Recently I was lucky enough to down tools in Sheffield for the day and attend the Media Trust's Art of Engagement conference. It was an exciting, action-packed day. I met lots of interesting new people, listened to some thought-provoking talks and caught up with a few familiar faces.
One of the keynote speakers was Jo Kerr, from Girlguiding. She spoke about the co-creation work that we have been doing with Girlguiding to develop their new website. If you were there, you may remember her mentioning a workshop facilitator crawling around the floor with a group of Rainbows – well, I'll let you into a secret – that was me!
The concept of co-creation featured heavily during the day – Kris Hallenga of Coppafeel talked about her organisation's work with teenagers on designing a breast cancer awareness campaign for schools.
Ultimately, hers and Jo's message was the same: "Ask your users what content they want to see and what it should look like." It may seem like an easy idea, but it can be quite transformative in the messages you send out to the world, and what those messages look like.
- Start with a fun icebreaker to get people talking, moving and laughing. Mix up people that arrive together and play a silly game. My current favourite is to get groups to try and come up with a list of 7 things they have in common. You can learn each other's names by standing in a circle, going round once and saying your name, then throwing a ball across the circle shouting out the person's name you’re throwing the ball to – make sure you move breakable objects out of the way! Or spend 5 minutes in pairs finding out 3 interesting facts about each other; then everyone introduces their partner to the group.
- Try to hold your workshop in a really pleasant environment – natural light; fresh air; water, tea and coffee; pictures on the walls; plants. All these things make the whole day so much nicer for everyone, and help people feel relaxed and confident.
- Be confident yourself – know your plan well. Make sure you know how to cut activities out if conversations and discussions take longer then you expected. Conversely, have backup activities in case you have time left over – this very rarely happens in my experience – people always have lots to say.
- Finding people to come to your workshop is hard work – you need people who represent your user group, who are willing to give up their precious time for you. You need to think about paying their travel expenses, offering gift vouchers or other inducements, and laying on a tasty lunch. You need to devote some time to identifying people and personally inviting them (a phone call is well worth the effort), publicising widely and keep at it! Ideal numbers for a workshop are between 8 and 20. Fewer than that, and you won’t get many ideas, more than that and discussion becomes unmanageable. If you are a large organisation, it might be worth thinking about going out to different parts of the country to meet your users where they are (as Girlguiding are doing).
My key tip though remains the one I mentioned in an earlier article: Be very clear, with yourself and those participating, exactly what you want to discover. Have a question for your workshop. Explore any assumptions when you're planning and also with the workshop participants, and make sure every one understands any jargon used in the question.
And most of all, have fun!