Last week we wrapped up a short project at the Compton School in Barnet, north London, just in time for International Women’s Day. Our group was smaller than usual, but super organised and very capable. Their final piece explored political representation, the pay gap, reproductive rights and period poverty.
So what makes this format work so well?
- It’s visual. That makes it easy to explain to a new group and quick to get started. Image-based creations come naturally to Gen Z, who grew up on the likes of Instagram and Snapchat and many of whom are busy “defining their own visual culture“. And in the age of the selfie, even self-conscious teenagers are usually happy to be photographed (obviously they can sit that part out if they want).
- It encourages focus on one key point. Once we’ve discussed a broad topic and considered some of the aspects we could highlight, we ask the young people to write their opening statement. Thinking up something short enough to fit on a white board, and intriguing enough to get the viewer to scroll across can be challenging, but it’s a helpful exercise in focusing on one topic. (That’s useful: inexperienced writers tend to want to include everything they know.)
- It practices research skills. Contributors have to find a fact or statistic to back up or expand on their statement, and also write a few journalistic-style paragraphs about their topic. This means finding relevant and reliable sources of information (young people often grab the very first link they find, so we encourage them to be more critical), citing them properly and putting them into context.
- The piece can be easily split among a group. There’s one overarching theme, but individuals or pairs are free to explore any aspect of that, without us worrying about connecting each section into one narrative. Plus, people can take on the tasks they’re most interested in – writing, research, coming up with ideas, writing on the white board, producing visuals.
- It can be adapted to different levels/abilities. For one group with mixed learning abilities, discussing/writing about issues would have been really challenging, so we started with a pile of relevant pictures from magazines and got them to create collages as a way of pulling together the ideas they were interested in. We then asked each person to tell us about their work and what they thought about the issues, writing down their answers and helping to find additional information. By the end, each of them had their name and face (if they wanted) on a final product.
- It’s easy to replicate. The interactive element (allowing you to slide from the first to the second board) can be easily replicated thanks to coding in WordPress. While it’s not always quick for my colleague to prepare the images (carefully cutting out the background on Photoshop, to create a clean white space), nor for me to edit and finalise all the words, having the basic structure in place and knowing what we’re aiming for makes things pretty straightforward.
The Exposure Asks format could be even better: with a few extra sessions than we normally have the budget for, young people could also take responsibility for the photo editing (learning to use Photoshop in the process) and uploading (learning WordPress). The less we facilitators/trainers do, the better it is not only for their skills development, but also for their sense of ownership over the project.
If you’d like to know more or to work with Exposure, do get in touch.