Monday, 26 May 2014

CSI Watford: The Launch of an Initiative

CSI Watford or the Community Student Initiative Watford is not a new project but the formalisation of one that +Chris Ogle and I have been working on for most of 2014. Simply put, CSI Watford looks to give students a live project that can be embedded into their curriculum that removes the “cloak of invisibility” of local businesses and charities in Watford.  This will be done by building Google+ Brand pages for them. They will do this by:-

1.      Visiting the charity or business
2.      Interviewing, taking pictures, creating video, writing copy
3.      Use the skills being taught on their course at the college
4.      Design and create the Brand pages
5.      Perform ongoing marketing, including the use of an incredibly exciting L4GCommunityTV Youth channel
6.      Measure results and success

By doing this and embedding the Brand pages onto the various community areas that Link4Growth has created, the businesses/charities will have their message spread to a wider audience resulting in increased awareness of their products and services.

Why is this needed?

It is no secret that Britain’s high streets are slowly dying and local independent businesses are closing in favour of chain stores, discount stores and supermarkets. It is no secret (although the media would have you believe differently) that independent stores are often lower cost, higher quality and with more personal service, see Chris’ BuyLocal blog for proof of this. Supporting our local businesses and buying locally also means travelling less distance and is long term far more sustainable.

It is not only businesses that are suffering, charities since the recession are suffering. In Watford alone there are over 200 and I will be one of many who struggle to name more than 10. With a focus on money and the budgets being slashed each year, local smaller charities find themselves with decreasing funds and the very real threat of having to give it all up. We will notice if these unsung heroes disappear that is for sure!

Students too need this project there are over 1 million young people out of work, feeling pretty hopeless about their future, what this project provides these students is a real opportunity to change the future for the better.The increase in competition for jobs has seen employers increase the minimum requirements due to the competition and without work experience; it is highly unlikely that they will be hired. This wouldn’t be a problem if the work experience was available. However, the colleges and schools that they belong to are finding it hard to find the placements for them and when they get there, they do not get to work on live projects and actually end up being a burden for the employer. This all results in a negative experience for everyone involved.

How will the project help?

1)    Businesses/Charities. CSI Watford will remove the cloak of invisibility from them and make people aware of who they are and what they sell. Having given the students all the required information, they can use the Google+ page to showcase who they are and what they sell or services they provide. This means that they don’t need to spend large amount of money on marketing as their G+ page will be the best place for them to spread their message.

2)      Students. CSI Watford will give the students a real live project that they can work on as part of their curriculum and will give them a chance to gain valuable skills not taught in the classroom. Google+ is a growing platform and will become the must use platform for community, business and charities going forward. By learning about it in a live project, the students are future-proofing their skill set and will be able to show  potential employers why they should be hired. Just some of the student benefits below...

A.      Picking up valuable Social skills and being introduced to the community outside the college walls
B.     Integration into the local community through talking to local business owners and charities and getting to know them (improving their connections)
C.      Using their talents on real life projects the like of which will be in high demand going forward (future proofed skills)
D.     The opportunity for the community to appreciate their contribution, improve their self worth and self esteem
E.      A very real risk of being offered voluntary or paid for work after college through new connections
F.       Inspiration to start a business or collaborate with others

3)    Colleges. CSI Watford will allow the colleges to tap into a wealth of potential employers who have opportunity for work experience/placements. This takes pressure off their shoulders and means that they can show that they will be able to develop any potential students who may looks to go to the colleges for their education.

4)    The Local Community. The initiative will raise the profile of local smaller charities and independent businesses and enable us all to make fully-informed decisions about where to shop and how we can support / contribute to the local community organisations. Statistics show that if people buy local, 5x more money stays in the local economy. This extra money in the economy will give a welcome boost to every high street and a real chance to recover from its current state of decline Moreover… with much more interaction between students and the community this should lead us to greater understanding of the challenges facing the different groups and pave the way to create a more integrated society.

Simply put, the CSI Project has no losers; and this means it is will succeed. If everyone benefits from it, no-one can have a reasonable reason to prevent it from being a success.

The CSI is not and should not be just limited to Watford and can easily be replicated to each and every town in the country. Every town has students with the same issues and businesses and charities that need help removing the cloak of invisibility around them. Link4Growth has also built the platform for every town to have its own community in Google+ and this means once created by the students, the business pages can post into the communities and begin to reap the rewards.

If you have been read and been inspired by this project, share this blog and make someone else aware of what is going on. Contact me if you want to get involved and I will get you doing something to resolve this situation or direct you to the person in your district who can. I will be doing the job in Watford so why not come and join me; there is nothing to lose so what is stopping you!!

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