To assist with community engagement in CityVerve, we’ve recruited Contact Theatre’s Creative Experts to help us reach out to the citizens of Manchester; we introduced them as Community Champions at the end 2016. Today, in the first of a series of three guest blogs, we hear from Olivia Peers about her journey on the project.

Arise Community Champions!

When I heard this job title for the first time I pictured myself as a knight riding a white horse (what else?), brandishing a purple lance and shield bearing Contact’s logo.

The fantasy didn’t stop there. I was very much a Heath Ledger kind of knight, a charming and roguish underdog, who would gather fame, respect and appreciation from men and women alike for all my brave community centric actions. I feel that this was a good start to the City Verve project. If nothing else my heart was in the right place.

Similarly to Heath, I encountered some plot altering hurdles. Being a Community Champion was going to take me through a series of challenges:

Challenge One: Understanding my job role.

As Community Champions, we attended an introductory workshop in August. The session, delivered by Daniel and Vim (Chaucer) from FutureEverything made sure we had a clear understanding of the project and our role within it. After much turmoil, workshopping and deliberating I understood this;

There were some clever design teams, otherwise know as Use Case Teams, who are designing clever internet of things stuff, who needed to check if people (the joust crowd) would actually use this stuff, and therefore define where they would take the clever internet stuff next.

Challenge Two: Understanding my Design Team

In ‘A Knights Tale’ Heath is a commoner, who is pretending to be a Knight. He has been watching this world from the viewpoint of a Squire for some time and so has a basic understanding. In my case I have used the internet, so have a basic understanding of how it works and how it can be used to better our lives right?

Er, no actually. I realised I have no idea. The Design Team, just became Count Adhemar and they only speak Acronym.

SME?
UX?
API?
DWP?
LORAWAN?

But thankfully unlike in A Knights Tale, Sir Community Champion and Count Adhemar just became BFF’s. Part of my role was being the bridge between the community and the design teams.

To do that I had to find a common language between us. It was my job to question and to take the time to research and understand the products that the teams are creating. By doing this I was then able to define what information the design team needed from the community, and once I had both of these things I was in a position to carry out the community facing part of my role.

Challenge Three: Moan Avoidance

Most knights have ups and downs in their jousting careers, and mustn’t let the haters get them down. This is the same for Community Champions. The part of this job I really love is consulting with my community and listening to other people’s ideas on the technologies that have been designed.

But inevitably when your theme is using bus stops as community spaces someone is going to use the workshop space to have a moan. This is, of course, completely relevant and important. At some point the moan began as a reaction to an incident, and highlighted a problem that needed fixing.

However CityVerve as a project isn’t here to fix the infrastructure of our public transport system, even though it is difficult to separate the two, when the community ‘buy in’ is using technology to improve everyday lives. I had to help people in my workshop ‘move through the moan’. I am after all Heath Ledger, the pro-active hero. My enduring positivity and sometimes cut-throat desire to fulfil my ultimate goal (gathering information to feed into the product design process / getting the girl) not to mention my six pack…

… of tin foil to make mock up bus stops of the future gave the workshop participants a clear focus and goal, and allowed me to validate the moan whilst moving forward.

I believe that as this project evolves and we move into the next stage, I will encounter further challenges with my role as a Community Champion and just like Heath, I will continue to overcome them.

And have great hair.