New Name

Mr and Mrs Clarke

2 weeks ago I married my best friend James in the most perfect of days. So I now have a new identity, Mrs Stephenie Clarke, and a new blog address to go with it. But while WordPress make it really easy to set up a new address and import your posts from the old one I have no idea what happens to any followers or RSS subscribers  so I thought  I best write a post to direct you to my new home

I chose to take his name as I have no real sentimental (or feminist) reasoning for keeping my own and actually it’s nice to be Mrs Clarke  – even if it is taking some getting used to (twice in the last week I’ve signed myself in places as Jennings still).  And actually I married James because I love him and we wanted to share that with everyone we love and care about so why wouldn’t I want to share his name? 🙂

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Posted in General

Inspiring People

I have it seems a million posts set as drafts waiting for me to finish and post – do feel guilty about it? Sometimes. Should I feel guilty about it? No. This is my blog and I’ll cry (or not post) if I want to. I know I still need to finish talking about the Gap Fillers project, and the community art project and our experience with the community first stuff, and the Social Media Surgeries winning a(nother) award but I this post is about none of those things. This post is un-apologetically about me .

This morning I received this tweet:

– and boy did it make me smile.

3social was an event I was invited sent (it was a work thing) to talk at about Social Media in Community – I was there to give a presentation about my experiences running and about Social Media Surgeries. This is video montage of the event that promotes the company that put in on:

It was great (long) day in Preston that bought together community groups and organisations that supported community groups across the North East of England but I remember being a little nervous – At the time I attended this event I had done only a few “public speaking” gigs and the ones I had, had always included a friendly face in the audience – someone I knew, who I could focus on and try and imagine I was talking to them rather than in front of a room full of people – this was that first time I had been off the beaten track  and I was travelling alone to an event where I knew no one and that it why this tweet was lovely – To know that despite my nerves I managed to inspire someone to get online and make things happen in their community is a very lovely thing!

12 Paul - Jonathan and Steph chat during the surgeries #3social

Paul, Jonathon and myself chatting at the 3Social Event

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Posted in General, Social Media Surgery, WV11

Community Ambassadors

So this week I signed up to become a community ambassador. But what does that mean….

…well nothing really. Not to me anyway.

I’ve been given this title and access to a Yammer group, a collective that are talking about great things happening in the city of Wolverhampton. The intention is that each month each of the ambassadors chooses 3 of the stories to shout about in their networks. The aim is to improve the perceptions of the city by sharing good news.

That’s it.

But I do that anyway. I try and join in #WolverhamptonHour and I share stories as I find them at other times too. I post news to Facebook and Twitter,  use WV11 to promote Wednesfield and I share stories at the various community meetings I go to, And so do others in the group.

So why does it matter that we’ve joined?
I’m not sure it does matter individually not in the grand scheme of things but, I think it matters that as group were holding our hands up and saying “Woah hang on there, things ain’t all bad around here!” We’re acknowledging that together we can make a bigger noise than with our lone voices. And if by being seen to be part of a collective that thinks positively encourages and engages others to think positively too then that’s not a bad thing to be a part of.

So I’m a Community Ambassador, are you?

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The value of Social Media in neighbourhoods and appealing to communities

Yesterday a sad thing happened; 2 children went missing. It was presumed at the time that they’d gone of their own volition and they were later found well and safe, but none the less it was an awful thing to happen.

This all happened in Darlaston, 5 miles from my house, in Wednesfield and as such when the press release went out appealing for witnesses we posted it to the WV11 site and Facebook page. We were aware that while the children weren’t strictly from the WV11 area our readership expands beyond our borders, and friends,and friends of friends,  would most definitely cross over into Darlaston and the surrounding areas.

We posted the photo from the appeal along with the copied the police release verbatim,  all we added to the post was two words at the end “please share”

And share people did.

Within an hour 565 people had re-posted the news direct from our facebook page and less than 2 hours later that number had jumped to 1984!

It seems to me 2 things had happened to make the numbers jump like that  – every parent that uses our site could empathise with the  situation these parents were in, no one can imagine, or would want to imagine, what it feels like to find your child missing like that, and going on the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” everyone wanted to help raise awareness to bring these children home safely.

The other thing that happened was we were there, we were local and we we part of the community and we appealed to them directly with the “please share”!

Darlaston falls under Walsall Council  but it is fairly close to the border with Wolverhampton. Both Councils picked up the police release and shared to their facebook pages, Walsall’s post was shared 20 times, Wolverhampton’s 136.

The local radio station, Free Radio also picked up on it and shared to their page too, Their story was shared 550 times.

Looking at those figures it seems clear that being community based and very local really had an impact on the way the community interacted with the appeal.

The important thing here of course is that the children were found and returned home safe and well, l but as an observation it is interesting how much being part of a community can make a difference.

Cross posted from my work site

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Posted in General, WV11

GapFillers – Pop Up Shop Development (Post 1 of 3)

So last month we made a pop up shop happen in Wolverhampton. It was messy and ad hoc, it took a lot of patience and thinking and talking but ultimately it was fun.

My idea – Gap Fillers – was to look at ways empty shops/spaces in Wolverhampton could be used creatively. The idea for the Pop up was developed at Make Shift.

Info for idea development


Friday was ideas development day, the start of Make shift where the idea leads were thrown together with  people who may have submitted a similar idea for development, or had expressed an interest in the idea I had suggested.

It was horrid.

Not all of it but some of it. At one point near the middle of the afternoon I was exhausted and all but ready to go home. We’d talked around in circles and I was having no fun whatsoever! I love collaborating, but it’s fair to say I love collaborating more with people who are on the same page , or who are at least looking positively at ideas or willing to work something through until you hit a stumbling block you work around – rather than throwing in lots of blockages that may or may not occur and trying to work them through before you’ve even got there. I spent most of Friday frustrated and feeling like we were going backwards – It took hours of talking for us to come up with an achievable idea in the last 10 minutes of the session and a lot of my energy enthusiasm and goodwill to get it off the ground.


We were told we could possibly have a shop on the Saturday and I was all for trialing something in there –  but some of the group kept throwing up obstacles that I thought were unnecessary. What about business rates? What about sustainability? – In fact it got to the point where I just sat back, stopped partaking in the conversations and tweeted.

We weren’t looking, to start a business or even a smaller social enterprise and we had leaflets  that told us exactly who was liable for the rates so that wasn’t something I felt we needed to keep coming back to, and as for sustainability well that was something we could look at once we had proof of concept – lets get in and see if it it can be done before we worry about replicating it was my mantra. I think some of the problem was we all kept thinking of it as a shop rather than just a a space or a building to be used.

It took a while but once we’d finally agreed to actually DO something rather than sit around talking about it,We  hit another brick wall – The conversation turned from theory into delivery – WHAT should we do and where? Did we use the offer of the shop, or should we look at another space.

Ideas being developed

Everyone was making suggestions just to have someone else in the group shoot them down. Sometimes I felt that this was because there was very little willingness to see the idea from anyone’s perspective but their own – (it wasn’t supposed to be one persons vision but a collaboration), sometimes it was of a lack of willingness to actually take part and get hands on and inventive the next day and other times because the time scale was just unrealistic, for instance as much as I would have loved to have have live music performances in there – getting gear and a P.A. system would have been difficult, and even if we had just gone the acoustic route as was suggested as an alternative, getting a PRS license, or permission from the shopping centre to use their at 4pm on a Friday afternoon for a performance the very next day would have been pushing it (however this is definitely an idea for the future especially as the need PRS licensing on acoustic performances has been loosened in the last week!)

The Idea

Finally in the last developmental session of the day, having chatted to some people in the break, I decided to take charge, we needed an idea and fast if anything was going to happen.  I went back in with my head in the right place to take a much firmer stance, thankfully it seemed a few of the group had, had the same idea. The last 30 minutes of the day felt really productive. We finally developed the idea of a “Pop Up – Crowd Sourced Tourist Information Centre” to address the issue that Wolverhampton City Centre seems to close at 5:30pm. We were going to have activities going on in an empty unit in the shopping centre to attract people in to then ask them “What is there to do in Wolverhampton after 5:30pm” or “What does the city need to bring you into the centre after 5:30pm”  with answers being shared on a big chalk board for all to see.

Brain storming in the closing minutes also threw up the idea of a human claw grabbing game, similar to those machines you find in service stations, a “The Claw” la toy story, where you try your luck at grabbing cuddly toys, but life size using humans and a blindfold along with some other ideas for activities that the group could supply.

So by 4pm on the Friday we had an idea, we pretty much confirmed we’d have access to the shop and now all we had to do was feedback to the main group getting everyone excited enough about the idea that when we asked for donations of prizes they’d bring them in for us on the Saturday. Then it was just a case of turning up the next day regrouping and getting it done…..

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Posted in Make Shift

#MakeShift, Pop up shops and Conversation

The market place at MAKE:shift

Friday and Saturday I attended the Make:Shift event hosted by Wolverhampton City Council and Future Gov at Light House Media Centre in the city.  My head is still spinning with the possibilities that came out of the sessions and the inspirational people I met, I’m not sure I can fully articulate all of it yet, so this is likely to be the first on a couple of post event blogs from me.

It was a brilliant event and I feel I learned some interesting things about myself and my community. I met and spoke to some amazing people and between us we made a pretty cool thing happen-  but the whole event was incredibly hard work, tiring, it needed a lot of head space and at times it was incredibly frustrating. Frustrating because when you put that many people with brilliant ideas and perspectives together sometimes it takes a while to smooth out all the talking and be able to get down to just getting things done – and anyone who knows me will know I happiest when I have an idea I can run with and in the words of many a tweeter JFDI.

The top 3 highlights for me were (in no particular order)

1. The speakers, including (but not not limited to), Lorenza Casini who talked about some of the brilliant pop-up events that happened in Dewsbury, it was EXACTLY the kind of thing I had in mind when I put Gap Fillers forward as an idea. Kate Vogelsang who is ever so slightly bonkers but in a good way (and that’s meant as a compliment) and spoke really passionately about about the development of which reminded me a lot of how BCCDIY, which appears to have disappears to have disappeared now I’ve gone to link to it),  was developed but this one was with the council backing.

2. The ideas development. I was lucky enough to have one of my ideas, Gap Fillers, chosen for development at the event. I went and it really was still only a fledgling idea, but in 24 hours we turned it from a “thing” in mine, and others heads, into a reality – a pop-up shop in the city centre on the Saturday  – a kind of  crowd sourced Tourist Information Station – looking to answer the question “What is there to do in Wolverhampton after 5:30pm?  – with games and *stuff* donated ad hoc by Friday’s attendees for prizes, people came and took part and everything. I intend to write a blog post solely about Gap Fillers development later.


I can not begin to say how happy I am that this event was hosted by Wolverhampton City Council and happened in my home town, I was born, raised and still live locally and this is honestly the first time I’ve seen something like this here!

This year alone I have attended BrewcampLocal Gov camp and Talk About Local Unconference  and they’ve always involved at least one train journey to get there. This was on my doorstep and finally gave me the chance to connect with people from Wolverhampton around things I’m passionate about in the way I’ve been connecting people from further afield for a while.

It wasn’t packed to the the rafters, but small steps. Hopefully as the ideas that were worked on during the event grow more people will become involved and if (when?) there is another event like this at home more people will be engaged and willing to come.

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Gap Filler @ Make Shift

Next week is the Make:Shift event in Wolverhampton and one of the ideas I submitted has been chosen for development. Gap Fillers. The idea is to look at empty spaces in the city an how we can use them creatively. I had originally said empty shops but since then i’ve been thinking about it and this idea can be used in any empty space.

The other ideas chosen for development are: Wolvopedia by Andy Mabbet, Scribble and Scribe by Craig Alford of Wolverhampton CAB and Free Organic Gardens by Elliot Lord. Which is awesome as I already know Andy, have met with Craig in the course of my day job and have already been emailing Elliot after I contacted him through the Make:Shift website about a chapter for the Wolverhampton Community Lover Guide and I know they are all passionate people, who just want to make good things happen.

Tickets are free via eventbrite and looking at the attendee list of people already signed up it looks like it should be a brilliant couple of days.

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