HeadStart Open Space Consultation Event

As part of the digital technologies strand of the Wolverhampton HeadStart pilot, over 100 young people from primary and secondary schools around the city were brought together at Wolverhampton Civic Hall for an "Open Space" day. During the day, the young people collaborated with one another and with industry professionals to formulate ideas for digital projects in schools.

What is an Open Space meeting?

An 'Open Space Technology' event is a method of holding a meeting where the participants set the agenda and get to speak about the ideas and topics that interest them. All the ideas are placed on a large agenda board called the 'MarketPlace' and participants can then visit the topics that interest them. Alternatively they can be 'bees' or 'butterflies' and move around multiple topics, cross-pollinating ideas and contributing as much as they wish. 

The first Open Space with Children

Our Open Space was facilitated by Karl Royle from the University of Wolverhampton. Karl has hosted and participated in many Open Space events, but never one that consulted children in this way. The passionate Open Space community online were very impressed with the children's effort in this technique which is normally used by businesses and large organisations.

Introduction to the event

HeadStart Programme Manager Kevin Pace introduced the day by telling the children a story about three young people he knew at school and how each reacted to the same situation in very different ways. This helped the children to begin thinking about the various aspects of resilience and mental health in a way that they could relate to. Karl Royle then talked the children through the process and structure of an Open Space event. 

Idea generation

The children were then invited to come to the centre of the circle, write their ideas onto large post-it notes and stick them up on the MarketPlace agenda. The children showed no sign of holding back and began running to the centre of the circle, many returning several times with new ideas. They were tasked with generating ideas for creative projects, such as apps, short films, music projects, radio shows and games, around the various themes of resilience. For example, a radio show about bullying.

Topic discussions sessions

Seven 'break-out' stations were set up in the venue with flipchart paper for the children to discuss and develop their ideas in more detail. Three break-out sessions were undertaken, giving the Wolverhampton HeadStart team over 20 developed ideas, chosen from over a hundred more. Some ideas from the sessions include:

  • A radio show about bullying, notably featuring celebrity guests giving their personal stories and linked to hashtags online to generate discussion and engagement.
  • An app or web portal for seeking guidance and help with a variety of issues, including a helpline, discussions and articles.
  • An animation dealing with the issues faced when starting a new school.
  • A catchy, upbeat song to cheer people up.
  • A behind-the-scenes style documentary into the lives of people with disabilities.
  • A film that can calm people with anxiety issues.
  • An animation dealing with unfairness.

What happens next?

The HeadStart team are now processing all of the ideas and communicating with various creative professionals around the city who will be going into schools to complete the projects. Watch this space for a full list of the ideas that are being taken forward.

Partners and professionals

Thanks to the following local professionals and partner organisations that were present on the day to support the children and help to develop ideas. 

  • Karl Royle - University of Wolverhampton
  • Wolverhampton Learning Technologies Team
  • SWITCH - Digital Music
  • Stones Throw Media - Film-making
  • Void / Richard Anderson - App Design & Junior Apprentice
  • Russell Prue - Radio Broadcasting
  • Alice Whyley of Creative Wonderland - Design & branding