The iceberg of social engagement

Over years of working in various communities around SE London, YT has created what is a ‘model of understanding’  directly working with people. An iceberg only shows a fifth above the water, and so do many people when using a service provided to promote digital skills/inclusion.

Its not all economics.

Money in our western world plays a big part of how we feel comfortable, yet time and again (no matter what your political affilitation) individuals are seeking contentment, quite often labelled ‘happiness’. A smile of a child can melt many a heart, a warm glow can be generated listening to a gospel choir, getting up early to see the sun rise on a spring morning is truly inspiring. The little things make us happy. Money is a tool that can slip through the fingers like water. Mental and physical health (now rebranded wellness) are the factors sitting alongside our relationships giving us meaningful lives. Seeking a purpose is a different story; sometimes experimentation and being bold (great forces will come to your aid so I’ve heard)  create something which can define an elusive goal.

So much for the philosophy, what about the iceberg?

Icebergs always float, like ice cubes in a drink, that is always true right? The iceberg is a really a chunk of ice with so much facing the surface, very much like most people when presenting themselves to any service provided as a civic utility. Wifi and internet access : a big deal when there is a ‘Digital Default’ and civic/public spaces are limited and limiting. 21st century austerity is a governmental/business hammer banging nails without an understanding of an ageing populace, and  (may YT say interesting) lack  of accessibility to essential services.  With so much promised, there is a digital lacking of real world understanding. From the academic to the practical, its an abyss of stereotypes, memes, hashtags and  statistics. Digital innovation in society is overused – little understood in real, pragmatic and inclusive terms. How people actually get on with their personal struggles is not considered; struggles are collateral damage, just a variable/statistic. There is and will continue to be a business case for inclusion and accessiblity.

What is the under the iceberg?

Every single person also carries their burden of family issues. We all are subject to our family upbringing. As a practitioner encouraging emergent reflection for learners to consult/question their motives for a functional digital literacy, YT looks for a suitable mindset, in practice just being supportive and responsive. It can be hard for some people to do for any number of reasons, starting with a lacking of literacy/numeracy. I’m not a therapist, but sometimes offer the right opportunity for growth and independance, sometimes it is also when a learner moves on that the opportunity is realised.

Personality has its place.

The iceberg metaphor holds a structure for the beginnings and endings of a relationship, but personality seems to be the driver or artist in the learning relationship. A formative extended period working in day centres around Greenwich borough created a view of disability in which a person’s innate nature presents itself nonetheless. I’ll give two of my favourite examples of insititutional practice disrupted.

A man from Sierra Leone had both of his hands chopped off when voting for the wrong person, and came to the UK for a new start. Here he realised his educational shortfall, and was eager to use computers in assisting him with his journey. My colleagues more suited to delivering literacy gave tasks to complete via software, each task was tested. Again and again he attempted the lessons and tests, yet he didn’t garner suitable scores to get started with a university course. YT noticed this, and indicated that he now knew the assistive tech he could use (a large keyboard and trackball) and should just apply anyway, he would get support and assistance, especially if shown willing to learn. This gentleman was perpetually upbeat, willing and eager to get on; every reason not to promote a circular path.  A year later he came back to visit me, now enrolled in a foundation course in law. Gave YT the biggest hug that still provokes emotion to this day.

There was another man who also worked with the same set of colleagues yet in a different day centre; a SE London cheeky chap with a learning age of about 10 and neurodiverse. This was coupled with being a wheelchair user needing to be pushed around, he had a personal assistant working with him.  Cheeky, because that was his demeanour quite often, remembering things like little jokes, often smiling and enjoyed interacting with people when he was centre stage. It was apparent he was bored with the digital activities given by my colleagues, humdrum rote acknowledgement of parts of a computer or learning activities with no real goal or product. I’d been researching and putting into place a range of activities in the IT suite we met: colouring in, number games, drawing games, activities with simple focus and easy wins. His favourites (and mine) were the one switch games, especially shooting down WW2 german airplanes. Also pursued was making  a scrapbook, going around the internet printing images to put inside. There was also the option to make a multimedia scrapbook with the adapted Powerpoint presentation too – video and pictures in ‘All about me’. The assistant related his ongoing enthusiasm for his computer sessions, his mood generally more engaged when attending.

If you’re reading this and conclude my attitude towards my colleagues for those times was and still is of a poor quality, then ask why would I go to a website and find resources to facilitate best practice and outcomes for learners? It was a personal and professional response, not an institutional approach; ‘keeping the peace’ and ‘just doing enough’.  This is where my personality presents itself YT supposes.

This does lend itself to ongoing work in promoting inclusion with a multiple format approach and using the social model of  disability as a tool for comparing how things are done and how things should be in our brave new world.

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PPS and the pub tour

PPS Deptford leaflet details the dates and time of the visted venues

March was extra busy with work of my own to try engage with the local freelancers and self employed people in Deptford. Wednesday nights in a number of local bars and pubs to starting gauging and engaging with who wants to get ‘social and sociable’. To avoid unnecessary whinging (no venue offered any promotion), YT will offer a breakdown of the experiences.  Offered are plus points as per Trip Adviser to mix up what whinges there are, and make this more interesting to read. Constructive reflections are mixed in too.

These meetups were also an opportunity to use the MAZI zone, attempting to capture some thoughts and ideas along the ‘journey’.

Picture from the Isla Ray bar of an plastic pig and a big strawberryIsla Ray

A second attempt at the pleasant cafe/bar venue, with good lager on a happy hour till 7pm.  This was the only place that sold green tea with a bonus of coffee from a machine.


Not really. One person gave me an email address after being pitched with the idea of a coworking space and social nights out for local business . YT attempted a diplomatic foray into the  early evening punters to see what happened – flyers left on tables, having a chat with folk; all surprisingly seemed to be self employed/ freelance. Some just lived in Deptford and were based elsewhere, some were leaving the area completely for whatever youthful reason (the person asked was quite young).

Interest in coworking?

Sort of. One young graphic designer managed to chat a few minutes before a phone call terminated any other chances of engagement. Must ‘close the pitch’ tightened up and get that email addy.

Anything else of note?

Lots of Talking Heads being played; one of my favourite bands.

The Job Centre


a grid of conversation options with a list: 1: Local business in neighbourhood 1? 2: Not Just coffee shops, but coworking spaces. 3: Leaky local buckets of business? 4: Where can I find a desk to hire for a while? 5: What's important to you? 6: 6 free business advice sessions
Not quite buzzword bingo.

A couple of friends turned up, one with interest in finding a premises for her business idea, a lady turned up as YT was packing up and regaled me with her Caribbean cooking ideas to the point of exhaustion, even though YT had just eaten some rather reasonable food from the venue kitchen. I did chat with a chap on a nearby table who was leaving the area as he couldn’t afford to stay owing to the rise in rents – apparently he was a social media worker for the BFI.

Interest in coworking?

No. Not at all.

Anything else of note?

The cheap Volden beer (£3.30?) was really great. The environment was the usual somewhat isolated big space inhabited with islands of people talking to one another; an irony as YT had created a handout of conversation starters which nobody used.

“Help me get a premises for my scrapstore” – Laura

Johns Biltong bar


As this was my friendly local, YT collared various acquaintances and gave out copies of images from my colouring book of Deptford social history, and other little booklets uncovered whilst pursuing my personal archeology dig, also known as tidying up. This was the strategy of ‘engagement’. After the PPS session finished, engaging conversation was had a with very lovely Italian lady interested in the topic of self employment.

Interest in coworking?

Erm, no.

Anything else of note?

YT proceeded to keep drinking the rather good IPA on sale, leaving around closing time. The food is great.

The Tap room


Just me, myself and YT. After an hour sitting, a friend who was returning £20 turned up and we left to the Bird’s Nest where other friends did listen to my passionate pitch about trying to get a social setting and a potential for coworking with local freelancers.

Interest in coworking?

Not at all.

Anything else of note?

The beer and pizza was great, the shift manager kindly giving a small discount as he had not heard YT would be coming in to host a meet up. This place had the best tables for group working, yet the atmosphere was the most insular of the venues, with people on each table pretty much not interacting at all (or not knowing each other); chatty islands of sociability. One young lady sat down at my table while YT orderd at the bar, silently getting up and moved away on my approach, upon the greeting of ‘How do’- no acknowledgement whatsoever. That reaction did dash hopes of any socialising in quite a pleasant setting without any wifi on the premises, the only place in the tour to instigate such a situation. As such, a perfect place to fire up the Mazizone and to play with the technology, on my own in a crowded bar.

Reflections, such as they are.

Change the name: ‘PPS’ is a tad too arcane for many people, one acquaintance becoming upset; she thought it was to do with PPI insurance, not a good fit at all. After a few people noticing the FB posts, asked ‘what is it?’, YT then indicating the Latin origin and usage.  A good number of people in conversations/pitches echoed this. ‘The last thing you think of‘ is not really a translation, but would have made a not-so-snappy title maybe. One good person said to ‘Get some space, they will come‘, or words to that effect. This makes a lot of sense; not so long ago YT came across a wise aphorism about feeding cats instead of herding them. Attempts are still held in some alternative dimension at the time of writing for a decision on a project proposal apparently never read in over 3 months. The idea and dream of an inclusive work space will not go away, although marketing and some ‘closing the sale’ approaches need to be undertaken to assist in the manifestation. I did also find the name of the landlords (Hindwoods) that works with Lewisham council commercial properties.

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