Social Innovation insights at Central St Martins

I was invited by Dr Jamie Brassett, Innovation Management MA Course Director at Central St Martins to join a panel all about Social Innovation.  I was joined on the panel by Professor Lorraine Gamman and Kate Oakley PhD.  At this point, I also want to add my LLB letters to my name!  It was the inaugural “Insights Exchange” on issues of Social Innovation/Enterprise & Public sector and the new concept was to mix up the academic with the non academic practitioners.  It was attended by 1st and 2nd year Innovation Management MA students and some other interesting and interested people!

The insights I talked about and suggestions I made are based on my experience directing the Space Makers Brixton Market project Nov ’09 – Nov ’10.

1. Stakeholders – When working on a community project, like Brixton Village, the stakeholder has a broader definition that just those you would expect. They also become apparent as you progress through the project.  I was pleased when I opened this question out to the Innovation Management students that they included shoppers, present and future, to be stakeholders too.  Many of us have a public place we feel to be “our” place – it may for example be somewhere that has family meaning for us.  So true of Brixton Market. You will also find local self-organised groups that are also working on community-focussed projects that become apparent as time progresses.  Realise also that your continual communication with your (loosely termed) stakeholders actually needs to work for those that are digital and those that are not.

Physical paper Poster

2. Identify the Benefits and Beneficiaries – Again, this will evolve as you go through the project.  List out all the benefits that different groups could get from the project.  This is important in helping to communicate to people why they might want to be involved; to turn around those that may be resisting change and will set a clear vision for all those that get involved with the overall project.

3. Open Source – Embrace the diversity that throwing the gates open can bring.  I do not remember turning away any pop up activities other than for health and safety reasons or those that were in direct competition with projects in units, such as food stalls. Another example is the open meetings that we held every Tuesday night in the local pub (Dougald’s brain-child response to the sheer amount of people that were contacting us to be involved), so that anyone who wanted to get involved with activities in the market could come along. There were many collaborations formed and events curated through this.  It also brings in additional resource; people were happy to dip and out and the overall project benefited hugely from extra pairs of hands to make the space really unusual and inclusive.

4. Basic Structures – Hand in hand with the open source idea are basic structures that allow for creativity and innovation to flourish.  Yes, you need some basic rules but we were careful to keep these minimal – give people enough so that they are comfortable to experiment in the space. No idea is a bad idea and we do not know failure!  This way, the project could again, evolve, learn what worked and what could be improved upon.  An example of a basic structure was this Performance Zone that was put in place on the forecourt to encourage passing performers.

Basic Structures - Encouraging open and safe participation

5. Documentation – All community projects have loads they can teach to help other projects.  I encourage people to be open about what works, what doesn’t work and to make that publicly available throughout the live project, rather than waiting to the end. With a constant and fast moving project, you probably will already be working on improvements when you receive the feedback and it is good to show your awareness.  Take lots of photographs – great for photography student projects, and we were lucky enough to have the wonderful Andy Broomfield helping us out.  Document your processes, again, so they can be re-used by others.

6. Develop a thick skin! There will always be people that do not like change.  Some of those will work with you once you have understood their angle and they understand how in fact the project can also work to help their cause. Others never will.

For those that know the Digital Youth Project mission, you will know my view that that these projects create fantastic learning experiences for young people and I always encourage getting young people involved – the benefits they bring to a project can be huge.  You can read more about youth involvement in the Brixton Market project here.

The discussion that followed was most interesting – I picked up all sorts of new terminology and there were some heated discussions. Here was the buzz that I got; understanding the different types of social innovation; wicked social problems; how social innovation is now a label that many existing institutions are adoptin; the impact of political context on social innovation projects; how to ensure ongoing sustainability; how to measure success; accountability; how social values are exchanged, fraternalism and SO MUCH MORE!  I want to do that course!

Here is sound-bite from Jamie and one of the students:

Credits:

Katrina Damianou – who was instrumental in the Brixton project as part of her work placement from Central last year.

Andy Broomfield for fabulous photos

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like some Product Doctor advice for social innovation, community building and youth real life learning experience projects.

Co-Creation: Involve Youth in The Process

I was asked by Graham Brown of Mobile Youth to give an Expert Interview around the subject of youth sourcing. I hope you enjoy it!

“…We’re talking to Julia about how to engage youth within the product development process. Can big mobile brands increase the relevance and hit rates of their products by incorporating the target market into the idea generation and message shaping? Julia thinks so. We find out more about how co-creating innovation with youth is not only possible but vital to product relevance.

Watch the video to answer these questions:

* How can large organizations conduct better youth insights?
* How should you build youth panels for companies or conferences?
* What are the business benefits of involving youth in product development?…”

Digital Youth Insights & Learning Experiences Webinar

This is a webinar, that I did for the DCK TN and Mobile Monday London, 27th Jan 2011, and should be of interest to people that want a closer understanding of the youth market.  Through my experience in mobile and online community products since 1993, despite much time, effort and cost, I have seen many products fail to succeed or fail to reach their full potential. One of the key reasons is that end users are not engaged in their development. I set up the Digital Youth Project in 2005 to address this gap focussing on the youth market and to show how engaging young people in your projects can provide great real life learning experiences for them too. I illustrate the points using case studies from virtual world to mobile to community projects with a social media twist.

Thanks to those that logged in live, for my 4.5/5 rating and for the great feedback! It was a fun new experience talking to the aether!

Please click on this link to view and listen – you will need to register but it is free:  Webinar DCKTN / Mobile Monday London.

Here is the presentation, without me talking over it, and some of the key points listed below.

Key Youth Insights– see presentation for the case studies that support each point

1. Young people are practical & they want useful products too

  • Some adults incorrectly equate youth products only with fun; my case studies show that young people need and appreciate helpful products too, such as mobile mapping services.
  • In addition, young people can quickly tell you where your product is not practical – for example, they are worried about the security aspects of wandering around holding their phone and whether your service can be fully appreciated on a small screen.
  • They also want product naming to effectively describe the product – so say what it does on the tin.

2. Hygiene factors – what is now expected by young people as standard, basic features

  • Young people want choice, so for example if you are developing a music-based App, make sure that you have as many genres in there as you can.
  • They want to be able to use services on their mobile, pc and other devices such as i-Pod so multi-platform and channel access is important.
  • They are so familiar with certain user interfaces, for example, the Apple Store, so where you can, work with their understanding rather than feeling you need to create something different.
  • Time over I see that young people will dive straight in to using the product. They want to work it out for themselves – that is part of the fun, however, that is no excuse for creating something that is not intuitive.  If you are going to add help, first time tutorials can be effective, as long as they are interactive; making help information concise is essential and males have a tendency to look to YouTube for short videos.
  • Social functions are now expected. Facebook is the benchmark for being able to share, comment and converse.
  • Voice, text and camera are now the basic expectations of a phone.

3. Young people want to help with feature definition & market positioning

  • Before creating your visual presence, talk to young people and ask them how they would use the product; again, you will see case studies of where using the wrong visual will throw the user off track.
  • I have worked with many products where the functionality is fantastic, but the wrong user facing product has been developed – young people are very good at un-packing the functionality and putting it back together again in a more attractive proposition.
  • Competitor analysis, as we know, is crucial before you can work out your feature set and positioning; young people will tell you who they think your competitors are, which is far more valuable than who you think they are!

4. Young people need to be addressed with the right language for their age group

  • When considering the youth market, I suggest 2 year increments; 11-13, 13 – 15 and so on. I have found that your actual users will be those that are in the age increment below the one that you are targeting – young people are often trying to appear to be older than they are.
  • It is also important to realise that there is a lot of cross-generational traffic on sites that are populated by young people – particularly in the virtual world, social networking and gaming scenarios.  Aunties, uncles, godparents, grandparents, older siblings – particularly when they are remote – will engage with their younger contacts in their own environment.

5. Young people are savvy, so be honest, satisfy their curiosity and gain their trust

  • When presented with a new product, often a young person’s response is to think “where is the catch”, so if you have chargeable elements; sponsored content; integrated advertising and so on, just be upfront about it. This way you will show your respect for their intelligence and gain their trust.

6. While they are financially aware, this does not mean that they won’t spend money on digital experiences

  • There are already plenty of online and mobile experiences that young people enjoy for free – so there is no point presenting them with a similar experience that is chargeable.
  • However, young people are spending money on digital – as I found when looking at digital music products “who do you think got Tinchy Stryder to the top of the download charts?” Note also that digital goods revenue lines are still in growth.

7. Young people are social media natives, they can help you create content and awareness for your product, business and business event

  • You can offer great learning experiences for young people to help you understand how best to use social media to generate awareness and social media coverage of your business, project and events.
  • Media students are on the look-out for real life projects where they can provide media coverage for you whilst adding to their portfolio – think photographs, film, interviews and general journalistic comment.
  • If you are looking for creative content perhaps to add some spark to an event, think about offering an opportunity to young people’s arts and performance groups.

Adult Misperceptions

Throughout my work in this area I have come across some resistance from adults to engaging young people, so here are my challenges back:

  1. Young people are scary and they will automatically take a negative stance: Incorrect! Young people are encouraging about innovation and willing to take risks. You will find working with them energising.
  2. They just grunt – think Kevin the Teenager: Incorrect! Explain, listen, coach and ask open questions in the right environment – you will get very constructive feedback.
  3. You have just chosen the clever kids to work with: Incorrect! Great feedback does not just come from clever kids – often the most disruptive and under-achieving have the most creative and honest input.
  4. “What young people want is…”: Incorrect! Avoid generalising about the youth market – some just call and text; they don’t all have blackberries, they don’t all want an iPhone, and the list goes on.

In conclusion, by engaging users in the design of products and marketing, you will become more efficient. You will know when you have a dead horse to stop flogging; you can avoid endless internal assumption-based debates on features and user interface; you can generate new challenging ideas; you can get a good idea of how best to target the youth market and overall maximise your development and marketing spend.

Please do get in touch if you would like these insights presented at your business or event.

Great tech-education ideas from Learning Without Frontiers 2011

Learning Without Frontiers is a global platform for disruptive thinkers and practitioners from the education, digital media, technology and entertainment sectors who come together to explore how new disruptive technologies can drive radical efficiencies and improvements in learning whilst providing equality of access.

I went to a Sunday event in January which  was jam-packed full of interesting sessions ranging from teachers sharing international best practice, through to creative workshops, product demonstrations, schools showcase of their digital projects, open discussion sessions and so on.  It was impossible to get to everything, however, here are my observations from the sessions that I went to:

1. In a school in North West England, out of a class of 36, only 1 pupil stayed in the same house every night of the week. This is a huge insight to have when understanding these young people and has a big impact on all sorts of practical issues such as bringing PE kit in to school and for carting around additional educational devices that the school may have given them – which home is it at?  Carl Faulkner, Normanby Primary School, UK.

2.  Having pupils creating their own digital content results in  more compelling learning experiences.  A great example was given by Jenny Ashby, Epsom Primary School, Australia, for learning the alphabet.  Pupils created their own pictures and audio for each letter of the alphabet. Then the content was shared with the class with the added interest of knowing who created each piece.  She talked about creating a workflow from one iPad App to another, such as Etcha Sketch, Comic Touch, Sonic Pictures and Garageband.  Along with other presenters, she had tried and tested the value of using technology that pupils either enjoy at home or aspire to enjoy at home.

3. A wonderful creative maths example was given by Brendan Tangney of Trinity College Dublin, using Google Maps – zoom in on car parks and use them to explain times tables by looking at the grid structures. Hooray for relating learning to real life!  He summed the ideal digital learning processes up in 4 words – create, contextualise, collaborate and constructivist – using current creative digital tools anchored in real life contexts with pupils working on tasks in teams to create responses.

4. “MP for a Day” is a game that aids young people’s understanding of Parliament.  Peter Stidwill from Parliament’s Education Service described the process that they went through to create this award winning game and I was thrilled to hear about how they regularly engaged end users in the development.  He said that user testing was the best part of the process – how ever well you may feel you know a segment, there are always surprises.

5. Jason Bradbury of The Gadget Show ran a session where students from a number of schools presented their ideas on digital tools – the competition will be judged in a month’s time.  It was amazing to see the range of ideas that came forward. One in particular, was from a group of Bengali students whose parents do not speak English. Their insight was in the parent – teacher relationship where feedback on the pupils was almost impossible due to the language barrier. They designed an App, with Apps for Good that contained some key pre-defined phrases for translation from Bengali to English and back again.  They had also tested out the idea with some teachers who had stated that they would pay £2-3 for the App.

6. “…As today’s Generation Y, we are always connected…”   Another of the projects showed an English school partnering with a school in Oklahoma working on a pop up school concept.  They used social media tools ranging from Ning to generate topics for discussion, to blogging on Tumblr and getting to know their remote team members via Facebook.  This project culminated in a guerrilla style stand at a US education conference where the students used Twitter, Twitcam and their Tumblr blog to take the role of journalists documenting news from the conference.

7. I also got the chance to catch up with James Huggins from Made in Me, who create the most enchanting worlds of creativity and learning for 2 – 6 year olds.  The interactive picture book functionality is fantastic, for example, changing words in the stories changes the visuals, encouraging not only literacy but creativity.  What is really interesting about James’ vision is that rather than being a “digital babysitter” where the child plays on their own, the experience is designed for play by parents with children; preserving the age-old picture book experience, bringing it in to the digital age.

8. “…The job of the teacher now is not to know what to teach students, but to know how to model learning to them…” Jonathan Nalder, Education Queensland, Australia.

9. And finally, a quote from Geoff Stead’s presentation (Tribal Group), where he pleads with decision makers to consider the needs of the end user and their desired experience rather than be persuaded by technology or device-based solutions.  “The learner is the traveller, we are tour guides, technology is the vehicle, learning is the destination”.

These educators are trail blazing how to use digital tools in a relevant and engaging way. They are collecting proof points of the positive learning experiences that are being created along the way, not only through video feedback from learners, but also through screen grabs and uploaded content.   How long will it be until these methods become mainstream?

Advice for Developers – Product Doctor Diagnoses (OTA 2010)

This year at Over the Air 2010 (OTA) I set up a Drop In Product Surgery for mobile developers, which focused on how to make their products more commercially successful.  OTA is a two day grass-roots mobile developers event which is in its third year and offers an interesting schedule of keynote speakers (Sir Tim Berners-Lee headlined this year), sessions, panels, workshops and competitions for the all-night hack-a-thon.  This is a really unique event with a great atmosphere; it also presents an opportunity to try out new ideas and work on them alongside some amazingly clever people.

OTA Hacking in the Great Hall, London Imperial.

Here are some of the most common prescriptions that I wrote at the surgeries.

1. Talk to your end users, early and often

  • It is NEVER too early to talk to end users – you don’t need to wait for a prototype – start with the concept
  • You can check that your assumptions about their current behaviour are correct
  • You can try to discover pressure points that need solutions
  • If you have a great piece of functionality, get end users together to help you “productise” it – if the user session is properly facilitated you can get them to build the range of potential propositions for you
  • Even if you have already imagined or built a product, you still shouldn’t be afraid to do the above; let users to strip it back to its functionality and see what propositions they come up with
  • Users can also help you prioritise your feature list – this helps get the user angle in to your roadmap
  • There is nothing stopping you engaging with your end users now – just go and mingle – if you think people will use your product at the bus stop, then go and talk to people at bus stops!

In every user group that I have run over the years, I have always been surprised by the reactions and suggestions that come up.  It is crucial that users are involved in the process from concept through to launch and beyond, to ensure continuous improvement of the product.  Think of how many innovations fail – and the cost that gets sunk in to development.  Try to understand your end users as well as you can; get them to help you to define the key benefits and how are you going to communicate your message.  This theme re-occurs again and again throughout this post!

2. Size your market & know your competition

  • Size your market opportunity – this will help to inform your initial commercial viability and validate assumptions on your revenue forecasts
  • Think about the different end user segments for your product – who is going to use your product? (again, this is where end user input can be crucial)
  • Do your competitor analysis; write up your SWOT analysis and that of your competitors. It will help you to focus on what you are – and are not – and to find your competitive advantage.
  • Ask yourself what you have that is special. Unique can be perceived in many different ways – it may be that your user experience is unique although the functionality is not.  Perhaps you have a special route to market that will help you to reach your end users
  • If you can’t believe why your idea has not been done before, research it fully – you may learn why it has never been brought to market

3. Define your product

  • Avoid feature over-load.   Can you define your features and corresponding benefits in 3 bullet points? Find the real jewels in your offering and focus on them. You can save yourself time and money
  • Be aware of taking on the giants. For example, if your product is offering photo uploads as part of the offering, from a user perspective you may actually be competing with Flickr!
  • Getting people to change their behaviour is very difficult. Think through what you are asking people to do and whether there is already an established way of doing it
  • Think carefully about creating a new community – how can you plug in to online communities that already exist? Building and managing a community is a significant piece of work with ongoing overheads. If your product is dependant on that community remember that it can take years to build up
  • People now want to have conversations. There are growing numbers of people that want to engage with products, be that just by reading or making comments or sharing their opinions with their friends on social networks. Where this is appropriate for your product, do consider building in these features. This is a core part of the product design and it will delegate some of the marketing effort to your users

4. Recycle!

  • Think about what technology you already have built – before you shelve it, talk to users and think about the scenarios where it could be “productised”

5. Consider your routes to market

  • Are you going direct? Are you going to have the resources to build and execute a marketing plan yourselves – and set up the customer support function?
  • How will you drive people to find your App in the App store?  Research ways of  “DIY PR” (Lisa Devaney & Lauren McGregor) to get the best value!
  • Do you have some functionality that could be really useful to an existing brand? Again, this is another great example where end users can help you to identify how their existing brand experiences could be improved by what you have to offer
  • User insights can really help to strengthen a pitch. “We have run insights workshops with these different segments, and here are prototypes that have come out of that”
  • Which brands are in a highly competitive market and have some money to spend? Many brands want to be “in mobile” but they don’t quite know how to weave this channel in to their offering

Closing Comments

It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with some really talented developers.  I hope that I helped them think through some of the more commercial and user-focused elements.

I was also proto-typing the “Product Doctor is in” event format.  The name “Product Doctor” and the offer of “Product Surgeries” worked well as a short-hand descriptor and there was a clear understanding of what the appointments were for.  At 25 minutes long, the appointments were convenient and accessible for event attendees.  Although the OTA event environment is informal, these sessions felt quite formal – as it is with any doctor.  This level of formality meant that the conversations were very focused and in 25 minutes, we could diagnose and identify some treatment.  The feedback from my patients was that I had them looking through a totally different lens.  I hope they will take their medicine!

Finally, thanks to Katrina Damianou for helping to develop the concept; Flora Gordon for spreading the word; my patients for being great guinea pigs and above all, the OTA Team – Helen Keegan and Daniel Appelquist in particular for letting me experiment!

Brixvill – An experimental platform for young people

Back in August 2009, I spotted a posting on the online Space Makers Network from a Lambeth Council officer who was interested in doing something creative with empty shops.  I grabbed Dougald Hine, the founder of Space Makers, and went down to meet him.  That was how we came to be introduced and was introduced to the property owners of Brixton Village indoor market (formerly Granville Arcade) who had 20 empty units that they were struggling to rent.

The first time we visited the market I broke out in goosebumps as my body tingled with possibilities and that was how I became the Project Director, working with Space Makers to bring this wonderful space back to life along with an equally wonderful and inspiring team – Katrina Damianou and Flora Gordon.

left to right - Katrina, me and Flora

What an incredible atmosphere created by the beauty of the 1930s build and the echoes of its glory days, with the sharp contrast between the empty parts of the market vs the busy parts that bustled with shops selling meat, fish, toiletries, wigs, specialist grocers and restaurants.  From the start, it was important to us to make sure that the existing tenants would also benefit from the additional footfall that the new projects would bring.

First, a competition for 3 months rent free was launched at a Space Exploration Night in November ’09 – 5 applications for every available space were received and by mid December the first tranche of creative, community and enterprising projects were up and running. There have been a series of temporary and test trade projects in the units ever since and 9 months later all of 20 the empty units have been permanently rented – success!

Space Exploration Night - mid November 2009. (left to right) Gail Rowe of Lambeth Council; Dan Thompson founder of the Empty Shops Network, Steph Butcher - the fabulous Brixton Town Centre Director, Matt Western of Space Makers, Dougald Hine founder of Space Makers, Me addressing the 350 strong crowd, Mike, Nicola & Neil of LAP - the market's owners. (Thanks to Sara Haq for photo).

This project was always about the longer term sustainability of the market and bringing it back to its former glory as a key destination for the communit. The vision was to make it not just a home for trade, but also a place to see performance – dance, music, theatre and a place to interact – meet old friends and make new ones – whilst taking part in all kinds of activities. Thus the program of event-based Saturdays began in January. With huge buy-in from the community, both as visitors and contributors, and the need to drive more footfall for the new projects, late Thursdays were launched in April.

What all of these youth projects had in common was:

  • The energy and enthusiasm of the young people involved.  Another re-buff to the media image of students as moody, ungrateful and reckless! On this project I have met some incredibly bright, upbeat young people that have been appreciative of the opportunities that this has offered them and they have been the most responsible tenants!
  • They were prepared to take risks and step in the unknown – an opportunity that is not offered to them in the formal educational structure.  With my background steeped in innovation, we have been clear that this project does not know failure – only learning opportunities.  I have found that with this approach and a lack of formal structure, people have been able to unleash their true creativity in a safe environment.
  • They use social media like they were brought up with it (well they almost were) and are incredibly good at activating their networks to drive visitors to their projects, which also benefits the overall market project. They also use more traditional media, creating posters and some going out and about flyering the local area and their colleges.  Many also attracted press to their projects.
  • They also showed a strong social mindedness, wanting to be part of this larger project to re-establish the market, often forming strong relationships with other traders and taking part in overall market activities.

This is a showcase of what happens when Digital Youth are given a real life opportunity.

1. Write by Numbers – Ovid Reworked

A young collective of writers, actors and designers brought the first theatre project to the market in an open fronted unit. They challenge young writers, performers and theatre makers to experiment with all the ways it is possible to make, create and produce theatre. This was their first production as a group; they attracted over 300 people in 2 weeks and and media attention including an article in The Sunday Times. They achieved this not only through sheer hard work, but effective use of social media, online project documentation, the ability to engage their networks and to bring in locals by promoting out and about with flyers.   Spring-boarding from this success, they continue to put on productions and are now recruiting for project managers!

2. Ash Finch – a 2nd Year photography student from London South Bank University

Ash carried out his work placement in the early months of the project and his photographs were published by Time Out and the Sunday Times.

“…I learnt first hand how organisations such as Space Makers rely on networking and teamwork to produce the end results such as Brixton Village. I think  that more work goes into organising sites such as these than people realise. Also photography wise the project gave me the national exposure of having my work printed which was a great opportunity, and also the knowledge that my images where helping the community and local business by hopefully attracting more trade and visitors to the site, emphasising what a powerful tool photography can be…”
3. Market Stall Trading Experience, YE London

Over 2 weeks, approximately 25 young people from Lambeth participated in a 4 day course delivered by Young Enterprise London to learn the basics of setting up and running a business.  They learned about everything from marketing and branding to product development and budgeting.  Each group designed and made key rings and the course culminated with an opportunity to sell their products to members of the public at Brixton Village Market.
“…We had a very successful time, with both teams selling all their stock within an hour and a half of arrival. The young people learned a lot about customer services and sales techniques and definitely seemed to enjoy the experience…” Rosalind Moody from Young Enterprise London.

4. Work Experience, London Creative Labs

Rashida and her brother Hassan, were introduced to the project by Sofia Bustamente of London Creative Labs.  Sofia works in Brixton with the objective of job creation – by the community and for the community. She finds dis-enfranchised people and helps them work on their bigger dreams working through practical steps to get them there. So she set up work placements with Sweet Tooth, the sweet shop, and Cornercopia, a locally sourced restaurant/deli. This enabled both the siblings to build on their CV and find jobs using what they learned about customer service and retail.

5. Wake Up Campaign – Viviane Williams, a student from Goldsmiths.

“…Being given the opportunity to have a pop up in Brixton Village Market has allowed me to test my ideas/vision to the public, this has been rewarding, insightful and has given me more confidence to take risks, a true entrepreneurial attribute to test for a viable venture. By testing my vision, I have interacted with the local community and have formed great relationships. Through this, I have developed my social enterprise ‘Wakeup campaign‘ – stimulating people’s consciousness with the power of design such as role play – in this case as African Kings and Queens – to help bring social change. I have now won a few awards on behalf of the business and I feel this would have not been achievable without the platform of showcasing the idea in Brixton Village Market’…”  Viviane Williams.

6. Camberwell Arts College Students

Artinavan were the first group in – they had been one of the successful applicants for the initial 3 months rent free. Artinavan ran a series of incredible exhibitions that changed every few weeks.  Positioned at a busy junction in the market surrounded by grocers, fishmongers and meat stalls, they played a key role in connecting the new projects with the existing traders in the market through their creative work.

One of my favourite stories is the photo booth that they set up where they printed out about 2 foot high worth of photos of the traders and market visitors that they had taken during that particular activity and within 3 weeks, there were only a handful of photos left.  It gave me a clear indication that all of those people had returned to the market and collected their photo.  This is the story that I tell to show that a large number of people that visit the market enjoy the experience so much that they come back.  They further showed how photographs can play a significant role in breaking down barriers and starting conversations.

I do encourage you to look at their blog that shows film, photographs and explanations of the projects.  They also received coverage in The Independent.  They were something really special.  Here is what Sean Andre Millington has said about his time: “‘…On our many variations on using the space that was offered to us in Brixton village market allowed the the collective to really explore the possibilities of producing art without the permissible pressures that are ever imposed within the art world, we were able to produce and present art that directly engaged with the vibrancy of the area and the freedom to create beyond the white walls of a gallery. We were able to view the nature of our interactive installations engage with the whole market, where the whole of the market became the gallery and our shop a painting hanging on its wall…”

Comic Assault – Charlie Cameron

Following Artinavan’s  success, we have had a series of Camberwell Student projects including Comic Assault, where a group of arts students produced and sold their Comic. It was part of their course syllabus to set up an event outside of the college. “…Setting up the show to having the opening night it has given us a huge confidence boost to go out and do more of the same…”

Alter Ego, Philippe Fenner

An exhibition created by the 2nd year Camberwell Illustration group – www.alteregodraw.com. This exhibition exclusively comprised work by the public and not just art students.  It is a ‘live exhibition’ as the entrance fee was visitors drawing their alter ego.

“…Our show at the Brixton Village had a perfect setting. We found that there is a dormant inner creative force behind everyone’s exteriors and that the passion for drawing does not die at the age of ten, it is merely subdued until a project like our own released it, if only for five minutes. We experienced a show that we’d always wanted to see; un-snobbish, approachable, fun and full of unlikely heroes; from enforcers of southbank patrol creating existential mind-maps to East-End club owners with pink hats drawing themselves how they’d like to be seen. We experienced also a show that would not have been possible if the group hadn’t created a cohesive idea which all of us had an input in…”

7. Baytree Centre

Local charity, The Baytree Centre, got the forecourt dancing one Thursday afternoon with their 8 – 13 year old dance troop. They presented some routines and workouts to passersby and encouraged everyone to join in. The Baytree Centre is 5 minute walk from the market. This was the upshot of my just turning up for an uninvited chat!

“…The girls love to perform and being able to involve onlookers and teach them what they’ve been learning made it extra special. The girls got to share what they learnt and demonstrate their talent in an informal and friendly environment…”  Suzy Holloway

Closing Comments

In this post I have attempted to show how young people will pro-actively take up opportunities that we can offer them to gain real life learning experiences and how they use them to build up their own portfolio.  It gives more fodder to challenge the negative media perception of teens and students. You can see how they use social media effectively to mobilise and extend their networks.  I hope that it encourages you to create platforms for young people to engage with your projects and how doing so can also benefit your project and business objectives.

Thanks to Andy Broomfield and Ash Finch for the majority of the photos!

This year I am the Product Doctor at OTA

Following the success of the Travelling Teen Panels at OTA 2009, I am delighted to be returning to OTA this year as the  Product Doctor.

Let’s talk product – how can you maximise your product to reach your objectives?

Do you have tight product goals? What user need / desire are you meeting? What is your market opportunity? Do you have a product roadmap? Do you have a revenue forecast? How will you encourage repeat use of your product? How are you going to target new users? How are you engaging users to input to your product plans and design? How are you measuring user satisfaction and getting constructive feedback? And more….

The Product Doctor will ask you these and other searching questions and help you bring structure, logic and reality to your product planning.  I am holding a Drop-In Surgery during the event and offering a number of 25-minute complimentary appointments.

To book a consultation, please email me : julia@product doctor.co.uk or catch me at the event.

Friday 12:15 – 1.15 and Saturday 10:30 to 12:10 in 344c, London Imperial.

Can’t wait to get my stethoscope out!

Teen Panel travels to the heart of the Music Industry!

In March 2010, the Teen Panel travelled to the heart of the music industry, Music 4.5 Conference put on by 2 Pears.  Another digital industry that is struggling with revenue models.  Another opportunity to challenge a number of assumptions about young people. Another real world learning opportunity for the teenage panellists!

While we wait for all the teenagers to arrive, mobiles are out of the pocket & provide the perfect ice-breaker! This is Nuru and Chris.

Prep time! I show the teenagers the conference room and we talk about how we will work the stage. They practice their introductions based on the collages they have prepared. They are assured that the audience will be hanging on their every word & they are encouraged to just be themselves!

 

Off we go - session format is introduced - in this case, we will have panel introductions, followed by 4 pitches and breaks for feedback after each one. Q&A at the end.

The Panel Introduce themselves

Rachel, 17, private school, West London

Shivz, 19, Hackney Youth Enterprise Project

Nuru, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Chris, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Yasmin, 17, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

Craig, 18, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

The first industry presenter takes the stage – Robert Thomas from RJDJ.

Robert invites one of the panellists to demo the product. Shivz, an emerging DJ happily takes the stage for a live rap!

The audience goes wild and Shivz becomes the star of the show! RJDJ is an i-Phone App, that creates music live for the user, in response to their surrounding sounds picked up by the microphone and their movement. The user becomes the artist. During the demo, it felt as if the product was not shown off to its full potential. The focus was on Shivz’ live rap, rather than the functionality of the product.

Tube Radio's Rogerio Mota

TubeRadio.fm helps you find, organise and listen to music videos on the web – they are developing an i-Phone App. While the TubeRadio.fm presentation felt a bit more like an investor pitch, the product was clearly demonstrated – It is a music video site that is positioned to improve the experience of watching music videos online.

Henrik Berggren from CitySounds.fm introduced a rather novel new service!

CitySounds.fm enablers their users to listen and discover the latest music from cities around the world. It shows the latest chart is where you find recently updated cities; offers individual city pages for more tracks, genres and stats and the popular chart showing the 32 most popular cities. Users can help a city climb the chart by tweeting or sharing it on Facebook.

James Tonkin from Zova gets energetic!

Zova is “the world’s first music + rhythm football training programme.” Specific drum rythms correspond to particular training excercises which are demonstrated by professionals on their media device. I would have liked to show this to a panel of young people that are specifically football training. On this particular panel, only two of the boys used to train.

Key Insights

    1. “Make it work on all phones” – or do we just bide our time?
    While Teens do want to try out new stuff now, as with many other new products, such as picture messaging, the market needs to bide its time for the hardware to move through its natural lifecycle. I would propose that in terms of market penetration in the younger generation, the i-Phone is still in the Introduction Phase. Younger teens often start their mobile life with the parents old phone or with prepay, so perhaps we need to wait another year or two. None of the teen panellists in the last three sessions I have run have an i-Phone or an Android. As per previous blogs, Blackberries are quite popular with the more affluent teens, where they will buy the same phones as their friends to get the free blackberry messenger service. I have also come across an example of a teen that has a Blackberry because it was a hand-me-down from a parent.

    2. The Teens were good at finding uses and recognising practical benefits for the products they were shown.
    These observations provide great insight to help companies develop their user positioning. Caution! These young people responded really well to new ideas – the “shiny” effect! However, this does not mean that they would actually become a user of the product.
    – RJDJ
    “I like the idea of being able to note lyrics really easily when you’re on the go…” But surely there are other ways to do this – Pen/Paper or Recorder on phone?!
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “This is actually something I’ve been looking for myself. I really like the idea of music videos in a playlist, and being able to play them at a party.”
    “I like the fact that you can watch a load of music videos in succession
    – CitySounds.fm
    “It’s artsy, I like that about it, and the fact that you can capture the essence of different cities. It’s a really good idea, and I haven’t heard of anything like that before.”
    “I do like the idea of music from different locations and backgrounds… This is going to be great for new artists looking to promote their own music.”
    Rachel travels to see family in Brazil regularly and could see that this is something she would use.
    – Zova
    “you’ve got harsh competition – Nike, Adidas”

    3. The Teens wanted to make sure that the product offered choices, particularly in the selection of music, where they wanted to be able to discover music by genre.
    – RJDJ
    “I think this is a really amazing app … but it only focuses on urban genres like hip-hop.”
    “Can you use other instruments – can you put in a guitar?”
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “Will you be doing a mobile version that’s easier to use?”
    “Would you be able to buy the videos so you can watch them on your iPod?”
    “I think it’s really good… The only thing is will you be able to use it on your phone?”
    – CitySounds.fm
    “say I click on Barcelona, can I choose a genre, or does it just come up with the top songs?”
    “I can’t really relate to that. There’s a certain genre I listen to in the morning…”
    “From your presentation it looks like it only focuses on dance music. What I’d like to see is to have some sort of mood setting”
    “I’m a bit confused whether I like it or not really. I tend to stick to one genre at a time. Is it really new artists, or only the latest tracks coming onto the radio within that country?”
    – Zova
    “you should stretch to more sports than just football”
    “I don’t play football, but I saw in the video you had a skateboarder in the background, so you could stretch to a different type of sport.”
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “Not everyone listens to that music. I’m from London, I’m not from Sao Paulo… ”

    4. Is it free? Are young people spending money on music?
    All the presenters were asked this question. Shivz thought it was a misconception that young people are not spending money on music. He asked the audience how they thought that artists like Tinchy Stryder had managed so many music sales – was it really the older generations that would buy that style of music? I am sure that there are stats somewhere to shed some light on this? See Vic Keegan’s article!
    Tube Radio is free – at which point the audience began to scratch is communal head! So how will they make money?
    One of the panellists commented “it’s good that it’s free, because most teenagers don’t really want to spend money on anything!”

    5. Adopting familiar user interfaces is a good idea!
    When teens are presented with products, they will naturally liken them to products that they are already familiar with. This is useful for companies to hear where this group see the natural competitors, and it is also an indication that companies could reference these other sites in their material to help get across what their product does.
    Tube Radio –
    “I like the idea how it’s quite the same layout as iTunes, so people will be familiar with it”.
    “I thought it was good, and quite interested in the way you combine iTunes and YouTube”

    6. Teens show their sophistication
    Citysounds.fm – “would you have to enter the city you’re in, or would it automatically work it out?” (It is automatic)
    Zova – Some of the panellists struggled with the practicality of listening to music while they were football training.
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “I think it could be a good idea for workout sessions.”
    “You can’t listen to music when you’re training, unless it’s in the gym.”
    “I was at Butlins, and these kids came over and they were playing music, and I was like ‘why are you playing music? We’re playing football!’

    CitySounds.fm and TubeRadio.fm were the most popular with the panel and RJDJ had a shout out from Shivz.

    Unfortunately, due to previous sessions over-running, the Q&A was cut from the session. Shivz was invited on stage by Mike Butcher and Jemima Kiss to join their closing remarks. He wondered why there weren’t more labels at the conference and naturally he put in his pitch for any free stuff that was going!

    Jemima & Shivz - Closing Remarks

     

    Thanks to Richard Cardwell and “pevijo” on Flickr for the photographs.

Music 4.5 – Quick Feedback!

I am taking a quick break and will be posting the teen insights from The Travelling Teen Panel at Music 4.5 by 20th March, so please bear with me and watch this space!  In the meantime, here is some feedback from the conference:

“the teen panel was really cool” Mike Butcher, Techcrunch

“they were saying the sorts of things that venture capitalists do” Jemima Kiss, Guardian

“Great training for startups – definitely scarier than presenting to VCs. Yes indeed.” @sitar

As you will know, my passion is around creating relevant and engaging learning experiences for young people, I can now also add “the creation of opportunities” to that list.  Shivz Dotz, one of the Travelling Teen panelists is a young DJ from a youth enterprise scheme in Hackney – he has been mobbed all day with offers from various elements of music industry.   He did an on the spot rap to show off the RJDJ product and has told the oldies how teens and music really work.   Suspect the job offers will roll in!