This is a guest post written by Ross Breadmore, consultant with NixonMcInnes. NixonMcInnes are a Brighton based social business consultancy.
As I’ve stated a million times before, I love Brighton. I love working in Brighton. And I love working for a company that loves Brighton. Love love love. Brighton Brighton Brighton.
So it was ace to be asked to help with Brighton Fuse, a two-year social research and development project “which will map, measure and assist Brighton’s creative, digital and IT cluster”. It involves a core team of researchers, academics and analysts, various bodies and delivery partners including our friends at Wired Sussex.
A couple of months back Phil Jones at Wired Sussex asked if NixonMcInnes could get involved in Brighton Fuse, to help the whole thing be more social. At that point we had been interviewed as part of the project, but hadn’t really considered our role beyond submitting questionnaire responses. Phil had an inkling that being a social research project focussed on a creative, digital and IT cluster, that perhaps it could be more ‘social’ than research and development projects normally are.
‘Awesome’ I thought – why not? So I first met with Phil and then with Georgina Voss, one of Brighton Fuse’s researchers, to gain an understanding of the goals, possibilities, strengths and challenges surrounding the mission; to make Brighton Fuse social.
Here was my initial summary:
- Make Brighton Fuse social, allowing a wider audience to engage with the programme as it’s happening.
- (secondary mega goal – make Brighton Fuse a case study for modern social research, for its use of digital)
- Encourage and empower Brighton Fuse team to share suitable content as it’s created.
- Use social platforms to share content, invite conversation and find new audiences.
Challenges and suggested means of overcoming
- Fear of research contamination – could we create content that sat on top of the research, to form talks, blog posts and videos?
- Brighton Fuse group aren’t all natural fans/users of social media – in a workshop we could explore what people do use/enjoy and play to these strengths.
- We have a workshop and get excited but thereafter little happens. Mitigation – Georgina as ringmaster, helping to encourage ongoing activity. Also, focus on activity that feels natural and useful to people, rather than simply getting to tweet/blog for the sake of it.
- The whole thing comes across as smug and overly intellectual, and alienates broader audience. Mitigation – address this in workshop and stress the need for accessibility.
It was reassuringly familiar stuff – having worked with banks, charities and broadcasters, the mix of excitement with cynicism, and possibility with frustration, all seemed customary. That wasn’t to say it would be easy, but at least I can bring some outside knowledge to the group.
So far, we’ve had one workshop with the majority of the group. We looked at examples of similar projects that had used social in a particular way (there aren’t many), and individuals within the academic community who use social to promote themselves and their findings. I also bought a few outside platforms to the groups attention, such as Kaggle – what if we could publish Brighton Fuse data and set challenges for the audience – ask them to uncover insights that we cannot.
From there, the group discussed various big and small ways of approaching the challenge. Here’s a snippet:
- Humanising the project – social should provide a platform and mechanism for individuals to show off and get feedback.
- Socialising social research – I think that openly discussing the opportunities and challenges of making Brighton Fuse more social will be hugely interesting, and could generate real debate.
- Asking questions – what are the big questions that Brighton Fuse seeks to answer? What are the big questions that it won’t, that are out of scope but interesting nonetheless?
- Prototyping – once the project hits the Development phase, I think social should explain each experiment, capture the results and invite feedback/discussion.
To be honest, it’s going to be a big hill to climb. Encouraging any group to embrace social at a fundamental level is hard, even before you account for the added difficulties that the nature of research throws up. But, I’m confident we can do it. It’s a super smart group and I believe we have an audience that would be receptive to the transparency, immediacy and humanness that social could lend Brighton Fuse.
Watch this space.