Skills: Interviewing, Strategy, Copywriting, Relationship Building, Research, Ideation
Following the death of George Floyd, society began confronting racial inequality both present and historical. At Barnardo's, we were having the same - often difficult - conversations about the experience of being black in the UK. The charity already had a deep understanding of these experiences, having welcomed black children and teenagers into our children's homes over 120 years ago.
But as Windrush Day (22nd June) was approaching - another important date in the experience of black communities in the UK - we had a problem. We supported many black and duel heritage young people, both then and now, but the charity never properly collected and captured these experiences. Knowledge of these experiences existed in silos across the organisation, but they didn't have a home.
Well, if we were doing to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation, we had to create a home for black voices.
I started ideating and brainstorming with my team over how best to capture and share these stories. What format would work best? Is this a standard interview between host and guest, or something else? How many people are involved at one time? What are they going to be talking about?
We decided to facilitate intergenerational conversations between people who have spent time in the care system. Our first episode, for example, was a conversation between Marine and Irene - both women of colour who have spent time care. The key difference being that they're from 2 different generations. The aim of this type of conversation was to give 2 people, one older and one younger, the chance to compare and contrast a shared life experience. It gives each of them an opportunity to swap some of the wisdom and knowledge they’ve gained on their respective journey’s, and allows us the chance to learn something too.
Following ideation, I developed the strategy for gathering the content. I considered factors like capacity, timeframe and technology. Covid-19 presented additional challenges and meant whatever I captured, would have to be done virtually, via Zoom.
Once the strategy was agreed, I collaborated with the Archive team (who maintain contacts with our 'old boy and girl' care leavers) to research the individual stories.
After I identified potential candidates, I began the process of reaching out and building relationships with these people. If they were going to share these deeply personal experiences they would have to trust me. They would have to trust that I am going to be treat their story with respect, care and - most importantly - empathy.
I got their buy-in, and began the process of writing the questions, scripts and overall episode plans.
With all that in place, I was ready to interview. As noted above, this was all done remotely over Zoom. The 2 guests ('old' and 'young') would compare and contrast their experiences, using the questions to structure the conversation. I would also be on the call, primarily to record and listen, occasionally to ask follow up questions.
We ended up with 5 intergenerational conversations between black care leavers discussing their experiences of being supported by the charity. These conversations were the core of the Oral History Project. But we also created other standalone episodes, including one on the personal experience of our Vice President, Baroness Floella Benjamin who came to Britain from Trinidad and Tobago as a small child. Another focused on the personal reflections of staff as the direct descendants of the Windrush generation.
The project added true value for the charity and was thoroughly well received throughout the organisation. It was the centre piece to several external events, including a virtual Black History Month event. Fundraising and marketing teams used it in campaigns and promotions. The people who generously shared their oral histories loved the outcome. The project was a success. It respectfully captured the personal experiences of the individuals, and it met the charity objective of making an honest contribution to the wider societal conversation about being black in the UK.