Digital Champions for a Digital Birmingham

8th February 2010

Jon Hickman is part of the Interactive Culture research team at Birmingham City University and is working with Digital Birmingham on the project outlined below. This post first appeared over at the Interactive Cultures blog.

I will be spending much of the coming year or so working with companies across Birmingham on social media and web-based projects. The project, which I am delivering on behalf of Digital Birmingham, is a small part of a much larger programme utilising Working Neighbourhood funds managed by Birmingham City Council. The project will work with sixteen organisations between now and March 2011, and will also lead to a number of events; I will of course also be looking for opportunities to develop some academic outputs from the project.

What I will be doing

The project builds on our experiences in our recent project, the AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship in New Strategies for Radio and Music Organisations. I will be demonstrating simple uses of technologies that could make a difference to companies. We will prototype new ideas for our partners, using simple and accessible technologies that could help to make life easier, open up new opportunities, or speak to different audiences. The prototypes will be informed by our research and teaching activities within Birmingham School of Media.

Why I’m doing it

My project’s aims are to demonstrate the usefulness of Internet technologies, especially social media technologies, to a wide range of business sectors; the wider project aims include innovation and business growth. My job-title, and the name used at Digital Birmingham, for this project is “Digital Champion”. I won’t be using that title an awful lot, firstly because modesty won’t allow and secondly because the real champions will be the companies I partner with. My project aims to stimulate and create something new in a wide cross-section of companies, and then to communicate this process to a wider business community; my partners in the project will be the true Digital Champions, inspiring their friends, their staff, and their business rivals to try something new.

Creating Demand

When I worked in industry, people would often come to me with a good idea that was a little vague and needed to be shaped. I had no way of helping them to form that idea without charging for my time, and their budget would mean that they only had one chance to get it right. Often good ideas would never get started because I couldn’t afford to invest time and companies couldn’t afford to risk money. I hope that the time I spend with my partners will provide a space for some innovation or change to happen that would not otherwise occur. My project will take the early risk, and leave the partner with something more formed and considered which they can then use as the basis of a new, commercial, partnership with a local firm. Successful projects will stimulate demand whether that be finding an agency to write code that’s above and beyond my skills and remit; hiring a social media consultant to take a role in developing more content; or working with audio and video producers on podcast content.

What I’m looking for

I’m looking for partnerships across the city, in all sectors of our business community, who might benefit from this project. They might wish to be a prototype partner, or might just wish to attend one of our forthcoming events for some inspiration. Do please leave a comment below, or email me (jon.hickman [at]

I have a number of companies I am specifically looking for, these include:

  • a T-shirt screen printing company
  • a professional services company with a well developed CSR programme
  • a company with a branch office overseas

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Digital Birmingham is a Birmingham City Council initiative and part of a city wide strategic partnership of more than 40 public, private and voluntary organisations

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