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Highlights from the CI Partnership Forum

On Wednesday 5th August 2020 we held our second partnership forum as a fully virtual event on zoom, with over 50 people making it along on the day. We would like to thank all of you that joined us, for your time and your valuable contributions and insights. In this update we share some highlights from the event, including your comments, concerns and ideas, that are already being used to shape the delivery of our various funding streams, events, and how we support you.

Partnership forums take place twice a year, offering a chance for the creative community in and around Edinburgh to voice their thoughts about the programme and help us develop and improve. Our first partnership forum took place in October 2019 and, as you can imagine, much has changed since then. As a programme we now have all of our funding streams underway, and in some cases on their third or fourth round of applications, and we are much more established within the community. Of course there have also been much bigger changes in recent months with lockdown being the key reason that we delayed this second partnership forum by a couple of months.

We opened with an introduction to the work we’ve been doing over the last 10 months, including tweaks to our funding streams, changes to our events programme, our first CI Innovation Showcase, and our COVID-19 response activities (you can view the slides here). This included a lovely video made for us by Harry Jones Martin, summarising the 12 Creative Informatics and Visual Arts Scotland Friday Forums that replaced our CI Lab events from April to August (recordings of all of these are now available on Vimeo).

Next, we split into five breakout groups looking at key Creative Informatics areas:

  • Connecting with the CI Community
  • Skills
  • Application Process
  • Evaluation and Research
  • General / Ask Us Anything

Below are some of the key questions, comments and feedback emerging from these discussions.

A view of the shared whiteboard used across the Partnership Forum Breakout Groups
View of the shared whiteboard used across the Partnership Forum Breakout Groups

Connecting with the CI Community

You told us that you find our updates and notifications around Creative Informatics opportunities and event work well on the whole, although you would still like us to reflect on the terminology we use to find more approachable language. This is particularly important in the context of introducing new people to our various funding and support strands.

You told us that, since lockdown began and our events (and others) shifted online, you particularly miss the opportunities for informal networking and chat around our CI Lab events.

What we plan to do about this

We have been trying to find the most effective and engaging ways to encourage connection and chat in our online events. We have trialled a number of event platforms and also thought carefully about how we run events online (see our openly published (CC-BY) events guide).

In September we held our first hybrid CI Lab at Leith Theatre – bringing a mix of presentations live from the venue, with other speakers and audience engaging online – which provided a different and more informal way to connect. We encouraged discussion and engagement alongside the presentations and discussions, and many of you connected with our speakers and each other through the text chat. We will develop this approach over the coming months, so do keep an eye out for future events. We are continuously looking at the best ways to facilitate new connections and informal chat at events and would love to hear what you’ve tried or experienced and liked during the last few months of online/hybrid events.

If you do want an informal chat with the CI team, or would like us to make a specific new connection, please do get in touch (creativeinformatics@ed.ac.uk) and we can set up a chat over video call, phone, or email as appropriate.

Infographic on Creative Bridge Participants to date by sector – further details in the our Partnership Forum slides.

Skills and Peer Support

You asked for more opportunities to share experiences and skills, and suggested that it might be useful to have access to more niche talks or “geek out sessions” to share skills across the community.

You noted that lockdown had really exposed some pressing skills needs, including support to make digital feel less frightening. You noted that sometimes support for skills can move slowly but there is currently a need for quick turn-around responsive skills offers that can empower people to develop and/or pivot their work.

You said that you particularly wanted to hear more good news stories around digital skills and data skills to provide some hope in the current climate. You also just wanted more stories of skills around data and data driven information to understand what’s possible and where others have had success.

You also spoke about the importance of networks in identifying needed complementary skills – so, for instance, ways to meet and connect with people who have programming expertise, rather than necessarily having to develop those skills directly.

What we plan to do about this

We have been running our CI Studios during lockdown and will continue to look at how we can use these smaller workshops to deliver the skills and experience sharing you need. We are also developing a number of skills programmes associated with Creative Informatics including two launched this autumn:

  • Raise Your Game – a new digital skills programme from Creative Edinburgh running over 8 sessions. This programme is currently underway but you can still book individual sessions through their website.
  • Developing a Data Driven Creative Company – a new 6 week programme from the University of Edinburgh Business School. This is particularly aimed at company leaders.

If you are interested in hearing about other skills opportunities, do let us know.

We are really interested in how we can support more peer sharing. We would be keen to hear from you if there are particular topics or individuals you’d be keen to hear from, or if there are areas of data and creativity you’d be happy to share with others – things that have gone well, or disastrously, or have just led to an interesting experiment or change in your work.

Graphic showing demographic profile of applicants to our Resident Entrepreneur strand to date.

Application Processes

You generally had positive feedback on the application processes and associated feedback around applications. You have found the pre-application processes helpful particularly the “Discovery” sessions ahead of Challenge Holder and RE application deadlines, and thought that more opportunities to take part in these would be helpful.

You were concerned about the extent to which application questions/processes might need to reflect changing needs/project pivots in line with COVID-19.

We currently provide PDF copies of applications forms to support you in preparing to submit. You asked if we could provide these sample forms in a format that is more accessible to edit, particularly where planning applications in partnership with others.

What we are doing about this

We have now added a section to our next round of Connected Innovators application forms – and it will also be included on other relevant application forms due to go live shortly – to specifically address the potential need to make changes in response to COVID-19/lockdown. We are now asking applicants to briefly discuss possible risks, mitigations, and concerns.

Since the Partnership Forum we have held our first Q&A event with Challenge Holders, providing opportunity to raise questions early and prepare Challenge Respondent applications. We will be running these events again as it worked well and received positive feedback from both Challenge Holders and potential Respondents. We have also scheduled two Resident Entrepreneurs Discovery sessions and trialled online versions of our one-to-one chats associated with these. Please do continue to share ideas about support and information workshops that would help you in exploring new creative data driven work.

We noted your comment about PDF application forms and will be sharing Word versions going forward. If you would like an alternative format, just email us.

On-Boarding Process

You had some recommendations for improving our on-boarding process once projects are selected and funded, this included: providing more specific post-application timelines including when funds can be expected, contract sign off processes etc.

What we are doing about this

In our forthcoming onboarding for new projects and next rounds of funding calls we will be ensuring successful applicants receive clearer overviews of timelines, requirements, etc. at the outset to ensure there is clarity and a more streamlined process in place. We are also in the process of updating our FAQs to further improve clarity and transparency around our process.

Evaluation and Research

You said you were keen to learn more about the Creative Informatics research and how you can get involved. You were also keen to understand some of the evaluation around Creative Informatics programme – and how your data is used.

What we are doing about this

We launched the new Creative Informatics Research Blog in August and have been providing regular updates here, including information on our new map exploring Edinburgh and South East Scotland’s creative industries. We will continue to share opportunities and information here.

During the Partnership Forum we shared some of the demographics around participation in the Creative Informatics programme. We will continue to look for appropriate opportunities to share key data on the programme with you. In the coming months we will be publishing our Annual Report, summarising the last year of activity, funding, engagement, and achievements across this brilliant community. We are also currently working on our approach to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and will have more to share on this at our next partnership forum. If you are interested in feeding into this work and/or helping us reach out to more diverse communities please do reach out to us.

Looking ahead

We concluded the partnership forum with a look ahead to forthcoming funding opportunities, events and new activities including our Horizon Projects strand.

Horizon is a curated strand of projects around cutting-edge creative data-driven work. We have a pilot taking place and a second project being planned. We are keen to hear from anyone working on highly innovative R&D ideas and projects to look at connecting industry and academic partners who can take forward ideas that might make Edinburgh the only place in the world for some new creative data-driven area of work. If that sounds like you, please get in touch with us and put “CI Horizon” in the subject line of your email to creativeinformatics@ed.ac.uk.

Thank you

Thank you again for being part of our second partnership forum –  we really appreciate your openness and honesty and it really does help us understand what is going well, and how we can improve what we do to support you more effectively.

You will be aware that we have a lot of projects and exciting developments going on and lots of updates to share so please do put the date of the next Partnership Forum in your diaries: Wednesday 27th January 2021. Booking will open shortly.

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