Like most civic societies CovSoc membership is heavily biased towards older people, many of whom are retired. There isn’t really much for younger people to get involved with.
Civic Day is a national day for celebrating civic pride, coordinated by Civic Voice. Civic Societies up and down the country identify an activity on that day, which this year was held on 20th June.
In previous years, the Coventry Society has trained people in surveying war memorials, showcased the Sherbourne River, organised a tour of the city’s Public Art, exhibited the plans for the Burges and delivered a tour of Coventry’s post-war architecture.
So for this year’s Civic Day, with the lockdown, we decided to try to involve younger people through the channels that they are most familiar with – social media.
The Coventry Society has its own social media channels. In order to engage with the city we have set up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Youtube accounts as well as our website and news blog. We know that younger people use some of these media, especially Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and to a lesser extent Twitter. Of course we don’t use all the same social media as young people – we don’t use TicToc, Snapchat or Whatsapp but there is shared use of Instagram, Facebook and Youtube.
Nicola Norman, the project organiser, wanted to engage younger audiences and create awareness for Coventry’s Civic Society amongst them. Nicola said “Coventry’s youth population is the 6th largest in the UK, bigger than both Birmingham and London. It is important for the younger generations to understand a sense of place of where they live, how they live and how they want their city to look like in the future – their future. What do they love about their city? How can it better? How do they envisage its development? I wanted to hear their civic voices.”
Nicola has teenage children of her own and a channel for engaging with other young people in the city. She challenged them to use social media to show what made them proud of their city. The result was published on Civic Day with our #CovTeenTakeover hashtag.
During the day we had ten posts on Facebook, eight on Twitter, seven on Instagram and a video on Youtube. These posts were shared widely. Overall we saw a huge increase in engagements – on Twitter we had four times the normal level of engagement. On Facebook we reached on average of 500+ people per post and overall, the posts collectively reached 6,951 people. There was a similar level of engagement on Instagram and Youtube.
The teens shared their love for the War Memorial Park, nature, wartime history which was filmed in the London Road Cemetery, services provided by Coventry charities, Operation Shield during the Covid-19 crisis, our historic buildings and how diverse our city is.
Nicola said “What I was so pleased to see was that we created awareness and got a new dynamic involved.”
For the future Nicola sees this event as the first steppingstone in engaging Coventry’s younger audience and consequently their friends and family members in what we do as a Society. This should help create a wider awareness and an opportunity for young people to gain a sense of place and of pride and encouragement for them to be vocal and proactive about their home and their future.
Nicola’s ambition is to create a forum on the Society’s website where children and young adults can post their comments on current topics or planning applications and an area for them to ask questions or post requests for what they would like to see/have in their local area.