DIY User Engagement

Me, Katrina Damianou and one of our patients: Ketan Majmudar at the Product Doctor Surgery, OTA 2011. Photo courtesy of the fabulous Paul Clarke - paulclarke.com

This year at Over the Air in Bletchley Park, Katrina and I set up a Product Doctor Drop in Surgery offering 25 minute complimentary sessions. On a scorching couple of days, we set up outside and were happy to have a continual stream of patients, including the wonderful @Documentally and @Bookmeister.

Listening carefully, as we always preach, we are considering next year calling it “Product Therapy” as the sessions seemed to have a cathartic effect!

Rather than blogging a long post, here are the contents and the full paper is available for download below.

  1. It is never too early (or too late) to engage end users
  2. What do you show users?
  3. How to find your end users
  4. Can you have the conversation with end users?
  5. How to begin the conversation
  6. Write a test script
  7. “I can’t explain what my product does”
  8. Showing a prototype
  9. Testing for usability
  10. Keep checking back with users as you develop and improve each new feature
  11. Build and test your product before developing your brand
  12. Be honest with yourself as to why you are developing the App
I hope you find this useful and as always, please do get in touch or leave comments below.

Creating learning opportunities for young people through user centred design

I was invited to speak about Designing Products & Propositions for the Youth Market by Luke Mitchell of Reach Students at “Youth Marketing Stategy 2011”.

There was an interesting mix of speakers covering the youth market from a number of different perspectives; ranging from insights, marketing and creative agencies, community management and viral marketing to universities and graduate recruiters. This was a great place to share my insights about the youth market and to encourage all these players in the youth space to create learning opportunities for young people through their projects.

Here is the presentation that I gave. It gives many examples of how I have engaged young people in the design of youth products and the value that created for the producers.

Here are some further highlights from the day:

Understanding Youth Tribes – a new way to look at youth segmentation
This visual was created by a teenage boy who was asked to describe his local neighbourhood.  This was shown by Neil Taylor & Joe Beck from Channel 4.  This insight inspired their UK Tribes research on youth segmentation, insights and motivations and is definitely worth a read.
Here are the main tribes that they went on to identify through further interviews with young people.

Educational Institutions

Brunel University showed how social media can be used in educational institutions.  They had run focus groups to get some initial insights.  Great opportunity here for one of my pleas… run co-design sessions with students and the project team.  Start by sharing the intended business objectives and benefits. Move on to exploring and identifying the user benefits with the students and then to brainstorming user stories (Scrum reference) as you go.  “As a user I would like to ….. so that …”  Then co-design the user experience of products, systems and processes together.

For me, traditional “focus groups” are often not focussed enough.

  • The participants feel like the fish being watched in the bowl so are often not natural in their behaviour.  Smash down those viewing gallery windows and get the client in the room!
  • Participants feel that the researcher is wanting a particular answer and the session will often become a “guess the right answer” game.
  • Before going to research, the researcher / client will usually have done quite a lot of work designing the proposition based on assumed user needs – so save time and get in with the user early on to test any assumptions from the start.
  • Often clients will take the output of a focus group and months later, they may return and test out their solutions.  No! Keep going back – preferably every 2 weeks, within a scrum structure, and get users to sign off what has been developed as you go. Again, this will save time, money and effort.

Helen Pennack, Head of Marketing & Communications,  University of Leicester is an award-winning marketer who has been developing a portal and integrated social media marketing plan to both attract potential students and provide support to existing students at Leicester University.  She heavily engaged end users in the design and the community management of the portal. Another one that is worth a look and another way to help young people develop their real life skills and CV build as they go.

Not going to Uni!

Spencer Mehlman of notgoingtouni.co.uk provided a particularly refreshing and pragmatic alternative view to graduating and not finding a job.  Here is the leading paragraph from their website which says it all: “…So you’re thinking about not going to uni. Congratulations! You’ve just proved that you’re not afraid to think differently. Contrary to what the masses may say, university isn’t the only path to success. From apprenticeships to debt-free learning, there are literally thousands of other opportunities out there…”

Do Students Matter in Youth Marketing?

Ben Marks and Melanie Cohen of Opinion Panel gave some good reasons to engage students:

1. It is a population that’s large enough to matter

2. They are enthusiastic early adopters who take products viral

3. Student trends have always lead the way

4. Today’s students are tomorrow’s wealthy citizens and opinion leaders

Opinion Panel run online real-time moderated focus groups. The benefits of this method are that groups can be run with users from different locations and that many insights come from the conversation between users rather than those between moderator and respondent.  Trick here is to make sure that this is an appropriate method for the key questions that you have.  A good researcher will gain a huge amount of insight by looking in to the respondents’ eyes – some questions will always need to be face to face.

James Eder from Studentbeans.com gave a very engaging talk on how they have the largest student subscriber base in the UK for research through their special discounts and offers incentives. They work with many brands to solicit student opinion.  Again, this is online.

And for a great finish…

Get Tom Scott to speak at your event – I cannot think of anyone that could help your event finish on such a big high. Google him for examples of his viral successes. Importantly, he encourages us to try lots of different approaches, not to settle on one. This way we have more chance of succeeding.

All in all this was a good conference and I hope that Luke does another one!  As with all conferences, not all the sessions were useful for everyone as it was quite diverse around the sector, but there certainly are possibilities for them all to create real life learning experiences for young people and I hope that they do.


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.

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?

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!

Education Project with Teen Research Opportunity – Spring Term

I am putting on a Spring Term Learning Festival day at a school in Newbury. The school is a secondary co-ed, state school with mixed background and ability students. They are progressive, having previously worked with Becta and Futurelab on digital learning research projects and each year they provide enterprise programs for students with neighbours Vodafone. They have also trialled various digital programs for education providers.

This is a great opportunity for businesses to have some young people design solutions to challenges that you may have in the youth sector. Do any of these examples resonate with you?

1. You want to develop a social media marketing plan targeting the youth market.
2. You want to find out what young people are prepared to pay for.
3. You want to define a new offering in the youth space.
4. You need to address youth safety in the digital space.
5. You have a long list of product requirements and want user input to help you prioritise them.

If you can answer yes to any of the above, or have a different challenge around the youth market please do contact me – either by leaving a comment on this post or by using the Contact Form provided on this blog.

Safety : Young People in Virtual Environments

Based on my experience working with virtual online community spaces for young people, I was asked to be on a panel at Professor Richard Bartle’s Protecting and Engaging Kids in Virtual Spaces Forum, October, 2009. Here are my thoughts from the event:

1. Useful stats about young people’s online usage
Marc Goodchilld from the BBC quoted some really useful stats from Childwise Report 2009. These stats relate to 5 – 16 year olds in the UK
• 87% go online
• 55% own computer
• 37% access in own room
• 33% of 9-10 year olds go online – that increases to 59% for the 11 – 12 year olds due mainly to them being driven online to do their homework.

2. Difficulties with engaging parents in the online safety of their children
The BBC children’s sites are one of the most popular sites in the UK and parents associate high levels of trust that it is safe and appropriate. However, there is evidence to suggest that many parents do not know what else their children are doing online. The Byron report suggests three areas for concern: inappropriate content; contact and conduct. There were some surprisingly low stats measuring parental concern around these areas. As “digital immigrants”, the parents simply do not have the time and in a lot of cases, the digital skills to be able to follow and monitor their children online.

There is a cry from many groups that parents should be educated to help their children understand what steps they should take to ensure that their children are safe online. There is a period of 8 – 10 years where these education programs are important as the next generation of parents will be digitally literate themselves – digital natives. There were some good examples of active education cited such as Sky who teach parents how to use pin locks when they install their services in the home.

As is the nature of technological innovation, there are continuous new developments that present both further ways to protect children online as well as further threats to child safety. For example, enabling live in game real time voice chat (through VoIP) presents moderation issues as it is both real time and difficult from a scalability point of view to support.

I was particularly concerned to hear about the “jigsaw effect” where it is easy to piece together what children have said in different message boards on different sites and for the unsavoury elements in society to build up quite a full picture of an individual.

3. Let’s engage young people to help us solve these safety issues
My passion is to engage users in designing solutions to the challenges that we face. Children are the digital natives – they understand what they do online better than the older generation that are making and implementing the policies. I talked about my tried and tested ways of engaging users that you can read about on the rest of my blog.

Tamara Littleton, who founded eModeration embraced these ideas around engaging users –
“The most crucial thing we can do to improve internet safety and enjoyment is education of the young users. Better than a purely didactic process which may be rejected by teenagers, is peer-to-peer leadership/mentoring, and input from the target group themselves as to what they want to learn and how it should be taught.”

Here is a picture of my panel – Kevin Holloway from Finesse Management, lil ol me and Tamara Littleton from eModeration.
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Engaging users also in the implementation of safety education, for example, giving them jobs in the virtual environment to help self-police, also provides good experience for them to build up a CV style portfolio and from a business point of view, is likely to create more user loyalty from those involved. It echoes the e-bay model of self-policing taken to a younger audience.

My view was also supported by information from Marc Goodchild at the BBC, where he pointed out that children as young as 10 have developed the abilities to discern malicious behaviour and they are able to take the necessary steps that a publisher provides them to report the incident.

Oisin Lunny from Sulake that own Habbo talked about some great examples of campaigns where it became cool to participate and spread the word – such as their Childline campaign, where users proudly collected and wore their badges. With the younger sites, such as the BBC, it is easier to craft engaging sites where the real time elements can be limited as they theorise that the user experience is more about enjoying activities online, playing together that may not require users to be able to communicate with each other in a free text live format.

4. Be open, honest and give young people the respect of being savvy!
Having worked with many young people, I also reinforced the message that young people are savvy and should be given the respect of open and honest communication from the site publishers. Creativity is necessary in getting safety messages delivered. I have found time over that young people do not sit and read text, however, if messages can be integrated in to the game play, perhaps using existing reward structures within virtual environments to incentivise safe behaviour and good active policing then like the Childline campaign in Habbo, users will help publishers to get their message across. To my point about user engagement, Habbo have had great success from their “Idea Agency” where they launched a virtual ad agency in Habbo, setting users challenges on how best to run campaigns in the Habbo environment – designed by users.

5. Recognise the power of Virtual Environments for their educational properties
The other topic that I raised was that we should recognise the educational properties of virtual environments. Futurebrand in a report associated with Becta, identified four ways that engagement in virtual environments can be educational:

1. Virtual environments are a persuasive medium that can affect young people’s thinking providing positive opportunities to inform young people about important contemporary issues such as injustice and the consequences of ideological conflict.
2. The Constructionist theory is that children’s development takes place through participation in a social world and interaction with people, events and objects. These are ideal platforms for young people to try out ideas, make decision, communicate with others and explore or make new worlds. It is active and participative rather than passive and merely receptive.
3. They enable us to create environments for authentic activity –learning occurs most successfully when it take place in authentic contexts. For example, learn about a historical period by exploring and interacting in a virtual environment that has re-created it. They also have to learn to deal with many inputs and outputs at the same time, collaborate with other players to take risks and experience failure in a safe environment. Some sites allow learners to adopt the identities and practices of professional innovators in a variety of fields. These are also the sorts of skills that will equip the younger generation for the 21st century and their work lives.
4. Media Literacy learning is often talked about as a positive educational take out from engagement with virtual environments. The futurebrand report also frames this excellently, referring to
a). Critical Consumption
The ability of learners to be able to read and produce media – to understand the politics – how media are produced, for what purposes and to what effects – how media organisations operate, how audiences receive and respond to different media and how the exchange between media produces and consumers impacts on social relations and culture
b). Creative Production
Young people become the designers and creators of media. They learn by constructing media, and having to consider design, distribution, representation and audience. Media literacy is important across the board not just for those in media studies.

Tweenter – A Design & Insights Challenge

Along the theme of interesting digital real life case studies to use in work-related learning school sessions – how about the challenge of designing a version of Twitter that appeals more to Teens? “Tweenter” if you will.

We know that teens are following their fave celebrities on Twitter but that they are not really adopting the other capabilities that it offers. We have also seen many different user interfaces pop up in this space – Tweetdeck and Tweetmeme as examples.

This would be a really engaging challenge as an innovation case study where I would guide teams of students through the innovation process and also give opportunities to practice other work related skills such as teamwork, communication, presentation and so on. This would also lend itself well as a practical exercise to support a marketing, design or business syllabus.