Week 9 and Easter break – Conversation with Stuart, scaling down, refocusing and more research.

In the wake of the panel discussion last week I’ve had a bit of mental block regarding where to go next with this project. I happily took everything that was said on board – I agreed with most of the feedback and was thankful for the opportunity to receive it but when it came time to put the advice into practice I struggled to collect my thoughts and move forward. It has become obvious that I need to scale back my project ambitions as what I’m pitching right now is just not feasible but I’ve struggled to figure out a way to do that whilst still keeping the same basic heart and soul of my idea.

It has taken me stepping back for a few days and giving myself some headspace to be able to see things a bit more clearly. I had a conversation with Stuart just before Easter which also really helped. I was able to convey all my concerns to him and we talked them through, he sent a follow up email afterwards reassuring me that the project idea was good (I must have sounded pretty defeated) and he gave me a few pointers for how I might move forward. We also looked at pinpointing where some of the weaker parts of my project were just now and he helped me to see a path forward towards resolving them.

We mostly talked about my need to conduct more direct research. I desperately need to talk to my potential user base to really understand how they feel about this idea, it’s something that I’ve not done much of, instead largely focusing on academic research. We also discussed my need for more in-depth research around other similar projects that are already out there right now; both in terms of their design & in terms of the service(s) they offer. My plan is to focus on these two areas over the Easter holiday break so that when we come back in April I’ll have a more fully formed idea of where my project sits in relation to my users needs and to the wider market.

Easter plan:

I have a talk booked in with two members of Evening Class soon which I’m hoping will give me some insight into how small, local groups can make a comparatively big splash in their local area. I’m interested in learning as much as I can from them about the practicalities behind running events and workshops as well as a little more about how they organise themselves democratically. I’ll post the recording here below once I’ve spoken to them.

This is a recording of that chat.

Things I learned from chatting with Alessia and Nicola:

  • When they started, the way they got their idea out there was to make a simple landing page website and shared it with as many people as they could. This generated a lot of interest from like minded folks who wanted to get involved to help get it going. This is something I could look to emulate.
  • They would pay a flat rate of £60 for anybody who came to deliver a talk, usually the talks would be on something that the person was informed about & so didn’t require much preparation. If they needed someone to develop a new talk they’d negotiate for a fair fee.
  • The leaders initially had a strong idea of what they wanted to create but over time this changed and morphed into something slightly different, remaining flexible and reacting to changes has helped them to remain active and relevant for longer than if they’d stuck rigidly to their original ideas.
  • Major decisions would be voted on and there was a general attitude that if certain members were uncomfortable with something then they wouldn’t do it, even if it meant losing out on an opportunity. This obviously is a balance and needs to be approached maturely to ensure that people don’t just leave in droves.
  • Building community is part of the whole point of projects like these. The work that is made is a shared purpose but shared interests such as meditation classes and social events helped to bind them together and make it a worthwhile investment for many members.

Interviews with graduates:

Over Easter I’m going to get in contact with some of my own graduate contacts to arrange some in-depth qualitative interviews looking at their graduate experience and their response to my ideas. As I record each conversation I’ll post them below here along with a short summary of what I’ve learned from each chat.

Interview with Amy
  • The branding and message should make it clear that this project / group is not affiliated with or owned by any one specific University in the city. That would put a lot of people off & make them think that it wasn’t for them. This is especially true for graduates that studied elsewhere then moved to Bristol.
Interview with Michael
  • It should be easy for new members to join and integrate, nothing is more off putting than joining a new group that has well established power dynamics and is hostile to new members.
  • Make it appealing not just to people who are looking for a step into their desirable career but also to those a bit more established so that meaningful and helpful connections can be made naturally through the group.
  • For something like this a polished social media ad campaign might actually put people off as it can come across quite corporate. Think of other ways that word can be spread that feel more genuine.
  • Make it fun, people are sick of boring lectures – how can you put a spin on it that is a USP that makes people want to come?
Interview with Nathan (Connected with him via The Dots)
  • Sometimes socialising outside of your specific academic specialism is more rewarding than just chatting to people with the same experience as you. Opportunities for both are important.
  • Make it low stakes to get involved, the less corporate and overdeveloped it seems the more likely people are to want to come along.
Interview with Torben
  • The sweet spot between fun and useful is important to find. Why do people come along?
  • Post-uni isolation can come in many forms whether it’s moving away from your uni town, losing your uni friend groups or breaking up with a girlfriend as in Torben’s case.
  • People are clued in when something is being sold to them and actively ignore paid ads. Somewhere like Reddit might be a good place to advertise events.
  • Making it clear that it’s not for students is super important, most of these kinds of things are for students.
  • Paying a monthly due to be a part of the union wouldn’t be a problem for Torben.

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