I’ve just got home from the first get together of Chalk Eastbourne, a community of like minded people and businesses in our town.
There was a lot of enthusiasm and ideas in the room. It reminds me of how I felt when my family first moved here (11 years ago next week). Our town is special, and has so much potential.
The phrase “digital strategy” was mentioned more than once. At TechResort we’ve been thinking about this for a while. We need a short and actionable strategy where we’re always trying out small things and learning.
The challenges of a seaside town
The biggest problems talked about tonight were recruitment, and the perception of Eastbourne.
Our digital businesses are growing, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult to hire the right people. Then there’s the tired image of Eastbourne often seen in the national press, written by journalists who’ve never been here.
Like many seaside towns, Eastbourne’s economy is heavily reliant on its tourism and retail industries. Many jobs are low paid, and short term. A vast number of locals are digitally excluded.
The upside is a growing number of local digital businesses, offering well paid jobs. A few years ago we were named as a “Creative Cluster” by Nesta, but few know it.
As our industry grows, we need to share the proceeds as equally as possible. This can’t be about pricing local people out of their town, which has happened in many other places. TechResort challenges this by offering free or affordable courses, and there’s much more we can do together.
The start of a plan
So how do we turn this around? Not with a single blog post, of course! I’ll be blogging about this a lot more, and hope there’s food for thought here. We really need to get together, agree a good place to start and get going.
Students, schools, colleges, employers, recruitment, technologies and market forces interact in complicated ways, and they’re changing all the time. So we’re not going to solve this by booking a conference room, and writing a detailed plan for years to come.
Rather, we need to work in an agile way. Identify a few things that we’d like to influence, do some quick research and try a small project or two. Then look at what we changed, what we learned, and go again.
This approach will help people today. They don’t have to wait until ‘the strategy is done’ before seeing the benefit. As an example, our nearest secondary school has 150 students in year 11. Multiply that by the number of schools in town, and it’s clear we’re missing the opportunity to help thousands of young people.
Plus we need to show there’s momentum. We can’t have another talking shop. We need to make a genuine difference now, even if it’s small to start with. If there’s real change on offer, students and employers will be more likely to get on board.
More thoughts to come
It’s late, and I’m out of steam now. There’s so much more to cover, for example tackling digital exclusion, helping local digital businesseses to grow, and creating a making culture in our town. We’ll keep writing.