Designer Bruce Mau encourages us to forget about the end result and focus on the creative process in his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Similarly, avoiding paralysis by not knowing where to start he adopts John Cage’s call to action, Begin Anywhere.
FuseBox24 as a research project has begun.
RCUK through Digital Economy Hubs and the AHRC through Creative Economy Knowledge Exchange Hubs constitute a broader context and community of research and The Brighton Fuse project and this linked project are part of this research trajectory which places distinctive emphasis on applied academic work and co-research and co-creation with practitioners of different kinds including in profit and non- profit sectors.
Born out of the Brighton Fuse research, FuseBox24 is a commitment by Wired Sussex to build on the research findings that arts, design and humanities knowledge and expertise are major drivers in the businesses in Brighton’s creative and digital cluster. We’re connecting academic approaches to learning with artistic approaches and the knowledge and expertise of sector professionals over the 24 weeks of the programme. The central research question focuses on understanding what makes innovators (not innovations) in the creative and digital economy. We’re also interested in the velocity of entrepreneurial development and the arts, design and humanities’ relationship to the development process for innovators.
In our evaluation of the FuseBoxAmp pilot project in Summer 2013 we learned that innovators valued access to knowledge and skills from external contributors, both thought-leaders and practitioners, the peer relationships established within the cohort and the deep challenging questions about themselves as innovators that the experience posed. To the last point, greater time for reflection was highlighted by participants as a key consideration for the next iteration of the programme.
FuseBox24 has a simple proposition: 24 weeks of start-up business for innovators with 24/7 access to the FuseBox space. We’ve recruited sixteen innovators to the programme, who at the entry stage comprise eleven business start-up ideas.
Underpinning the need for reflection, we took the design decision to inform the model with a less is more approach inspired by threshold concepts. Breaking the model down into stages also helped to give focus to the voyage that innovators are undertaking and allow for thresholds to be envisioned from the outset.
Wired Sussex MD, Phil Jones’ learnings from the Amp feature at the core of the programme – needs, empathy and insights are the concepts that innovators are encouraged to work with throughout the programme. In support of this we’ve constructed the programme and the action research model which feeds it to capture innovators self-evaluations as summative assessments at the end of each of the four stages of Immersion, Readiness, Iterations and Jump. Innovators have completed a pre-programme survey of 14 questions which challenges them to consider themselves as innovators. They’ll repeat this for the above four stages and also record a 2-minute video blog which gives them the opportunity to verbalise their reflective learnings.
We’re into the second week of the four week Immersion stage having presented innovators with a week 1 challenge of presenting themselves to their peer group using a method of 20 slides delivered 20 seconds each, inspired by the Pecha Kucha format. After an inspiring friday afternoon session, the group reported back individually and collectively at a structured check-in session after weekend of reflection time. Learnings were evidenced about content and style and needs identified for action. This process will be repeated throughout the programme as the threshold concept of separating the innovator from the business idea is explored further in the coming weeks.
Outside of the action research supporting the programme I’m beginning to explore how the other models of business support for innovators established by RCUK and the AHRC compare and contrast to the programme we’ve begun. I’m also actively taking the programme into the University of Brighton beyond my weekly collaborative sessions with Professor Gillian Youngs, the project’s Principal Investigator, presenting the model to the Early Career Researchers Network at the University of Brighton this month.