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Big Ideas Generators: Update

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[Editor’s note: Neil MacInnes, Strategic Lead - Libraries, Galleries and Culture for Manchester Council, provided an update on this Libraries: Opportunities for Everyone funded project]

The Big Ideas Generators (BIG) project is supporting innovation and enterprise across 10 Greater Manchester (GM) library authorities, serving a population of over 2.7 million people. A unique customer service is being delivered by one team working across the Greater Manchester library services, a first for the city region. Participants will gain vital information and digital support to navigate their entrepreneurial journey and develop new skills.

GM libraries are busy places

Libraries in GM are very popular. Last year, we had almost 12.5 million physical visits in 144 locations, plus 7.5 million visits to library websites and online resources. This made them an ideal network through which to deliver this project.

Project delivery

Since the launch of the project in mid-June 2017, there have been 106 activities:

  • 40 1-2-1 information surgeries
  • 42 workshops
  • 24 flagship events

1-2-1 Information Surgeries

Delivered by the BIG team, these have been very successful, highlighting the gap in business support for people with early stage ideas that need somewhere to conceptualise them further. Offering these appointments allows people the opportunity to talk through ideas in a friendly, approachable environment. A member of the team helps to identify information resources and organisations to help with:

  • business plans
  • protecting your intellectual property
  • developing your idea
  • researching the market
  • online and digital business

Feedback on these has been very positive:

“Ian was brilliant! I found this one to one support excellent!” – 1-2-1 appointment, Tameside
“Gave me some hope” – 1-2-1 appointment, Bury
“Personal approach, informal so was at ease. Helped me to understand the resources available” – 1-2-1 appointment, Wigan


Small group learning sessions delivered by the BIG team. Topics include:

  • Twitter for Beginners
  • Cloud for Business: Your Mobile Office
  • 3D Printing
  • Free Online Tools
Twitter for Beginners at Manchester Central Library
Twitter for Beginners at Manchester Central Library. Photo credit: GM Big Ideas Generators

“Over some 5 years with other local support (who I consider very good), this one course with Andrew Bailey is without doubt the best ever. Educated me in everything I was missing and needed to know. Outstanding.” – Free Online Tools, Rochdale Library
“Very useful course for small businesses setting up” – Free Online Tools, Wigan
“Free does not always equate to helpful. Today was.” – Free Online Tools, Tameside
“Great workshop, helpful staff, relaxed and friendly environment to learn in” – Digital Business, Manchester

“Flagship” events

These are designed to be one-off larger events, delivered by commissioned partners such as Noise Orchestra, MadLab, etc. The programme includes:

  • Selling Online / Etsy workshops
  • Social Media for Business
  • Crowdfunding and Pitching
  • Internet Of Things
  • 3D Printing
Selling Online workshop at Stockport Library
Selling Online workshop at Stockport Library. Photo credit: GM Big Ideas Generators

“Very informative session” – Selling Online, Trafford
“First class presentation, very informative” – Selling Online, Trafford
“Impressed by so much information” – Crowdfunding, Manchester
“Very well presented – lots of practical advice presented with passion” – Ebay, Bury

Build a Noise Machine with Noise Orchestra at Eccles Library.
Build a Noise Machine* with Noise Orchestra at Eccles Library. Photo credit: GM Big Ideas Generators

* Noise Machines are electronic musical instruments based on analogue synthesizer circuitry that respond to changes in light via a light sensor interface. The workshops enable each person to learn about, and assemble the DIY kits provided which are simple oscillator circuits with a light sensor that will introduce people to electronics and circuit building and the principle of working with light to create sound.

A number of business support agencies across the sub-region have been keen to get involved, ensuring a seamless level of support to customers. For example, the GM Business Growth Hub have attended key events in all authorities, offering appointments to attendees ready to access additional advice. Colleagues in economic development have also taken steps to provide assistance to customers about local authority services.

Monitoring and evaluation

We’re pleased with the progress of the project so far. It’s early days for specific outcomes but the number of attendees is good: so far over 500 places have been taken. There has been some dropout from bookings and, whilst this is inevitable for activities without a charge, interestingly this is decreasing particularly at the 1-2-1 sessions. And these figures only reflect two months of the project’s delivery as we actually started this in mid June.

We’ve also been reaching our inclusion targets:

  • 60% of attendees are women
  • 30% are from BAME communities

And overall, satisfaction levels are high:

  • 93% were Very Satisfied with the Quality of Presenter
  • 90% said they were Very Satisfied with the Inspirational content

For more information about activities being run as part of Big Ideas Generator, keep an eye on their website: or follow them on twitter.


Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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