How Oxford University is using social media to fund a new project
On 5 June, Oxford University will kick off its new crowdfunding campaign for ‘Lest We Forget’, a new community-based initiative aiming to preserve materials held by the public from the First World War. This initiative is building on the success of ‘the Great War Archive’, a previous mass-digitisation project that gathered over 6,500 items in 2008, and became the inspiration and model for Europeana 1914-1918: people were invited to bring WW1 family memorabilia, and experts would give context to the object while it was being digitised. Stuart Lee, who initiated both projects, tells us how social media can help raise awareness and funds to support cultural projects.
What was the role of social media in the Great War Archive campaign in 2008?
At the time social media was only beginning to emerge as a main communication channel, but we used Facebook extensively, and also blog posts to highlight major discoveries as editor’s picks. The Facebook page still continues to grow with over 3,000 followers, and we now have an extensive presence on Twitter. We use them for a range of things, such as highlighting key dates and discoveries. We are also trying new things: on the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Arras, we tweeted the event as if it was live news. In July 2016 we also tweeted the roll of honour for the fallen soldiers from Oxford colleges.
How did people engage with the campaign on social media? Did you get support from people individually, or from institutions?
It is a real mixture. Individuals supported us by reposting, and retweeting, but we also became loosely affiliated to a range of institutions such as the Imperial War Museum, the Commonwealth Graves Commission and charities like Age Concern.
Has this crowdsourced model influenced other initiatives?
Yes, many! We have advised numerous projects internally at Oxford. We have provided training for a variety of projects in this crowdsourcing approach through the follow-on RunCoCo project. This includes the community collection and reminiscence project Children of The Great War run by Age Exchange, and the community collection for Merton College’s 750th anniversary in 2014. The model we had developed in the Great War Archive was also used for Europeana 14-18. Oxford University became their main initial partner to export the concept outside the UK. In In 2010, we teamed up and provided training and staff for the first rounds of collection days in Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Italy… All materials from the Great War Archive are also available on www.europeana1914-1918.eu.
Have you changed your approach to promote the ‘Lest We Forget’ project?
Yes. Social media for ‘the Great War Archive’ was about raising awareness. For the ‘Lest We Forget’ campaign, we are gearing social media towards fundraising efforts, so we are now targeting individuals who have high social media impact and also institutions with extensive networks. For crowdfunding, we are using the OxReach platform which the University has used for two successful campaigns, but both in medical sciences. We wanted to use this for a humanities/cultural heritage bid this time. Our aim at this stage is to get the word out as widely as possible and to get individuals to donate small amounts of money. To do so, we are using Thunderclap, the crowdspeaking platform that rallies people to spread a message together. We are aiming to gather 1,000 supporters before 5 June, who will need to copy our original tweets. If we do, the message will go out from their accounts on the 6th. Other uses of social media are built into the Lest We Forget platform itself which mails networks and adds gamifications to the fundraising. We are also creating a series of pitch videos for Facebook and Twitter.
You can help Oxford University spread the word about the ‘Lest We Forget’ crowdfunding campaign by joining their Thunderclap before 5 June !
by Camille Tenneson