Join the Movement: Channel4’s Counter-Cultural Commissioning

The Scottish chapter of 4iP got its official launch yesterday evening in Glasgow.

Presentations were delivered by Stuart Cosgrove, Tom Loosemore and Ewan McIntosh, respectively 4’s Head of Nations and Regions, Head of 4iP and 4iP’s Digital Commissioner (Northern Ireland and Scotland).

There was nothing about the practicals of the fund that couldn’t have picked up from visiting the 4iP website, but it would have been good if you wanted to get a handle on the ‘personality’ of 4iP. And it’s this personality, this approach to conducting 4iP, that is all important.

When Tom and Ewan spoke they repeatedly returned to the idea that 4iP was about ‘stirring things up’ and ‘making trouble’. The language and the tone was counter-cultural; under their stewardship, 4iP is setting out to challenge conventional business models, form innovative partnerships and disrupt the norms of commissioning.

It won’t be easy. But I like it.

The problems that affect Scotland’s digital sector are not unique to Scotland, but they are pronounced. So I am particularly keen that exposure to 4iP will have a beneficial impact on Scotland, its digital enterprises and its protagonists.

The main problem with Scotland’s digital sector is that it is disaggregated. Any networking tends to be based on friendship rather than profession. Communities of practice and collaborations tend to fritter away before they’ve had a chance to embed. There’s more insulation on Scottish agencies than  on most hot water tanks.

4iP can help. 4iP can play matchmaker. Stuart, Tom and Ewan all made this point to some degree or another. The sort of innovations that 4iP wants come out of tensions and interactions in novel partnerships. This is what Scotland needs; it’s digital enterprises need to question the conventional wisdom and they need to be work in the bright light of business practices already rocking the traditional digital hubs like London and Silicon Valley.

What 4iP is looking for, very few of the agencies and freelancers in Scotland could manage on their own. They need to team up. 4iP has the influence to encourage them to do so. But I hope that if the agencies don’t do under their own initiative, that the folks at 4iP will politely but firmly insist upon it.

I hope that 4iP will also help strike these partnerships out beyond our national and regional boundaries. 4iP is just the sort of fund to give traction to collaborations between a Yorkshire bedroom-hacktavist and a Glasgow-based comedy production agency, or a graphic design collective in Warwick and an informatics department in a Edinburgh uni.

Its not easy to change your headspace, particularly when jobs, profits and reputations are at stake. But at stake they are and 4iP should hopefully provide the catalyst to start the changes in Scotland. It gives guys like me in the middle tiers of an agency some leverage on the ideas and practices that are too often dismissed as ‘new fangled 2.0 nought mumbo jumbo’. It gives the high-heid yins a steer on where they should be investing in technology, training and staff. And it gives new talent a foot-in-the-door.

Clearly I’m quite psyched about 4iP. You should be too.

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2 thoughts on “Join the Movement: Channel4’s Counter-Cultural Commissioning

  1. “There’s more insulation on Scottish agencies than on most hot water tanks” – surely a classic ;-) Thanks for a great round-up of the main points. It’s reassuring for me and the others to see that the key points are getting across. I’m already seeing plenty of ideas from those kitchen table entrepreneurs I was talking about, and we’ve turned a couple of those ideas into commissions (bar the Monday meeting that will set all the paperwork in motion). See you on 38mins, and best of luck in the new job.

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