Let’s Talk About Failure – The Shared Experiences
Last month I initiated a blog carnival to try to coax some sharing of experiences of failed attempts at public engagement, my idea being that rather than hiding our failures we should talk to one another about them in the hope that they can gain value as lessons in how (not) to do public engagement. I introduced the concept with one of my own failures – inadequately researching the mobile phone reception at a site for which I had written an augmented reality archaeology guide.
The response on twitter was enthusiastic, and the contributions I received were outstanding, so thank you very much to those of you who took part. I strongly recommend clicking through to read the individual pieces, however here is my best attempt at a summary
Hilary Sutcliffe rose to the challenge magnificently, providing four examples of work that didn’t turn out as intended. The first example gives a warning to be clear about the implications of data protection laws; the second to remember to budget for PR; the third example shows that co-creation, although a wonderful idea in principle, can fail to take off due to a lack of participation; and the fourth a reminder (I can’t stress how much I agree with this one enough) to avoid jargon.
Becky Hirst talks about her experiences as a new Community Engagement Officer in a local government organisation that perhaps wasn’t quite ready for the implications of the role. Her lesson is twofold – for individuals joining an organisation, delve into the workings of your new employer to see what processes they are comfortable with; for organisations, consider carefully what you expect from a community engagement role, how you will position it within your structure, and how you will support the role.
Nicola Hembrey identified self-confidence as a past point of failure -specifically in terms of insecurity of knowledge and experience, but also expressed a hope that the supportive community of archaeologists on Twitter might provide a forum to share such insecurities, and find that those of us who have them are by no means alone.
Not submitted to this carnival, but explicitly inspired by it (so I’m claiming it), comes a post from Lucy Shipley. In many ways this reinforces Nicola’s comment by confronting personal fear of failure, sharing that fear and demonstrating (normalising?) lapses of self-confidence as perfectly normal aspects of professional experience. We don’t like to talk about them, because they are bad personal PR (to butcher Lucy’s excellent wording), but they happen, and can be resolved into positive experiences. On this note, Lucy also mentions some excellent blogging on the experience of being a new lecturer by Sara Perry.
Finally, Shawn Graham has written about failure a number of times. This post in particular dissects the loss of a born-digital project, explicitly identifying mistakes that were made that digital humanist would be wise not to repeat .
Thanks again to everybody who took part