Thursday, May 30, 2013

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2013 - My personal reflection

I cannot believe that we have just had our 5th Virtual International Day of the Midwife. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago that we started this initiative - I have just had the best fun reviewing old blog posts and looking at how we have developed over the years.

This year's event was even more successful than ever.  We had an average attendance of 120 seats, and 160+ seats taken in our most popular sessions. But we know far more people than that actually joined us, for example, a group of students in Australia and over 50 midwives in PNG. I will be publishing a full report here over the next few days about the event itself.

Time to go?
I had thought this would be my last year of convening the VIDM because of workload issues. The event takes a lot of time and emotional energy to organize, and facilitate on the day. I have recently moved to a new role that doesn't allow me to spend much time on the event at work, so I was very concerned how I would manage the workload. My problem has been, because this has been my baby for so many years, I have been reluctant to hand over control and jobs, even though I have a wonderful team of people who work with me to organize the event.

However, this year we have made a few changes which have lightened my load, and made my job less onerous. And as I feel there are still a couple of things I want to achieve in this event, I will probably stick around for another year or two, but I'll come back to that.

Amazing organising committee!
Over the last three or four years an amazing group of people have come together to to work with me to facilitate the VIDM - Deborah Davis, Chris Woodhouse, Lorraine Mockford, Linda Wylie, Annette Dalsgaard Vilain, Sarah Bandasak and Mary Sidebotham. These people are truly awesome and donate many hours to this event, year after year. Some of them, like Chris and Lorraine are not even midwives, but are truly committed to the cause because of their love of learning.  

Thank you, guys...couldn't do it without you!

What worked well
This year we have been very mindful about reducing my workload and sharing responsibilities,  building capacity, and thinking about ongoing sustainability, particularly when I leave the organizing committee.
I have also been conscious that I need to become more collaborative as the event has grown in popularity, because with it has grown the responsibility to make the VIDM as successful and professional as possible.

This year we bought a domain and a generic email system, Fastmail. It didn't cost very much, and we were grateful to receive a small amount of funding from the Association of Radical Midwives to do that.

What is the place of sponsorship?
I have always been in two minds about accepting sponsorship. On the one hand, accepting funding to put processes like the email system in place has made our lives so much easier. On the other hand, I have always been very clear that one aspect of the VIDM is about modeling to the wider community what can be achieved using social networking tools and processes, so that midwives with limited means could replicate our work. This is one of the reasons why I have continued to use Wikispaces as our website, as opposed to buying into a more commercial website.

However, having our own domain has made it easier to disseminate information, and it can be used year after year. And the generic email allows the committee to share information and has made the whole organizational processes a lot more transparent. This makes it so much easier to monitor and track progress, and for me to maintain an overview of what was happening.

Another thing that has helped with workload is that our processes are pretty much sorted after all these years of trial and error, especially the information on the wiki. So all I have had to do is re-cycled the information from last year, and just update it where needed. The beauty of the wiki is that we can see the history of  the work from day 1, and do not lose anything. This has been particularly useful in reminding us what we did previously, when and why we did it.

It has taken the committee a couple of years to get their heads around how it works, but this year I noticed a significant increase in the committee's engagement with the wiki. Having said that, although the membership of the wiki has increased over the years, midwives, generally, don't realise how it works, or how they use it to communicate with us.

Developing the program
This year we were much more collaborative about developing the program. Up until this year I had mostly shoulder-tapped people either because I thought they had some interesting things to say, or because they filled a particular time slot. However, this year we had so many EOIs from speakers, we could have nearly filled a 48 hours program.

I am passionate about not turning the VIDM into yet another boring, academic conference. This event has always been about bringing people together, building digital literacy skills, and giving midwives a chance to talk about their work in a way that they might not normally be able to do. At the same time, I do feel a responsibility to develop a program that is of interest and relevance, with a certain professional standard of presentation.

This year I was particularly delighted that we were able to mentor midwives from India into the program as speakers. We had major concerns about their Internet access, which is always problematic in countries such as India. And, language continues to be a barriers at times. However, I was so impressed by the commitment and passion of all the Indian speakers. Both they and their facilitators practiced, practiced and practiced to get things right, and as far as I am concerned, they were the stars of the show. This was in contrast with some other speakers who had a very casual approach, which always makes me nervous about how they'll perform on the day.

Sharing photos
An initiative that we really plugged this year was asking people to share photos of themselves as participants. I tried to get people interested in this on Facebook last year, but it didn't work. This year, we advertised this at every session, and at the end of the event, one of our committee members, Deborah Davis, made the photos into a video show. This was a lovely way to end the day, and also to get a sense of who people were, and see them in their own environment. To my mind, it added a layer of connection to the people who attended the event.

In my next post, I will reflect on what we can do better next year, and discuss some of the objectives that we have yet to achieve.

Did you attend the Virtual International Day of the Midwife this year? What do you think we did well?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Non-profits using social media - taking things to the next level

I had the pleasure, a few days ago, of attending a workshop run by one of my social media heroes, Beth Kanter. I have been following and talking to Beth for some years. She is known for her expertise for using social media in the non-profit sector, and is the author of two books about non-profits and social media.

I had a fabulous time, learned heaps and generally got all excited again about how I can use social media in my job at the Australian College of Midwives. I have seen an exciting increase in the use of the ACM's Facebook Page. But my main reason for attending the workshop was to learn more about how I can use social media to mobilise the ACM membership for volunteer action.

If you're in a similar situation, here are some tips I learned from Beth.

1. Be strategic
At the Australian College of Midwives we're keen to use social media to engage our members and the wider midwifery community, but we're rather hap-hazard about it. There's a number of us who post to our Facebook page, but we have no plan about what we're doing, or how we're doing it. In fact, there are even times when I have no idea what other members of staff post on the page.

Beth believes that you have to develop a strategy for your social media activities, which includes how to engage the support of management and the rest of your staff. Here are some principles to consider, and here is a template that Beth has developed to help us develop a social media strategy: click here for template.

Part of a strategy is the development of a social media policy, which is a framework to underpin staff's use of social media. Here are some notes from Beth and a collection of various organizational policies. I'm keen to develop a policy for the ACM to make our use of social media more consistent across the organisation, and ensure we're more thoughtful about what we do.

2. Develop outcomes that can be measured
Part of developing a strategic plan is coming up with outcomes that you want social media to achieve.  This point really resonated with me because I have a vague idea that I want to use social media to increase engagement with midwives, but I don't really know how that looks. Beth advises that we develop SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely objectives.

It is the ability to measure outcomes that has got me really thinking - what do I want to achieve? I don't think that increasing the amount of "likes" on the ACM Facebook page has any meaning, but, say, increasing our membership because of Facebook is an outcome that we can measure and has importance to our organization.What has struck me is that not only do I need to plan "after" objectives, but I also need to know the state of play before we put our social media policy and strategy into place.

What is tricky to work out is what are reasonable expectations or objectives. How likely is it that the ACM will have an increase in membership because of our engagement with Facebook? What increase in volunteers can we expect? What is a reasonable expectation to have about increased engagement, keeping in mind the 1% rule about online interaction?

3. Plan your activity
I know from my own experience that the more organised I am about my blogging, the more hits, visits and followers I get. What I hadn't thought of before was using an editorial calender, which helps to plan where and when to post content. It allows you to be consistent, relevant and meet the aims of your strategy and objectives.

This leaves me with the question - when is the best time to post comments, posts and tweets, and how frequent/regular should the comments etc be?  The answers to these questions also need to go into your policy for staff to make note of. Here is a great handout of tips that Beth shared that answers a lot of these posting questions: social media posting tips

4. Regular review and evaluation
Need less to say, there is no point is doing all this work if you do not review your strategies, objectives and activities to make sure they are working, and to change tack if they are not effective. If nothing else, I have to be able to demonstrate the gain for the organisation against the time I spend to my boss ie the ROI - return on investment.

There are many tools that you can use to track and measure social media which  Beth recommends. What I am going to do over the next few months is pay more attention to our Facebook "likes", "talking about" and "reach" statistics to work out what resonates with our Facebook readers, and what doesn't do so well

5. Get started and get everyone involved
Before you get started, it's important to find out where your audience is and use the appropriate tools to reach them. It's no good the ACM spending all its resources on Twitter when the majority of midwives can be found on Facebook. Here is a list of tools that Beth has curated: tools.

Below is the slideshow that Beth used at the workshop, and here is the link to the wiki page that she developed for the workshop.

Are you responsible for your organization's social media? Has any of these points resonated with you? Do you have a strategy and policy? How do you measure your social media activity? What difference has social media made to your organization?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The ugly face of Facebook

Most of the time I live in a cloud of social media harmony and love, and for the most part manage to avoid controversies, finding sites like Twitter and Facebook to be very helpful and friendly. But Facebook has its feral side, which I was introduced to, not so very long ago. Even more upsetting was...there was nothing I could do about it.

It started when I saw a really funny image, making fun of Dunedin (where I used to live) on a Facebook page that was obviously trying to launch a satire of Dunedin. I had a look at the site and had a laugh at some of the images. But then I recognised photos of some local characters who have mental health issues. The person behind the site was using images of people with mental health problems and very cruelly making fun of them in an attempt to go "viral". When I complained to the page administrator, I got the usual response - if you don't like it, don't visit our page! What I was very concerned about was that these photos were of people who could not speak for themselves or have a voice to reply.

I complained to Facebook, but the response was that they were not able to confirm that the specific page violated Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

The next step I took was to complain to the Netsafe, which is a New Zealand organization that deals with cyber-bullying and other such issues. But the answer was there was nothing they could do - it was only Facebook that could act.

The irony is that Facebook gets its knickers in a twist about pictures of breastfeeding mothers, yet when real bullying and exploitation happens they do nothing and hide behind a statement that actually is very difficult to enact.

But what saddened me most was the "supportive" comments from people who saw nothing wrong in exploiting vulnerable members of our society for a cheap laugh on Facebook.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Should lecturers become "friends" with students?

When I was a midwifery educator, on the whole, I didn't become "friends" with my students on Facebook. The reason for my reticence was more about protecting the students' privacy than mine. But I was also concerned about issues of power and control (both theirs and mine), and making sure that all students had equal access to me, if they wanted it. To be was very rarely an issue, most of my students had much better things to do than hang out with me on Facebook!

What I have found interesting is that now I am getting an increasing number of requests to be "friends" from midwives who used to be my students and are now out in practice.

One ex-student is really getting her money's worth. She has now enrolled into a postgraduate course, and is using Facebook to ask me and my other ex-teaching colleagues all sorts of questions about academia, study, writing essays at postgraduate level and so on.

It's lovely to be able to support her in this way. And it's fascinating to see how she is incorporating us into her personal learning network.

What do you think about being friends on Facebook with your students or teachers? Is there ever a time when it is OK? Are there other social media tools that better facilitate learning relationships in a more professional way than Facebook?

5 ideas for maximizing free, online professional development

A few weeks ago I was sent this response to one of my posts about free, online professional development.

Jenny said
" I was wondering if you had any other tips/hints as to how to make professional development stuff easier that you could let me know about as I always seem to be so busy!"

I have had a think and here are 5 ideas for how you can maximise professional development opportunities that are available online...and of course, are free!

1. Identify what it is you want to know or learn, and make a plan (your own curriculum) about how you are going to meet that need
If you are very busy and have lots of demands on your time, you are likely to be a lot more efficient in your learning if you are focused in your searches for learning opportunities. We all know how much time we can waste when surfing the net with no particular focus. The other advantage about having a plan is that you can measure the outcomes more readily. This becomes very useful when you are asked to provide evidence about your learning, say, for example, for a professional registration/regulation process. In other words, you can not only show what you learned, but how you applied it to your practice/job/work/activity.

2. Be a self-directed learner
It goes without saying that there are times when you enroll in a formal education course, be it an evening class at your local college to a PhD program in a university. As a formally enrolled student, you have a curriculum to follow and to a large part, your learning and methods of engaging with content is restricted to how the lecturers/educators dictate the program.

As a self-directed learner, you can make up your own curriculum and engage with knowledge in what ever way suits you. This is when Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, Wikipedia, Twitter etc all come into their own. These modes of content delivery are as valid as any more traditional modes of delivery such as text books, journal articles or lecture. I mean...have you checked out any of the TED talks yet on YouTube....they are an unbelievably rich source of learning, that would otherwise be unavailable to the majority of us.

If you are using any of these tools and resources for professional CPD, integrate them into your learning plan, keep a track of how many hours you use engaging with them, and record what your learning outcomes were.

3. Build a personal learning network
A personal learning network is a network of people (and resources), usually online, of people you follow and engage with to help you to learn. Typically, social media tools are used to develop and maintain this PLN. In this PLN you will get to know who are the best people to go to if you have a particular learning need or question. For example, if I want to know about how I can use social media in my current role of working with a non-profit, I go to Beth Kanter's blog. If I have a presentation to give, I go to Slideshare to get ideas from what other's have said and presented. Not only does the PLN support you in your knowledge-gathering, but it saves you time by allowing you to be focused...which takes us back to points 1 and 2.

4. Make the most of "free stuff"
It is amazing how many free learning opportunities are now available on the Internet. This ranges from virtual conferences and webinars, such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife, to MOOCs and online education courses. You do have to put in a little time to hunt around for these opportunities, but your learning network will help to guide you in the right direction.

5. Be open to serendipity
The beauty of social media and personal learning networks is that there are lots of wonderful serendipitous opportunities for learning that crop up. This can be a tad challenging if you are time-poor, and want to remain focused on one particular topic. But if you can take some time to chill out and follow your nose to wherever Twitter...Facebook...YouTube...leads you, it's surprising and exciting where you end up.

What would you recommend as great online learning opportunities or resources? Do you know of any MOOCs or free online courses that you would suggest?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Social media policy for nurses and midwives in Australia - what do you think?

A few months ago there was a real furore amongst social media enthusiasts who have an interest in healthcare.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority sent around its draft social media policy for discussion, as a private document, but it soon got leaked and caused quite a debate about its  restrictive and  punitive nature - here are the thoughts I had about it:

Since then, AHPRA has gone back to the drawing board and come up with a draft policy that is now open for general consultation until the 30th May:

Interestingly, I haven't heard a whisper about it on my social media channels, so I am wondering if people are either unaware of it, or are quite happy with the changes.

What do you think? Are you happy with the policy, or is there anything you would change or add?

Update: here is what Doctor Kruys has to say about the new draft social media policy:


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Midwives and sponsorship

I was digitalizing some old photos the other day and came across this one. I am at the far right of this lovely crowd of very happy, and slightly inebriated midwives. The photo was taken at the Scarborough Royal College of Midwives' conference around about 1992/93. I remember it well because it was my first days away on my own after having my two kids, and when I went home they both had chicken pox!

My question is...what is so horribly wrong about this photo?

The answer is that this evening function is sponsored by Farley's, a formula company.

These days, this form of sponsorship breaches the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and theoretically should not be happening. However, what we find is that sponsorship is a lot more subtle and it can be very difficult for midwives to work out what activities or products should be avoided. For example, there has been a campaign running recently against the sponsorship of Cow and Gate, a formula company, who supports free professional development for midwives. It is intertwined with the British Journal of Midwifery and difficult to spot.

As for midwifery associations, they can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they are not always well funded and appreciate all the financial help they can get, but on the other hand, they must stay true to midwifery philosophies, as well as ethical and legislative requirements for product placement.  

So...what can you do, as a midwife, to minimize the impact of unethical sponsorship?

The obvious thing to do is boycott companies that use unethical marketing or sponsorship practices, as well as lobby any organization, conference or activity that aligns itself with these companies.

The second thing is to work with your midwifery association or professional body so that it does not need to rely on external funding. Support your professional association by becoming a member, get involved with its activities and governance functions, and attend its conferences and study days. Not only will you have a voice in how the association engages with commercial companies, but your financial and volunteer support will help reduce the association's reliance on outside financial incentives.

What are your thoughts of the sponsorship of professional midwifery organizations and activities? How do you think midwives can best engage with commercial companies?