This UK-Venezuela collaboration between not-for-profit organisation Collectivox and the School of Architecture, University of Reading was a scoping project to find the appropriate digital platforms to create a ‘virtual’ CCSen365 (Caracas in 365), a programme of heritage re-interpretation created by Collectivox in 2016. The aim was to discover how to provide a similarly rich, meaningful and memorable [CCSen365] digitally in response to pandemic restrictions.
The team’s user-centred approach resulted in the adoption of the Telegram app, popular in Venezuela. The benefits included cloud storage of content, meaning users would not spend their own data, not requiring signing up to a standalone app, and the added benefit of protecting the IP of their heritage storytelling guides by not allowing the forwarding of messages. The availability of heritage walks digitally also allowed the project to potentially connect with the wider Venezuelan diaspora and ensure the content was accessible to those with disabilities.
By centring on the user, this project avoided parachuting an expensive and complicated app into its intended community.
Venezuela has the lowest internet speeds in the region, with 51% of households lacking internet access, so the team took advantage of Telegram’s cloud storage to allow users to decide when to use their own Internet data.
Caracas is the 6th most violent city in the world and reeling from political and economic crises. The co-creation of heritage walks with local residents focused on local social cohesion, urban resilience, increased accessibility and intergenerational engagement.
In short, it is an example of using digital as a tool to achieve a set of objectives, rather than an end in and of itself.
- Leave plenty of lead time in projects when collaborating internationally. As Venezuela is a sanctioned country in the UK it was initially difficult to set up the separate contracts and administrations for the project.
- A small team or organisation, by partnering with a larger organisation, such as a university, will be able to access more in-house expertise on bid-writing, legalities and administration.
- A user-centred approach is key to ensuring the end product is something which fits users. This approach ensured the socio-cultural context of users was considered at every stage of the project, driving the choice in content and platform to make the experience as inexpensive and accessible as possible.
- It is important to choose the right tool for the team when collaborating online. The project team made extensive use of the online tool Miro for tracking the project.
- When considering a complex project on a large scale, it is more effective and productive to work with a partner with whom you have a pre-existing relationship.
The app developed as part of the project will continue to be developed for full release.
The project lead said:
“I'm proud that we focused on what is best for the experience and what is best for the people we wanted to reach. It means that we didn't fall into the trap of what would be flashier, but what would make this work and in a way that would be easier for people to engage with the content. Instead of what tends to happen, which is all about proving that you're using cutting edge technology and that you're engaging with the key people that are trendy, and then in that process, the actual people that are supposed to be at the centre of what you're doing gets lost.”
Evaluating a Salford cultural and education partnership which co-creates theatre with children and young people.
How The Audience Agency is innovating to help art galleries find out more about their visitors in a fun and interactive digital way.