When consultant and researcher Dave Snowden wanted to get some ideas about the obesity problem in his native Wales, he turned not to experts, or focus groups, or social media, but to teenagers. He equipped a group of 13-16-year-old girls from a local rugby club with micro-narrative software on their smartphones, and sent them out into their community – anywhere from the supermarket check-out to the local park to their granny’s house – to capture local people’s stories.
The students got rewards for providing the information (tickets to rugby games, in this case) and Snowden then crunched the information that came back from the girls’ interviews and came up with a number of ideas to improve eating habits, including having healthy food available at rugby games.
So far he’s expanded his “Children of the world” ethnography project to Pakistan, Colombia, Mexico and Egypt.
Now he wants to bring it to New Zealand, and take the project further – including making the information garnered from the students’ research available to governments, or to SMEs looking for business ideas.
Imagine kids interviewing old people in a care home about potential abuse, and then feeding the information back to health authorities, he says.
Or (as happened recently when the “junior citizen journalists” interviewed people about their gardens), imagine making information about problems people had with boggy patches on their lawns available to a company using technology to deal with wet-water conditions in football stadiums – and wanting to diversify.
“It’s about making ordinary stories available to small start-up companies, to find customer needs they might be able to satisfy."
Snowden, who runs complex decision-making consultancy Cognitive Edge, heads to New Zealand at the end of this month. Once here, he will be meeting Ministry officials about setting up his “Children of the World” project in New Zealand – as well as conducting workshops for senior business leaders.