News story

The Social Media Surgery is latest Big Society Award Winner

Surgeries are now held in 60 locations around the UK.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Social Media Surgery, created to support community and voluntary groups, is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.

The first Social Media Surgery was organised by Birmingham entrepreneur Nick Booth in 2008. Having set up his own successful social media company, Podnosh, Nick wanted to help charities and other voluntary groups to make the most of social media to support their work.  For many local groups social media is a much cheaper and more effective way of reaching target groups than traditional communications.  With support from the Birmingham Bloggers group, he held the first ‘social media surgery’ in Birmingham in October 2008.  These are very informal events bringing together people with web expertise and the desire to share it with people who need help to get their community group online. No lectures, no curriculum, just a relaxed space where people can learn together.

The surgeries were incredibly popular and led Nick to create the Social Media Surgery Plus website to help people all over the country to coordinate their own events.  Surgeries are now held in 60 locations around the UK with nearly 400 volunteer “surgeons” giving their time to help nearly 1,700 local groups and active citizens take advantage of the internet to support their cause. 

Congratulating Nick Booth on the award, the Prime Minister said:

This is an excellent initiative - such a simple idea and yet so effective. The popularity of these surgeries and the fact that they have inspired so many others across the country to follow in their footsteps, is testament to its brilliance.

Congratulations to Nick and all the volunteers who have shared their time and expertise to help so many local groups make the most of the internet to support their community. A great example of the Big Society in action.

Accepting the award, Nick Booth said:

It’s wonderful to have recognition for everyone who has organised a social media surgery or turned up to volunteer their help.  I think the surgeries work because they are simple.  They are very easy to organise, fun to do and not in the least bit intimidating for people who want some help. They give active citizens and community groups the confidence and skills to use social media to campaign, organise and hold power to account.  They’ve grown because of the passion and energy of bloggers and voluntary groups up and down the country.

Some of the success stories from the surgeries include:

  • The Central Birmingham Neighbourhood Forum was one of the first to benefit, creating a blog to share their news and campaign for better planning in the city centre. Karen Caine used the surgery initially to get advice and help, then became confident enough in using social media to become an expert helper in her own right. She also uses flip cameras to capture residents’ stories and share those with local councillors.
  • Alison Smith from Telford sought advice at a social media surgery to help her campaign for improved access to venues and service for disabled people.  “When I started I didn’t know how powerful social media could be, the surgeries were a huge help in getting Pesky People started”  Since then she has gone onto develop , including creating mobile applications which help people track and review access to venues across the UK. “What I remember was how helpful people were, everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves. It was really informal and very welcoming. I didn’t feel stupid asking any of my questions and it gave me confidence to go away and experiment. I was unemployed at the time and certainly couldn’t afford to pay anyone for that advice.”
  • Friends of Brandwood End Cemetery in Birmingham now use social media to organise, share news and raise funds.  Sarah Courbet said “The surgeries are such a perfect way to learn.  You get what you need: friendly approachable help.”

Notes to Editors

On Social Media Surgery Plus: was built to make it easier for people to set up and manage social media surgeries.  It’s free for any individual to use, although is now also used commercially by organsiations such as housing associations and local government to help them nurture and track online civic conversations.  Much of the work on social media surgery plus was the volunteer effort of Podnosh and Birmingham based coder Josh Hart

Nick Booth contact details.

Published 16 February 2012