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Sarah Brown

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Downing Tweet Parties to Support Maternal Mortality Campaign

Posted: 12/05/09 02:59 PM ET

The inaugural #DowningTweet party, like every tweet-up, was an eclectic mix. On one sofa, people from fashion and the arts chat to Mums bloggers and charity workers while R&B singing sensation @Beverleyknight tunes up. On another, student activists introduce themselves to web entrepreneurs and comedians while technology correspondents try to work out how to sum it up in 140 characters.

What brought them all together was a desire to do something to stop the scandal of a woman dying every minute of every day from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world -- mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. I have written for HuffPost before about my involvement with the www.millionmums.org campaign and @WRAGlobal, who tweet out the maternal mortality campaign messages to reach grassroots members in 143 countries. The campaign has real momentum now and #DowningTweet was the latest idea to raise awareness about all these needless deaths, and how simple it is to stop them.

I have tweeted for the last 9 months about the causes I am most passionate about and shared with many other Twitter followers what is happening in both my and their lives. I love the humour on Twitter, I love the lack of cynicism, and I love the genuine engagement with many people. The twitter community is full of great people from all walks of life who want to make a difference and they are exactly the kind of audience www.millionmums.org is trying to reach.

@Biz (Biz Stone), who has been travelling a lot as the Co-founder of Twitter, Inc recently came to London -- the city with the greatest number of users anywhere on the planet. He always makes the point that twitter is designed both for the greatest reach possible and for local news to be conveyed to local people.

So many of the people with the greatest popularity -- like @queenrania and @stephenfry -- are using the platform for social good and making connections that probably would never have happened any other way. I love that I can be friends with @corybooker, the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey who has given the maternal mortality campaign a big Shout Out, as well as with people like @amanda (Amanda Rose) who is doing such amazing things with Twestivals. It is Twitter that has brought us together.

@BenjaminCohen, the Technology Correspondent of the UK's @channel4news posed the question to me at #DowningTweet about whether my followers come because I am married to Gordon, the British Prime Minister, and share details of my day or because of the strong campaigning message of www.millionmums.org.

You would have to ask my followers, but I imagine the answer is a bit of both. What is interesting is the many hats that people wear in their Twittering -- their own professional life, their personal thoughts, their causes and their passions. Twitter -- in only 140 characters each time -- has the space and capacity to accommodate it all.

It is always interesting though to meet the people behind the Tweets. I've always said Downing Street is a public building without public access so Gordon and I have been determined to throw open the doors to people from all over Britain who are working to make the world better. We do regular tours and charity receptions and events and meetings at Downing Street and it seemed a natural next step to invite some of the country's most enthusiastic tweeters to visit us at home. Gordon was as delighted as I was to meet in person some of the people whose online campaigns we've followed and supported.

I was rather nervous beforehand -- this felt like unchartered territory for me no matter how many receptions I have hosted before. But as soon as the first person bounced in and said 'thanks for the invite @sarahbrown10!' I knew this was a crowd that spoke my language and really wanted to help.

@BeverleyKnight sang beautifully and the crowd seemed to enjoy the festive mince pies made with little pastry birds on top (tweetie pies?). I'm pretty sure it was the first time Downing Street has had a temporary tattoo parlour too -- for guests to show their support for better maternal health with 'I love my Mum' transfers).

This Christmas I hope everyone is showing their Mum how much they love her, and that they will have a little time to spare to support all those Mums whose pregnancy puts their health and life at risk. Mums are the greatest and if #DowningTweet has helped www.millionmums.org even a little bit I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time before Number 10 plays host to #downingtweet:thesequel.


Sarah Brown tweets at www.twitter.com/sarahbrown10 and occasionally blogs at www.number10.gov.uk where she lives with her husband British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and their two young sons. She is the Global Patron of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood which campaigns for Millennium Development Goal 5 to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by 2015.

For latest news and information from Downing Street visit: http://www.number10.gov.uk.