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Ruth Harper

Brighton Digital Festival – Open Studio

On Friday 27th September,  we welcomed the Brighton Digital Festival into our offices for our Open Studios event.

Rather than talk at people about what we do, we decided to show them instead: A hands-on demonstration of exactly what it is we do and what being a client of NixonMcInnes is like.

Max talked a little about who we are these days (hint: probably not who you thought we were) and Clive talked us through some of our recent client case studies, where we’ve put digital transformation to work, making real changes for big brands and large organisations, to equip them for the 21st century.

And then we turned the lens around: We harnessed the collective intelligence of our smart, savvy participants, to answer two questions:

 1.     What’s amazing about being digital in Brighton

2.     What do we need to do now, to make Brighton an internationally recognized centre of digital excellence?

As you might expect, the answers were many, varied and complex.

We have a lot to be happy about; not least the landscape and Brighton’s rich heritage, but also the concentration of creative talent, two universities and an environment that’s ripe for startups and new ventures. We’re close to London – but separate from it, with a clear sense of our own identity. The city is seen by the people who live here as liberal and tolerant, particularly for LBGT people.

But there is a flipside: The city is desirable, so housing is expensive – even for the south east; the gap between rich and poor in the city is huge and there are real social problems to be addressed. And while it’s seen by both its residents and the rest of the country as a socially liberal, cosmopolitan and tolerant city, we don’t think of ourselves as being a very ethnically diverse place.

There was also  a sense that maybe – just maybe – we’re all a bit too used to the comfort and ease that our city affords us, and we have become complacent, allowing things to be good enough, rather than pushing for them to be better.

Which was an excellent starting point for our next question: What can we do now to make Brighton an internationally recognised centre of digital excellence?

First, the practical:

  • More medium-sized and large office space, so that successful small companies can grow without needing to leave town
  • Super-fast broadband
  • Improved rail links to the capital
  • Bring fresh people into this space
  • Wi-Fi everywhere
  • Opening out to people who don’t ‘do’ digital
  • Breaking down digital silos
  • Inbound and inward investment (“Mo’ money! Invest, yo!”)
  • Getting the right platforms
  • Coming together as a community to do PR
  • Know how we compare to other places in the world
  • Connect the council
  • Re-organised digital representatives
  • Celebrity/well-known guest curators for the Brighton Digital Festival

As everyone began to talk about the ideas that had been tabled, a deeper and more philosophical theme emerged. We started to ask ourselves questions and challenge our own assumptions, to get to the heart of what it is we’re really trying to do. Ideas that we captured included:

  • Is digital a useful concept anymore, now that everything’s digital?
  • Does it have to be a competition?
  • How do we measure success? Happiness? Job satisfaction? Living a good life?
  • In this new global reality, connection and collaboration are key
  • Excellence equals massively inclusive

And that’s the beauty of this kind of facilitation – there’s room for the practical and the hands-on as well as the deeper and more explorative. There isn’t a wrong answer and we can use the deeper, bigger questions to frame the way that we implement our practical ideas.

This is just one of the ways we work with our clients to help them to create and deliver real change. To find out more, have a look at these case studies:

Making it real: digital social business transformation at Orbit Housing Group.

Helping Pan Macmillan to adapt to the challenges brought about by digital disruption

Working with the FCO to bring digital into the heart of its day-to-day work

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