A Guide To Crowd Workshops

Bringing together a room of people around cultural insight is great, but it's no easy job. Here’s a run-through on how we do it at Crowd...

It’s safe to say we’ve banked our fair share of workshop experience. Effective at any stage during a research project, we use them to lay cultural foundations and align teams around trends; to aid innovation processes and fuel product development; or to define strategic direction and land insight within a business. Whatever the workshop, it’s important that everyone, and everything, is rooted in cultural understanding from the start.

Clearly, there’s not one-size-fits-all. Different objectives will dictate the workshop structure and design, but we thought it worth getting down the most useful pointers nonetheless. When prepared carefully, there’s huge potential to be found within a room engaged in focussed, intensive discussion. Our job is to make sure everyone is engaged in the correct way, and that everyone leaves the room with solutions, a sense of ownership, and a clear path forward. Here’s some of the ways that we do that:

Aims and objectives

First up, it’s really important to understand the objectives. Sounds obvious, sure, but we start by asking exactly what it is we want to achieve. Aligning teams around cultural thinking requires a very different workshop to, say, coming up with a string of product innovations. Setting clear objectives also means that there’s something to measure success by at the end of the day (getting the room involved in this makes sure everyone leaves with a sense of satisfaction).

Equally important is understanding the audience. While it’s hard to get to know the entire attendee list, working out everyone’s relationship to the project, and to each other, helps identify goals and obstacles. Ideally, we try meet clients beforehand to gain an understanding of the group’s knowledge – there’s nothing worse than trying to educate experts or overestimating the inexperienced. We also like to put out an invitation letter, or a teaser video, or even a pre-task to get attendees thinking about the topic beforehand.  

Tasks and materials

Next, picking the right exercises is crucial. Simplicity is key, and every task – whether it’s sharing stories and identifying needs, or getting rid of negativity and barriers – must ladder up to the overall objective. We’re also big fans of workshop stimulus and find it really useful to ignite discussion and focus thinking. Innovation sessions might need materials that people can rip up and rebuild, while an audience immersion may require something more polished and complete. We’ve made all-sorts here at Crowd: magazines, stackable postcards, life-size portraits, prototyping materials to get people thinking with their hands – even an immersive installation of a teenage boy’s bedroom (complete with old pizza boxes and dirty socks).

Depending on the objective, we might bring some fresh perspectives into the conversation, too. Experts can aid with academic understanding, influencers can help steer topics, and we often call upon our CrowdStars network to join the party as well. If it makes sense within the workshop; the more brains around a topic, the better.

Structure and design

A successful session also has a lot to do with the flow. It’s good to mix between passive and active activities, broken up with plenty of breathing space. Speaking of which, we’ve been known to incorporate yoga and mindfulness training into our workshops – it really helps with concentration and keeping the energy levels up. Breaks are definitely not to be underestimated. We take care not to bombard people with information by mixing in a lot of brainstorming and discussion, and debate whether the conversation should be facilitator-led (good for working toward a specific outcome), or more natural and moved along by a moderator. Advance planning goes without saying (don’t forget the catering!), but we also create a checklist to correct any issues nearer the time. Are all the materials ready? Are the agendas printed? What about name-tags, camera-equipment, are there enough snacks?!

Then, it’s action time. At Crowd, we like to experiment with creative ways to capture the day. We film important sections and take photographs throughout, but we also work with live illustrators and creative writers to sketch out ideas and record details in inventive ways. This not only documents the workshop, but also provides great content that we can use within our project deliverables too. Win win.

If you’d like to find out more about Crowd workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com to have a chat and hopefully we’ll be workshopping with you in no time.

Crowd DNA’s Dr Matilda Andersson talked social media and the delicate subject of age at the MRS Social Media Summit 2018...

Age will never disappear (sadly), but as our interests and characters continue to blur, we’re no longer as defined by our DOB. Traditional milestones are happening later; people are working beyond retirement, even the distinct experience of being a teen is coming to an end. We’re moving into a culture of agelessness, where the number of years we’ve notched up really is just a number.

This is the subject that Crowd’s Matilda Andersson tackled at yesterday’s MRS Social Media Summit. Focussing on the huge impact that social media has on this shift, she presented the following contributors:

Bringing families closer together

It’s far from true that only young people are addicted to social media – we see plenty of older generations getting on board too. Matilda used an example from her own mum’s Instagram – a snap of a recent cycling holiday – to show how tech is creating a cross-generational space that allows them to joke, learn and venture outside their usual mother-daughter role. She also explained how platforms like Whatsapp and Messenger For Kids help pair young and old family members, making sure no one is left out.

Matilda's mum on Instagram
Matilda's mum on Instagram
Uniting around shared passions

Social media is a level playing-field when it comes to age. While previously confined to local geographies to find like-minded people, now curation platforms like Pinterest help those with similar passions to unite irrespective of age. Matilda used other examples, including TasteBud and the increase in hyperlocal Facebook groups, to show a rising connection across generational boundaries. Young, old, new; everyone can take part in online discussion.

Building icons for all ages

In perhaps the area where most age barriers can be broken, Matilda highlighted how an influencer’s field of impact isn’t limited to their own age bracket. Referencing Lyn Slater (who, at 63, is making waves in the fashion blogging world) and Coco Princess Pink (a six-year-old Japanese style icon), she celebrated the fact that social media builds icons from, and for, all ages.

Online dating for everyone

It’s definitely not only young people who meet online. The number of 45+-year-olds on dating sites keeps on growing; in fact, between 2013 and 2015, the number doubled (according to Pew research), but it doesn’t all have to be romance related. Matilda also presented MeetMe – a friendship-based platform offering people of different ages the chance to chat – to show how social media can be used to be, well, genuinely social.

Answering the golden question: how do we help brands stay culturally relevant to an ageless audience? Matilda offered some ideas around behavioural data, social listening, and cross-generational interviews, before ending with the assertion that cultural codes need to be redefined way beyond age.

We’ll be sending out a download of Matilda’s report soon. In the meantime, please get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.

Crowd DNA Promotions

Major whoops all-round for the latest set of promotions at Crowd DNA...

It’s always great seeing Crowd people hitting the next level – and therefore adding to the first-rate thinking and creativity we can offer our clients – and we’re delighted to confirm a number of promotions in London and New York.

Joey Zeelen and Tom Eccles step up to become senior consultants in London and New York respectively. Also in London, Aaron Garcia De Alba and Essi Mikkola make the move to consultant level.

Well done all. Hugely well deserved.

Exciting developments in our Hoxton Square HQ...

Some big changes afoot in Crowd DNA’s London office. Company founder Andy Crysell moves into a new group managing director role, overseeing development across the offices, exploring growth opportunities and focusing on agency innovations and communications.

Dr Matilda Andersson is promoted from her previous role of insight & innovation director to managing director of Crowd DNA in London, taking over full responsibility for the agency’s main office and its 30 strong team.

Elyse Pigram joins the business in London as insight & innovation director. She previously worked at RDSi in the UK and, for seven years, at GALKAL in Australia, where key clients included Netfmuch-deservedy.

These exciting changes, including much deserved promotions, pave the way for the next stage of Crowd DNA. They set us up perfectly for taking the London office to a higher level, while we simultaneously explore new markets, growth plans and fresh ways to provide culturally-relevant strategy and insights to our global clients. 2018, here we come!

Rise: Online Communities

Crowd DNA’s communities director Sabrina Qureshi refreshed and re-booted the topic of online communities at our latest Rise event in London...

We’re not actually new to communities here at Crowd DNA – we’ve been running them since the beginning in lots of different shapes and sizes (and countries). Even so, in typical Crowd style, we like to go beyond the obvious and explore new ways in which they can meet commercial needs. 

At our latest Rise event in London, communities director Sabrina Qureshi took the topic of online communities and gave it good shake. Debunking assumptions of ‘what a community looks like’, Sabrina provided quick fire ideas around themes like innovation, the need for flexible audiences and socialising community insights to ensure impact.

While communities can, of course, be used to talk directly to customers, Sabrina explained that the real joy comes from recruiting and engaging leading-edge or hard to reach audiences – different members who can be brought into the mix to ignite discussion and add new cultural references. By reframing communities as cultural insight hubs, we can uncover ongoing trends and insights from across the globe, and discover lots of exciting opportunities along the way.


Sabrina in action at Rise: Online Communities
Sabrina in action at Rise: Online Communities

An editorialised version of the presentation will be sent out soon. In the meantime, here’s our Crowd Communities intro video:

Crowd Proud!

We've been working on Crowd DNA's values, and how best to socialise them in the business. Here's where we've got to...

We had an amazing Crowd DNA company day in London last November – with drawing, photographing, eating, drinking, talking and building our company values high on the agenda.

Since then, we’ve been working on shaping up the values – editing down from a longer list, thinking carefully about the articulation of them, consulting with the wider team. They’re ready now and we’re really happy with where we’ve got to. We think these values really mean something. They’re tangible and connect with every member of the Crowd DNA team, regardless of their role or how long they’ve been with us. We believe they reflect how we wish to work with each other and with our clients and contributors.

Next up, we’ll be developing posters and other ways to share our values, and to keep them top of mind as we go about our work. But here’s a first draft.

Passionate about content and trends? Confident and collaborative? We've two great roles at Crowd DNA in London...

Working alongside our researchers and strategists, Socialise is the name we give to our team of writers, designers, film-makers and all-round content experts. We’ve two amazing roles that we’re looking to fill in our Hoxton Square, London HQ.

We’re seeking an executive or consultant-level hire with a focus on writing and trends exploration

First-rate writing and copy-editing skills, and an enthusiasm for story-telling

A good awareness of cultural and commercial trends, and an aptitude for articulating them in attention-grabbing ways

Keen to test and develop new formats for socialising trends, insights and strategic recommendations 

Ideally additional skills beyond editorial and trends – such as design and/or photography and/or shooting and editing video

Expertise/experience with Adobe Creative Cloud software an advantage

Good project management abilities and, ideally, experience of working directly with clients

An aptitude for problem-solving, ‘owning’ challenges and purposeful collaboration

Keen to work in a fast-moving environment, one in which priorities are often up for re-assessment

We’re seeking an executive-level hire with a focus on film work and design

First-rate graphic design skills, and an enthusiasm for story-telling

Equally hot film skills, including shooting and editing video using professional equipment (bonus points if you know how to use Canon film kit, and Adobe Creative Suite)

Keen to test and develop new formats for socialising trends, insights and strategic recommendations 

An aptitude for problem-solving, ‘owning’ challenges and purposeful collaboration

Keen to work in a fast-moving environment, one in which priorities are often up for re-assessment

Happy to travel!

Our expectations for these roles will vary depending on if you’re applying at exec level (think entry level to one year of experience) or consultant (think one to three years of relevant agency or media experience). What’s in it for you? The opportunity to work with an amazing array of clients and fellow Crowd folk on exciting, intellectually stimulating cultural insights and innovation projects, working on engaging outputs, prototyping, trends reporting and a whole bunch more besides.

The roles comes with a competitive salaries/benefits; and clear paths to promotion and to new opportunities. To apply, please get in touch with Dr Matilda Andersson, attaching a CV and covering letter.

Six Months At Crowd DNA Inc

We've been on the ground in NYC for six months now. Safe to say, it's been action-packed...

We’re half a year in to our NYC adventure, with Crowd DNA Inc happily housed in Cooper Square in the East Village. We’ve grown quickly, with US director Hollie Jones joined by recruits both from the US and those transitioning from Crowd DNA London. Here’s some high tempo highlights so far…

Categories. Home, men’s apparel, telecoms, sport and media/social media – we’ve immersed ourselves in the specifics all of these worlds already.

Methods. Deep breath here… scavenger hunts, photo journalism, mobile ethnography, face to face ethnography, city safaris, trends research, influencer panels, expert panels, cook-alongs, focus groups, UX dinner groups – we’ve designed and conducted them all.

Outputs. Busy times on this front, too. There’s been workshops, show and tells, immersive photo galleries, magazines, interactive insights billboards, documentary films, culture briefings; oh yeah, and a few Powerpoints, even.

Markets. From Kansas City to Seoul, Philadelphia to Shanghai, Tampa to Berlin – we’ve notched up the miles both domestically and globally.

Office plants: Two, named Pamela and Legs; both doing very well (in fact Legs has grown four new legs).

Thanks to all the clients who’ve chosen to work with us so far. It’s been inspiring stuff, and we cannot wait to find out what 2018 has in store for Crowd DNA Inc. Please check in with Hollie Jones if you’d like to find out more.