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The five essentials of social action

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Over the coming weeks we will explore the five essentials of Social Action. Number one on our list is Detectorism.

Part 1: The archeologists v the detectorists

#connectingforgoodcov is sparking a movement against isolation in Coventry. We reach right into the very heart of communities, listening and connecting people who want to take action. We go in search of energy - the energy to care about isolation and then to take action against it together. We don’t know what will happen nor when nor who will do it - not until we meet the people and the right set of circumstances. So we knew from the off that no standard method of evaluation was going to work for us. An essential part of sparking social action had to be a new way of capturing what it achieves and how it achieves it.

“Detectorism is a made up word.” As soon as our Researcher Jo Orchard Webb said this I was curious, and curiosity is an essential trait of detectorism. It’s a participatory, ‘improving not proving’ approach to evaluation. We are a team of detectorists trying to best understand the world we are working in much like Andy and Lance in the hit TV series ‘Detectorists’, who dream of finding a priceless collection of items that would cement their place in detecting history. We too are looking for treasure, the kind of treasure that helps us to understand if our approaches are working and to help us flex and plan the next phase of our work. We hope #connectingforgoodcov might go down in history too.

Traditional research methods rely on independent ‘experts’ - the archaeologists if you like - capturing and reporting findings. Detectorism on the other hand encourages ordinary people and those involved in the work to help figure out what’s working or not working and why. All we really need is to be curious in our observations about the world we want to understand better.

Detectorism does not involve walking around with a ginormous magnifying glass or a metal detector! It quite simply means that our senses are alive to what is happening around us at all times. And we love that everyone can do this.

Recently, 15-year-old Ellie joined us in some street activism during Loneliness Awareness Week. She is a keen photographer and we asked her to capture the action with a detectorist’s eye.

What did Ellie see?

The stencils caused a mild commotion, from people glancing in the direction of the disturbance on the otherwise empty streets to stopping to welcome these additions to our city’s pavements.

What did Ellie hear?

Shared murmurs and whispers, "what’s all this?", "This is interesting" all the way to stopping to show excitement at the ‘punk rock activism.’

What did Ellie feel?

Over a background of thrill at the thought of being caught, there lay an exciting feeling of activism and righteousness, spreading the word of artistic activism and making a difference.

So you may be thinking… that’s nice but what does that mean for the movement? What do we do with what we find? What use are we putting it to?

Whilst movements can be unpredictable, detectorism is also highlighting that there are patterns and these patterns inform our work. Ellie’s involvement in the street activism is an example of how the movement builds relationships and involvement by focusing on the gifts that people have; in this case photography. To dive into the patterns that we are observing in our detectorism and how it works go here:

Over the coming weeks we will bring to life these emerging patterns. In our next post, due out in a few weeks time, we will delve deeper into the gifts approach in order to highlight how it affirms capabilities and potential while resisting ‘over caring’. It seeks to identify and disrupt barriers to participation and connection.

So stay tuned in.

In the meantime it would be great if you’d like to comment or engage in the debate about the archaeologists v the detectorists. What are your thoughts? Does this stir something in you that you’d like to share? Would you like to explore how you can become a detectorist? Email your thoughts to or get in touch via Tweetsville

Mel, Dom, Gemma & Jo #connectingforgoodcov

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