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Evaluating impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media

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This article outlines the emergent theoretical framework which informed a series of initiatives developed at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, between 2005-11 with the aim of stimulating the use …

This article outlines the emergent theoretical framework which informed a series of initiatives developed at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, between 2005-11 with the aim of stimulating the use of social media for business innovation, and analyses their impact in relation to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise to be held in the UK in 2014 (in so far as it was understood in the first half of 2011). The new concept of transliteracy, developed at the Institute of Creative Technologies at DMU, was a key element in the theory informing the projects, some of which were also underpinned by research on the Amplified Individual undertaken at the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto. Although they differed in style and reach, all shared a focus on the use of social media by small to medium sized creative businesses and non-profit organisations in and around the city of Leicester, UK. In the light of the importance of assessing impact in today’s academic climate, Dr Souvik Mukherjee was appointed in 2011 to look at how that combination of research and practice might be used to demonstrate impact and make recommendations for future research. We understand that many other countries are already, or soon will be, conducting a similar audit of the ways in which higher education effects knowledge exchange and public engagement, so this article should also be of interest outside the United Kingdom.

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  • 1. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Dr Sue Thomas is an independent scholar and Visiting Fellow at The Media School, Bournemouth University, Dorset, UK. The research described here was undertaken when she was Professor of New Media in the Department of Media, Film and Journalism in the Faculty of Humanities, De Montfort University. sue.suethomas@gmail.com, http://www.suethomas.net Dr Souvik Mukherjee teaches at Presidency University, Kolkata, India. For the period of this research he was a Research Fellow in the Department of Media, Film and Journalism in the Faculty of Humanities, De Montfort University. prosperosmaze@gmail.com http://readinggamesandplayingbooks.blogspot.com/ Abstract This article outlines the emergent theoretical framework which informed a series of initiatives developed at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, between 2005-11 with the aim of stimulating the use of social media for business innovation, and analyses their impact in relation to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise to be held in the UK in 2014 (in so far as it was understood in the first half of 2011). The new concept of transliteracy, developed at the Institute of Creative Technologies at DMU, was a key element in the theory informing the projects, some of which were also underpinned by research on the Amplified Individual undertaken at the Institute for the Future, Palo Alto. Although they differed in style and reach, all shared a focus on the use of social media by small to medium sized creative businesses and non-profit organisations in and around the city of Leicester, UK. In the light of the importance of assessing impact in today’s academic climate, Dr Souvik Mukherjee was appointed in 2011 to look at how that combination of research and practice might be used to demonstrate impact and make recommendations for future research. We understand that many other countries are already, or soon will be, conducting a similar audit of the ways in which higher education effects knowledge exchange and public engagement, so this article should also be of interest outside the United Kingdom. Introduction This article outlines an emergent theoretical framework which informed a series of projects designed to stimulate the use of social media for business innovation, and discusses how they may be used to demonstrate impact in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise to be held in the UK in 2014. We understand that many other countries are already, or soon will be, conducting a similar audit of the ways in which higher education effects knowledge exchange and public engagement, so this article should also be of interest outside the United Kingdom. Our discussion of research is in two parts. We begin with the original framework, triangulating three elements: transliteracy, structural holes, and amplification, and taking place from 2005-2011. We then discuss the projects undertaken, followed by a second research section examining research carried out from Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 1
  • 2. January-June 2011. The projects discussed in the following pages were driven by differing objectives dictated by their funding, but as the REF impact agenda gained in importance it became necessary to reexamine them from an impact perspective, hence the second research activity. Dr Souvik Mukherjee was appointed in 2011 on a six-month half-time post to evaluate the projects and analyse outcomes which could be useful in relation to their relevance to the REF. This process also involved attempting to understand available impact guidelines provided towards the REF by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and match them against the projects along with the emergent theoretical framework which lay behind them. To achieve this, we formulated two main research questions:  ‘Do new communication frameworks in social media benefit business practices?’  ‘What are the roles of transliteracy and amplification in this context?’ This article outlines our findings, makes recommendations for future projects and comments on the usefulness and appropriateness of the REF impact agenda as understood in the first half of 2011. It is expected that many academic colleagues will have worked on third stream media projects in past years and may now be seeking to understand how they might fit the impact agenda. We hope that our experience will be helpful in that regard and that our attempts to understand what impact means will be illuminating for others going through a similar process in the UK and elsewhere. Transliteracy, Structural Holes and Amplification: An Emergent Theoretical Framework The concept of transliteracy was developed by the Production and Transliteracy Research Group (PART) at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester, England, in 2006. It had first appeared as the plural ‘transliteracies’, coined by Professor Alan Liu in the Department of English at the University of California at Santa Barbara in relation to the reading of digital texts, but took on a wider meaning when developed at DMU. In an article published in the journal First Monday in 2007, PART defined it as ‘the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks’ (Thomas et al. 2007) and this definition has not yet been improved upon. Later that year, Sue Thomas and Toby Moores added an additional element based on Ronald Burt’s theory of structural holes (see below), whereby the ‘holes’ are seen not as empty, but as a transliterate space which services the networks around it. (Thomas 2007) Transliteracy, sidesteps the polarised debate around print versus digital by advocating a unifying ecology for all literacies of reading, writing, interaction and culture, resulting in potential applications in many walks of life: ‘in e–learning and education; business, commerce and manufacturing; social science, politics and economics; transdisciplinary studies; philosophy and anthropology; the arts, and many other fields’ (Thomas et al. 2007). In May 2007, to test the concept in discussion, PART invited forty people from academia, business and the arts to a Colloquium where they were invited to provide feedback on concept of transliteracy. After attending the colloquium Roland Harwood of NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) blogged that he saw applications for transliteracy in his work to develop business innovation: “All innovation is fundamentally collaborative. With increasing specialization in business and academia in recent years, this has led to an increasing need for organizations and individuals to develop wider, more open networks, partnerships and trusted communities to share ideas and to innovate. ... Technology definitely has a major role to play in supporting these boundary–disrupting collaborations, but perhaps there is a need to further develop most peoples’ ‘transliteracy’ skills.” (Harwood, quoted in Thomas 2007). Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 2
  • 3. More recently, transliteracy has been widely discussed in a number of contexts. In the USA it is being developed in the field of libraries and information science, and has been the subject of extensive blogging, articles, and conferences. In the UK, universities have been alerted to the need for their staff to be transliterate: ‘a committee looking at the impact of the "Google generation" on HE has found that 95% of students are members of an online social network and that more than 50% have a blog or website. These transliterate students arrive at university with a set of assumptions about how they will use these skills in their education, and have difficulty if such assumptions are questioned.’ (Brown and Chant 2009) In the THES in 2008, Hannah Fearn wrote ‘Students are increasingly 'transliterate', communicating across a range of technologies. Can academics keep up?’ (Fearn 2008). Although references to it are spreading, the term is still not widely known and for this reason it was not used in marketing materials for the projects discussed here. As a result, we identified instances of transliterate behaviour through the observation and measurement of related activities. We will expand upon this in our discussion of the results. Structural holes As noted above, there is an identifiable relationship between transliterate space and Professor Ronald Burt’s theory of structural holes, which is derived from his work on social capital and networks. In Burt’s terminology, those who lead to the same contacts and the same benefits within a network are ‘redundant’ contacts, while those who lead to different people and therefore different information benefits are ‘nonredundant’ contacts. Structural holes are the ‘relationship of nonredundancy between two contacts.’ The hole is ‘a buffer, like an insulator in an electric circuit [and] as a result of the hole between them, the two contacts provide network benefits that are in some degree additive rather than overlapping’ (Burt, 1992: 18). In plainer terms, the spaces between networks that are not obviously connected and are ostensibly different from each other might constitute structural holes. Drawing on Granovetter’s (1973) research on the social importance of weak ties within networks, Burt shows how people who can traverse structural holes are able to broker the flow of information between people and control the projects that bring together people from unconnected networks. Weak ties within networks enable the freer flow of information as it does not stay restricted within a group of people with strong links with each other but it flows beyond to less connected areas of the networks. Weak ties produce structural holes and these are areas where the spread of information occurs across networks. Someone who occupies the structural hole is necessarily better able to negotiate the relationship between the others who are divided by that hole. An example provided in the Journal of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship, illustrates the efficacy of ‘structural holes’: An example of structural holes in networks is evident in the example of Homebusiness New Zealand, a company built ‘by default, to fill a gap’. This company aims to make information, resources and tools available to entrepreneurs through creating a virtual community of home-based businesses which can be accessed through the internet by any home-based business anywhere in New Zealand. [...] Their clients particularly appreciate being able to tap into a community or network of other home-based businesses. (Cruickshank and Rolland 2006) This applies equally well to larger online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The sheer number of friends on your Facebook profile does not determine whether one gets new information, especially when all Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 3
  • 4. of them have access to the same information. Rather, it is the people with whom one has ‘weak ties’ who provide new information. The entrepreneur, for Burt, needs to have strong skills to negotiate between people in networks on either side of the structural hole. One of the key skills is to be able to move between networks with ease and when the networks are situated within social media as in the two examples mentioned above, transcending mediaspecific boundaries with ease becomes a key requirement for today’s entrepreneur. Reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms are key characteristics of those traversing the structural holes and this has become more obvious with the advent of digital media. Transliteracy and Structural Holes In Ronald Burt’s view, people with connections across the spaces between networks are more prone to have good ideas than people in densely interconnected but closed networks. In his analysis, these holes are necessary in order to facilitate innovation. According to Sue Thomas, these holes certainly exist, but they are not empty (Thomas 2007). Instead, they are full of transliterate materials, behaviours and, indeed, people. Whilst Burt distinguishes between those people who stay within networks and those who travel between them, Thomas adds a third type, someone who is a permanent resident in the structural hole itself – the transliterate individual. This person feels most comfortable in the constant flux of a highly transliterate environment characterised by creative experiments, complexity, and transdisciplinarity, a place of translation and collaboration which uses multiple platforms and multiple literacies. A place in which mistakes, failures and misunderstanding are integral to success. The transliterate space has permeable boundaries along the edges of networks, and its inhabitants often act as guides and facilitators to those passing through. It can often, of course, be seen as a disruptive influence. The usefulness of transliteracy as an active agency operating between structural holes, a kind of ‘hidden hand’ at work beneath more obvious interactions, has been recognised by a number of observers. For example, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation has declared transliteracy to be a major trend that characterises amplified organisation and a direction in which learning is predicted to change in a decade from now. According to them, ‘in the emerging decade, ideas will migrate across multiple social media platforms: podcasts, digital video, virtual worlds, microblogs, wikis, social networking, tagging, etc. The amplified, transliterate organization will have the capacity to communicate across these platforms’ (KnowledgeWorks 2010). The impact that this attributes to transliterate communication is essentially the communication process earlier shown as necessary for the functioning of the structural holes. It might be well argued that besides Burt’s original criteria based on social cohesion and interaction, a key measure of the effectiveness of the structural holes is the level to which the player within that space is transliterate. Toby Moores, CEO of media company SleepyDog. and a co-founder of CreativeCoffee Club, believes that transliterate networks make it easier to break down disciplinary barriers. In his view transliteracy is about redefining the boundaries of media and uses the example of film as not a single medium, or literacy, but a multiplicity of both. The design of the projects discussed here included various permutations of the notion of a set of networks connected by transliterate spaces whose sophistication evolved as the research itself developed. In the earliest projects it was driven by the intention to bring business networks together with each other and with the university but, as understanding grew, more attention was paid to the nature of the transliterate space between those networks, and to ways of developing and capitalising on it. Amplified Leicester was a fullEvaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 4
  • 5. blown attempt to do this very explicitly in a ‘cocoon-like’ setting, and Vision2020 extended the model in an ‘emergent’ environment. The inclusion of the concept of the ‘Amplified Individual’ further enriches these active synergies. The Amplified Individual In 2007 Sue Thomas was invited to give a presentation about transliteracy to the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a Palo Alto thinktank, where IFTF researcher Andrea Saveri introduced her to the Institute’s research on the Amplified Individual. Thomas saw an opportunity to combine both sets of research in the development of a new project, Amplified Leicester. The Institute for the Future proposes that the amplified workers of the future share four important characteristics1. First, they are highly social. They use tagging software, wikis, social networks, and other human intelligence aggregators to supplement their individual knowledge and to understand what their individual contributions mean in the context of the organization, giving meaning to even the most menial tasks. They are also highly collective, taking advantage of online collaboration software, mobile communications tools, and immersive virtual environments to engage globally distributed team members with highly specialized and complementary capacities. In addition, amplified individuals are highly improvisational, capable of banding together to form effective networks and infrastructures, both social and professional. And finally, they are highly augmented. They employ visualization tools, attention filters, edisplays, and ambient presence systems to enhance their cognitive abilities and coordination skills, thus enabling them to quickly access and process massive amounts of information. IFTF proposed that as people become more networked via social media they develop an amplified skill set which includes some or all of the following features:           Mobbability—the ability to work in large groups, and to organize and collaborate with many people simultaneously. Influency—knowing how to be persuasive in multiple social contexts and media spaces, and demonstrating awareness that each context and space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique. High Ping Quotient—responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement; propensity to reach out to others in a network. Protovation—fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles. Open Authorship—ease with creating content for immediate public consumption and modification. Emergensight—the ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity. Multi-capitalism—fluency in working with different capitals (e.g., natural, intellectual, social, financial, virtual). Longbroading—thinking in terms of higher-level systems, massively multiple cycles, and the very big picture. Signal/Noise Management—filtering meaningful information, patterns, and commonalities from the massively multiple streams of data and advice. Cooperation Radar—the ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 5
  • 6. This was a complex set of ideas with a significantly Californian verbiage which made it difficult to convey to an English audience, but it also had considerable potential to offer a new perspective on the ways in which social media, along with transliteracy, are transforming our professional and personal lives. There has been some discussion as to whether transliteracy should be added to the list above as a further, eleventh, feature, or whether the whole discourse of amplification should be simply folded into transliteracy. Either way, there is clearly a great deal of synergy between them. The Projects From 2006-2011, Sue Thomas developed a series of projects which shared the common focus of exploring social media as a means of stimulating creative innovation in business, non-profit, and community life in and around the city of Leicester. They were based jointly in the Faculty of Humanities and the Institute of Creative Technologies, and also took place at the newly-built Phoenix Square Film and Digital Media Centre. From 2005-11 the HEIF-funded NLab Network organised seminars, workshops and conferences on the applications of social media to small creative businesses, starting with training in blog-writing in the early days of the blogging boom, through support in using Facebook and then Twitter. It also offered businessfocussed social media mentoring and, in collaboration with Toby Moores, CEO of the Sleepydog media company, initiated a fortnightly CreativeCoffee business networking club. In 2009-10 the NESTA-funded Amplified Leicester project and the collaborative Vision2020 Conference both developed learning from NLab into more experimental social media initiatives. An early objective of NLab had been to build networks and over the period this has gained increasing importance both inside and beyond academia and has fed into growing interest in the ways in which social media networks build social capital, defined as ‘the collective value of social networks […] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other’ (Putnam 1995). With the increasing impact of social media on all walks of life, an understanding of how new sets of communication frameworks can advantage business and community development has become one of the ‘grand challenges’ of modern-day research. The team supporting the projects was led by Prof Thomas. Over the years it encompassed a range of researchers, coordinators and guest speakers, some employed on a freelance basis and some by De Montfort University. Extra capacity was added as needed for workshops and conferences, and the networks were further supported by regular attendees prepared to help facilitate networking. In addition, Amplified Leicester had a substantial Advisory Board which included national specialists, and Vision2020 was managed within a partnership framework. It would be fair to say that the projects developed an overall ‘brand’ of informal exposure to new technologies and ideas along with the opportunity to interact with a very mixed group of business people, artists, community organisers and academics. The projects described below were driven by different agendas but shared many common features such as the application of academic research to real-life problems, especially in relation to transliteracy and amplification; the connection of cutting-edge research into social media innovation with local creative businesses, and the creation of a network linking De Montfort University with small businesses, non-profits, and local agencies. We did not offer formal accredited courses but favoured instead an emphasis on creating a high degree of informal interaction in a variety of physical and social media spaces involving participants and project members from inside and outside the university and enabling knowledge transfer to take place via a culture of trusted participation and collaboration. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 6
  • 7. NLab Creative Network NLab was funded by HEIF (The Higher Education Innovation Fund) from 2005-11 to connect small creative businesses working with new media to generate pioneering partnerships. HEIF’s remit is to support and develop a broad range of knowledge transfer activities which result in economic and social benefit to the UK. In order to address this remit, the aims of NLab were to engage with SMEs, typically with five or less employees, to encourage creativity and innovation through networking and collaboration; to form partnerships with relevant business support agencies and business associations in order to share knowledge and expertise; to enable local SMEs to connect with national and international networks, and to facilitate increased wealth generation. Its target sectors and organisations were SMEs and their representatives including business people, academics, teachers, public sector workers and managers, business support agencies and business associations. It was open to everyone but most of the participants are based in the East Midlands, especially the Leicester area. In 2006 NLab ran a series of professional workshops and seminars on blogs, wikis, games and new media writing, and in 2007 it presented the first-ever European conference for and about women blogging for business. In 2008 it held an international conference on Social Networks for Small Businesses and commissioned Digital Livings, a pilot research project looking into professional opportunities for writers working in new media. Other social media initiatives included the long-running CreativeCoffee Leicester small business network founded in 2007 with media company Sleepydog and the first Vision2020 Conference (2010). Amplified Leicester Amplified Leicester was funded by NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and ran for one year from 2009-10. It was a city-wide experiment designed to grow the innovation capacity of Leicester by networking key connectors across the city’s disparate and diverse communities in an incentivised participatory project enabled by social media. It aimed to develop a transferable model for amplifying a diverse city’s grassroots innovation capacity through connecting diverse communities through key individuals, and to provide practical examples of how collaborative technologies can be exploited in a city context. The resulting model proposed a two-stage process consisting of the creation of 1. A consciously Amplified Group via a trusted collaborative space where deep diversity flourishes, ideas flow, and social media connects (Cocoon) followed by 2. Emergence from the Amplified Group to the Amplified City via a public and trusted collaborative space. Amplified Leicester was a high profile project within the city and its influence continue to reverberate in conversations about Leicester’s pride in its creativity and ambition. Although unlikely to be repeated in its original form, it gave rise to the Amplified Resilient Community, a project directed by Dr Thilo Boeck of the original Amplified Leicester team and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The full report on Amplified Leicester can be accessed from the NESTA website http://www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/Amplified_Leicesterv8.pdf. Vision2020 The recommendations from Amplified Leicester for a Stage Two process in the form of a public space were taken forward in October 2010 in the shape of Vision2020, a one day partnership conference with a remit to Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 7
  • 8. amplify the collective intelligence of Leicester and imagine the city in 2020 Developed at the request of local agencies interested in the impact of Amplified Leicester, Vision2020 was funded by NLab along with additional financial and in kind support from a number of city agencies such as Prospect Leicestershire, Leicester City Council, LCB Depot and companies including BT and Harvey Ingram LLP. Its aims were developed collaboratively by the partners and represent a combined set of objectives, namely to:     Create a vision of the socio-economic environment of Leicester and Leicestershire in 2020 and the impact of new technologies on business Contextualise emerging technologies and their potential for the creative industries sector in Leicester and Leicestershire Raise the profile of Leicester and Leicestershire and in particular the Cultural Quarter and Phoenix Square and Digital Media Centre among the business community Raise the profile of the creative sector in Leicestershire's well earned reputation for creativity, with key stakeholders in the city and region The event produced a ‘wishlist’ of recommendations for Leicester in 2020 and is currently being addressed by a number of agencies including Leicester City Council, Prospect Leicestershire, and other agencies and companies. As with its parent project, Vision2020 has caught the imagination of the city and it is hoped to repeat it annually until 2020. Impact Research 2011 Dr Souvik Mukherjee was appointed in 2011 on a six-month half-time post to evaluate the projects and analyse outcomes which could be useful in relation to their relevance to the REF. This process also involved attempting to understand available impact guidelines provided towards the REF by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and matching them against the projects along with the emergent theoretical framework which lay behind them. This section describes that process. Impact as Defined by HEFCEthe REF and RCUK The Research Excellence Framework (REF hereafter) defines ‘impact’ as ‘all kinds of social, economic and cultural benefits and impacts beyond academia’(HEFCE 2011). For the REF, the impact needs to be evident between 2008-2012 and the underpinning research may go back to fifteen years before the impact provided the institution remains active in the area. The present project falls within both of the above criteria. Research Councils UK (RCUK) categorises impact separately as academic impact and economic and social impact. Academic impact is described as ‘the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to academic advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, methods, theory and application’ (RCUK 2011). As far as this project was concerned, the academic impact is mainly important inasmuch as the theory of transliteracy and related concepts made an economic and social impact. Economic and social impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes towards ‘fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom, increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy and enhancing quality of life, health and creative output’ (RCUK 2011). The scope of such benefits reaching beyond academia is huge and impact can be evidenced in a multiplicity of ways that do not necessarily follow a clear framework or are easily quantifiable. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 8
  • 9. When planning our research, we tried to agree on some broad indicators. REF recommends the use of ‘reach’ and ‘significance’ as key indicators of impact. Reach, defined by REF as ‘how widely felt the impact was’ (HEFCE 2010). Significance, although one of the key HEFCE requisites for judging impact, has not been defined clearly. Some of the definitions that can be inferred are ‘how much difference it made to the beneficiaries’, ‘incremental improvements that are wide-ranging but have been demonstrated’ and ‘major value with wide-ranging relevance’ (HEFCE 2010). In this project, however, the understanding of reach and significance seemed to be informed by the hidden hand of transliteracy. Impact and Public Engagement As the HEFCE guidance stresses that the benefits should be those ‘arising from engaging the public’, this analysis examines the project according to established national parameters of public engagement in the UK. Public engagement is understood as per the NCCPE (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement) definition whereby, ‘Public engagement describes the main way in which higher education institutions and their staff and students can connect and share their work with the public’ (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement 2011). This project addresses a number of key benefits earmarked by the NCCPE, such as:      Developing cultural and intellectual assets with and for the community. Creating new community networks Helping people learn throughout their lives, new subjects, new skills Expanding the resources available to tackle real life issues and problems Generating economic growth Our project and REF impact indicators For any project whose impact spans across disciplines rather than limiting itself to a homogenous area, the framework of indicators designed by REF and RCUK are quite restrictive in that they define the boundaries of impact to very specific and narrow outcomes and , therefore, do not relate to the multiplicity of impact that this project addresses. Therefore, while remaining within the broad REF categories of reach and significance, it was necessary to use a more flexible set of indicators so as not to risk ignoring significant impact that has not yet been categorised by REF. As the REF formulation is still not fully defined, the indicators developed within this project are useful in addressing HEFCE’s concern that ‘there will be particular issues and challenges for assessing impact in a number of other disciplines not covered by the pilot’. We certainly encountered a number of problems which involved making uncomfortable decisions or assumptions based on limited knowledge, including the following:     Reach is seen here through the indicators of networking, influence on non-participants, demographic reach according to gender or age, attendance figures for the events and online presence on websites and social media. The definition for significance has been interpreted in the project context in terms of difference in networking, innovation, generating business opportunities, improvements in business promotion and so on in terms of improved knowledge and application of social media. The information has been collected from participant responses. The project demonstrates a variety of impact-types such as improving business performance and improving public engagement with research but these categories and the corresponding REF indicators did not prove adequate to the analysis. Some of the indicators overlap between the two categories. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 9
  • 10. Methodology Given that the events concerned and their target groups were quite diverse, it was decided to capture as much rich data as possible from interviews with current stakeholders and to analyse archival data from 2005 onwards . To further explore trends revealed in the narrative and qualitative data, the researcher conducted a survey among the participants of the events. The results of the survey were matched with the qualitative data analysis to come to the conclusions outlined in this report. Due to multiplicity of the project, it was not possible to place the outcomes within any one extant theoretical framework. As a result, the theoretical framework above has been derived after considering the various different aspects of the outcomes. Finally, a set of recommendations on the project and on future impact analysis exercises has been drafted. A brief outline of the processes of analysis is detailed below. The qualitative data sources were extremely varied, ranging from documents, both online and offline to social media responses on Youtube and Twitter. These were coded and analysed using qualitative data analysis software (MAXQDA). The documents were categorised into participant responses, organisation and planning by the team and the guidelines and hopes of the experts who ran the sessions. The researcher also conducted additional interviews of a varied range of participants including regulars, newcomers, people from various professions among others. He also devised and conducted an online survey that was sent to everyone who had registered on any of the events. The responses were all anonymous and the respondents were free to answer only those questions that they wanted. The survey ran for over a month and the results were analysed for both qualitative and quantitative data. The key indicators of impact that emerged (for example, ‘networking’ as an evidence of reach) were correlated with other factors such as event attendance, social media usage and other indicators. The responses evidencing impact were obtained using a 4-point likert scale and treated as ordinal data. The results were then analysed using crosstabulations in SPSS (a statistical software package) and by using queries designed in Microsoft Access or SQL. The 4-point scale was chosen to avoid ambiguity and encourage focused responses. The survey results were compared with similar data from the past years where possible and any change was noted and analysed. Another smaller survey of the Amplified Leicester participants was undertaken to analyse whether / how perceptions about what qualities are important to them have changed in the year after the Amplified Leicester project came to an end. In both cases, the surveys take a sample population into account. In addition to these, the researcher also analysed related databases and attendance records as well as online login statistics of the event websites. Activity on Facebook and Twitter was also captured as much as possible, given the fact that with the high exposure to social media there was a growing trend among the participants to use these to voice their opinions and ideas. The final analysis presents related data from the various sources listed above so as to enable a comparative analysis. As implied above, both qualitative and quantitative analyses are involved although qualitative methods have been preferred mainly because much of the data is based on interviews and the depth of information obtained is richer. As noted earlier, the project is characterised by multiplicity and, although driven by a common aim, it is not homogenous. Such an analysis can be only indicative at best and at the risk of missing out important impact has to define arbitrary indicators. The two main categories of indicators outlined by REF, those of reach and significance, have emerged as the primary ones and as such, the impact will be judged based on the degree of increase of both reach and significance considered from the outset of the project in 2005 to the present. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 10
  • 11. The transmedial aspect of the project sets it apart from other business-related or media-related analyses and because of this the indicators of impact have been analysed with their relation to transliteracy and transdisciplinarity in mind. Results Stories from CreativeCoffee and Amplified Leicester Since he had not been previously involved either as an organiser or a participant, Dr Mukherjee was able to approach the project as a newcomer and with few preconceptions. He attended a number of CreativeCoffee Club meetings and Amplified Leicester events and was therefore able to interact informally with a wide range of attendees, from first-timers to regulars who have been involved with various aspects of the project. He also invited some attendees to meet with him for one-to-one interviews designed to provide more indepth qualitative data. He reported that he founds peaking with a CreativeCoffee Club gatherings to be a richly varied experience every time. From newcomers to regulars and people coming to it from the very early NLab days, participants commented on how the events made a difference to them and their work practice. He found that attending the Amplified Leicester events or meeting the participants of the Amplified Leicester programme, provided a similar experience even though the focus is slightly different. From these meetings, and via the survey, he was able to gather personal stories from people working in different sectors who had attended a range of events. For example, one of the interviewees told him that, ‘After redundancy, self-employment seemed the only option. With no real contacts the networking through these kind of events was important to me for showing me how others do it. Simple human contact was a factor when you suddenly find yourself working from home all day’. Another participant in a similar situation agrees: CreativeCoffee gave her an ideal opportunity ‘to get out there and network’. Many come to the events even at the cost of business and work time. The main benefit for them is networking with a diverse group of people – within and outside their areas. Another respondent commented that, ‘As a small business, we are always looking at ways to network, build strategic alliances and partnerships, develop our knowledge, expand our ideas and share commercial/ business know-how with other businesses’. For others, the events proved useful in their career and professional development either as ‘part of a careerswitch strategy’ or by giving ideas to people about modernising their systems: one of the respondents to the survey said: ‘I was a legacy intranet manager in a large corporate. Your events assisted me in my efforts to modernise the systems’. The resulting career development also goes beyond the walls of offices and businesses for some, for example a respondent ‘started an Open University Degree in e-learning’ after attending the events. Much of the conversation also revolved around creativity. Connecting creatively with others, which a survey respondent identified as a key need, involves major developments in both innovation and networking. Creativity is a major imperative for businesses because as a respondent describes, it is absolutely necessary to be ‘on top of the game’. This addresses a key aim of the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills aim and is discussed in detail in the next section. Participants also wanted to share tips on how they use social media to increase awareness about their businesses. One of them said that she ‘made greater use of audio and video for community work’, and a participant on the Amplified programme had devised an even more focused agenda for using social media to promote awareness about her work Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 11
  • 12. David, one of those who highlighted the improvement in customer relationships, said that he used social media to ‘put on something once a year, old clients, friends, potential clients; providing the opportunity to get together, we like it, not immediate benefit.’ This comment is interesting in two ways: the customer relationship angle that events like NLab promote and also the fact that the benefit is a gradual rather than an immediate outcome. Besides the importance of networking, innovation, business promotion and customer relationships, participants also spoke about trust. Ian, an Amplified participant, stresses on the importance of the transfer of trust. He sees CreativeCoffee as a great networking opportunity and likes it because it has no fixed programme but is emergent. For him, CreativeCoffee and Amplified ‘get people to think’. Summing up the overall development of such a multifaceted project is no easy task. The observation of a participant provides an interesting picture of progression: I came to the events to meet more creative people and academics involved in the creative industries. I was curious about how this would translate for attendees. At first I found the events quite academic in nature, and noticed some people struggling with how this translated into their business. But as time moved on they became more practical, more translatable, more popular and as creatives joined from different disciplines I noticed the cross over and creativity improving. This comment could be further unpacked to see the process of engagement between academia and the business community. The process of introduction to new ideas and technologies is seldom, straightforward and it can be assumed that the participants’ approach to the ideas and concepts introduced in the programme will have involved a gradual process of osmosis whereby they could link the academic and instructive aspect of the events with their business practice. Again, this is indicative of the gradual but highly impactful development of the project that led to the crossover of ideas and a meld of business, creative arts and academia – in effect, a fulfilment of some of the initial aims. While most participants commented on the business benefits and the transdisciplinary impact of the project, some went deeper to analyse the process that is seen as driving improvements in networking and business practice. For one of the survey respondents , ‘communicating the concept of transliteracy has been quite important in the context of the way things are developing with new technologies in current society’ while another identified transliteracy as the framework used to discuss everyday communication. Therefore, although transliteracy might be initially difficult to grasp, regular participants at the events have been able to perceive how it can operate in their business practice. The personal stories sampled above provide an informal way in to understanding the impact of the projects. That qualitative data is supplemented by quantitative material, and the two will now be discussed together. Synthesis of Qualitative and Quantitative Data This section analyses data drawn from a qualitative analysis of interviews and responses recorded for the full period of the report along with a more recent survey conducted in April 2011 (called ‘the survey’ hereafter) designed to reflect the current scenario. In certain cases, the indicators themselves have been further subdivided into the relevant categories: for example the demographic survey data has been subdivided into sector involvement and age, gender and ethnicity. The results are analysed in two sections according to the two broad REF categories of reach and significance. Each section begins with an overview of indicative trends then provides an expanded level of detail. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 12
  • 13. Key impact indicator I: Reach Indicative Trends      People benefited through an increase in the number of networks they connected to. This was matched by an increase in collaborative practice. The project reached individuals from a wide range of subgroups in business and creative industries. The projects also spanned a wide demographic range in terms of gender, age and sectors of work. A high percentage of participants said they were able to influence non-participants. Given the nature of the events, online reach was expectedly high. However, the website access figures have shown a big dip and participants seem to have moved more towards Twitter in the past year. Most of the website traffic centred around Leicester, London and Birmingham. Participants in the survey were mostly based in Leicestershire. The attendance records also show a considerable rise in the number of participants between 2007 to 2010 and the trend already looks positive in 2011. The total number of SME’s and community organisations reached by the project has also seen a rise over the full period. The following sections provide a detailed explanation of all the above indicators. Networking Networking featured quite highly on the participants’ list of benefits with people expressing interest in bridging trans-area gaps and increasing social networking. A participant at the Amplified Leicester programme in 2009 stated that she has ‘begun to network as much as possible to be a more active participant in currently formed communities as well building new ones.’ Another participant at the CreativeCoffee Club in 2008 commented: For me, it's connecting with people that I already know but who are geographically not near; about enhancing those relationships on a more personal level; staying abreast of what key people think whether I've met them or not; potential to network with people that you wouldn't normally get a chance to network with; it's about self-promotion; communicating personal information (family and friends). Over 78% of the survey respondents reported a significant increase in useful networking. When asked about whether they networked within their fields or outside as well, there was a strong correlation indicating that people who increased their networking within their fields had also mostly done so outside their fields as well. A greater percentage of respondents (76%) said they had increased networking outside their fields after attending these events. For some, their expectation of ‘opportunities to interact with some different people, i.e. people I wouldn't meet at other networking events’ was met. Notably, 13% of people networked outside their fields but not within. These people could be seen as occupying the in-between zones or structural holes between the fields where they do not need to connect inward into a field but to connect to those people who network both within and outside. They networked externally, towards the transliterate space / structural hole area, rather than internally within their own network. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 13
  • 14. Influence An Amplified Leicester participant commented that she shared her knowledge from the events with both people in and out of the Amplified programme. This is clearly in agreement with the ‘influency’ element of amplification where the ability to be persuasive in multiple social spaces is of key importance. Data from the survey shows that 63.3% of the respondents said they had influenced people who had not participated in these events to adopt new ideas and practices. Also comparing the extreme points of the scale, the percentage of those who strongly agreed to being able to influence others was much greater than those who strongly disagreed. A moderately positive and statistically significant correlation was observed showing that those who said they had increased their networking also said they were able to increase their influence. This relationship was observed as being much stronger between those networking within their fields than those networking outside their fields. A possible reason for this difference could be that networks within one’s field are usually less difficult to set up as there are already some connections in place. Conversely, talking across fields involves different vocabularies and therefore the relationship is not so easily determinable. Collaboration There was also a trend towards collaboration although more people were interested in networking than collaborative work. As one Amplified Leicester participant comments, he used his ‘improved cooperation radar to increase [his] team of collaborators.’ Another respondent, a participant in both NLab and CCC also seems to have improved his collaboration skills and sees clear advantages; however, he nevertheless identifies some problems: Building trust relationships allows people to take risks, express ideas, be a bit more honest “that is rubbish”. In some places, you just wouldn’t say that. Can see extreme collaborations, but sometimes haven't got time to accommodate within a normal business model. Trust, as a key element in building social capital, was also seen as having increased among the participants. Sue Tilley, Head of Inward Investment at Prospect Leicestershire, comments that events formed the platform where academics from De Montfort University, marketing and business professionals from Prospect Leicestershire and LCB could collaborate and make their different agendas work together. As a result of this collaboration and cross-networking amongst otherwise very disparate organisations, she says she is ‘much closer to DMU, the City Council, LCB etc.’ than she used to be. Demographic reach The events have had a wide demographic reach. As a respondent in the recent survey comments, they were about meeting people ‘from many different backgrounds and interests’. Data from interviews show that most of the participants were from business and finance organisations and this was closely followed by people from the creative industries. The range, however, was much wider and included professions like tourism and heritage, the public sector, teaching, Continuing Professional Development, journalism, environment and hairdressing. There were also many self-employed participants. Participants also represented minorities, multi-ethnic groups, single mothers and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) groups. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 14
  • 15. 70 % of the attendees at CreativeCoffee Club were from small businesses in the East Midlands. This is followed by 11% from small businesses outside the East Midlands, 10% from self-employed / freelance backgrounds and 9 % from academia (students and academics). All of these groups showed a high increase in participation with the figures for small businesses in the East Midlands (11 in 2007, 19 in 2008, 35 in 2009 and 112 in 2010) showing the most increase. On examining sector-wise reach on a much larger scale that encompasses all the events, a slightly different picture emerges. The highest representation in the survey was from people who were in microbusinesses (10 or less employees), retail, medium-sized businesses (51-20 employees) and creative businesses. Each of these sectors consisted of about 11 to 16 % of the total distribution. As opposed to 41.9% who were involved in only one sector, 59.1% of the respondents were involved in multiple sectors. Most of the latter were involved in 2 to 3 sectors. In general, this shows that the impact, although spreading across many sectors is, is concentrated around the key target areas of small to medium businesses and the creative industries. The current number of microbusinesses and SME’s reached exceeds 320. The general distribution is illustrated in the chart below. 2 Sectors reached (survey 2011) 2% 3% 16% 14% 7% 5% 2% 6% 9% 11% 11% 6% 5% 3% Microbusiness (10 or less employees) SME (11-50 employees) Medium-sized business (51-20 employees) Over 250 employees Creative Business Retailer Corporate Independent Non-profit Education Student Self-employed Unemployed / carer Other (please specify) Figure One: Sectors reached (survey 2011) The survey also pointed out that the age groups 31-40 (21%), 41-40 (28%) and 51-60 (28%) were the most benefited. A possible reason for this is that the events bring elements of social media closer to age-groups that may be less familiar with web 2.0 technologies. These are also people who are in a relatively more advanced stage of their careers. The gender groups were almost equal, showing that the events had an equal reach among both males and female groups. Most (81%) of the survey correspondents were White British. 2 A large percentage of people in the ‘Other’ category were from public service. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 15
  • 16. Data from attendance / participation at events Attendance figures for CreativeCoffee increased from 82 to 448 from 2007 to 2010 and the number of individuals from 55 to 160. The number of returning participants (i.e. those who attended more than one event / session) rose from 16 to 83. The survey revealed that 45% of the respondents had attended more than one event as opposed to 43% who had stayed within the same event. From the NLab sessions (2005-2008), 290 small and medium enterprises and 4 non-profit organisations have participated in the events. Media The events have seen a wide reach being achieved via a widespread engagement with media, both nondigital and digital. As the main focus of the events is social media, it is not surprising that a high percentage of dissemination of the events has occurred through blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter. However, traditional media has also focused on the importance of these events and the events have been featured in the local press. Print The Amplified Leicester Showcase event also received full feature-length coverage in Leicester Mercury, the local daily newspaper. The local press also covered the Vision 2020 event. Website Access data for the Amplified Leicester and the NLab websites were analysed to estimate the online reach of the project. The Amplified Leicester website showed a rise from 366 individual visitors logging on to the website in March 2010 to 439 in April 2010. However, this dropped significantly to below 100 in May 2010, seeing a short rise in August 2010 and then staying around the range of 50 to 60 from November 2010 to March 2011. The NLab website showed a steep rise in January 2008 to 611 individual visitors and subsequently showed sharp dip in April only to rise to 468 in June 2008. Since then the plot shows a steady dip below 100, except for peaks in November 2008 (249) and June 2009 (287). From October 2010 onwards, the number has seen a steady fall to 39 in January 2011 and to 11 in March 2011. The peak periods of access correspond with activities related to the events around those times. More recently, modes of communication have been moved to social media platforms such as Ning, Facebook and Twitter. The present Ning (a social networking site platform) website has 200 members and there are regular requests for membership. Facebook CreativeCoffee Club has two Facebook groups, one with 527 members and the other with 133. Both of these have had a resurgence of activity on them recently, after about a year’s gap. Amplified Leicester has a Facebook page that is updated with current information and has 31 ‘likes’. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 16
  • 17. Twitter Using the hash tag #Amplified Leicester as an indicator, a total was 5198 tweets was recorded since the start of the hash tag on 15 / 04 / 2010 (just over a year). 277 people tweeted on this hash tag. 80% of them tweeted more than once. Analysing the tweet content, key words like the below emerged: community, DIY, economy, event, idea, media, meet, technology, talk, tweet, using, video etc. However, only 3% of the twitterers account for about 59% of the tweets. This could be partly because the hash tag has been used for people’s personal business practices and experience as evidenced from the conversation analysis. Summary of Reach There is clear evidence of increased networking , influence on outsiders and collaborative ventures that bring disparate institutions closer. A reasonably wide demographic reach in terms of gender, age and sector involvement was noted. The survey did not reveal much ethnic diversity and this might prove of interest to further research since Leicester is noted for its highly diverse population. The online reach has been very high and has varied over the years moved from traditional websites to social networking based media, in keeping with the spirit of the project. These trends match up very well to some key amplified qualities such as mobbability, influency, cooperation radar and high ping-quotient. The events in general seemed to make participants more ‘mobbable’ or willing to work in large groups evidenced by the increase in networking and collaborative practices. High pingquotient and cooperation radar are respectively connected to increased networking and collaboration. Influency, as discussed, corresponds to the increased influence of the participants amongst the general populace. Key impact indicator II : Significance Indicative trends In the light of the parameters of benefits, incremental improvements and value by which significance has been judged, projects show the following changes: a significant change in attitudes (such as more innovative thinking), increased application of social media to work practices, a framework helping participants articulate expectations and challenges of new media as well as to seek solutions to the key challenges. Other impact has mainly been in terms of the increase of social capital evidenced by the improvements in business promotion, customer relationships, enhancing networking and business opportunities. The trends observed were as follows:     These events, especially at the outset, helped people to articulate their expectations of social media and to understand its challenges. A very high percentage of the respondents claimed that they were able to generate innovative ideas and solutions at their workplace. The increase in networking and influence contributed to bettering business promotion and opportunities. The gains that people identified, such as business promotion and creating opportunities, seemed more gains in terms of social capital rather than financial capital. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 17
  • 18.   Social media was seen as playing an important role in people’s business practices, particularly in networking, innovation and influence. Social media, community, the arts and creative commons emerged as the areas where people felt the main impact of the events. Articulating the challenges and expectations of new media Some of the key challenges articulated by participants in 2006 were that people were having difficulties with instant messaging tools and blogs. Later on, in 2009, the challenges that were put forward were more conceptual rather than about technical skills. People were asking questions like ‘can social media bring back village connectedness?’ and would it ‘exclude people due to technological barriers?’ In 2006, a survey of the NLab seminar participants revealed their expectations as follows: Out of the 67 people surveyed, 80% were more interested in developing their learning , 64% were more interested in finding collaborators with whom they could develop business ideas and 56% aimed to increase the use of ICT in their business / academic practice. In June 2009, the participants of CreativeCoffee Club were surveyed (Pitt 2009) and their expectations were as follows: Around 80% of people came to CreativeCoffee Club to build their network and / or make new contacts. Around 30% came to find new ideas. About 20% said they hoped to gain more business. About a third mentioned other reasons which include: strengthening links between business and academia, an interest in social media, a desire to meet like-minded and creative people and a need to raise awareness about an organisation or service amongst small businesses. Although some of the expectations have remained the same in the three years and for different groups of people, it can be argued the impetus shifted from the narrative connection of the events and developing learning more towards a clearer business focus on networking, gaining new ideas, collaboration, promotion and opportunities. A comment from the recent survey perhaps sums it up best: I was making a transition in my life, I knew the Internet and online communities were important and I needed to know more about their significance. During the course of my relationship with NLab and CreativeCoffee Club, I put together a new personal and professional development plan which I am now realising. Of course, the process never ends for curious people .... Innovation The events I attended helped me to innovate within my existing role, and later to develop a new role within a completely different industry after I was made redundant from my original job This comment from a respondent indicates the importance of the increase in innovation that these events have facilitated. Another respondent writes, ‘NLab events have given me the confidence to innovate and create a completely new role within my organisation.’ This is even better reflected by the participants in the Amplified programme’s stress on ‘protovation’ or ‘fearless innovation in iterative cycles’. As the participant programme announces ‘amplified individuals are highly augmented. They employ visualization tools, attention filters, e-displays, and ambient presence systems to enhance their cognitive abilities and Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 18
  • 19. coordination skills, thus enabling them to quickly access and process massive amounts of information’ . This was borne out in the results of the survey conducted in 2011. 87 % of the respondents to the survey agreed that they were able to generate innovative ideas and solutions after attending these events. There was a positive correlation between the increase in business opportunities and innovation; all those who said they increased business opportunities also saw an increase in innovation. However, not everyone who gained innovative ideas was able to increase business opportunities. People who network more reported a significant increase in generating innovative solutions. A greater percentage of people who generated innovative ideas claimed to have networked outside their fields. The transdisciplinary interaction means that there are less ‘redundant’ connections, as Ronald Burt describes it, and as such there is a freer flow of ideas. There was no strong correlation between generating innovative ideas and promoting one’s business but those who promoted their business more also saw an increase in innovation. One assumption to explain this would be that promotion of business necessitates an increase in innovativeness. Overall, the events promote innovation in alignment with the stated aim of the Department of Business Innovations and Skills : ‘We want to make sure that Britain is the best place in the world to run an innovative business or service - this is critical to the UK's future prosperity, our quality of life and future job prospects’ (Department of Business Innovation and Skills 2010). The relevance of this project to UK’s programme for enhancing innovation is even more evident from the fact that NESTA funded the Amplified Leicester project. The events, however, promote innovation not just for business but also for community engagement and this has to be kept in mind when reading the statistics since not all of the participants who generated innovative ideas did so with a direct business motive. Inspector Bill Knopp, of the Leicestershire Constabulary and a participant in the Amplified Leicester programme, is a key example. Knopp used new media ‘to reduce the impact and dispel fears’ among the Leicester populace when the English Defence League demonstration threatened to get out of control by tackling rumours by updating people via Twitter. As he says, ‘our tweets were getting sent on and on and on’ and that they reached 50,000 people. As a result of his connection with the programme, all the police inspectors in Leicester City now have Twitter accounts and Knopp feels that the Leicester Police is possibly one of the heaviest users of social media among the country’s police forces. Business promotion and opportunities Participants of the Amplified Leicester programme describe how they learned about using websites to promote their business. Farhana Shaikh, who runs the successful The Asian Writer website, says that she was inspired by Amplified Leicester. Joy Marsden, who runs a training and development business and is also an Amplified Leicester participant, similarly brought her business online after attending the events. In a separate survey conducted a year after the Amplified programme ended, both of the participants who successfully promoted their businesses agreed that mobbability, high ping quotient and cooperation radar were important to them, indicating a correlation between business promotion and other outcomes such as networking and collaboration. Sujata Bhalla, of the charitable online scheme Giving World, says that ‘the networking has generated strong interest in our work and people attending have then passed on information to colleagues, business/charity friends’ thus indicating the It might be instructive to match such a hypothesis with a larger sample of data from the survey. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 19
  • 20. According to the survey data, around 50% of the respondents agreed that they had been able to promote their business better and around 43% said they had improved business opportunities. There was a low correlation between networking and business promotion and a moderate one between networking and business opportunities. It was found that for those who networked within their fields, an increase in networking could mean an increase in business promotion. However, those who networked outside their fields indicated that it was business promotion that was the determining factor rather than the other way round. Again, it seems that the pre-existing links within a field makes networking easier and networks themselves can promote business promotion. However, according to Burt’s model, these linkages are weaker across different fields. Therefore, the gaps need to be bridged by establishing a common vocabulary - hence, the need for promotional activities to develop the business network. In this regard, it might be instructive to explore the role of business promotion within the structural holes and to examine the role of those occupying the structural holes in developing the common vocabulary across fields. Social media and transliteracy Being conversant in the innovative use of social media emerges as a key theme in the interviews with the Amplified Leicester and NLab participants. A respondent in the recent survey comments, ‘social media can enable everyone to express themselves and connect creatively with others in their locality to enrich their own lives and improve their community.’ Another person says that he or she was interested in the ‘power of social media’. In earlier interviews, Interviewed in 2009, Amplified Leicester participants said that they ‘made greater use of Twitter using Tweetdeck’, ‘integrating social media into (their) artistic process and post performance’ or ‘used Flickr to research story idea and Leicester’s history.’ The recent online survey also provides some indicative statistics. Of the survey respondents, 56.8% used one social media tool, 28.4% reported using two to three tools and 13.5% reported that they used four or more. 50.8% used Twitter thus making it the most popular choice, 25.7 % used LinkedIn and 23% used Facebook and blogs respectively. The survey results indicated a correlation between innovation and the number of different types of social media used. The indication is that innovation increases with the increase in the number of social media platforms used. A similar correlation exists with influence although there is no clear dependence of one factor over the other. Those who increased networking did not show any statistically significant correlation with the increase in the types of social media used. The number of people who used just one tool (usually Twitter) was only marginally lower than those who used more than one. For users of more than one type of social media, two to three seemed the optimum. More people used multiple types of social media to network within their field than across fields. For networking outside fields, more people preferred one type of social media tool, again usually Twitter. The preponderance of Twitter could be attributed to its ready accessibility, transmedial and portable presence (from mobile phones to computers), its low learning-curve and obviously, the huge reach and the need to get messages out quickly but pithily. An investigation of the particular preference for this tool could be of interest for further research. The above statistics, however, do not fully capture the extent of use of social media. For example, it is possible that people who have been using just one type of tool have nevertheless used it very extensively. Responses to the survey show that people who feel more aware of transliteracy use more types of social media. It might be worth exploring whether the influence in innovativeness and influence that seems to Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 20
  • 21. increase for people using multiple social media can be linked to their level of transliteracy. In addition, the relation between networking across fields and social media could be explained by the fact that people probably need to combine more face-to-face interaction and traditional networking approaches together with social media usage because of the possible diversity of their target groups. In such a case, they may still be highly transliterate because they keep interacting with both non-digital and digital media for networking. In general, the survey showed that the number of people who had agreed that they felt they were increasingly transliterate was low (28%). However, the statistical result does not reflect the fact that although they might experience it, most people who are unfamiliar with the concept might not realise this as is obvious when a respondent asks, ‘What is transliteracy?’ despite having a full definition and scenario made available in the survey. Further, as a wide range of people were surveyed, it is possible that many of them would not have been exposed the concept: ‘I have only attended one event and did not experience this but perhaps I might do at another one’ is a typically representative response. However, others seem to have a better grasp: a respondent sums it up as ‘being able to converse on a wide range of topics in a wide range of media, often rapidly.’ Importantly, it was observed that those who agreed that they had increased their transliteracy also showed a moderate correlation with the rise in innovation, influence and business opportunities. Both of these factors were depending on their transliteracy levels. There was no statistically significant correlation between business promotion or between networking within a field and transliteracy. For networking outside their fields, there was a moderate correlation with transliteracy; however, a very large percentage of these networkers disagreed. Given the fact that despite low agreement, there is still a moderate to strong indication of the importance of transliteracy to innovation, influence, business opportunity creation and networking across fields, more research needs to be done in the area. Particularly, the lack of a statistically significant correlation between business promotion and transliteracy is curious. This is also similar to the lack of correlation between multiple social media usage and promotion – one would expect promotion to be connected to usage of a larger number of media but this does not seem to be the case for the group surveyed. Similar studies are needed for analysing how networking works in terms of transliteracy. The positively significant correlation between networking across fields and transliteracy, however, could possibly be explained in terms of the theoretical framework discussed above: those who occupy structural holes implicitly need to be able to move between networks with relative ease and this would not be likely if they cannot adapt to the variety of media that different networks use. Business revenue, employment and grant support Of the people who agreed that they had received business revenue, employment and grant support as a result of attending the events, about 14% generated revenue, 12% gained employment and 7% gained grant support. Moving from the survey respondents to the interviews of some who have been associated with the project for a while, however, reveals a different story. For example, Sujata Bhalla says that the events have ‘generated company donations and we have also been invited to attend other business networking events through other attendees.’ Areas of Significant Contribution Some of the key areas where significant contribution was evidenced by survey respondents were social media, arts and media, community and retail. The breadth of areas covered is illustrated in the figure below: Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 21
  • 22. Major impact areas (2011 survey) Finance 3% Arts / Media 12% Retail 20% Green space 25% 3% 6% Religion Community Governance 5% 21% 5% Social media Creative Commons Figure Two: Major areas of significant contribution The other impact areas as identified in earlier surveys and responses were education, customer relationships and consultation. Summary of Significance Basing the analysis on the REF’s description of significance as ‘incremental improvements that are wideranging but have been demonstrated’, the above indicators show significant evidence of improvements in innovative business and community practices, influence of social media (in particular, social networking) , the development of business opportunities and networks. The impact spreads to a wide range of areas. The main development is evidenced in the increase of social capital and yet it is clear that for the majority of the participants this has emerged as a key element in furthering business and community development. As a respondent commented in her interview, the focus of business and marketing is now on ‘knowing who rather than knowing how and events like Vision2020’ facilitate just that. As outlined earlier, the projects target the use of social media by communities and small and medium businesses, in particular. As such it focuses on helping people build and develop networks, use innovative solutions involving social media to tackle real life issues and through the generation of ideas and networks, promote economic growth. It also brings communities closer through targeted key themes of interest: such as environment, religion, food, creative industry, customer relations, open source industry, education and business consultancy among others. The project also connects to the NCCPE manifesto for the ‘engaged university’ inasmuch as it ‘creates a shared understanding of the purpose, value, meaning and role of public’ (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement 2011). Summary and Recommendations In early 2011 we set out two research questions:   ‘Do new communication frameworks in social media benefit business practices?’ ‘What are the roles of transliteracy and amplification in this context?’ From the data analysed, it is possible to draw broad conclusions to address the above questions. With regard to the question of whether new communication frameworks in social media benefit business practices, we Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 22
  • 23. found that the increase in social media platform usage showed a clear correlation with an increase in networking, influence and innovation. Attendees reported a significantly high increase in business opportunities and business promotion. Collaboration was another key area in which an implicit improvement was observed. The majority of the attendees who indicated a high usage of Twitter and at least one other new social media communication platform indicated improvements in their business practices. The events in general, with their focus on social media, contributed to business improvement. In relation to the role of transliteracy, improvement outlined above was seen to have been informed by an increase in transliteracy and although this might not be obvious to all the participants, those who said they understood the concept and saw an increase in transliteracy also showed a notable increase in networking across fields, innovation, influence and business opportunities. The issue of amplification was most closely related to the Amplified Leicester programme, and this was evident in the data. Participants of that programme were seen to display amplified qualities to a greater extent than those whose attendance had been confined to the other projects. This indicated to us that a systematic programme of Amplification is necessary for a focused way of using social media for improving business, and is less likely to happen organically as is often the case with transliteracy. Based on the evidence above, we offer the following recommendations for further research: 1. Collaboration was implicit in many accounts of networking. Further studies should be undertaken to examine how high quality collaboration takes place between different types of creative businesses and across networks. 2. Networking within a field of interest saw more types of social media being used than for networking between fields. Further research should be undertake into the reasons and processes behind this. 3. The function of structural holes has already been demonstrated by Ronald Burt. We recommend a study of the roles played by both transliteracy and amplification within structural holes, with specific reference to ways in which they may enhance creative innovation and the development of a strategy and toolset to support this. 4. Transdisciplinarity was not explicitly identified as a key theme in the projects discussed here but it is likely that transdisciplinary practice underpins much of the networking we observed. More research should be conducted with groups such as these to examine the role of transdisciplinarity in business networks and collaborations. 5. Given the indicative statistics from the survey, it could be useful to investigate the reach of social media among the business practices of the diverse ethnic communities in Leicester. The REF: final comments Despite best attempts to quantify it, not at all impact is direct, obvious or even straightforward and this is true of the projects analysed here. Most of the analysis was based on observations by the participants about the change in their business practices, results which do not happen overnight and are difficult to map. Although not much direct financial gain was reported by the participants, most of them claimed a heavy and significant impact in their day-to-day practice. This was further corroborated by the popularity of the events, as evidenced by the attendance records. It was, therefore, perplexing when we applied the sample indicators of impact as provided by REF and RCUK.. Rather than fit neatly into the categories, the impact seemed to be spread out across a number of indicators across the various recommended categories, yet to ignore them would be to miss key outcomes. Considering the transdisciplinarity of the project, the varied nature of the events and the participants, the Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 23
  • 24. homogeneity assumed by the impact agenda needed to be challenged and replaced by a framework that supported multiplicity and indicators which reflected the variety as well as the depth of the impact. Further, even after redefining the indicators according to their relevance to the events, there are still unresolved issues in that there is a risk of missing significant impact. Some of the impact, therefore, remains latent and often takes a long time to become obvious. In terms of this project, the figures for increase in transliteracy as gathered from the survey were low. However, on exploring the relationships between innovation, business opportunities and transliteracy, a moderate to high correlation emerged between these indicators, an outcome which would have been missed if the data were taken at face value. There were also clear overlaps between the indicators for the two broad categories of ‘reach’ and ‘significance’ showing that these cannot be seen as watertight. Reach was relatively easier to map given the variety of sectors, the large extent of networking and the high influence on non-participants, although HEFCE’s definition of ‘reach’ can be construed as being too vague for assessing impact. Significance, however, proved more problematic to measure as its scope was broader but did not seem to include impact experienced over time as well as the not so obvious increase in impact such as increase in trust, a key element in social networking. The REF recommends a ‘four-star’ rating for reach and significance so as to consider any research outcome as being impactful. ‘Ground-breaking or transformative impacts of major value or significance with wideranging relevance’ is the criterion for a four-star rating of impact. If the impact is ‘highly significant or innovative’ but not ground-breaking REF will award it a three-star ranking. In the above study, although the impact conformed to the REF standards, in certain cases it was found difficult to differentiate between the four and three star categories. Conclusion Even in the early formulations of transliteracy, such as the ‘Crossing Divides’ article in First Monday, the concept was already being viewed as having a wide range of potential applications. Narrowing down the broad scope of transliteracy, our research into the events discussed here has concentrated on demonstrating the impact of transliteracy on business practices, especially by introducing new frameworks of social media for communication and business innovation. Such a framework also facilitated the application of the Institute for the Future’s model of the Amplified Individual in the context of UK’s small and medium industries and community projects. The combination of transliteracy and amplification showed a clear and focused impact on business improvement. However, this research revealed the need for further exploration as outlined above. As pointed out by Knowledge Works, the amplified, transliterate organisation seems to be a potential driver of change by the year 2020. More research in the impact this framework has on business improvement is therefore necessary. The research outlined above was carried out as part of an initial exploration of the impact of transliteracy and social media on business improvement. Occurring in a period when impact figures high on the agenda of UK research funding, this research project decided to apply the criteria advocated by REF to analyse the impact. During the research, however, several problems emerged with the REF recommendations. These issues were especially evident due to the transdisciplinary nature of the projects and the many possible scenarios where the REF formulations failed to detect impact that was obvious when other parameters were used. These findings also correspond with similar conclusions reached by other independent studies that were published during the period of the research. For example, Tim May writing in the Times Higher Educational Supplement states that ‘the real work and worth of the academy can’t be described by ‘business Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 24
  • 25. performance’ metrics and management-speak’ (May 2011). We have observed this to be true even when the work is itself related to business performance. This research therefore recommends further refinement of the REF parameters for analysing impact along with the imperative that transdisciplinary factors must be taken into account. To omit them is to ignore the fact that in the real world, if not in the academy, transdisciplinarity is a given element of most business and cultural practice. In sum, in the process of revealing the impact of social media and transliteracy on business improvement, this research also points towards the need to take into account the transdisciplinary nature of impact itself. In its demonstration of non-standard but highly significant impact, this study highlights the need to redefine the concept and analysis of impact itself. References Andretta, S. (2009) Transliteracy: Take a Walk on the Wild Side, Keynote at the IFLA/ World Library and Information Conference, Milan, Italy http://www.ifla.org/files/hq/papers/ifla75/94-andretta-en.pdf. Brown, R. & Chant, M.( 2009). Getting in Getting on: The Essential Higher Education Guide for Advisers 7th ed., Gloucester: University & College Admissions Service, pp. 26-7 Burt, R. (1995) Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University) Cruickshank, P. and Rolland, D. (2006) Entrepreneurial Success through Networks and Social Capital: Exploratory Considerations from GEM Research in New Zealand in Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Volume 19 Number 1 January 2006. Saskatchewan: University of Regina. Department of Business Innovations and Skills (2010), ‘Innovation’, http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/innovation. Fearn, H. (2008) Threads that twist and tangle Hannah Fearn, Times Higher Education Supplement.28 February 2008, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=400746. HEFCE (2011) ‘Decisions on Assessing Research Impact – Ref 01.2011’ (Bristol: HEFCE) http://www.hefce.ac.uk/research/ref/pubs/2011/01_11/ Institute of the Future (2007) The Future of Work Perspectives, Institute for the Future Technology Horizons Program, October, 2007 SR | 1092-A http://www.iftf.org Knowledge Works Foundation (2010) Transliteracy: A Trend of Amplified Organisation, 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning, http://www.futureofed.org/trend/Transliteracy.aspx May, T. (2011) ‘What’s going on? Impact metrics won’t tell you’. Times Higher Education Supplement, 11 June 2011, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=416470&c=1 . National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (2011), ‘Manifesto of Public Engagement’ Pitt, A. (2009) Creative Coffee Club Leicester: Review of Provision, De Montfort University. Putnam, R. (1995) Bowling Alone: America’s Social Capital in Journal of Democracy, Volume 16:1 January 1995, pp. 65-78. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/assoc/bowling.html Research Councils UK (2011), ‘Pathways to Impact’ Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 25
  • 26. Thomas, S. (2007) ‘Diagramming Transliterate Spaces’ .weblog entry.Transliteracy.com blog.Posted 29 September 2007. http://nlabnetworks.typepad.com/transliteracy/2007/09/diagramming-transliteratespaces.html Thomas, S. and Boeck, T. (2010) Amplified Leicester: Impact on Social Capital and Cohesion, NESTA, http://www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/Amplified_Leicesterv8.pdf. Thomas, S., Joseph,C., Laccetti,J., Mason,B., Perril,S., and Pullinger,K. (2008) ‘Transliteracy as a Unifying Perspective’in The Handbook of Research on Social Software and Developing Community Ontologies, eds. S. Hatzipanagos.S. and S.Warburton. London: IGI Global Thomas, S, Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., and Pullinger, K. (2007) ‘Transliteracy: Crossing Divides’, First Monday, Volume 12 No.12,http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2060/1908 Event websites and hashtags Amplified Leicester, http://ampleic.ning.com/, #ampleic CreativeCoffee Club, www.creativecoffeeleicester.com/ #ccleic NLab, http://nlabnetworks.typepad.com/ Vision 2020, http://vision2020.org.uk/, #vis20leic Acknowledgements Much of this research has been the result of tapping into networks, interviews, surveys and also the following up of the painstaking research on the project done earlier. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved, directly or indirectly, in making this research possible. Without the patient help and timely inputs of Jayne Childs, the research on the CreativeCoffee Club and Amplified Leicester would not have been possible. Thilo Boeck and Toby Moores provided valuable guidance and information on the later and the early events. Dr Beth Lunt and Beverley Lambie of De Montfort University’s Research and Development Office very kindly shared their research on impact and the REF parameters of measuring it. The HEFCE helpdesk were also extremely cooperative in providing us with their latest information. As far as the data gathering was concerned, we were able to gain many key insights from our interviews with Ian Davies, Inspector Bill Knopp of the Leicestershire Constabulary, Sue Tilley and Pankaj Mistry of Prospect Leicestershire, Sujata Bhalla of Giving Worlds online, Joy Marsden, Farhana Sheikh, George Ballentyne and attendees of CreativeCoffee Club and Amplified Leicester. Anna Pitt’s report on CreativeCoffee Club also contributed important data. We would also like to thank all those who responded to our survey and to those who offered valuable inputs at our presentation at DMU. Last but not least, Souvik would like to thank everyone with whom he shared his office for bringing that extremely necessary element of fun into the long hours of data analysis. Evaluating Impact: transliteracy and creative business innovation via social media Dr Sue Thomas and Dr Souvik Mukherjee Published online 3 November 2013 Page 26