Lessons from Beltane’s Mini-Hack and Annual Gathering 2013

Annual Gathering 2013

Annual Gathering 2013

Jakov and I chose a fabulous time to be inducted as Beltane interns. Just one week before Beltane’s Annual Gathering, we settled into our comfortably warm office. The first week was rather relaxed, giving sufficient time to settle into the welcoming environment at the Institute for Academic Development and to set out our expectations for the internship.

Our initial task involved formulating a plan for the Mini-Hack event, occurring directly before the Annual Gathering, to evaluate Beltane’s existing webpage. Charged with our mission, we explored, critiqued, and lost ourselves in Beltane’s webpage. Of central importance was the consideration of how and for what purpose various audiences approach the webpage. We developed prompts to guide hack attendees and organised our individual views on the page. All this prior planning would hopefully prove fruitful, resulting in numerous ideas for revamping the page from Mini-Hack attendees…

On Tuesday 11th June we busily prepared for the Mini-Hack and Annual Gathering. It was obvious from the moment that we transported heaps of boxes to Summerhall the preparation and coordination that went into an event of this scale. When the time finally arrived, it was incredible to be part of a gathering that was buzzing with stories of accomplishments and ideas for new chances for collaboration. There was a palpable sense of passion for the cause chatting to the various attendees. They lived and breathed public engagement and I was honoured to be part of the Annual Gathering’s organised chaos, lapping up my fair share of ice cream, pimms, and new networking connections. It was a long and fabulously inspirational day.

(Arguably) more important to my role as Online Resource Intern than pimms and ice cream, Jakov and I gained invaluable input on how to improve the website and gathered new content — in the form of videos, podcasts, blogs and contact information — to incorporate into the update. The format of the event itself was a true learning experience and arguably met its desired outcomes. Many attendees of the Mini-Hack were grateful for the scheduled hour to sit down and write a blogpost, for example, without distraction. While not all contributions of content were completed during this time, it provided an excellent opportunity to stop, think, and reflect on the relevance and purpose of Beltane.

It is one thing to disseminate innovative research, but it is an entirely separate thing to embed that information within how people act and interact with each other.

The success of the event’s format led me to ponder the various methods for public engagement which result in direct action from the public. It is one thing to disseminate innovative research, but it is an entirely separate thing to embed that information within how people act and interact with each other. Just as the Mini-Hack needed to generate content for the webpage, I feel quite strongly that public engagement must result in public initiatives for action around the topics addressed. It was clear at the Annual Gathering that tremendous strides have been made by the numerous contributors in embedding public engagement into how we live and breathe.

To relive the Beltane Mini-Hack and Annual Gathering 2013 again and again, check out my first experience with storify, retelling the entire story from pre-planning to finish! http://sfy.co/fLyA