How to run a 26 project

Tips, advice and info from start to finish – based on what we’ve learned from previous projects.

We’re keen to encourage more people to come up with ideas for potential projects and run them too. You don’t have to be on the management board to do so. You don’t need to be an old timer. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve just joined.

But first, what exactly is a 26 project?

We like to think of them as ‘crowd-writing’. It’s a chance for participants to write around a common theme or subject, with each writer allotted a specific aspect or topic. The writing may take different forms – from imaginary to factual, from poetry to prose. And the length of each piece of writing varies according to the project, although it’s usually fairly short and a word length may be given.

Projects can be quick-fire or take many months (or even longer) to develop. They lead to publication, usually online, sometimes in print, and there may also be a connected event. Take a look at our projects page to see some examples. But don’t feel like you have to recreate what’s gone before! We’re always looking for new, different ideas.

Where to start

What’s the idea?

Your project could be about pretty much anything, but we do have some criteria to make sure our projects are true to 26.

Projects should ultimately support our mission: to champion respect for words and stand up for their potential in business and in life. Any given project should be an opportunity to inspire our members and develop their craft. We also love projects with a social conscience. In recent years, projects have focused on environmental issues, lifted a mirror to life in a pandemic, and raised awareness of important charitable work. Projects can involve collaboration with partners, but this isn’t always essential.

Let us know

Get in touch by emailing admin@26.org.uk. Summarise your idea – however rough. But here are some key things we’ll be looking for:

  • What’s the theme?
  • What might the outcome be?
  • How does it relate to 26 – what will make it a valuable experience for our writers?
  • Rough timescales, and whether it connects with a particular event, for example.
  • Do you have a partner in mind (or not)?

Projects are considered by a small group of board members, who are always looking for new ideas and new volunteers. At times, we have to be selective as it’s not practical to do too much at once, and sometimes we may feel that a project isn’t quite right for 26.

When it’s the right project and the right time, we can then discuss whether you’re good to go, or might like some help from other members to workshop the idea before you forge ahead.

Once you’ve got the green light…

Who’s who?

Project sponsor

All projects will have a board member as sponsor. They won’t take over running the project – it’s yours! – but they’ll be the one who stays in the loop with the project’s progress in order to report back to the board. And they’ll be able to offer advice and answer your questions.

Project team and management

One person should be named as project manager to take overall ownership and responsibility for the project. This is usually the person who comes up with the project idea. There should be at least three people picked to help run the project (depending on scale), so that the workload can be shared. Think about whether assigning roles, like ‘social media lead’ may be helpful.

You might already know other members keen to get involved, or we can help you assemble a team via avenues like the monthly newsletter.

Project partners

Working with partners can help our projects reach a wider audience but they’re not essential – especially in the case of smaller, quick-fire projects.

In the past we’ve partnered with the likes of the Imperial War Museum and the Wildlife Trusts, but we’re keen to explore partnerships with smaller scale grassroots organisations and individuals too.

When collaborating with people outside of 26 we should make it clear what everyone’s role is, including giving a clear brief to everyone taking part. For example, when working with designers, both the writers and designers should be briefed on the project’s background, objectives and final output. Each group should know what the other is doing.

Who can take part?

Projects are one of the biggest benefits of being a 26 member, so any writers involved in a project should either be existing members, or join in order to take part.

You might also consider giving priority to certain members, for example, giving first dibs on sign-ups to new members, or to certain people based on where they live, as with 26 Under a Northern Sky.

Editors

As well as your core project team, you may need some additional people to help with editing. You could recruit editors from the writers who’ve signed up, or put a shout out in the newsletter, for example. Ideally, you wouldn’t want each editor to be responsible for more than 5 or 6 writers, depending on the scale of the project. Editors should be clearly briefed on what they are to do.

Getting the project underway

Write a brief

The purpose of the project should be clear, including what the outcome will be and what needs to be done to achieve that.

If the project requires the writer to visit someone/a place then that should be stated. If writers need to work collaboratively with other people then both groups need to be aware of that and understand what they each have to do.

The form of writing must be clearly stated. For example, a poem, sestude, article, etc. Or maybe your project leaves things more open? Likewise, if a writing style is to be specifically avoided, such as copywriting or journalism, then that should be made clear too.

If writers are set a word count, we should always state whether they include or exclude a title, so that everyone knows what they are working to.

What will be the result of the project? Publication on a website or on our social channels; in print; as an ebook or digital file; displayed at a gallery, museum or other venue; turned into an artwork by someone else; illustrated or somehow modified for publication; recorded on video or audio; presented live; performed by actors; or something else? This should be clearly stated on the brief. But there’s of course room for projects to develop and grow after the original brief has been set.

If there is a physical output, such as a book, magazine or pamphlet, will each writer (and editor, designer and partner, etc) need to pay for their own copy? If so, this should be made clear as part of the brief or other early communications with everyone who’s taking part.

If there’s a ticketed event will the entire project team (writers, editors and partners) be allowed to attend for free? Consider whether this is feasible (see costs section below).

Design. If the writing is to be transformed, illustrated or designed in some way, then it should be clear what this entails and the writers should know what to expect from the designers’ brief.

Strength-testing a brief. Inevitably, every brief will raise questions from the people who take part. It may be helpful to pass the draft brief to other people on the board so that we can use our experience from other projects to catch as many of these questions as possible before briefing the writers and any other people involved.

Deadlines

For each version of the written piece there should be a clear deadline for both the writers and editors, so that everyone knows how much time they have and when they have to complete their part. And there needs to be enough time allowed for the editor to read/edit the pieces and return to the writer with enough time for the writer to then work on their second draft. For example, is a week long enough for the editor to do their bit, send back to the writer and then the writer to do the next draft? Perhaps not if they’re having to fit in the project around other commitments.

Communication

It’s important that project updates are shared with everyone who takes part. For example, if there’s a change to the writers’ brief then everyone involved should be aware of it (ie designers and partners) so that there are no misunderstandings later on. Regular updates help to keep the momentum and foster the collaborative spirit of projects.

Designers/partners (if relevant)

What do they need to provide as part of the project? Has this been made clear, including their deadlines, if any?

Proofing

This should always be done and, where possible, writers/designers should be able to check a proof copy of their final piece before it’s published.

Credits

What credits will we give the writers and editors? Name only? Name and link to their website and Twitter handle, etc? We should make sure that everyone involved is credited, not just the writers.

Permissions

Where anyone (writer/designer/partner) supplies photos or artwork we should make sure that we have permission to publish them before doing so, together with giving credit/links where needed.

Promoting the project

Internal or external?

Is the project a PR opportunity for 26, or any partner we’re collaborating with? If so, include this in your initial proposal. And, once you’ve got the green light, work with your core project group to pull together a bit of a plan. PR planning should be considered from the outset where there’s potential, and not just addressed as a bolt-on when it may be too late.

Ideally, someone within the project team should take charge of PR/media work, liaising with a social media person. Your project sponsor can give you some pointers too.

Higher-profile projects with external interest are very valuable to our membership drive and reputation. Naturally, they do generally take more work – but are very rewarding!

Maybe the project you have in mind is lower key – more a chance for writers to develop their craft and share within the 26 community. That’s OK too!

Social media

Let everyone taking part in the project know how they can promote the project on social media. Speak to the 26 social team for advice, and consider having a social media lead in your project team.

The 26 newsletter

Sharing blogs about projects on our newsletter is a great way to shout about it to the whole 26 community. Remember, the newsletter goes out on the 26th of every month and it’s best to get in touch well in advance to bag a spot. Email our editor, Sophie, to discuss.

Last but not least

A few more things to consider…

Costs

What costs will be involved in the project and who will bear these: 26, project partners or both equally? Or will costs be mitigated in other ways? Keep in mind that we have very limited funds and most projects are run on a shoestring – generally with writers paying for their own copies of any publications, and sometimes with a fundraising element too. 26 does not normally pay anyone from outside the organisation to take part in projects and everyone gives their time voluntarily.

Equal opportunities

Any exhibition partners or venues will need to take account of 26’s equal opportunity policy, which is on our website.

Safeguarding

We should be careful and mindful of projects where safeguarding needs to be considered (for example, working with children or elderly people). A project which involved this sort of activity would be best undertaken with a partner who could bring solid safeguarding expertise.

Anything else?

Left with any more questions about running a project? Let us know, so we can make this info as helpful as possible.

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