So, the current module of my MA requires me to be the business. Literally. I’m full of creative ideas at home and at work (and with the kids… well, you have to get them to eat their greens somehow). But business? Well, that’s not my thing. Or maybe it is and I just haven’t tried it. We’ll soon find out.
The key part is coming up with an idea that is a) online, b) relates to the award for which I’m studying (damn, that food-related project I have burning a hole in my notepad will have to wait) and meet some political/social need. I.e I need to try and do some good in the world while trying to make money while trying to be a journalist.
My idea in its very barest form (the one I think I’ll stick with, at least) is linked with what I love and what I do. One of my work buddies describes me as abstractly creative and I’d never have put myself under that umbrella until he said it. It’s not that I come up with weird and wonderful ideas but I do try and challenge myself to think beyond what’s the easiest option. I don’t always succeed but I do enjoy a spot of creativity.
I also love content, as a creator, consumer and lurker. And I’m fussy, time-starved and suffer a short attention span so it needs to be good. I also love learning, both as a learner – in the direct sense, hence why I’m doing this MA; as a mentor, I love sharing my skills with others, it makes me feel good; and also indirectly too. I work for a university and know first-hand how education changes lives, develops careers, boosts self confidence, contributes to the economy and makes the world go round. And I know that being creative and learning new skills is beyond tricky when you’re spinning many plates: job or jobs, parenthood, carer, friend, sportsman, volunteers etc.
So, my idea is to offer a kind of mentoring service for small business who want to develop their brands without having to employ a large agency or cough up a small fortune to attend a workshop in London. I want to offer an online portal of bitesize content training in all things digital content, from creating videos, writing social media posts, re-sizing images, learning WordPress, web content, enewsletters etc. And that that ‘learning hub’ for want of a better phrase will allow people to put their learning into practice, try by failing in a comfortable, supportive space, and therefore contribute to other people’s learning. Or something like that.
My husband works with a lot of small businesses in his role as web designer/developer and knows first-hand how people struggle with the basics which, in this day and age are pretty essential if you want customers to engage in spaces they’re comfortable in. And they don’t have the time or budget to skill up in a more formal way, and neither do they have to. Although a traditionally qualified journalist, I was trained in print and much of my own digital skillset has come from being mentored by others, learning by doing and experimenting, and failing plenty times over. I’m still learning.
So, that’s the crux of it. It needs a lot of research, polishing and working up but I’m further on than I was last week: clueless.
All roads leads back to the workplace
It’s interesting to see how prominently my place of work features in my MA in Online Journalism. I’m not sure why, but I read a 2009 post from Paul Bradshaw last week when he was started to write the MA course. In it, he referenced Peter Horrocks, then of the BBC, who’d offered some though on the content of the course. Today, as I sit and type this, Peter is the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University (OU), where I work.
Then, while reading about social innovation, I stumbled on a paragraph that mentioned the OU and the Young Foundation, named after Michael Young, the man who helped to found the ‘university of the air’.
Now, I’m staying late after work to catch up on MA reading and access to the Taylor & Francis Online ‘portal’ has been granted because I’m logged on with the OU and the uni logo has popped onto the top of my screen. Being a distance learning student (live Milton Keynes, uni in Birmingham) can have disadvantages, but working for another university (particularly the ‘king’ of the distance learning tribe) seems to make up for the shortfall.
Hats off to de Bono
And already my work-life is benefitting from the MA. I’ve been reading up about Edward de Bono and his six thinking hats and would really like to try them out in a creative brainstorm session sometime soon. Brainstorms can often be messy, lots of people cramming in ideas, shouting them down and forgetting objectives for what seems like an age. The thinking hats sounds less messy but just as creative and I won’t know until I’ve tried it. I like the idea of sitting in a meeting wearing a hat too. Watch this space.