Reflections by an Edventure Apprentice – week 4 & 5 of the apprenticeship

Chris, a current apprentice of Edventure, reflects on a couple of weeks of working as part of the team that has the challenge to set up “SHARE – a library of things” in a shop on the hight street in Frome.

WEEK FOUR: 30/03 – 03/04

Early on in the project, an expert came in to talk to us about social enterprise. She informed us that at certain points during any start-up a group will experience what is called the ‘groan zone’. For me, the ‘groan zone’ came on the week beginning 30th March 2015. The honeymoon stage of the project was over and it was time to make the transition from the planning stage to the doing stage. There seemed to be an overwhelming amount of tasks that needed to be undertaken and it didn’t help that a lot of the team were off sick. 

Thankfully, one good decision we had made previously was to separate all the many tasks into different categories, with each category overseen by one or two people. These categories and their respective overseers were the following: PR/Marketing (May and Jacob); Shop Design/Build (Dom and Zoltan); Engagement/Events (Biz); Systems/Finance (Maija); Brand/Logo (also Maija); Items/Volunteers (me); and Project Manager (Charley). The last role turned out to be crucial. It was so important to have a project manager monitoring the progress of each area, holding daily meetings and having an overarching view of the whole project. Charley integrated well into the democratic nature of the group, acting as a coordinator rather than a ‘boss’. As a whole this system worked smoothly, with the different work teams and the project manager seamlessly interweaving with each other.

My three highlights of the week were 1) the decision to name the shop SHARE: A Library of Things, 2) staying at the shop till 10pm on Wednesday to create an intrigue banner, which was particularly enjoyable because it showed us coming together out of a sense of enthusiasm for the project, rather than out of a grudging sense of obligation, and 3) April Fools Day, where we covered the floor of the Hub in hundreds of post-it notes, as a tribute to our dear course facilitator, Johannes, known for his tendency to incorporate post-it notes into every stage of the business planning process.

In regard to the smaller teams, Dom and Zoltan spent the week brainstorming ideas for the design of the shop, collecting images from Pinterest and creating a list of all the materials that would be needed for the shop build. May created a timeline for the PR/Marketing campaign, finalised SHARE’s key messaging and wrote a press release. Biz went to events like the ‘Money Matters’ event at the Cheese and Grain, Maija made a draft of the financial policy and I finalised a mail-out asking if people would be prepared to donate items to SHARE.

Despite all the progress described above (and perhaps we were too quick to forget our achievements), the group found the week challenging through being so thinly spread at times. At one point four people out of eight were off sick. The good news is that all the frustration brewing in the group was voiced at the weekly process meeting on Thursday afternoon. Some felt that there hadn’t been clear enough communication as to what the tasks were and who was doing what, and there was a general consensus that there needed to be a better planning meeting on Monday morning. I think this process meeting reaffirmed group unity, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this week, it’s that creating a sense of wellbeing in the group is perhaps more important than getting on with the tasks.

WEEK FIVE: 06/04 – 10/04

Moving on from the disharmony of Week Four, Week Five began much more cohesively. Biz organised fun activities to get the group going each morning, from dancing in SHARE with scarves around our heads to playing poo sticks over the River Frome. We also had a good initial meeting to discuss the tasks which had to be actioned that week. Charley, as project manager, facilitated this discussion brilliantly, creating a timeline for the week tailored to each person’s needs and skills. Finally, we worked in SHARE for the entirety of that week, which certainly improved our sense of togetherness. Sat around the table on our computers, we could get on with our individual tasks and share ideas when we needed to. 

On the Sunday prior to this week began, SHARE made its presence felt at the Frome Independent Market, thanks to Biz and Charley. People flooded in all day, adding items to our wish list and suggesting ways of making SHARE a dynamic shop. This is the really rewarding aspect of this project for us – engaging with the community and creating a space which will (hopefully) be a communal space long after we’ve gone.

During this week, Maija, with the help of her sister Ebanie, did a great job of designing the brand, utilising a programme that few else seem to know how to use: Photoshop. The brand now has SHARE written in white writing on an orange background, with images of tools, leisure items and household items displayed below. May got us launched online, setting up our Facebook account and building our website. Biz carried on with her role of engaging the wider community, networking with different organisations in Frome as well as creating a quirky postbox through which locals could post their ideas for the shop. Charley, as well as liaising with different groups, began the process of setting up SHARE’s database, using a framework from the sharing website My Turn. Dom and Zoltan began sourcing different materials, from pallets to paint to sanders, and I began collating information received from the many people who are prepared to donate items to the shop.

Like last week, we gathered at the shop on Wednesday evening, this time to scrape and level the uneven floor. With Bob Marley in the background and a couple of beers at hand, it was nice to be doing physical work after the conceptual work of prior weeks. It was also a relief to be starting work upon the physical transformation of the shop – with four weeks to go, the shop build was a priority. At one point, a kindly man came into the shop and told us what a great job we were doing, which spurred us on with greater enthusiasm. As I said earlier, the value of this project really lies in those little interactions with locals…