Tuesday 25 May 2010

Draft boards ready for 9th June!

Please leave comments here, any corrections, anything - I will have to send all to printers by Friday 28th May.


Monday 24 May 2010

It's good to have friends

I went to two events this weekend, in between the non-stop birthday parties our kids bring us along to.

The first was the BOSF AGM - an organisation I have a lot of time for. In time of political paralysis, so good to be in a room of people who really do get out there and make a difference (The Friends organisations of various Parks and Open Spaces, that is). Presentations, ranging from super corporate to less so from the increasingly confusing array of sub-contractors and other park related council folk, was followed by a very organised and amazingly active AGM (yes, meaningful decisions were really made in a room of over 30 people, many never met before, in under half an hour), lunch and time for Friends of all the various parks to mingle and chat.

A real achievement to get the Friends of Parks to spend time with the men with big lawnmowers. One contractor confessed he'd never known about the 'Friends' until fairly recently, but this forced marrage seems to be working.

An interesting scheme is also underway for groups to take over a shrubbery in a park. I can see potential for park spaces to be used by schools and community groups together in a very productive way - taking ownership of our Parks, which, lets face it, are the most used free leisure activity we have in Birmingham.

Next onto Martineau gardens - a real gem hidden away in Edgbaston. A pocket of exactly the kind of practice I'd love to see in all Parks. It is pretty well maintained, but what's great about it is the way so many people seem to be able to do exactly what they want and share it so easily. Photo is Arthur playing with friends outside the bird hide.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

How to do social media

On the way back from Podnosh meeting with my digital mentor, suddenly everything became clear. I understood why Nick had been a little vague when trying to answer my questions, what steps to take, framework, everything. Once in a while you need someone to give you a slap to see the painfully obvious - it took me a while, but I'm there now.

Whatever you do with digital media, it is just that - digital media. The important stuff is the conversations it supports. No conversation, no point to digital media. You have to have something to talk about first - goes without saying, but it is more than that. Laying out a too prescriptive system, too directed, moderated, controlled, censored, and the conversation breaks down. I try and promote 'youth voice' in my work, and there is great potential in using digital social media, but not if you try and lay out how and which people you can and can't talk to. No one likes that.

It's that little bit of Thatcherism that was OK. Not the 'trickle down' baloney, or the every man for himself, but the importance of ownership, the ability to make your own choices, or 'individualism'. That, linked with a genuine desire to share knowledge & experience (I think Thatcher missed this bit) has made some of the most incredible sites - Facebook, Wikipedia, all of them.

It's easy to get blinded by the 'newness' of it, and that everyone else seem to 'get it'. It's also easy to fall into the trap of creating a flash website, setting out everything for you, thinking all is done. Often the answer is right there in front of you - small networks, people linked more naturally and owning their own 'space', collaborating based on each of our own interests, rather than any hierarchical organisational approach.

To 'successfully' use social media it seems you need nothing more than to make any type of conversation. You need to listen, show respect, follow basic etiquette (means you reply to emails quickly as poss, follow links people give you, keep to arrangements you make, update). It's a big world out there, but on the internet can we really be individual and equal?

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Language of a Professional

Jago was getting bored in the car. We told him, no, we're not nearly there. He said, 'It's alright for you. We're stuck back here like dogs!' He was spot on, in language everyone understood, and got me thinking about the language we use. We had a Bright Space Creative Agent meeting yesterday - the conversation came up again about training, creative agent as a profession and as a qualification. Wiki tells me a professional is 'is a member of a vocation founded upon specialised educational training'.

Our profession is developing its training, but the language of a creative agent is already very much in place. We categorise creativity into nine different, distinct sub-headings. We talk about 'triangulation' in order to ensure '360 degrees evaluation'. Much of the language is created or reinvented to describe our key areas of interest - creativity, reflection, ownership and is borrowed from the lexicon and pedagogies already in our schools, although little understood by anyone outside of education. We have a very big folder with an extensive 'toolbox' of paperwork.

Our language is, as more widely in education, beginning to be used to differentiate us, professionalise us, assure quality. The purpose of creating a profession might be 'quality assurance', but even if we promote creativity in all, our language already promotes a lack of understanding. Any qualification risks creating an elite in critical friendliness, a division from the other creative professionals (and amateurs) we hope to create partnership with, and a move away from our core beliefs of creative learning we evangelise in our schools.

Easy for me to say, being well qualified and in work (for the time being), but I would rather focus on the issues of 'quality assurance', developing new and confident Creative Agents, supporting existing creative agents, without an expensive and questionable qualification.

Are we creative agents really so frightened, so misunderstood, we need to create a qualification? We need to support each other to ensure quality, rely on our strengths as very different, individual creative agents, and reach out to everyone using language easily understood. We need to stand side by side with communities, schools, children and creative practitioners. No special language, no magic tricks, no qualification needed.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Silhouette from the wall of the old Shenley Community centre filled with archive memories.