Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday afternoon blues

Today I am a bit stuck. I am having one of those days where I am utterly overwhelmed with all that is around me and all that there is to do and I can’t figure out where to start. So what to do?

Blog about it!

I know it might be boring for you (if you are even there) but you know I need to get some stuff out of my head and ordered in some way and this could be the place to start.

Here are a list of the things I am thinking:

1. I heard this and now I know it is true: A PhD is a long and lonely journey. So few other people have sufficient interest or knowledge about the topic, meaning that they don't get why I am ranting about its importance or about one journal article or another blah blah is a lonely place and apparently never bloody ending.

2. What to teach students?
I have an issue with the expectations of a group of students over what I feel they need or should be taught over their sense of what they need or should be learning. I am looking for a middle ground. I want to equip them with some principles but they want to know how to know how to use particular bits of software - with just 4 hours and 160 students (in groups of 20) what will really be useful for them?

3. Yesterday I went to an LSC/AWM creative inds event. It was an annual forum where regional (West Midlands, UK) 'key stake holders' feedback on what they've been up to and what they are going to do. All reasonably interesting with some new research about to be published on the regional ‘balance sheet’ (I’ll link to this when I’ve had a proper look) this describes the actual ‘supply and demand’ of our regional creative inds sector.

With regards to some of the other stuff discussed I did have a couple of concerns otherwise:

- 'Same old same old' a lot of the same issues covered again and again year on year and somehow never resolved and statistics being used inconsistently by the various stakeholders (I am aware that this is always an issue and about different interpretations of data - something I also am guilty of).

- Richard Florida is still cited widely and seems to be highly influential in regional public policy - this is a little scary, not that Florida doesn't have an interesting and useful hypothesis, more that his writings appear to be followed unquestioningly.

Okay can feel a rant brewing so will be quiet for now............

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Creative Enterprise 2008: Part 2

I am astonished to find a whole week has passed and I haven't managed to complete this feedback from the conference! Here is what I said I'd cover:

- Some of the great student presentations
- My own presentation
- The dynamic duo (otherwise known as Kath and Andy Penaluna)
- Other longitudinal research
and the final panel discussion

So following Linda Ball's outline of research, past and present. Some very engaging students and beneficiaries presented their businesses within the context of the support they received. I was reminded about how hearing some authentic stories from ‘the front’ can really put some meat on the bones of this type of , otherwise relatively academic, conference. The students were two from the MA Media Enterprise, run by Birmingham City University and two from the NESTA Insight Out programme. What was nice was to get to hear some brief comparison between the two styles of provision.

Back in 2006 (Creative Enterprise 2006) Gaynor Richards reported on the DCMS findings, which identified 5 unique styles of enterprise provision for creative disciplines these were:

- Curriculum Embedded Assimilated /Bolt-on
- Extra-curricular activities
- Post-Graduate Courses
- Continuing Professional Development
- External Agency Provision

Here we got to hear some of the ways in which students benefited from these different styles. They also highlighted some key aspects of the provision which have been most useful, namely, the application of the course work to their actual business and career development 'I used my own company as the case study'. Other key things were the access to networks and networking and the increase in confidence they all felt.

After a really very good lunch we broke into workshops. I was in a strand looking at the research side and pedagogical considerations. Here I presented some early findings from a piece of research I have been involved in since 2006. I work in a business school and since 2006 (just before the last conference) I have been seconded (just a day a week) to our school of art and design. Here I have had a research role and have been capturing the entrepreneurial learning and the journey of the first cohort of students on the afore mentioned MA in Media Enterprise. I presented some of the early indicators again highlighting all the things the students had mentioned plus some issues around success criteria (i.e. if a students leaves to start a business - that's a success right? unless you are a big institution teaching that student maybe?) this raised a bunch of issues around whether universities are the best place to teach enterprise and was picked apart in more detail in the Big Debate later on.

After me were Kath and Andy Penaluna. I've seen this pair present before and generally speaking they are a breath of fresh air in the big academic conferences, where one frequently sits through seemingly endless papers and PowerPoint presentations. They describe themselves as a left and right brain couple and stood each in their respective sides of the room. Andy the left, the creative and Kath, the right and ex-bank manager. What was great was how their own story, which they regaled, highlighted some significant differences in approach from a traditional business school approach to an art and design approach to teaching and learning generally and teaching enterprise specifically. Again this simulated a lot of questions about the role of the business school in all of this.

Finally Antonia Walker gave an interim view on some research she has been carrying out at Bath Spa University. This is a longitudinal study capturing the perceptions and aspirations of students, tracked through their lifetime within the university. Here she is capturing a more real picture of what students’ imagine they will be doing once they graduate. This will certainly prove to be a telling and important part of the overall picture as this field of research matures.

In the late afternoon I was joined by Andy Penaluna and Sian Prime (now a freelance consultant but previously she headed up the NESTA Academy), between us we responded to questions from the audience and from Dr Paul Long who chaired this more open, panel debate. The discussion ranged from what constitutes an entrepreneurial university? to how creativity, education and enterprise can meet. If anyone has any further comments or feedback on this or the other parallel session please do 'comment'.

That's it for now.

A paper about the last conference abstract here.
A paper about characteristics of art and design education and implicit enterprise education

Friday, March 14, 2008

Creative Enterprise and SXSW

This is a little aside to the conference proceedings. A couple of thoughts have been coming together which I just wanted to try to get straight in my head. At the conference the final question to the audience was something like 'have we missed anything?' and of course inevitably a bunch of issues get missed because, well it was only one day. Still even though I piped up something along the lines of 'needing to consider social inclusion ' because ultimately the sector with all its networking is extremely exclusive (just do a quickie demographic audit next time you're out at a launch/conference/private view). Importantly I should say that in my own research experience what gets termed the 'creative industries' is often coming from a very white, middle class and western perspective - okay I am now off on a tangent and need to reign myself back in.

What I want to talk about is technology. Because what occurred to me (while swimming - always a good thinking place)was that when I am talking to students here (business school) about their business ideas what is imperative is how they engage with/adopt/ keep abreast of new technologies. I mean it is hard to imagine a business were some sort of web presence/capability or in fact the whole nature of the business wasn't just online (okay - I’ll give you sole trader window cleaner).

... and we didn't emphasise that much on Wednesday (apart form one student flagging up that the relevance of a module on the MA Media Enterprise which looks at new technologies and new media - apolos I can't remember the exact module name off the top of my head). Anyway it occurred to me that Dave Harte (yes him again) was simultaneously also part of a network of local folks out in Austin Texas at the interactive conference (although his was more of a virtual presence - obviously).

My understanding was that this group of creatives’, all I believe from slightly different disciplines (journalist, web developer, designer, blogger... anyway look at their site) were out there on a major fact finding mission on behalf of the West Midlands creative industries sector - all disseminated as it went along - they also asked folks from back home to suggest tracks/panels that they should attend on our behalf. I with my new media marketing lecturer hat on asked them to go to some of the marketing focused things but what occurs to me now. Now it is too late. Is it is the enterprise panels that may have been really useful. How small creative businesses and new nascent entrepreneurs in the sector can leverage technology? Although I guess that was probably the gist of a lot of the whole conference.

But here's the thing: when we teach students to be enterprising, we really need to be making sure that they are in a competitive position to be able to understand and exploit the continuous change and development of technology and have them really get how folks (customers/suppliers/promoters/distributors) engage in it.

Yeah and Dave? SXSW09? Room for any lecturers?;-)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CE08 update

A quick update - had this link through from Jemima Gibbons, from Interactive Know How who facilitated one of the workshops - 'Teaching practical entrepreneurial skills' - I didn't get to this one so it's good to get a flavour from her notes of the day: Intereactive Know How

Also Dave Harte of Digital central has linked to everyone who spoke!

Oh yeah and another thing - the whole thing was recorded - so should be a podcast and some rather dubious pics of speakers coming soon!

The first insallment! CE08

Yesterday was the 2008 Creative Enterprise conference, hosted by
the Media departmentof Birmingham City University and situated in the historic School of Jewellery.

This was a day long conference exploring issues of what's working in terms of teaching enterprise to creative discipline students. The day went in a usualish format i.e. organisational address, keynote speaker and then if took a bit of a detour some refreshing perspectives from students and beneficiaries from various courses followed by the most amazing lunch courtesy of Lassan restaurant in the jewellery quarter.

The afternoon consisted of two sets of break out sessions one of which I presented some early findings from the research I am doing with the MA Media Enterprise (will talk about this later) - I also got asked to sit on a panel discussion.

So here are some highlights (incidentally if you came along then please do feel free to comment with your own highlights):

Following a very smooth introduction from Dave Harte: marathon runner, who'd of thought it funny man and project leader of Digital Central , Linda Ball from the University of the Arts London, gave a keynote address and picked out a whole host of issues which were continually referred back to throughout the day by the various speakers. These included:

- The importance of critical both self and peer evaluation - This is a key attribute of an art and design education and it's interesting that Ball has picked this up as I understand it a sort of success criteris in entrepreneurial life.

- She also really emphasised the importance of continued development of creative practice 'Critical for success', something, I feel, sometimes gets lost in all the discussions around developing enterprise in these sectors.

- Other issues around the nature and characteristics of the sectors, all now well documented the networking, motivation, portfolio working were themes picked up again and again throughout the day. Mainly in terms of how education can try to stimulate these and provide a rehearsal space for some of these later entrepreneurial behaviours.

- Another key theme again picked up by many (myself included) was the importance of experiential learning, Linda described a 'Progressive experiential learning cycle' model to describe this.

- Confidence again was a key theme, and a bit of a no-brainer you might think, but the implications relating to confidence are wide in terms of social inclusion and diversity issues.

Linda also spoke about the business skills required and the nature of business support that would be beneficial. I'll get onto all this in more detail in a later posting. So far I am upto about 10.45a.m yesterday morning so I'll leave it at that for now and post a little bit more later about:

- Some of the great student presentations
- My own presentation
- The dynamic duo (otherwise known as Kath and Andy Penaluna)
- Other longitudinal research
and the final panel discussion.............but right now I need to do some work work!

Oh I nearly forgot and must remember to blog in detail the buzz word of the day 'risk' who takes it and when?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Creative Enterprise 2008

Briefly, just back from Creative Enterprise 2008 - I know Dave Harte (Digital Central) gave out this address so I will endeavour to do a proper blog posting with, what I saw as, some of the highlights of the day - but for now I am on my way out to another event - so it will most likely be tomorrow!

If you did attend please do email me with anything you'd like discussed here (or if you didn't for that matter)

charlotte dot carey at gmail dot com

Sunday, March 09, 2008

New Zealand, enterprise and academia

Written last monday - posted sat

Well back from what felt like a flying visit to see my brother over in Auckland (NZ). Having woken up at 3a.m for the last couple of nights and having my morning 'smoko' (I don't know it's what my brother calls elevensies - he is totally gone Kiwi and lost is sarf London twang) by 8.45 in the morning, I thought I might as well put the time to reasonable use and report back on thoughts and observations from a city that appears to be extremely enterprising.

Observation one: Owning your job and intra-preneurship

I bought a wedding present for my brother and his new wife - it was a steam iron. Now on the face of things this is not the most exciting story, or gift for that matter, but here's the thing I came out of the store having bought the top of the range, most expensive iron that the store had. This was not my intention when I went in. But Thomas explained to me, in great detail, the differences between each of the irons, he really new his stuff and shared his knowledge with great enthusiasm - who knew that irons get dirty inside? he'd even come across a woman who'd had 'ants living inside her iron'- but not this beauty with special clean inside device, self-turning off switch and stainless steal face - well the coated ones peel apparently. Safe in the knowledge that I'd selected an iron that would last a lifetime, Thomas then offered me a 20% discount - just like that!

The thing that struck me about the whole thing was that Thomas was at most 17 years old, he refferred to the irons as 'his section' he knew everything about the irons, he was enthusiastic about irons, he SOLD me an iron, he sold me the most expensive iron on his section without me realising or begrudging parting with over 100 dollars (discount included) for the privilege. The store was a big old ware house style B an Q type place but the experience was very personal and professional. when I mentioned this all to my brother he explained this was common phenomena in NZ because individuals were really encouraged to 'own their jobs'. Now from an enterprise perespecitve and when, in my work, I have been thinking and discussing enterprising organisations and developing enterprising characteristics it struck me that giving ones staff the autonmomy to make descisions (e.g. give discounts), to have that level of responsibility and ownership makes such a difference to the consumer, customer and service users experience. It presumably empowers the staff member and makes them have more of a sense of loyalty to the company. Anyway I'll think more about this and its fit with enterprise but it occurred to me that Thomas had more scope to use his initiative and be enterprising than, perhaps his UK counterpart, he had the knowledge and power to offer me the discount when he recognised I was at the crucial 'tipping point'.

Observation two: is everyone in NZ self-employed?
Okay fast froward to the wedding day, a beautiful ceromony, at home, followed by a sit down lunch for the 20 or so guests prior to the big party. Around the table every person was or had been self-employed (apart from the kids). All of whom within the creative industries. In fact I was tempted to do a quick survey while at the table. I'd half planned to do a comparative (with Birmingham) study of female run creative industries run companies and do the interviews while out there but decided to have a holiday instead. But here, at the wedding breakfast, i had a t least five of the thirteen sub-sectors covered. On closer inspection it would seem that self-employment in NZ is rife and with their film industry growing rapidly it would seem the creative industries are also a major growth area.

Observation three: Academia is international - nah
Talking of the NZ film industry the monday after the wedding (wow not even a week ago) I had the great pleasure in zooming over to Massey university (the Auckalnd campus) where I met with an esteemed colleague, who has written extensively on entrepreneruship within New Zealand and specifically about its creative industries.

I was struck by how academia offers you this great framework with which to speak with colleagues from across the globe, in fact at the wedding I'd spoken to a lecturer/researcher from AUT University he and I are both struggling with balancing the whole PhD/life/job/when to publish/conflicting advice thing - all very bonding!