Freerange Community Feedback.

Last month we collected feedback from the Freerange community via a short survey. After a busy year built on multiple publications and the formalisation of the Freerange Cooperative, we were eager to shape a plan that could build on the things that we’re good at; decide on some new things that we could get better at; and make sure we do all these while keeping firmly in touch with what and who, Freerange is all about.

To give some context, the motivation for the survey emerged late last year when we held our first face-to-face meeting between the whole team of Directors in Christchurch. Looking back, Freerange had published 300 blog articles over 4 years; our seventh Journal was about to be launched; and Christchurch: The Transitional City was doing incredibly well; as well as five other print publications for the Press, and a charity compilation album. As the community, organisation, and finances were growing -in complexity if not size- it became crucial that we understood more about the Freerange community so that we could give, share, and enable value for it.

There were only a few simple and fairly broad questions asked, and I’ve simply reproduced the responses here as they are, with some short comments about what we’ve understood from them. After getting some idea of participation in Freerange, we asked how our blog was going, what kind of stuff we could be publishing about, and what else we could do for the community. The sixth question in particular had some really encouraging responses that we’re pretty excited about.

So here goes!

Question 1

It was pretty good to see a healthy split of respondents being familiar with the main things we do: the Freerange Journal, the Freerange Press (a number of neat books, including Christchurch: The Transitional City), and the Freerange Blog. One respondent later asked what events we actually do, so that they could attend some more (like 30% of our respondents had, apparently). We wondered the same thing actually, but realised between us we’ve probably presented/hosted/spoke-at a few things publicly, if vaguely, wearing the Freerange cap (can you wear something vaguely?).

Question 2: Participation

Our Journals have definitely been the flagship of the Freerange fleet, taking contributions from all corners of the globe. Likewise, the blog has also been lucky to receive Freeranging words from all over the place, and probably a few extra dimensions too. As the survey reaffirmed, we also have a great community of people who are simply enjoying the fruits of Freerange which is awesome.

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Question 3

Responses dwindled out after 30%, with ‘Australia’ scraping in with a few responses (OZZY! Ozzy! ozzzz).

The blog is designed to bring together an international community of Freerangers, sharing stories about ‘cities, design, politics and pirates’ in the broadest sense. Un-curated, the blog leaps from the intense to the light-hearted, from Kenya to Kyoto to Christchurch. Importantly, it is always original and thoughtful. We used the main tags and categories of the blog to elicit interest in various themes, and the results reflected the ‘core’ themes we visit regularly, but also pointed to some areas we’ve ‘talked about’ but never really got going, in particular featuring Interviews/Bio’s. Across the history of the blog we’ve certainly addressed most of these themes, but it’s great to have a few more lighthouses to help guide the ship.

Question 4: Blog Ideas

Well, if that’s what you wanna see on our blog, what would you write? We got some amazing responses here, and I’ll be nagging our respondents in the hope that they eventuate… published here are a few (we have over 70), please chuck in a comment below if you’d especially like to see one of these happen, or have other suggestions!

  • Whakapapa
  • randomness
  • Highrise low life
  • Shrinkage
  • Culturally appropriate land use
  • Parasites and health
  • Boring buildings
  • Buried/Lost NZ Treasures
  • Whitestream media
  • Sustainable transportation
  • Energy and Urban Development
  • Slowness
  • Consumption/consumerism as a symptom of individual and collective psychological distress
  • “Teaching gender”: teachers enforcing gender divide
  • The Commons and tourism
  • Why Christchurch needs to slow down
  • Female ginko trees in public. So messy.
  • Reviving and living with connection in our communities
  • Brains
  • Exploring flooded basements of demolished buildings
  • Personal spirituality stories

Can’t wait!

Question 5: Freerange Press

If the blog is a tidal pool of Freerange content –big, wet and frothy– the Freerange Press is more like a spa, frothing, but tighter and focused. Christchurch has certainly become fixed in the Freerange psyche, partly because of our chief egg BB and publishing extraordinairre Emma live there, but I think uniquely it also reflects the four masts of the Freerange pirateship, with an intense crossover of the contemporary city, the role of design, politics (obviously), and pirates (through activism, and the transitional movement). Other areas of publishing are certainly important to us though, especially as we consider the publishing platform as a stage for others to use.

Curiously, there was a noticeable spread in responses to this question, including fourteen other categories not shown here indicated by 4%-19% of respondents, so there’s lots to be done.

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This was really encouraging, and something we got pretty excited about. As a Co-operative, it’s our primary goal to grow and nurture the Freerange community, by generating and sharing knowledge, building on the strengths of the co-operative members, and pursuing projects with our shared expertise. So to see this reflected by nearly 80% of the respondents was awesome. Building off the core activity of publishing and the co-operative approach that we’ve developed for it, building networks and communities is something we feel particularly adept at, and we’re keen as to build!

It can be surprisingly hard (and a bit unnerving) to know whether what you’re doing is okay. This is usually accompanied by an urge to do more of something else. There’s logic that suggests if you’re reading this, you like what we do to some extent, that’s why you’re reading it. We’ve been doing roughly the same thing for a few years now, with the natural tidal flow of activity that dogs any long-term project, but as the swell is kicking up a bit, we have to be a more careful and efficient in our productivity, so we’re always keen to know what else we could be doing that might be easy enough for us to do, or hard enough for us to rethink what we’re doing.

So, some things we could do more of:

  • push ups.
  • More speaking events (I haven’t really seen any advertised, apart from the release at festa)
  • Occasional forums
  • Website allowing collaborative peer to peer production. Music compilateion releases, multimedia projects.
  • Throwing choice parties
  • Music
  • Networking individuals with causes

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There were a couple of good points raised here:

“Freerange is leaning towards the totally academic side of things, it would be good to see more from more people that aren’t academic possibly? in saying that…I’m aware of how hard it is to get contributions at all- and how do you seek out “different voices”…?” An interesting point. The blog has definitely tried to keep a range of voices when it hasn’t been so quiet, and the Journals have too I would say. I hear the forthcoming Freerange book Once In A Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch has about 50 (quite diverse) contributors, so personally I can’t see this academic lean becoming the status quo, I’d prefer something like ‘thoughtful and intelligent.’

“thought provoking publishing so far.” 

“Would like your publications to be more widely available eg. I haven’t seen the 3rd edition of Christchurch A Transitional City Pt 4 at Paper Plus.” Distribution is definitely something we need to improve. It’s probably the most expensive and difficult part of publishing, apart from doing all the publishing.

“Thank you for being Freerange.” No worries.