In order to showcase interesting initiatives in the local area, you can organise a bus tour that is accompanied by researchers. The idea is to visit a number of initiatives and hear directly from people engaged in them. For example, the Swedish organisation Ideell Arena arranged a bus trip to a number of urban gardening sites in order to show how similar types of community projects can be organised in completely different ways, ranging from an uncoordinated guerrilla gardening movement to a community running a 100-year–old allotment. The guide was a researcher who talked about the history of the movement in Sweden and how urban gardening has evolved over the years. At the various sites, the researcher interviewed someone representing the initiative.
On another tour, participants were shown various types of religious initiatives. They visited two places, one where Catholics, Muslims and Protestants carry out social work together and one where spiritual seekers can meet to discover their religion. Many other themes can of course also work, for example, local history etc. Bus tours were also run during Researcher’s Night in Stockholm 2013.
Target group: Broad, flexible.
Preparations: Contact one or more researchers who work in your chosen area. Identify interesting initiatives and places to visit in the local area, preferably in collaboration with the researcher(s). Contact representatives from these and be clear why you are contacting them and what you want to know about their initiative. Be sensitive about what they want to say. It is important that the representative sticks closely to the theme of the bus tour, as there is often limited time at each place, perhaps only twenty minutes. Following the visit, the representative may get onto the bus to answer questions, partly to save time, and also because it is place where passengers can easily interact. Book a bus and check that it has a good sound system with a wireless microphone. This is important so that everyone can hear any questions asked by other passengers and also allows the guide to maintain eye contact with the passengers during the tour. The researcher may be willing to act as the tour guide, otherwise you will need someone to lead the tour as well as the discussion. This needs to be someone who is engaging and able to encourage the passengers to ask questions. It works particularly well if the guide is able to relate things you see outside the window along the way to the theme of the bus trip. It is also a good idea to start the tour with a slightly longer journey to allow the researcher to give a short lecture before the first stop. This will provide everyone on the bus with an introduction to the subject and ensure they all have some basic knowledge of the topic. The journey between different stops is a good time for questions.
Challenges: These types of tours usually take at least half a day. Don’t forget snacks and/or lunch. Timing is crucial and it is important to plan all the timings in detail. Allow an extra ten minutes for getting on and off the bus and time for the group to walk up to the site. Then send the schedule to the bus company and double check with them that it is realistic. Make sure that someone keeps an eye on the time during the tour and agree a sign to give the representatives and researchers when their time is up. Don’t take it for granted that there will be parking spaces available and double check this with the bus company and the representatives. Preferably use a local bus company that knows the area.
Benefits: Bus tours allow research to be explained in a very concrete way by showing the connection between different sites and concepts. It is most effective when participants explore the sites together with a researcher and can lead to common insights. For many, a bus tour is an environment where they feel comfortable participating in a discussion and voicing their opinions. Travelling together promotes a convivial group atmosphere that supports conversation and networking.