Social Mirror

Social networks – who you know and are connected to – are understood to reach into all areas of life, yet very few people or organisations are capable of drawing insights from network information.

Social Mirror is a tablet application that you can use to measure, visualise, and see the potential for change in online and offline networks. Starting in January 2012, we developed a prototype for use by social science researchers.

Social Mirror for Community Prescriptions
In September 2013, Social Mirror received funding from the Nominet Trust to trial its practical use in public services.  Social Mirror: Community Prescriptions is a highly local pilot working in Knowle West, Bristol, along with our community partner the Knowle West Media Centre.

Launched in Spring 2013, the application is now being used in the William Budd Health Centre over a 12 month period. People waiting see their GPs are asked to complete a short questionnaire on tablet computers and, if they need it, they are then given their ‘social prescription’.

By testing the app's effectiveness in different contexts – such as among GPs or other health practitioners – the RSA will evaluate the impact of social prescriptions on people's mental wellbeing, their sense of attachment to and participation in the local community, and their use of public services. Please sign up here if you would like to be informed when we release our final report in Spring/Summer 2014.

What do doctors think about it?
There is lots of evidence that social activity can have a very positive effect on physical and mental wellbeing. Some evidence suggests that loneliness and isolation can be as detrimental to your health as smoking.
Bristol GP Dr. Marion Sterner says about the project: “This sort of initiative makes you enjoy your job more because it feels like it's getting to the heart of problems.”

What participants say
“I can’t say enough about it because it has changed my life… if I hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have known about these walking groups. After I retired I felt like a recluse, three days a week I didn’t go out of the flat. I’ve now lost a stone in weight, I can talk to people quite freely which I didn’t before… I’ve stopped drinking alcohol - I don’t need it to help me sleep as the walks tire me out.David Bird

What group leaders say
They come and meet other people like themselves and compare notes to their heart’s content, it’s much less isolating for them. I reckon I keep people out of doctors’ surgeries because of depression.  They come here once a week and we are like a family.”  Mary Hall, Lipreading Group at Knowle West Health Park

Please sign up here if you would like to sign up for further information about the project.

About us

Gaia Marcus 

Gaia Marcus

Gaia is the lead researcher for the RSA Connected Communities programme and leads the organisation’s social network analysis. Gaia’s work focuses on examining the role of social networks in building resilient, empowered communities, and in promoting mental social inclusion and mental wellbeing. Prior to joining the RSA, Gaia worked as a research associate and online community manager for the Space Makers Agency.

Lucinda Thelwell 

Lucinda Thelwell
Lucinda works for our partner the Knowle West Media Centre as Volunteer Coordinator for Social Mirror, a social prescription project for the Knowle West area of Bristol. Her role includes recruiting, training and supervising the volunteers for Social Mirror, as well as doing outreach work for the project. Lucinda is a Qualified Social Worker with a background in mental health, homelessness and sensory support, and over the last few years she has been working in the voluntary sector developing various social and environmental volunteer projects in the UK and abroad.

J Nathan Matias

J. Nathan Matias
Nathan developed the original prototype that led to the Social Mirror for Community Prescriptions pilot. Nathan develops technologies for media analytics, community information, and creative learning at the MIT Center for Civic Media, where he is a research assistant. Before MIT, Nathan worked in UK startups, developing technologies used by millions of people worldwide. Nathan was a Davies-Jackson Scholar at the University of Cambridge from 2006-2008