Getting people together to do good things
#riotcleanup started not as an organisation – but an idea. A year ago, during the English riots of August 2011, there was a sense of fear and of despair and a belief that it was social media that had cause the trouble.
On Twitter @sophontrack (real name Sophie) tweeted a hashtag, which suggested people start a #riotcleanup. At the same time, @artistsmakers (real name Dan) was using social media to get people together to do exactly that. The hashtag was passed to him. As Dan stayed up throughout the night with a broken laptop and a whiteboard, writing down the affected areas around London and planning cleanups in the affected areas, @phoeberoberts compiled a list of #riotcleanup events and notified police about what was happening.
After Dan’s hard work, the @riotcleanup account was set up by a young musician, Sam Duckworth. Within minutes, RiotCleanup.co.uk was set up to collate times and locations for the cleanup operation, going live at around 5:30am. Thousands of people, including several celebrities with large followings, Tweeted about the cleanup and used the #riotcleanup hashtag. Meanwhile, Dan and Sophie became the voices of #riotcleanup, talking to media across the world about what local people were doing. All of that meant that several hundred people turned up to each London location the next morning, brooms in hand and a smile on their faces.
#riotcleanup meant people could help their neighbours, support their local shops and get together with the hundreds of people living in their communities that they’d never met. Twitter was the tool that made that happen.
Cities outside London which had experienced the riots took up the idea and created movements in Manchester, Wolverhampton, Nottingham and Birmingham.
The efforts didn’t stop when the broken glass was cleaned up. The momentum behind #riotcleanup started an immediate relief operation, for people who’d lost their homes. And it helped a campaign to rebuild small businesses.
Meanwhile Sophie and Dan continued to promote the idea that social media had been used for something positive, meeting David Cameron, Ed Miliband (pictured) and Nick Hurd (the Minister for Civil Society) along the way.
And a year on, it’s being used to build #wewillgather – to let people get together in their community, all the time, easily and safely.