Social care and Foursquare

It’s around a week before the Local by Social event in the South West. I’m lucky enough to have been invited to talk on the topic of location-based social media and social care (thus the title of this post), and I said I’d share some of my emerging thoughts on what I’m planning to say. The thoughts below are therefore shared in the hope people will comment and offer their thoughts on the proposed argument so that I can steal incorporate them (attributed, of course!).

I’m planning the talk in 3 parts: the first is on why information is so important in social care (identify the problem); the second is on how location-based social media can contribute to the solution (identify the solution); the final is to outline why a 2.0 way of thinking in this area is needed (the “why”).

For the first section, I was planning to:

  • Give an outline of the scale and reach of social care
  • Provide a sense of how much time, effort and, more fundamentally, money, is spent on providing adequate information, advice and guidance (IAG) to potential or actual social care users (clue: a lot)
  • Outline the problems of providing IAG on both the demand side (ie for users) and the supply side (for commissioners and service providers)
  • Share a sense of the poor flows of information and the asymmetries between the demand- and supply-sides.

Having set out the context of the issue/problem in part one, part two would be the part where I show how location-based social media is part of the solution. (Any examples people have of good uses of location-based social media already in social care or any other field would be great.)

After the quick solution overview, the final part of the argument is in 3 parts, all broadly applying common 2.0 arguments/benefits to the topic in hand as to why this is a Good Thing to do/try, as follows:

(1) Shifting the power dynamics

  • People contribute to it rather than having it thrust upon them. Creating and sharing data and information in this way provides a sense of ownership for the people sharing/contributing it, rather than being passive recipients of the information presented to them
  • It is bottom-up, not top-down. Local government collating information is a very central, coordinating way of doing things and assumes everyone goes to the same place to get their information. They don’t, and that means there are big gaps in coverage and/or audience
  • It’s a two-way process, not one way. If someone has some information, it tends to get passed “up” to the LA and the individual no longer has control or ownership over it, which is a vertical transaction from the person up to the Council rather than a shared exchange as in the case of social media.

(2) Making the most of everyone’s expertise

  • The location-based social media approach uses local expertise and is therefore likely to pick up information that the “centre” might not. It makes everyone’s expertise more available
  • It is an open invitation for anyone to contribute their expertise based on their experiences. Information collection relating to social care can often be the preserve of providers and support services in the private and voluntary sectors to local councils; this approach supplants that
  • It’s geographically expert. Typically, centrist approaches mean by proxy that information closer to the centre (the local authority) is more likely to be represented in the centre’s repository. Information that exists a greater distance from the centre may not be captured, nor even known about; Foursquare et al overcome that.

(3) Efficient, transparent and intelligent

  • I’m loathed to stress this too much, but it’s likely to be a hook Councils will want thought about. Location-based social media could provide a cheaper contributor to information strategies, especially as a way of keeping things accurate and up-to-date. Current approaches are resource intensive and require staff to find the info, process it, publish it and then tell people about it
  • Creating, capturing and sharing information this way is more open, transparent and “accessible” a way of sharing information than it currently happens
  • Using social media provides a natural aggregator of views and opinions, as well as a form of quality assurance, that can inform commssioner intentions in a more engaged, slightly deeper way than traditional information strategies may.

Time means I won’t have the chance to cover the numerous challenges that such an approach will face. For completeness, I offer below the headlines on what I think are the biggest challenges (which undoubtedly exist – social media is no silver bullet):

  • Accessibility, and how social media works in general, and location-based social media in particular, for different types of people across different impairment and equality groups
  • The technological and digital divides
  • Quality Assurance
  • Encouraging providers to engage with this as a business opportunity
  • The prevalence of 2.0 thinking in the public sector.

What do you think? Is there too much information? Too little information? Are there bits I should drop or particularly focus on? Does my logic hold or are there gaps in my thinking?

Any and all comments welcome. I’ll aim to share a draft of the talk before I do it (if Ingrid, Francis et al let me!); otherwise, final versions of the talk/any slides after the event. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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