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Btr11 summary


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Btr11 summary

  1. 1. Discussion Paper E SummarySummary of #btr11 – an experiment in knowledge exchangethrough social mediaAmy Burnage and Roxanne PersaudThe project… and debate the issues, with the support of TSRC research. The project was funded byThe Third Sector Research Centre’s (TSRC) Barrow Cadbury Trust, and launched throughBeyond the Radar project (#btr11) sought to an “impact event” event in July 2011, whichexperiment with a range of social media was hosted by Department for Communitiesplatforms over a 10 month period, to improve and Local Government. The project ran forthe processes by which they engaged with 10 months, held 5 online events and 2 ‘realindividuals on knowledge exchange life’ events, built a website space throughprogrammes. For TSRC, the aim was to Civicrowd for resources and discussions, andensure that issues around the ‘below the used twitter for social reporting andradar’ (BtR) research, which had been discussion through the hashtag #btr11.developed by TSRC researchers since 2008, Through twitter, news and information aboutwas shared and explored across policy, September 2012 the project reached approximately 45,000practice and research communities. The goal people, the Civicrowd space was accessedof #btr11 was not to decide on solutions or by 1,652 people, and over 120 peopleachieve instrumental goals, but to provide a directly contributed to the online whereby multiple voices could discuss
  2. 2. The evaluation…. OutcomesThe paper associated with this summary1 Potentially, the most practically valuableoffers an evaluation of the #btr11 activities, outcome of the project was the improvedby first seeking to gain a better knowledge and understanding around howunderstanding of digital knowledge exchange different audiences responded to differentand then applying that understanding to the platforms through digital knowledge exchange. A key message from onehuman dynamics that emerged through the organiser was that; ‘I know now whichproject. It achieved this through using social networks and groups I can access throughexchange theory to build a thematic different tools for different purposes, andframework, supported with a discussion have a much better idea of how they arearound social media and “sharing likely to contribute’. Through this increasedcommunities”. With this clearer picture of understanding, #btr11 succeeded in itsdigital knowledge exchange, it used primary goal of engaging with “more voices”numerical and text data (collected through and was able to introduce people beyond thevarious analytical tools, participant original event participants to TSRC and theinterviews, transcript analysis and Below the Radar research. Moreover, it wasobservation) to situate the #btr11 activity able to provide spaces where individualswithin the social exchange themes of could discuss and debate important issuesaccepted practices, sharing values and across professional and geographicalexchange relationships. Within these themes, boundaries. The Civicrowd online discussionthe evaluation team identified and highlighted with the Big Lottery CEO and other largekey lessons, choices, risks and outcomes, to sector funders serves as a particularlyprovide TSRC with a resource for further successful example of this, through a modelexperimentation, and to serve as a starting that could easily be replicated in futurepoint for others interested in developing their events.own knowledge exchange programme A weakness of #btr11 however, was that itthrough social media. was less successful in building a unifying purpose to create momentum for on-goingThe learning… activity within TSRC’s communities ofThrough the evaluation process of #btr11, interest. Feedback suggests that while thesome interesting and valuable learning has project created a valuable space forbeen developed. The narrative style of the community feedback and discussion, it didn’tevaluation has reflected the experimental translate to a completed cycle of dialoguenature of #btr11, as well as the loose, around the BtR research. This limited thevoluntary nature of social media itself. To project to individually valuable “below thesummarise the nuanced and complex nature radar” debates, rather than shared ownershipof the project’s dynamics and processes; the around the research implications.learning has been loosely themed around That said; the primary response to the projectoutcomes, choices, risks and lessons. demonstrated significant levels of support1 from participants and stakeholders, who saw Available on the TSRC website or upon request fromAmy Burnage ( and Roxanne value in the notion of academic-communityPersaud ( knowledge exchange, and repeatedly used
  3. 3. the spaces and events to share their stories. not who says it or how they say it.Therefore, while the discussions were not Negotiating the social media landscape toalways what the organisers expected; find events, platforms and individuals thatcomments from every online event expressed support this approach requires significantappreciation and relevance to the time and “filtering”, but is vital to build aparticipants’ interests and work. By providing project that audiences trust.gateways for engagement between disparateand previously unconnected networks, Risksgroups and individuals; #btr11 enabled it As with most knowledge exchange projects,participants to benefit from new relationships, #btr11 faced a number of risks that werewhich has resulted in partnership work negotiated through their social mediaoutside of #btr11. strategy. On the whole, these risks were managed well and were not problematic, butChoices are worth anticipating at the start of futureIn terms of future experimentation, the digital knowledge exchange projects. Theevaluation process has uncovered a few key major practical risk for #btr11 was thatchoices that knowledge exchange motivations of the project participants did notpractitioners must consider during the design always match the expectations of theof any social media project. The first decision organisers, which occasionally skewed thethat should be made is whether the primary conversation away from the original aim. Thisstrategy of the project is one of dissemination difficulty, experienced on all social mediaand response (a two-phase approach) or of platforms, is one which organisers mustdiscussion (a single phase approach). This accept as a natural feature of voluntary,will affect the tools that should be used and informal participation.the numbers of individuals you will likely A secondary risk that was emphaticallyconnect with. The key to understanding raised by contributors in the context ofwhich platforms to use is to test a range of academic knowledge exchange, and othersocial media tools and learn how your target projects that involve “experts” or decision-communities interact with them. makers, is that those with perceived higherSecondly, as organisers, there is a need to authority can feel challenged or defensive inunderstand how trust in your project can be online meetings with their stakeholders.developed with your communities of interest. Academics in particular need to accept theFor some audiences this will mean building a risk of making their research vulnerable andstrong digital brand by packaging and allowing it to be challenged. #btr11 accepteddelivering information in an accessible way, this risk and dialogue around the issues wasfor others this will mean spending time generally healthy. However, in future workbuilding relationships and facilitating personal where relationships are potentially morecontact. For the latter, which was preferred fraught, it is important to encourageby the communities that engaged with #btr11; participants to see academics, policy makerstext-based discussions can break down and funders (for example) as communitystatus divides by avoiding traditionally laid- members with interesting and insightfulout rooms (or webcams) directing contributions, rather than expert sources ofparticipants towards “big names”. This authority.encourages value to be seen in what is said,
  4. 4. Lessons In terms of building on the #btr11 project, the audiences that were identified through theThe most useful conceptual lesson emerged project could be improved further throughthat from this evaluative process was that, using social media analysis tools to map andwhen asking the question “why should I monitor TSRC’s position within the broadershare”, social exchange theory emerged as a network to engage (both directly and digitally)new and interesting framework for designing with other ‘grass-roots’ or ‘below the radar’and assessing knowledge exchange projects. audiences. To maintain interest andFor knowledge exchange practitioners, a engagement in the project; a strongnumber of other important lessons can bedrawn out of the #btr11 experiment. conversational twitter presence would be useful throughout the project (not just aroundThe clear lesson from project was that social events), referring participants directly back tomedia offer a promising set of tools for the Civicrowd space for more “ideasknowledge exchange, as they can support championing” and regularly including linksinformal interaction, the discovery of mutual on email newsletters. Finally, based on theinterests and the subsequent development well-received video and Slideshare elementsand management of relationships. This is of the impact event, further use could besupported in the key narrative from #btr11 made of spaces like Civicrowd or others inparticipants, who reinforced the notion of the ‘social media landscape’ to offer video,social media being a ‘toolkit’. In order to podcasts, slides and on-going discussiondiscover which tools work for a particular forums, in order to engage people inproject, attempts must be made to exploring and questioning specific researchunderstand and adapt to the preferences of issues/findings. Importantly, this wouldyour audience. Without the time and support the breaking down of normalresources to conduct heavy consultation with institutionalised ways of communicating fora target community, experiments like #btr11 academics, diminish the traditional “topprovide effective opportunities to explore the down” dissemination approach, and promoteresponses to different tools. a cycle of dialogue around research and itsAlongside this practical exploration, digital implications.knowledge exchange projects must also #btr11 demonstrated a highly successfuldiscover what sparks interests and brings project that generated real “process impact”people together. #btr11 had a very cleartheme around a range of community issues, in beginning to change accepted practices ofand attracted a relevant audience for the BtR academic-community knowledge exchange.debates through identifying key partners. Further experimentation across formatsHowever, in order to move from providing would give organisations such as TSRC agateways for bringing “new voices” together better idea of how these positivetowards building beneficial, longer-term relationships and dialogues could beexchange between these voices, additional developed to increase the take-up of ideasresources and strategies would be needed. and build momentum for action. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. © TSRC 2012This paper is part of the Third Sector Research Centre – Briefing Paper Series see formore details and a copy of the full Discussion Paper E.The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Office for Civil Society(OCS) and the Barrow Cadbury UK Trust is gratefully acknowledged. The work was part of theprogramme of the joint ESRC, OCS Barrow Cadbury Third Sector Research Centre