The Pop Up Agency

The foundation of supporting any sector or working profession, is to ensure young people are informed, inspired and intrigued about those career options, and that they are equipped with certain skillsets to be able to thrive within them.

Therefore as part of Digital Lancashire’s supporting activities to Digital in Lancashire, the Digital Advantage Scheme was created.

The Digital Advantage Scheme was born as a potential antidote to the current digital skills gap issue, and its overarching purpose is to get professional digital skills being taught and explored earlier, or sometimes even at all, within the education system.

The teaching program has recently been rebranded as The Pop Up Agency, and is presently being piloted amongst 10 colleges and sixth forms in Lancashire. Although this is only the first year of the pilot scheme in the county, the course was extremely successful in Greater Manchester last year, and is now thriving in it’s second year of running.

Dominic Williams, is currently a course leader for The Pop Up Agency, and has given us insight into what the course is teaching the students. Dominic himself, was a founder and former Creative Director of award winning digital marketing agency Fat Media in Lancaster.

He explained that the aim of the course, is for students to change their approach and mindset from academia to agency thinking; To get the creative thought process into the classroom. The output of the course, is to form a business idea, and follow the process from idea conception through to a finalised product or business model.

The course begins with several icebreakers, to get the students comfortable with each other, then the initial idea generation takes place. Held as group workshops, everybody has the chance to get involved. “The great thing about this is that everybody has to contribute, it can’t just be one way” says Dominic.

When the ideas are generated, the pupils then undergo the convergent phase, to refine their lists of ideas and interrogate potential issues. The pupils then break off into groups and form specialisms such as project management, design or research, and expand on their chosen idea. Each group are told that they are the owner of that ‘business’ and will effectively have shares. This helps them to become more invested in the project.

The project activities are carried out in a scrum methodology. Scrum is an agile software development model based on multiple small teams working in an intensive and interdependent manner. Scrum is a methodology that allows a team to self-organise and make changes quickly, in accordance with agile principles.

Throughout the two day course, the pupils are also taught about self representation, and are encouraged to use a networking site similar to LinkedIn, to gain experience of representing themselves in a digital age.

The course concludes with the pupils producing a video presentation of their business idea, and the work they have undertaken in the course. At the end of the year, all the videos are put forward from all participating institutions, and a judging panel chooses the winner.

The winner receives £2000 of business funding.

When asked how the students feel at the end of the course Dominic says “Whilst the participating students are excited and motivated by the possibility of their idea becoming a real business in which they have can have a stake, the real value of the exercise from a digital business perspective is the process itself, and the teaching and instilling of agency-style creative methods which will help them develop their ideas into real, tangible outcomes.

Excitement and passion for subject area is absolutely imperative to attract more undergraduates into the profession.

Digital Lancaster launches

Digital Lancaster launches

 

Over 80 people packed into the auditorium at The Storey last night (9 February) for the launch of Digital Lancaster. The diversity of the people in attendance was remarkable, with attendees from local digital business owners, Lancaster University, leaders in business, representatives from the City and Councils, Tech North and the city’s MP, as well as a host of technical and digital experts.

It was an insightful evening, filled with debate and eagerness for digital transformation in the city. The appetite and urgency for the change was palpable.

Lancaster City Council’s new Chief Executive Susan Parsonage, opened the evening’s discussion with a very open question to the audience.

How can things change in Lancaster to inspire economic growth?”

She invited members to show her what success looks like in digital, the challenges the sector faces and its capacity for growth. She concluded with the clear statement that she is listening and will help support and be an enabler for change.

Digital Lancashire’s MD Stewart Townsend then provided an introduction to Digital Lancashire and highlighted the huge successes that Digital Burnley has already achieved, ending the presentation with the somewhat provocative statement ‘Lancaster, now it’s your turn’, basically encouraging the audience to say ‘beat that!’.

To discuss some of the issues facing Lancaster in more detail, the audience split into four groups. The topics of discussion were: collaborative work spaces and suitable offices in the city;  infrastructure, including broadband, Wi-Fi and 4G; skills including recruitment, retention and training; and finally, support and finance available to businesses.

It was extremely interesting to hear that a lot of businesses face the same challenges. A range of issues came back repeatedly. Everyone agreed that Lancaster lacked good office accommodation and really needed collaborative work space. Also no one had a good word to say for BT Openreach with tales of poor service and endless waits for decent broadband access. Finally, everyone agreed there was fantastic talent in the city and we needed to retain and grow the workforce in the city.

Digital Lancashire Chair, Michael Gibson then led a panel discussion to discuss the issues raised with great insights from Luke Massie, CEO of Vibe Tickets; Mike Ashworth, Technical Director of ecommerce specialist NuBlue; John French, MD of Fat Media, (who together employ over 150 people in the city); Andrew Leeming from Lancashire County Council and the Business Growth Hub; and Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Mark Keating, who chaired the steering committee for Digital Lancaster, then closed the evening with the powerful message that ‘together we can be a voice for change’. He then posed the question, ‘what next?’. A lively discussion and networking followed in the bar until late in the night. A survey will be shared out with attendees and another meeting will follow of the steering committee will follow to start moving forward some practical actions to make serious change in Lancaster that benefit the digital economy and the city as a whole.

Anyone interested in being a part of Digital Lancaster should join Digital Lancashire first by clicking here and then emailing us at hello@digital-lancashire.org.uk.