We brought together a diverse mix of industry, public sector and education providers to discuss what was on offer, how it fitted together, where the gaps might exist, and how we can work collaboratively as a city region to fill them.
The framework we used to evaluate and plan was to consider 4 intersecting components for a successful kids club; kit, resources, mentors, and communities. Additionally, while the value of large 1-day expo-style events was recognised, the focus was very much on regular engagement in the community.
It was generally agreed that starting with the communities and young people was the the most critical aspect for a successful club. This has been borne out by the experiences of Knowle West Media Centre and with DigiLocal @ Barton Hill (along with others across the city).
Working with large organisations across the city to develop a stable pool of mentors was probably the next key action. The Universities have a lot to offer, and already do a lot in this domain, but students have exams and holidays when they’re generally unavailable. Experience suggests that maintaining clubs throughout the year, including out of term time, is critical for building community support and engagement.
The provision of kit (hardware & software) and resources (project worksheets to use with the kit) was felt to be the easiest elements to address and largely covered by existing provision. There’s still some work to be done mapping a pathway for young people to engage with high tech as they grow and develop, but there is quite to work with already.
From this workshop we are planning a collaborative live mapping reference document and action plan to coordinate next steps. Please do contact me if you would like to be part of this working group, and/or there are communities and mentor groups we’ve missed.
Following the formal workshop we invited a group of young people from Barton Hill, supported by Youth Ambassadors from Babbasa, to showcase the kinds of projects they’ve been doing. This helped bring everything into focus and demonstrate in a very tangible way, why engaging with diverse communities is critical to the longer term success of the West of England as a high tech innovation cluster.