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New voices and viewpoints on iWonder as we create a more open BBC

Sinead Rocks

Director of Education, BBC

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Can creativity be taught? Why did Abraham Lincoln come to Manchester? How do I write a brilliant story?These are just some of the first questions asked and answered as we start opening up BBC iWonder to our audience, enabling individuals and organisations to publish their own content for the first time.

For two years iWonder has been the BBC’s factual, interactive-story proposition aimed at inspiring curiosity. It capitalises on the sparks of interest generated by BBC programmes, UK topical issues and world events, offering informative content in a variety of formats that invite the user to explore factual and educational topics across a range of genres. It’s a unique format: organising video and audio, rich infographics, written summaries, and participatory activities into stories that make the most of the interactive potential of digital, delivering a distinctively engaging format compared to traditional web articles or TV and radio programmes online.

Knowing our audience has no shortage of ideas and opinions, we set ourselves a challenge to find a way to open up iWonder to them, providing access to the same content-creation tool we use to create iWonder Guides. The result is iWonder Community which will fuse our audiences imagination, knowledge and creativity with the best of the BBC’s digital storytelling expertise. It will empower people and public organisations who value sharing knowledge with others to share their perspectives more effectively through short, well-structured digital narratives.

We believe it will create a unique community: bringing people and public organisations together around shared knowledge, questions and perspectives. For the first time, it will add a genuine social dimension to knowledge sharing and learning on the BBC. It will provide a route for more diverse voices and local perspectives on the BBC.

From this week you’ll start to see selected guides badged as ‘iWonder Community’ on the iWonder homepage, showing that they’ve been made by other organisations that we’ve been working in partnership with as we get this new idea up and running. In time we will create a dedicated iWonder Community space where our audience can publish their own content, with the best showcased on the iWonder homepage. We’ll set out more details on how our audience can do that later this year. 

iWonder Community will be one of the first realisations of Tony Hall’s commitment to a more open BBC, providing a unique route for publicly-created content to reach a wide audience via BBC Online. This puts into practice the aspiration for BBC Online to behave more like a platform. The BBC’s mission remains to inform, educate and entertain but, in future, we also want to enable – so that our audience can inform, educate and entertain each other too.

A more open BBC also means increasingly working in partnership with others. BBC Learning has already led the way by forging and leading the partnership that has delivered the BBC micro:bit. Now iWonder Community will provide new opportunities to work with public organisations, providing access to a free digital story-telling template which they can use to showcase their own content and bring it to a wider audience. It will help close the digital divide that can exclude some public organisations, particularly smaller bodies, museums and libraries, community clubs and societies from bringing their content to a wider audience. By sharing and collaborating, we can make better use of our resources for the benefit of curious audiences across the UK and around the world.

Through the unique way that iWonder Community opens up a BBC content creation tool to the public, it will help contribute to a more distinctive online offering from the BBC.

iWonder Community will be what our audience makes it. We’re excited to see where their knowledge, interests and obsessions take us.

We have devised iWonder Community with our audience at every step of the way, ensuring that it is a product that appeals both to those who would want to make their own content and to its potential audience. In the spirit of iWonder Community, it’s only right to let them have the last words:

“very intuitive, fun to make, and the best part is how simple it was to do. I could sit here and make Guides all day”

“it makes me feel like the BBC doesn’t just have time for the professional people, for journalists, it has time for us. It has time for people’s opinions and experiences. I cherish that.”

“this feels very different from other social media sites – I’m actually quite surprised the BBC is doing something this cool!”

Sinéad Rocks is Head of BBC Learning



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