Make:Shift 2013



The workshop banner at MAKE:shift 2012

The workshop banner at MAKE:shift 2012

Make:Shift 2013 followed on from the success of Make:Shift 2012, which took place in September last year. In 2012, 250 people joined together over the course of two days to get behind four plans (selected from over 60 submitted) to ‘Change Wolverhampton with an idea.’

The four ideas were:

  • Free Organic Gardens – establishing gardens where anyone volunteering could take food for free
  • Gap Fillers – making use of vacant land and buildings for short-term community activities
  • Scribble and Scribe – establishing a team of volunteers to help people fill in complicated official forms
  • Wolvopedia – make Wolverhampton a Wikipedia city

This year’s event sought to learn from last year’s evaluation where participants told us that, whilst the event was excellent, they would prefer it to be less structured. We therefore decided to run the event as an unconference, where participants controlled and drove the agenda.

The Oxford Dictionary defines an unconference as “a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.”


Make:Shift 2013

Make:Shift 2013 took place on 9 November. Over 70 people attended the event at the Newhampton Arts Centre.

Prior to the event an intensive social media campaign (Facebook, Twitter and WordPress blog) was conducted. During the event, a team of volunteer social media experts socially reported the event. (The material recorded on Storify will give you an idea about what took place).

Attendance was free and we encouraged people to book in advance using Eventbrite (an online booking system). Approximately 70 people did so and a similar number attended the event (although not all the same people that had booked on – some people turned up on the day and some people who had booked on didn’t turn up).

At the start of the event we encouraged anyone who wanted to pitch an idea to speak to other participants about it in the Make:Shift marketplace.

The opening speech was provided by Councillor Elias Mattu. He spoke about ideas from last year’s event and how, by working together, we can make Wolverhampton more resilient.

Elliot Lord, who pitched the Free Organic Gardens idea, then spoke about how his project had developed since last Make:Shift, and the importance of Make:Shift in helping to make his idea a reality.

After this the ideas for 2013 were pitched. There were 15 ideas in all. Each ideas champion had a maximum of two minutes to pitch their idea. They then chose a time and a room in which to discuss their idea.


The ideas discussed on the day were:

  • Custom Home Build and Self Build
  • Book swapping Network
  • Wolves in Wolves
  • Finchfield Church/ Community Centre
  • Social Media in Communities
  • Off the Grid
  • Art and Craft Co-op
  • Up cycled Furniture Enterprise
  • Art on the move
  • Look Up Wolverhampton
  • Social Steam Engine
  • Creative Conversations
  • What Should be Free?
  • International Links Association

Make:Shift 2013 was a considerable success. Attendance remained constant and there was a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm throughout the day. Participants embraced the free-flowing nature of the unconference. All of the ideas champions were joined by other participants eager to support and add value to their ideas.

After Make:Shift, it was important to maintain the energy and momentum created. We have now allocated mentors to each of the fifteen ideas champions. The role of the mentor is to provide light touch support to the champion and help them overcome any bureaucratic difficulties they might encounter.

We have also organised a series of Make:Shift get togethers to enable the ideas champions to provide each other with peer support. We have even had new ideas pitched at these events.

The council will continue to support the champions to deliver their ideas and it is intended to deliver the next Make:Shift in 2014.



by Sam Axtell

Consultation and Community Involvement Officer

Wolverhampton City Council

Photo Credit: jamesdclarke via Compfight cc

Facebook: how a cloudburst took Facebook by storm

I was out on a site visit recently and at one point was using my smartphone to update some pictures to the council’s social media sites.

A non-communications colleague who had accompanied me quipped: “It must be nice having a job where you can mess about on Facebook all day!”

It got me thinking. She was right on one level, it is pretty amazing being paid to use new and evolving technologies to communicate instantly with thousands of people every day. However, she was wrong to suggest – even if in jest – that we are just “messing about”.

I would be the first to admit that here in Wolverhampton we were quite late arriving at the social media party. Our Twitter account was launched in August 2010, with Facebook site and YouTube channel arriving in November 2011. However, I think we’ve made up for lost time.

Wet grass, Wolverhampton

We now take our new media work as seriously as our traditional media work and are constantly looking to develop our sites to make the content that populates them more engaging, informative and enjoyable for our followers.

There is no better way to demonstrate this than a video I recently posted onto our Facebook site Wolverhampton Today which became our most popular ever post by far – both in terms of how many people viewed it and the level of engagement with it.

The clip showed the steps outside St Peter’s Church in the city centre after they had been turned into an impromptu waterfall following a torrential rain storm. It was just 16 seconds of footage, shot on my phone under the cover of my trusty umbrella as I ventured out into the deluge.

The waterfall clip can be viewed here.

I decided to head outside after first seeing the ‘waterfall’ from the office window. It was an impressive site and in six years working here I had never witnessed anything like it. As a former journo, instincts took over and I figured that if something out of the ordinary was happening it would be worth sharing it. It was a spur of the moment, gut reaction thing. Not planned, not thought up in a meeting or devised as part of a strategy.

I’m extremely glad that I did it. As soon as I’d uploaded onto Wolverhampton Today it immediately started to generate ‘likes’, comments and shares. The response was unprecedented and so far it has been viewed a total of 18,292 times and 6,345 of those viewers were engaged users (meaning they liked, shared or commented on it).

The video was not designed to promote the work of the council. There was nothing on it to indicate that it had any connection with the council. People may question what then was the point of posting it, how did it help us to fulfil our departmental aim of enhancing the reputation of the authority?

The bottom line, I believe, is that if you want your social media sites to make an impact for the right reasons, you have to give people a reason to come and look at you. It sounds simple and it is. Content really is king.

I think there is a danger that we can over-theorise how social media channels should best be used. Ultimately there is a simple truth that we would be wise not to forget – people react best to posts which are of the moment, give a sense of shared experience, surprise them, excite them, delight them or even simply inform them about something they find useful.

In other words, do everything you possibly can never to bore them.

Wolverhampton Today – which is only eight months old – is the second largest council Facebook site in the country with 12,864 likes at the time of writing.

A recent post on Comms2point0 by Dan Harris rightly argued that it was wrong to simply strive for more and more likes on Facebook. He eloquently made the case that it was better to have a smaller reach, but to be more engaged with those followers.

I would argue that we should aim to have a big reach combined with big engagement. While posts like the waterfall might be considered one-offs, they do go to show that we ex journos still know a thing or two about how to get people talking – even if the channels we are use to do that these days are changing.

I was always taught that if you could imagine people talking about something down the pub, it was a story. In the case of the waterfall vid, people love the weather. News will always be news, whatever the channel.

by Tim Clark,

Wolverhampton City Council

Picture credit