Team Digital – The second meeting

This is a blog that I wrote for the GirlGuiding Digital Blog. It’s not my usual style, I don’t normally like to write ‘we did this and this and this’  – however, for the purposes of the blog, I thought that this is what they wanted.

Inspiration, ideas and information were just three of the things that were bounced back and forth between team digital and our facilitators this weekend.
We wound our way from every corner of the UK to meet at the electric works in Sheffield, at the headquarters of yoomee, the wonderful team who are carrying out the redesign of the GirlGuiding website.
11 members of team digital were able to make the meeting, some of us has met before, with some new faces who were readily welcomed to the team. There are 15 members of team digital in total, all but one who are already involved in GirlGuiding. Last but not least we had Jo, Helen and Lucy from GirlGuiding HQ to lead the meeting and discussion.  The air was filled with expectation and excitement as we filed into the electric works on Sunday morning, ready for a busy day of discussion.

Meeting our Guest Speakers
Firstly we were welcomed by the lovely Carrie who had been working hard to ensure that everything was going to be perfect for our meeting (and it was). Once we were up to the third floor we were introduced to a few amazing women who each told us a little about what they did and how they got into their respective creative industries.
Carrie @carriemoja, employed as a web developer by youmee with a degree in fine art and a love of gaming that launched her into her current career. She has also recently designed and released her first game on google play.
Amy @AmyFarry an ex-primary school teacher who took the plunge and rebranded herself as Gingerink – her own PR and marketing company, she works freelance with many small companies in and around Sheffield.
Claire @kitation was the next speaker, she had started the world of work in retail then realised (after a difficult choice between game design and software engineering) decided that a future in software was the one for her. She’s not only a yoomee employee but also a volunteer at code club and code club plus – teaching children and teachers how to code, supporting the recent changes to the national curriculum.
Lydia @StudioBinky is a freelance graphic designer who has taken leaps and bounds through graphic design and the world of adobe illustrator, from being the first female employee at The Designers Republic to designing for a huge range of clients from Thornton’s, to Paul Smith and raspberry pi.

A whirlwind of workshops
After the introductions and presentations we were split into groups to take part in a workshop carousel, were we were given the opportunity to talk at greater length with our facilitators and take part in activities that they were running for us, such as writing a bio and drawing illustrations, learning the basics of coding, and the importance of designing a website with access for all in mind.
The first workshop in my carousel was bio writing with Amy, we wrote a little more about ourselves for the digital blog. Our first bios were only 140 characters – the same length as a tweet. This should let everyone get to know us a little better!
Next we were whisked off by Carrie to learn a few bits of coding and to see how our code influenced a website in real time.
It was around this this time that we had lunch and the office was alive with chatter about all we had learned that morning.
Soon enough, we were back to the carousel and we were onto Claire’s station. We were focusing on accessibility, looking at colourblindness and using screen readers as a blind or partially sighted person might. At this point we were beta testing the website and had to use the screen reading function to navigate through the website whilst blindfolded. It was quite eye opening and it was great to see how hard yoomee are working to make the website accessible for as many people as possible.
The final station (for me at least) was Lydia’s – we were designing our own digital self-portrait in Lydia’s adorable trademark style to go with the bio’s written earlier in the day. We had the chance to design it on illustrator or paper, depending on own preference.

Beta testing
After a short break we gathered back together to do more in depth beta testing of the new website. Finding information, picking up on little things that we didn’t like – we had quite a list of positives and negatives, but we were overwhelmed to see the progress that has been made so far. The style, design and content were all superb. During the final section of the day we were given the chance to discuss and feedback our ideas for having an ‘opportunity finder’ – a tool for discovering and applying for all of the opportunities available to members.

Time to go, so soon?
Before we knew it a glance at the clock showed that the meeting was over. We all made our way across the road to the train station and slowly drifted off to different platforms in order to make our various journey’s back home, to all corners of the UK. We were all exhausted, but happy and uplifted at the thought of the progress and friends we had made.

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WAGGGS Europe Communications Conference

It is always amazing to be surrounded by volunteers. Each enthused with the same Guiding spirit and determination. We had come from all over Europe to be a part of the communications conference. I felt quite humbled, most of the other girls spoke English as a second language – fluently. My short flirtations with learning French and German at school let me ask questions at train stations at best and at worst leave me embarrassed, mumbling and in a flap. I really need to polish them up. That’s on the to do list.

All involved made me feel very privileged to be there, I had initially questioned the point of applying – I thought I was under-qualified! However, it seemed that everyone who went had something to offer. Some were the International Commissioners for their MO’s. Others have careers in advertising and graphic design. We also had Rosemary, Jeanette and Irene from the Europe office and Nina – a wonderful member of the Europe Committee, who were there to help when needed and to provide support and greater knowledge of the Europe region when needed. All of us are dedicated to the WAGGGS mission, the main thing that brought us together to our little hotel in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The core group and the planning team had worked hard to give us a good grounding in the areas we were to discuss, with chances at every part of the week for us to ask questions and make suggestions. We had such a wealth of experience to tap into. These women are passionate about what they do and it was impossible to remain unenthused whilst in their presence! Workshops, group discussion, games and post-it notes were all used to create a solid action plan for WAGGGS Europe communications for 2015 and beyond. On the second to last day we even had a guest speaker, who had flown from London just to speak to us – Jude Habib, previous employee at the BBC and founder of sounddelivery – a digital media training, production and consultancy company with a passion for digital storytelling. Our minds were opened to a whole new world of possibilities, social media from a fresh, new angle.

We have the strategic plan. We will have a proper facebook group and blog where we can share the stories of the people involved in Guiding and Scouting at every level. We can (and will) reach out to more and more people than ever before. Through social media of all types, we can make a difference. Hopefully, we can help every girl realise and achieve her fullest potential.

This is our aim. Now we’re ready to do it.

My first WAGGGS conference

I’m on the train from Kandersteg to Zurich flughafen. From there it is a flight to Vienna (Austria) and then a bus to Bratislava (Slovakia) where a WAGGGS Europe conference is taking place. It’s my first real role in the Communications and External Relations resource pool! I first recieved the emails about it when I was camping for 10 days as Staff at Chamboree so more or less missed both them and the deadlines. However, I was encouraged to apply. So I did, and here I am. On a train (delayed very unswiss – I’m hoping I still get to the airport with plenty of time). Despite having the schedule I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I’m excited and a bundle of nerves, but throwing myself in headfirst at the deep end is just what I do! It’s always fine once I get there.

A Return to Our Chalet

“High up, high on a mountain we’ll go to Our Chalet ”

It’s true, we’ll go and then the irresistable lure of the Chalet will draw us back, over and over again.

As it did this week! I did venture back for a day over the summer, where I drew up a plan for the next marketing and communications intern.

This time I was around for 7 days. It was wonderful as ever – I love the work! I was preparing flyers and info packs for 2015 -16 events. Some had already been done, but all needed checking (prices, dates etc). Then the tedious task of uploading and attaching these files to the website had to take place. However, it didn’t take too long!

The autumn vollies were lovely too. A very different dynamic from the last few seasons, but no worse for it! All slightly older than some seasons but itnamde for a very hardworking, close knit team. They were all very welcoming and of course bit was nice to see Koka, Catt, Migue, Emma and Tanya again. It was almost like I’d never left. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year in Adelboden and the weather was superb! It was with regret that I had to leave it again, but it doubt that it will be for long.

“We ever shall remember the joys of Our Chalet”

Catching up

I’m currently in the last month of my MSc – the reason for the silence recently despite the many Guiding and Scouting things that I’ve been up to this summer. This weekend I’ve been helping to warden at forest campsite in Cheshire. It’s been a lovely change of scenery with nice people and I’ve even managed to get a reasonable amount of work done (more than would have been done at home). 1 month to go!

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One hour a week

This is based on another blog post I read the other day about how people think that volunteering for guiding is just for an hour a week.

It’s true. Many people have no idea how much time we actually dedicate. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! But it is what I spend most of my free time doing.
Here’s a little breakdown of my guiding time over the last few weeks:

Fri: Shop for ranger craft = 1 hr
Sat: helping with first response training = 2 hrs.
Sat/Sun: Practice ranger craft and work out how to make it better = 3 hrs
Mon: Guides = 1 hr 45 mins (add another hour for setting up and clearing up)
Weds: Rangers = 1 hr 30.
Sat: Help at a Big Brownie Birthday event = 8 hrs 30
Mon: Guides = 1 hr 45 mins (add another hour for setting up and clearing up)
Tues: Met up with an old ranger friend to discuss ranger ideas = 2 hrs
Weds: Rangers = 1 hr 30
Fri: meet up with fellow ranger leaders to teach a craft for next week = 2 hrs
Sat: team digital meeting 10- 4.30 but including train time = 12+ hours

Just an hour a week? Definitely not, but, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My time at Our Chalet

I can’t believe that it has already been 2 months since I returned home from the experience of a lifetime – a Marketing and Communications Internship at Our Chalet, the first Guiding World Centre.

People ask me “How was it? What was it like?”. It always stumps me. Incredible I tell them. Life changing. Fantastic. Amazing.
Of course, these are the least informative things that I could possibly say.

I feel trapped in a way, how do you describe in a couple of sentences the most fantastic experience you’ve ever had? The unique place and people, the beauty of Winter in the Alps. It is a place where you can find “Challenge, Adventure and Peace for the Soul” – just as was wanted when the Chalet first opened in 1932.

In 3.5 months I met people from around 40 different countries and spent time with many brilliant members of staff and guests.

I was lucky enough to be involved with the Helen Storrow Seminar (teaching Leadership and Conservation), with many young women who will have a good chance of being the leaders in their member organisations in the future. Every single one fascinating, friendly and engaging. Each had wildly different experiences and ideas for the future. All were driven, determined and inspirational. I didn’t mind helping these wonderful individuals from 8 in the morning until 11 at night. I’m privileged to call them all friends.

I was also incredibly fortunate to bridge two seasons at Our Chalet. The Winter season at the Chalet runs from December until February. The Spring Season is March through to May. I was around from Early January to mid April. This meant I met 2 seasons of vollies and despite the mess, living with these people was incredible. We laughed until we cried, told stories, watched films, played games, had sleepovers. It was like having another family. My chalet family will always have a very special place in my heart.

That is all without talking for a moment about my actual Internship. Let me tell you a little about my educational background for a start. I have a BSc in Zoology and I’m working on an MSc in Conservation. The Internship was in Marketing and Communications. Yes… not immediately really very related, but i’ve done a little Marketing and Comms in the past for societies at university. I love being creative but  it isn’t something that I haven’t had much opportunity on the Courses I’ve done! When I saw the advert on the Our Chalet website in April 2013 it sounded perfect, the application was filled out and there were some nail biting weeks until I got an interview… then even longer until I was told I had it!

“What does an MCI even do?” is the other commonly asked question.

I was responsible for updating the website, blog, facebook and twitter feeds. This included planning the posts for the day, creating advertising banners and taking/tidying up photos. This could take anything from an hour to most of the day. It depended on what exactly I was doing! I’d also try to plan and schedule the posts that would be put up on my days off, so that there weren’t too many days of Chalet silence. I also was responsible for writing and/or editing articles and blog posts. Most articles were self written, but the Blog posts were written by the volunteers, requiring editing, formatting and suchlike.

I was also the photographer when required. I took snaps of the chalet and surrounding area, groups that visited, activities we did – anything that was needed! I loved it. Photography had only really been a hobby before, having it as part of my job was like a dream come true.

I urge any members of GirlGuiding who are able to volunteer at the Chalet, or any other of the world centres – students, gap year wanderers, people taking a career break. You don’t just have to be in your 20’s either. So long as you are prepared to work hard, and make the most of every experience you have a chance! There is honestly nothing quite like it.

“We ever shall remember the joys of Our Chalet”

Team Digital – The Importance of Personas

A perso-what?

In UCD (User Centred Design), the creation of ‘personas’ is an important step in the early stages of site development. Through personas, we can work out and judge how different people would access and use the site. This way, the website design can be based on the things that each target group wants to see or find.

Whilst I was working at Our Chalet, I had the chance to take part in a Market research conference call that was very interesting but rather irrelevant to me in my role at the time. However, I learnt a lot through that about taking to different people in the target audience, how to conduct one on one interviews, round tables and (more importantly just now) about personas.

Guiding personas

For Guiding the most basic personas could be grouped as Adult and Child. These can be further subdivided into Member, Non-Member and Past Member. With Children, these can be further divided into the Section they belong to. For example: Child, Brownie age, Member. Depending on what you are aiming to achieve, you can have anything from a single persona to a broad range of 25+ personas. Guiding is an interesting charity as many people have some experience with it. You may get parents of girls who were members as children (adult, past members) and want to get their daughters started in Guiding. Or they may never have been involved (adult, non-members), but want to know more. Of course, you also get Leaders (obviously adult, current members) who wish to find resources for their groups. This however isn’t including the girls themselves! You may get girls who are part of guiding who wish to access the micro-sites provided for each section (child, members, Rainbow/Brownie/Guide/Senior Section) or even girls who are potential members (non-member or past member) for any of these sections who wish to find out more.

Persona chart

Diagram of possible personas for GirlGuiding

As you can see, it isn’t quite as easy as looking at the website from the perspective of just 1 or 2 individuals. In order for the site to meet the needs of the target audience, it needs a little more thought than that.

As part of Team Digital I’ve been asked if I could be questioned about my use of the website as a Senior Section Member, to help them create one of a dozen personas. I said yes (of course) and tomorrow I’m having a phone call with some of the people from YouMee (a Sheffield based digital agency) who are the important people responsible for giving the GirlGuiding website a much needed overhaul.

I will report back after the call to let you all know how it went!

Team Digital – The first meeting is fast approaching

It’s official! The Team Digital panel has been released for all the world to see on the digital.girlguiding blog
These are the people I’ll be meeting up with every few months from now for the next two years. I look forward to getting to know them all.

Here’s my 140 character bio. They may have prematurely aged me, but in a month and a bit it will be correct!

Team digital bio