Over the past few months, since the 15 February, to be precise, we have been working in partnership with University College Birmingham, based in the Jewellery Quarter, on their applied marketing module; the Ruskin Mill Land Trust being the client, and three different business enterprise streams at the New Standard Works being the focus of attention.
Having worked with Sian and Jeff (lecturers) before on other modules of work in the area; Suzanne approached the college to see if they could help with market research to support the fundraising efforts of the RMLT; in return we offered a ‘live’ project in which students could hone their newly acquired skills, and have a real experience of surveys, data analysis, recommendations and clients; a win win situation! We were delighted when we ended up working with 70 students on the project, and a huge thank you to Gillian, Faiza (also lecturers), Sian and Jeff, and all the students for supporting us on this project.
Back in February, Janine, RMLT’s Director of Fundraising, and Suzanne, Activity Plan Consultant, briefed the students on the project, and gave them a tour of the factory. That was week 2 of their module. The students worked in groups over the next 14 weeks, collecting and using their own research, to come up with some fantastic recommendations around the future cafe, commercial facilities to hire, the visitor centre/heritage lounge and programme of history and heritage-related activities. In week 16, Janine and Suzanne were back at UCB watching the student presentations, pleased with the understanding and knowledge gained by many of the groups. We were particularly impressed by one group, who not only did their survey work, but also held two focus groups; one with the JQBID Ambassadors, the other with students from the School of Jewellery, and even mocked up a menu for the cafe – called The Hive! Great stuff.
Collectively the students carried out survey work with almost 1000 people, and have shared the raw data with the project team so we can also crunch our own data with a much bigger sample size than we could have hoped to gather on our own.
We’re not going to bore you with statistics and graphs, but the students have gathered such useful information, we just wanted to emphasise the point!
One of the questions we asked students to include in all the surveys was about which buildings in the JQ were the most iconic. We wanted this information to feed into our Interpretation Planning. The 16 choices we gave were:
The clear leader was the Chamberlain Clock (no. 7) in the very heart of the Jewellery Quarter; when giving reasons about their choice, the most common reasons people gave were: that it stands out, is representative, is beautiful, is noticeable and has become a symbol for the area.
There was a very astute comment from one group; if this is the most iconic feature of the JQ then there should be information about its history in the ‘heritage lounge’, as visitors to the area are bound to ask about it! Noted. The JQ’s own Marie Haddleton has already kindly donated a large picture of the Chamberlain Clock for the Heritage Lounge, so we are part way there!
Evaluating changes in perception
It is difficult to evaluate changes in perception of an area over time. The Jewellery Quarter is going through an exciting period of transformation; rejuvenation and regeneration. New business are moving into the quarter each month, new planning application are under scrutiny weekly and dereliction is visibly being tackled in Legge Lane as we speak. Many more of the empty industrial buildings will find new uses though HLF-funded schemes such as this (if successful) and the Townscape Heritage Project (pending start date) in the next few years.
To help us track change over time students asked those they surveyed to describe the Jewellery Quarter in three words. OK, so not robust or scientific, in any shape or form, especially because the same people most likely won’t have been asked during both surveys, but can you spot a difference in these two word clouds below (the larger the word, the more times it was mentioned)?
The first was created using data from UCB survey work in 2014, around two years ago and using the same methodology as the current survey work.
The same words remain prevalent; old, historic, interesting, quiet, boring – but in the 2016 wordcloud the ‘industrial’, ‘rundown’ and ’empty’ are no longer visible; replaced with ‘busy’, ‘nice’, ‘shopping’, beautiful, ‘expensive’ and ‘unique’ as more frequently used words.
I wonder if in two years time it will be a slightly different picture again…
We have really enjoyed working in partnership with the University College and it has been useful to consult with a young demographic ourselves as part of the engagement process. The average age of the students we worked with is 22.
We did our own little bit of survey work with the students (68 responses) to see what they gained from working on the project:
- 53% of students said the project had helped them learn a lot about the history of the JQ, 46% said they had learnt a little
- 62% of students said they had enjoyed A LOT working on the project, 41% said they had enjoyed it a little
- 75% of students said they would be interested in coming to the café once it was open, 22% said they maybe would.
- 44% students said they would be interested in taking part in a creative activity in the community workshop or learning cookery skills in the training kitchen once it is open, 47% said they maybe would.
We will be keeping in touch with the students and welcoming them back to the building when work is underway on the next phase of refurbishment.
Suzanne will also be following up with 47% of the students who left their email address to find out about volunteering opportunities on heritage projects in the JQ that they might get involved with. Another great result.