The centre for digital storytelling is an inspiration for effective digital engagement. I quote, “Personal narratives can touch viewers deeply, moving them to reflect on their own experiences, modify their behaviour, treat others with greater compassion, speak out about injustice, and become involved in civic and political life. Whether online, in social media or local communities, or at the institutional/policy level, the sharing of stories has the power to make a real difference.”
That’s probably why the good people at PatientOpinion have grown into a mainstream operation over the last 9 years. I had the pleasure of talking with Dr James Munro yesterday about my little project, OurHousing. It’s clear that despite PO getting a lot of traffic these days, it hasn’t been an easy ride. Not least, they got railroaded by government who launched an equivalent tool after PO success on their own platform, NHS Choices. However, now they’re up and running in Australia and have just launched CareOpinion.
The insight we got was invaluable. For example, when is a complaint just negative feedback? James shared his views about originators’ intention and showed us a devilishly good coping mechanism for dealing with citizen feedback of private sector organisations. We spoke a little about the new defamation laws, developments in sentiment analysis and natural language processing and how OurHousing might evolve.
It’s clear that PO are special. They have values which reflect a true intermediary and they know their health stuff, all their moderation being done in-house. What they’ve done is create a relationship builder in a very delicate marketplace with very little selfishness.
Despite their success, James wasn’t driving around in a Ferrari or wearing a Gucci jacket. If anything, I would have been a little suspicious about their true intentions if he was. If social tech start-ups don’t get seed funding or public money investments then the results are going to be shallow. People forget that the likes of mySociety had significant funding from government in the early days.
Conversation brokers such as PO need to survive for the public good but government seems to be pulling in different directions and reinventing the wheel. Let’s hope OurHousing can work alongside policymakers, not in competition with them.