Image by Max McClure

Open Sourcing our Approach to Creative R&D

Today we are sharing two pieces of work, a guide to running a Watershed Sandbox and the REACT Report which distills the learning from our collaboration with five Universities over the past four years.

Over the last eight years Watershed has been supporting brilliant people to do research and development in the Pervasive Media Studio. Sometimes this involves supporting individuals to explore early stage work, and sometimes it involves spotting a bigger moment to act - where a community of practice is emerging with extraordinary ideas that the world is not yet ready for, that audiences don’t fully understand, and clients are too risk averse to commission. For these moments, we designed a talent development process called Sandbox, to bring a diverse mix of perspectives and skills together to turn wild ideas into working prototypes.

We have produced Sandboxes that explored open data, theatre and performance, heritage, publishing, documentary, children’s media and internet of things, the last five of which were a collaboration with academics, through REACT. Our REACT Sandboxes supported 53 collaborative projects, featuring 57 creative companies and 73 academics from the arts and humanities. This support stimulated over £5,354,000 in further investment for the projects, producing 86 new products and designs, 76 new pieces of software, 10 new companies, 43 jobs, 25 academic research articles and over 90 presentations at research conferences, and was celebrated and shared with over 7,000 members of the public. 

Being part of REACT has allowed us to scale up our work and iterate the Sandbox model, working with incredible academic colleagues from UWE Bristol as part of the team. So today we are sharing two pieces of work, a guide to running a Watershed Sandbox and the REACT report which distils the learning from the wider network which developed over the past four years.

We have benefitted from open exchange with people working in similar ways, and experienced growing demand to share our learning with others. So, we have decided to let the Sandbox model go - by publishing a guide on the approach, tools, values and methodologies of Sandbox - for others to share, copy, edit or clone. We are more convinced than ever of the importance of supporting experimental work with care and courage and hope that this is inspiring and useful for others who want to do the same.

Download Watershed Sandbox: A How To Guide here

Learn more about the REACT project and what it achieved here