customer Journey Officer at The Economist led that charge, he’s been working with Brilliant Noise to map The Economist’s customer journey with some great success.

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Above is a segment of that map showing just a snippet of the touch points and how they are interconnected. What Ian was sharing made perfect sense but as an internal communicator I couldn’t help wondering if I was in the wrong room and whilst an interesting learning opportunity, was it the best use of my time. Then we got into the weeds and Ian shared his key learnings and my brain kicked into overdrive.

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The word hypothesis was mentioned multiple times and it seems to be a word of choice when i’ve been talking to my team this week about where we are going to focus our attention over the coming year. This is important when we look at where we might start, where can we have the biggest impact and what will support our overall strategy and business goals. We need to be able to measure our impact and sometimes starting small has more chance of being a success. Or even just identify activity we can stop doing to create space to do more of the things that do get the cut through we’re hoping for.

Visualisation is critical it makes your strategy come to life, Ian mentioned their map is up on the wall in their office and visual content helps drive the message home. We are currently looking at the channels we use and how we can create great content to share on these channels. But as I listened to his journey I was starting to formulate a version of our employee experience in map form in my own head.

For the second part of the afternoon we broke out into 3 groups and naturally I gravitated to the topic around How the customer journey mapping can support collaboration and culture change. The topic quickly picked up pace and we started to talk about the pain points, in particular when our employees don’t experience the customer journey this can leave them with little empathy for how the customer experiences the brand. And even more challenging is when our employees know and agree that the customer experience needs to change but “the fear” kicks in. Does this mean I will need to do my job differently? will I even have a job? We all shared experiences of back end and front end tensions regarding systems and processes.

So what? My conclusion is that we actually have to look at our own employee journey. Our challenges are very similar and we can take a similar approach to address them. The topic was about the customer experience but if you can’t communicate what that is effectively internally to your employees you have no chance of being able to deliver. Do you make customer experience part of all employees goals for example? However you approach it like all employee communications you need great content delivered through relevant channels.

My takeaways:

  • A new contact who has way more expertise than me on creating great content that I hope to do some knowledge swapping with she’s in the market to learn more about communities.
  • I’m going to map out some of the activity we are reviewing to see what the employee experience looks like with the hope that we can identify quick wins to improve and be more effective in communicating internally.

Definitely a worthwhile afternoon and I’m looking forward to putting some of the ideas into action over the coming weeks.

 

 

 

I’m back…

It has been a while, there was the small matter of growing a baby and then keeping said baby happy for the last 7 months. But yesterday I found myself back in the comfortable saddle of work and it was like i’d never been away. Except I have, and instead of being responsible for one little human I am now responsible for two…

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Whilst on maternity I have had some time to reflect and think. And there has been a lot to think about in 7 short months the UK voted out of Europe, Trump voted in and our news is dominated with the horrors that are still taking place in Syria, Yeomen to name but a few. Some days the world feels like a very scary place, unsafer, more worrying. And I probably do worry a lot more now because I have these two small people to consider.

Communities and social media has played a massive part in the outcomes of some big events and over the course of 2017 we will see and hear more through our mediums of choice. At times i’ve felt incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated and as someone with a huge social  media footprint i’ve found my timelines bombarded with desperation, negativity and anger from all sides of the political spectrum. I’ve seen friends, families and work colleagues fall out as individuals wear their heart on their sleeve when it comes to their political persuasion.

At the beginning of the year I made a resolution of sorts and that was to be more thankful. I wanted to try and cancel out some of the negativity with positivity. I wanted to put it out there to the universe that I am thankful for the big things, the little things and everything in between.

So i’d like to put it out there that I am thankful for meeting some wonderful new people in 2016. One in particular inspired me to explore my creativity and turn on my sewing machine. So when the world outside is feeling all too much I explore a new community i’ve immersed myself in, as I start to get to grips with the basics of sewing and take on some new personal projects.

I am also thankful to be able to get back to a job I enjoy very much and I hope I am able to continue sharing my community experiences with you through 2017.

Because I am a Parent…

On the 21st January 2013 my life changed forever, it was the day I found out I was going to be a parent. It was the day my life changed beyond recognition, because from that day onward I saw the world through a new lens.10995645_10153437914868254_4131390891692960791_n

Most of the time that lens is filled with joy and magic, the day he came into the world, every first we experienced, watching him explore his surroundings.

But it also gave me a burden something no one prepared me for, the empathy you feel for parents who are suffering, a pain I had never experienced for children I don’t know who I see suffering. This came to a head the day I saw the young Syrian boy in the arms of the Turkish police officer after drowning in the sea trying to cross to Europe – I couldn’t get his lifeless body out of my head and I felt like I had to do something. I asked my mum why is this affecting me so much and her response was simple “because you are a mother now”.

From that day on my parenting style shifted, i’ve always followed a gentle parenting approach but I became a little less worried about him getting into bad habits of sleeping in our bed and when he needed his face stroked to sleep, I obliged because the thought of not being able to keep him safe and secure was just too unbearable.

Tonight i’ve been home from Lesvos for 10 nights and tonight was the night my heart broke for every single parent who is currently seeking a safer place to live and bring their children up. Because tonight I lay stroking my sons face and he wrapped his arms around my neck and cuddled me and then placed my hand back on his cheek with his comforter nudging me to stroke his face. As he gently fell into a safe slumber it hit me, we are so lucky he is safe and I am able to give him the security he needs and then I thought back to every horrifying situation I witnessed between Slovenia and Lesvos, I thought of every image i’ve seen other volunteers post of families, children and people on their journey to find their own safety and security. I closed his bedroom door and I silently sobbed, the kind of sobbing that you can’t control, the one where your heart is heavy and it hurts, it hurts so much.

I cried for the families forced to leave their beloved homes because they are persecuted, unsafe, not allowed to live the life they want to live – war. It is incomprehensible for people like us to really imagine what this is like.

What has puzzled me and even after all the time i’ve spent with refugees is how do the parents cope? If you had one bag and 3 children what would you put in it? I can’t go to my in-laws without a car full of things I deem essential for a weekend. How many nappies can you realistically carry? milk? sterilizing equipment? changes of clothes? what if your baby is weaning age? What do you feed them? how do you amuse them and keep them quiet when you’re being smuggled out of a country? How do you explain to them there is no food? So many questons…and i’m not entirely sure I ever really answered the question of how do they cope I only managed a glimpse of their life.

12294776_10153690372476425_1337425728829199265_nI spent a lot of my time at Moria in the women and children’s tent, the tent was basically two large camping tents side by side roped off to create a queue. One side was filled with boxes marked womens tops, children’s outerwear etc. and the other had a bit of everything and some make shift drawers and a little more space. It looked like chaos and it was, you can’t make a decent system out of boxes that have unknown quantities of varying quality items.

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This tent gave me some of the biggest highs of my trip, knowing how many people we helped made it worth it. My favourite memory is of a little girl she came with a family of children who were all soaked through, I lifted her up and sat her on the chair she was special because she had a twinkle in her eye, she wasn’t withdrawn and quiet like so many of the children I saw, she was cheeky. As we stripped her down we rifled through one of my favourite bags it was a bag full of really well labelled clothes, each bag had 3 or 4 outfits for that size child. I pulled out a top, jumper, some legging and a coat, I replaced her socks and she proudly showed me her pink nail polish – we didn’t need to speak the same language for me to communicate how impressed I was – she was so happy, as I chucked her wet clothes to one side and started to pull the clothes we didn’t need back into some order my hand landed on denim and pink ra ra skirt – my first thought was why on earth would someone donate something so impractical and then I looked up – I could see the sparkle in her eye, I gestured to the skirt and she nodded energetically. I stood her up on the stall and we slipped the skirt over her layers of clothes – it fitted perfectly and she clapped and the queue of women and children waiting clapped – she was so happy – my heart melted.

Sadly a lot of the time I spent in the tent wasn’t like this – a lot of the time was spent being frustrated that there wasn’t enough women’s coats, or enough shoes to fit the women. Disappointed faces when I offered up Western style jeans and hoodies, not tops that covered the ladies more appropriately. I will never forget the larger Arabic women who I think might have been from Northern Africa who were soaked through but many of the clothes we could lay our hands on didn’t fit, my heart sank when we cobbled clothes together for them but they still had to put their drenched robes back on over the top – knowing they would be freezing cold.

I will never forget the two sisters from Afghanistan who were very tall and when we invited them into the tent to have some privacy to rummage and change they had nothing under their trenchcoats apart from bras, I don’t know whether they were advised to take their wet clothes off and they’d get more but they were frozen through. They were so desperate to pick clothes that would protect their dignity as they were travelling with their older sister and her daughter and no men. They’d made friends with another family who were looking out for them but they were so vulnerable and so terrified, I remember pulling out some of the really nice vests i’d found and gave them to them. We layered them up but they insisted on keeping their wet coats because of their length. I wish i’d gotten their details because i’d love to know if they are ok and whether they have made it to their intended destination.

But the family that are etched in my mind forever is the family of women who had 5 children with them all of them drenched and when they arrived at the tent chaos ensued. Everyone of the children all under 5 was soaked through, everyone had soiled themselves and had been in these dirty nappies a long time. But what was remarkable to me as a mother was that not one of them cried. They were frozen in fear. It was the one moment when I really didn’t think I knew what to do, to cope, where to start. It was night and it was cold and it was raining we couldn’t just strip the kids off and then dig about for clothes – through an interpreter we agreed one mum would come into the tent with 2 kids at a time and get them sorted. They needed everything – I wasn’t prepared for the sores they had on the little bums from being in soiled nappies. Luckily one of the things I stocked up on was the good bum cream from the UK we also had pacifiers and other bits and bobs in our car. I ran out and brought it all back, one of the mum’s was begging for a pacifier I was able to give her two brand new ones. We handed over the cream, for most of the children a clean nappy and some cream was enough but one little boy was screaming – he was clearly in pain, he was so sore and there was nothing we could do. We explained there was a medical tent the mother seemed to understand and continued to work through the wet children. The last child was almost missed he was sat so quietly he was petrified and I remember thinking – what must he have just been through to be stunned into silence. In that time when I stood helplessly offering up a pair of shoes or a coat I just kept thinking about my own son, how much I missed him and how lucky we are to have the life we have and not this.

The silence of these children was in direct contrast with the noise in a Greek coffee shop the following day, screaming children everywhere, chatting, talking, laughing, cooing, hanging out with their parents on a Saturday morning for brunch. The sound you’d expect to hear from children and sound so sorely missing from these little lives.

 

At least in the clothing tent, I felt like I was making a difference. Managing the registration line was a lot more desperate, in the line you would see a lot more of the families who are just waiting in line under the elements. As night drew in a number of us would look for the vulnerable cases to bring into the building, but once it was full those families not so lucky would be left to find a pop up tent.

One night we lined up the next group of numbers, by this point we had started carrying backpacks with a few essential items, I noticed a child with no socks – I went over to pass on some socks and realised the child was wet through, two of the other children were wet through too, it transpired the children had been in their wet clothes from when the boat landed in the early hours of the morning, by my recollection about 14hrs. We handed out what we had and then a couple of us ran down the hill to get some more clothes, a doctor was called and blankets were sent for. Some of the children had high temperatures, the family was pushed through as an emergency and i’d expect they would have been taken care of inside. But it rattled me – these poor parents had sat with their children in wet clothes because they thought they had no choice. They didn’t know there was a tent where they could have got dry clean clothes for their children, what an earth must that feel like as a parent. They didn’t have bags of clean clothes they could switch their kids into.

We heard so many stories of how boats that were overloaded capsized, or bags were thrown over, so what small belongings some of these parents had were lost to the sea. And now they are fully reliant on handouts and hope. Quite honestly I’m ashamed to say I wouldn’t cope…i’ve tried to think are these parents more able to cope because what they’ve already left behind was so hard this is just another step on a long hard journey. Or is it a case of coping because you have to because you do anything for your children.

And so it brings me full circle to the day I chose to get involved and try and make a difference. I’d seen the news and then I had to get my son ready for nursery, choose which coat he’d put on and which pair of shoes.

But I decided I could do something I could make a difference. I have one of the most important jobs in the world – I am a parent and it’s my responsibility to try and make this world we live in a little better for everyone.

 

Images courtesy of Marina Hickman and Linda C. Fredriksen

 

5 days in Lesvos – The Situation

When I came home from our first trip to Slovenia I was an emotional wreck, all I wanted to do was cry. I wrote a blog to try and work through all the emotions I had. I’ve been home from Lesvos for a little over 24hrs and I feel numb.

I’ve spent the journey home and today trying to work out how I feel, i’ve been trying to think through the best way to tell the story of Moria to share with you an honest account of my experience. But quite honestly i’m struggling with the words…

I think it will take some time to tell all of the stories from Moria but first I think it would be helpful to set the scene, explain a little about the process and how volunteers like us are able to make an impact to the refugees, so this blog will share with you what i’m calling the situation.

Lesvos

Our first day was spent understanding the geography of the Island, we were staying in the North, it is where a lot of the boats arrive from Turkey, it is here that the distance is the shortest, but it is still incredibly dangerous. The shoreline is very rocky and isolated. This is one of the first areas volunteers are having a big impact, there are volunteers at lookout points with binoculars and others ready to jump into rescue boats to guide boats in or to pick up boats that have already started to sink.

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Over and over we heard from refugees about how these boats were overloaded with people and boats with motors that didn’t work properly. We met men, women and children who had been in boats that had capsized, families whose children had been underwater for long periods of time, in the confusion and panic babies had been used as floats.

As we drove along the coast we could see the debris of the past days arrivals, the rubber from the boats, the discarded life jackets, clothes and shoes.

 

Once they land they then need to make their way to a transit camp, we saw a UNHCR camp that is being built at the bottom of the winding road, we were told it will be open in a few weeks, a number of tents will have heating and supplies so they can get out of wet clothes, rest before making their way to registration. For now though they make their way to Skala or Oxy. We stopped at Oxy for some time to see if we could offer any assistance, it was a quiet day they were cleaning up and getting ready for the next influx. They try to give people dry clothing, blankets and food whilst they wait for the transit buses. Here they are sorted into Syrian Women and Children, Syrian single men, Afghan, Iraq, Pakistan etc. etc. The registration camps are in the South it is about 1hrs 20mins drive. Syrian families head to Kara Tepe, Syrian, Moroccan and other African nation men to one side of Moria and all the other go to the Afghan Hill side of Moria.

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When the buses arrive on the Afghan hill side everyone has to walk up the hill to the gate and get a ticket, with the date and a number.

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Further up the hill they are invited in to be registered in batches. How long they have to wait depends on how many people are on shift, when we first arrived this was fairly quick, only slowed down by the sheer volume of people.

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On our last day it was incredibly slow, with no explanation.  Everyone is at the mercy of the authorities.

On the Afghan side, the large presence of volunteers has meant that the refugees are getting better care than they were. The conditions are still filthy, the hill has no proper drainage where people use the hill as a toilet this then flows down when it rains.

 

But there is a kitchen tent, serving chai and noodle broth, distributing water, crackers and sometimes fruit. There is a clothing tent for men and a separate one for women and children, there are never enough shoes but the volunteers try their best to make sure everyone who is wet can get something dry to wear. There is a medical tent and whilst we were there a children’s art tent was created, much needed and much appreciated by the families. Gravel was laid on the mud whilst we were there meaning that it is less muddy when it rains and a tent was being put up which will offer better shelter for supplies and medical help. Another community tent was erected and a  UK team of volunteers were boarding the floor to make it weather proof.

Once the refugees have their ticket they are then left to their own devices to figure out how to spend their time at Moria. Pop up tents were distributed a few nights before we arrived, as people vacate them, new refugees move in. There are some tents at the bottom of the registration hill including some container type shelters, there are some toilets and showers there too. These shelters are mostly reserved for families volunteers are able to assign families to these shelters, unfortunately this can be a difficult process as you have to open each one up and hope you find an empty one especially when you have the expectant family following you.

Finally there is some accommodation in the prison, this is managed by a couple of NGO’s and it is a complete mystery to me how this space is managed. No one on the outside is clearly informed about how much space there is and who can be let in –  it is guesswork. On the days we could get through the gap in the fence we would head to the entrance and ask if there is room, depending on who was on the door really depends on whether your vulnerable case would get inside.

Throughout the day different groups of volunteers distribute food and water, at about 8pm one group arrives with a hot meal.

On the Syrian side things varied drastically, when I first arrived I’d heard rumours that the process on the Syrian side was very quick they didn’t stay around very long and were first tracked on our final day we found this not to be the case and the Syrian side was in a serious mess. Firstly families should be able to go to Kara Tepe but for some reason families were falling through the cracks and would end up in Moria. Moroccans and other African nations were also being processed on the Syrian side, unfortunately for some reason the authorities had slowed  the process right down. They don’t have a ticketing system so people are forced to stay in line. There are two stages, queue outside of the “cage” and the queue inside the “cage” on Monday some of the people inside the cage had been in there for 6hrs + the challenge is there is no toilet, no access to food or water and as it got colder they had no access to blankets. Once they are processed they are free to then head to the port.

Once they have they’re papers all refugees can take a bus for a couple of euros or a taxi for 10 Euros to the port. They then need to purchase a ferry ticket which will take them to Athens. There is a night ferry and one at 7am. A lot of families who have funds will head to the port to find some accommodation and get a shower and some sleep. Others can choose to fly to Thessaloniki where they then head to the Macedonia border to start the route north through the Balkans.

Over the coming days and weeks I will share more of the people’s stories so that you can better understand who the people are we met. I hope this gives you a clear understanding of the situation in Lesvos and how the system works and please feel free to ask any questions i’m more than happy to try my best to answer them.

Using technology to make a difference

I’ve worked in the world of business collaboration for coming up 6 years. The holy grail of success is being able to answer the big question “what is in it for me” or WIIFM for short. People like me write strategies, join tweetups, attend conferences and share ideas about how we can tackle this question for executives, middle managers, remote workers etc.

In the last few weeks i’ve witnessed the most unbelievable collaboration and sharing of information, the levels of engagement a community manager like me can only dream of and the WIIFM is simple – humanity, saving lives, because I have to, because I can, because if we don’t who will?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the innovation that is taking place on a daily basis, the continuous improvement approach and the ability the volunteers have to organise themselves around skills, knowledge and strengths rather than a structure or hierarchy.

Whilst my blog was in draft Mashable published this article How entrepreneurs and aid groups are helping refugees with digital tools if you haven’t got time to read the article in full it is a summary of this wonderful low bandwidth information portal for refugees http://refugeeinfo.eu/

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Another example is refugeemap.com an interactive mapping platform using Google tools that provides details on where refugees are traveling and what needs they have – the map is able to assist volunteers in best ways to provide aid and volunteer. I have personal experience of this map, I used it when planning our trip to Slovenia in October, the network of people updating it were able to help me find Brezice and Rigonce. You can read more about refugeemap.com here.

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On facebook there are a number of co-ordination groups for refugee hot spots, we’ve joined Volunteers Co-ordination (Lesvos) group  it is a great source of information and collaboration for people on the ground. The group was getting flooded with questions about best flight deals, where can I stay?, does anyone want to share a car? etc. Through self selection some members split off the activity into a different group, they’ve created essential information for volunteers in google docs and sheets. And another group Information Point for Lesvos Volunteer  leaving the co-ordination group to focus on people in Lesvos reacting to the needs on the ground, this all happened in 3 days.

There are similar groups popping up throughout the Greek hotspots and along the Balkans route refugees take. These groups are filled with ideas on how to do things better, work with NGO’s, authorities, links to supermarkets who will do deliveries, lift sharing, accommodation tips, the situation, the facts and kindness.

WhatsApp is being used for on the spot translation services with refugees who have special medical needs putting them in touch with a native speaker. Google translate comes in handy on a daily basis, I’ve recently been using it to decipher the refugee situation in Finland for research (a sentence I never thought i’d find myself writing).

5kWe can not forget that most of this is possible because volunteers are taking to sites to crowd source funds, like gofundme.com. We also have first hand of this tool, our own GoFundMe site has already received £5k in donations. Grass roots groups are making the impossible seem possible.

In time the refugee crisis across Europe, will be analysed, it will make history books and i’m certain it will be a turning point for how we see the world today. Underpinning the entire movement will be the part technology played in telling the story, helping the refugees on their journey and providing people who want to help a digital guidebook to make a difference.

No one has sat in a boardroom thinking up these plans or visions, there is no big social media marketing budget, it is quite simply people helping people to make a difference. Thankfully we have the technology to help us make this difference faster and in full view of the whole world.

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Personally i’m in awe of some of the innvoation, collaboration I see daily and I can only hope that I am able to play a small part in making a little difference.