So unless you have managed to find sanctuary from the internet over the last week you may have noticed a bizarre trend. Twitter and Facebook news feeds have been clogged up with people getting cold/ice water thrown over them. Some have simply done the challenge and nominated others. Many more have donated and pointed out where others can do the same. A minority have rallied against the superficiality of it all, whilst conceding the success of the campaign.
I must confess I have largely stayed away from the spectacle. But I can’t help but marvel at the impact the campaign to raise funds and awareness for ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. So far over $94million has been raised since July. If we had fundraising skills that good housing associations might not need capital funding…only joking!
The overwhelming success of Ice Bucket challenge is a lesson in how to do a viral social media campaign. Hell even George W Bush got involved, probably the closest he will ever get to understanding that water-boarding, so profligate under his watch, is not cool.
For housing there are potential number of points to take on board from the ice-water challenge craze. One – you can take an unfashionable and largely unknown cause and get it viral. Two social media is the cheapest and most effective PR tool ever invented. Seriously, if you have senior members of staff not up to date with Twitter et al I would question whether they are worth their pay-check. You don’t have to be an expert on all things tweet but you do need to understand the potential of these tools. Otherwise you risk going the way of the Dodo. Hell I’ll take a slice of your monthly pay packet to ensure you know all the ins and outs. The beauty of the campaign is its simplicity, accessibility and the buy-in it generates. It is not even a new concept (neck nominations and makeup-less selfies anyone?). It is everything social housing needs in a marketing/awareness campaign.
A word of caution is needed here. For every icewater challenge there are failures, social media can be fickle thing, trolls be everywhere. Additionally (and perhaps crucially) ALS is a neutral, apolitical target. No-one, unless they are a monumental bell-end, would campaign against looking for a cure to ALS. Social housing is unfortunately a different kettle of fish. It is unlikely that you will see Will Smith, Katie Price and Jon Lewis (my mate, not the department store) making themselves look like muppets for the sake of more social housing. Well Jon might at a push. A big push. Possibly with bribery involved. Regardless, the world of social housing would do well to learn from the ALS/icewater challenge. We also need to be careful of the Marx and Engels syndrome. Who, after writing a political thesis on the poor, struggled to find any. Any pro social housing campaign needs its residents at its heart.
Social Housing Under Threat aka SHOUT and Council Homes Chat are two fine examples of such campaigns, as is the up and coming #housingday2014 (following on from its 2013 incarnation). If you have not looked them up I suggest you do so.
Funnily yesterday I was nominated and today I fulfilled my part of the bargain. I would put the video up but I wouldn’t want to scar you for life. I didn’t go for ALS but rather a couple of causes that my mates are undertaking and Refuge, the domestic violence charity. Because apparently people still think it is OK to ‘Chris Brown’ their partner, it isn’t, ever. And given the stress DV shelters are under regarding funding cuts I thought it best to highlight their plight.
Links to the aforementioned causes are below. I will also be putting aside one day a month to volunteer at a local charity. I’m a busy chap but I would like to make the ALS challange have a little more permanency. Because quite frankly getting a little wet isn’t going to make the world a better place on its own. If you have any ideas or suggestions about where to offer my humble assistance please tweet them to me or comment below.
Matt and Laura – Cycling Somerset to Spain.
Marcus – lots of running…
Refuge – because domestic violence happens