This project ran from 2009-2011. Run on behalf of Birmingham City Council, the project was intended to benefit Birmingham based businesses. The aims of this project were to demonstrate the usefulness of Internet technologies, especially social media technologies, to a wide range of business sectors through a series of demonstration projects; the wider project aims included innovation and business growth.

The term ‘digital champion’ is now fairly commonplace. In the context of this project, we were hoping to create digital champions through the demonstrator projects: the demonstrator projects were intended to  inspire others to try something new.

The project built on our experiences in the AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship in New Strategies for Radio and Music Organisations. We demonstrated simple uses of technologies that could make a difference to our partners’ activities. The prototypes were informed by and fed back into our research and teaching activities within Birmingham School of Media.

We completed fifteen demonstrators (or assists) within the project, which served 75 companies directly and indirectly.

Developing Champions

A key objective was the need to use the fifteen assists to provoke activity within a wider community. The demonstrators which we produced were therefore often focussed upon drawing in secondary partners – the prototype was a tool to have conversations with other potential partners.

In addition to reaching out, the project allowed us to reach in to larger organisations. As an example of this, we ran a small activity with one team within Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. At that point the organisation was trying to understand what social media could do for them and how it could be brought into their activities. A small scale pilot activity, which was time limited, provided a useful provocation for conversations to happen across teams. The activity was low risk but provided a workable case study that could be used in strategic conversations: our partner therefore became an agent of change, a digital champion, within the organisation.

‘Digital Champions’ and knowledge transfer

First and foremost we saw this project as one of knowledge transfer. As such we were trying to make the knowledge we have about social media and digital culture useful in an industry context, but we were also looking to develop avenues of new research, validation of some ideas, and case studies for learning and teaching.

Activity within this project led to further knowledge transfer work including a KTP project and a number of other ongoing partnerships which we value highly and which are continuing to feed into our learning and teaching in Birmingham School of Media.

Feeding into teaching

This project has benefited teaching and learning in a number of ways: case studies, work placements, live briefs, and guest speakers.

Many of the projects have clear teachable moments within them, and these are presented to students either as case study materials by lecturers or, in some cases, through bringing the partners into the classroom. We are very pleased that one partner has now come in to share their experiences with students three times.

The assists were limited (by time available) in scope, and so continuation work has formed the basis of a number of work placements for Birmingham School of Media students. In one assist students actually worked as part of the knowledge transfer team itself (since completing their studies, they have gone on to form their own innovative production company in part informed by these experiences).

Feeding into research

Primarily this project was about working with our existing knowledge, however the experimental approach to some assists did allow us to run some small practice based research projects. The outcomes of one assist (Swede It!) was presented as a conference paper and is being developed as a journal article.

This project ran from late 2009 to March 2011. It was part of the “Working Neighbourhood Fund – Stimulating Demand Programme 2009/11 – Web 2.0 Presence” package of support being delivered on behalf of Digital Birmingham and Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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