APG West started with questions, not answers.
What would people in Bristol, Bath and the surrounding area need from the APG? What challenges do the creative businesses of the region face? What would constitute success for them? How should the community come to life?
If we hadn’t started with questions, we might have leaped to assumptions. We’d have replicated the flagship events and brought in the kind of speakers that London planners have come to expect. Instead, at our launch event we listened first. As a result we got to better answers.
Of course people here want training, inspiration and opportunities to network. But the agencies here are so diverse, and our experience so varied, that each of those needs is felt very differently throughout the community.
And there are two other areas that people told us they care deeply about. First, communicating the value of planning and strategy. Whether you’re a planner, an MD or a client, creating the conditions for better planning within our agencies and businesses is on everyone’s agenda.
Second is a sense of identity. People in the South West want to articulate what makes the region unique. Our agencies and creative businesses have started from a different place (usability not persuasion, as one attendee had it), so why shouldn’t planning define a different identity for itself too? It might even be something that the bigger, more traditional agencies can learn from…
We know that strategically minded souls here want more reasons to meet up. But they also want to be actively involved in what we do, which has been immensely satisfying. Our events should shine a light on the talent that is here and the work they produce. They should be useful, and they should encourage participation. APG West needs to grow from and talk with its community, rather than lecture it.
We shared all this with twenty or so interested folks earlier this week. It was a chance to reflect on what we heard at the launch, and also to share the initiatives we hope will establish APG West as a useful entity in the region.
These are the three things we’ve committed to doing in 2016.
One, a celebration of planning-fuelled work that’s already making a positive contribution to our clients’ business. This will be a showcase evening of case studies, showing the breadth of strategic skills across the region.
Two, lessons in the foundations of planning from learned and experienced practitioners. Regardless of discipline, we all need to focus on the fundamental ability to think strategically. This will be an educational speaking event, with brilliant local experts.
Three, a training network, established across agencies and run by senior representatives of local agencies. It will focus on the core skills needed to be a planner, and will build cumulatively through the autumn. Essential for anyone wanting to become expert in the fundamentals.
You’ll find the document we shared at our breakfast session below. We’ve consolidated all the feedback and opinions we gathered at our launch event, and outlined those key events too. Have a read:
Read more from APG West here