BSA Branches Away Day

Hi everyone!

This week, Becky Tatum (our Secretary) has written a summary about the recent BSA Branches Away Day that took place on the 4th September and served as a fantastic opportunity for members of different BSA branches to share ideas and experiences.

BECKYIn September, Josie Maidment (our Treasurer) and I had the chance to attend the BSA Branches Away Day in Brighton which involved volunteers from all across the country - from Cambridge to Cardiff and London to Lewes. Brighton was a great town in which to hold the Away Day as it was home to this year’s British Science Festival (it’s just a shame the weather was so dismal during our visit!). On our arrival evening, there was an excellent pub social with dinner and drinks, which provided a great chance to meet volunteers from other branches in a social setting ahead of the Away Day.

The next day, all the volunteers congregated in the Checkland Building for the main event. It was great to finally meet some key figures from BSA Headquarters such as Pippa Weaver, the Volunteer Engagement Officer, and Jaclyn Bell, who is heading the upcoming Community Engagement Project. First, Pippa went through the BSA Highlights from the past year - in particular, it was really nice to hear that BSA branches held a total of 550 events reaching 50,000 participants, with a 25% increase in participation! Next, there was a ‘Speed Networking’ session. During this time, Josie and I got to hear about many of the exciting and interesting events that other branches run - Sci Screens, Sci Bars and Sci Art Exhibitions to name a few! We also discussed different community groups that branches and volunteers could try to reach, including the homeless and asylum seekers. 

After a quick break, we moved onto the ‘Best Practice’ session in which certain branches gave a presentation about an area where they could offer inspiration and advice to the other attendees (Josie and I were getting a little nervous at this point as we were lined up to give the final presentation of the session!). The first talk was by Amy from Lewes about the family activities they have organised; the next talk was by Lynette from Sheffield who spoke about recruitment and partnerships; then Christina from Oxford discussed social media and online presence, providing lots of useful information about creating posters and podcasts. Next up was Norwich! Our presentation was titled ‘Partnerships, people and publicity’ and described the success of BSA Norwich over the past year, from the launch of the branch in October 2016 to the Science Treasure Hunt in March 2017, right up to our upcoming events during this year’s Norwich Science Festival (21st to 29th October 2017). We highlighted the importance of our strong local partners, our keen volunteer base and our social media presence as being key to our success. 

In the afternoon, a representative from BSA HQ outlined the BSA Strategy for 2018 - 2020. The key message was that the BSA would like more focus on so-called ‘not interested’ groups of people and to reach a more diverse audience. There was then a session about ‘Event Brainstorming’, which was a great way to get us thinking outside the box with respect to planning events and targeting new audiences! In small groups, we were given dice to roll that corresponded to a particular event theme and audience. The challenge was then to discuss what format the event could take and how we would go about planning it. This was a really challenging, yet stimulating, group activity which allowed us to discuss novel ways to communicate science to a range of audiences!

Overall, Josie and I felt the Away Day was an enjoyable and informative experience. We came away from the event with new friends from other branches and have loads of ideas for future outreach activities in and around Norwich!

As always, if you have any thoughts or feedback regarding events, social media activity and blog posts from BSA Norwich then we'd love to hear from you! Also, please get in contact if you'd like to volunteer. :)