We sponsored and visited the New Adventures conference on Thursday 23rd January in Nottingham, and gained new ideas and perspectives to share with the email community.

This year's New Adventures Conference shone a spotlight on speculative and critical design, radical inclusivity, climate, and sustainability, in the realm of digital design.

Held in the stunning and frankly under-celebrated Nottingham Albert Hall in January 2020, the lineup of engaging and unique speakers provided thought-provoking and insightful views throughout the day.

We left the 1-day conference with our heads swimming with new perspectives and ideas. Let’s have a look at 5 lessons we took from New Adventures 2020 to apply to ourselves in the email community.

Don't just consider the user - include stakeholders, the environment and wider society

The talks all considered, to varying extents, the impact made by companies and their products to the wider world. And one common theme shines through - the negative side of a user-centric work process. Focusing solely on the user arguably blinds us to other externals, such as environmental or societal.

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Concerns that affect our world are becoming more prevalent and important in how we work

For us in the email community, are we being inclusive to all members of our society? Not just in our hiring policies, but our messaging. For example, we may use the word ‘crazy’ to describe unbelievable in our messaging. But consider this - is this negatively impacting those struggling with mental health issues?

And with climate change looming large, are we promoting practices, products and companies that are not aligned / falling behind with tackling this future? Can we change this up?

These are all questions we could be asking ourselves going forward to make a collective difference to the wider world.

The power of retrospective

Sometimes we can get tunnel vision when we are so invested in a product. We might not consider other ideas, influences and viewpoints until we press send. When we finish a project, it’s important to go back and challenge yourself on what needs improving. Invite people into the conversation and listen to them. They might even be critical of it, but it’s a different perspective.

If you have all the information, ideas and perspectives in front of you, you can make the most informed decision on how to proceed and make your project better. Some criticism may be out of place. Some may be valid, so don’t be afraid to take it on board and use it to improve. The reasons around ignoring and accepting feedback are myriad, but if you listen and take everything in, you are best placed to make a considered decision on how to proceed.

We have to consider ethical implications of tracking

This is important to note: Ethical implications of email are lower because tracking in email is generally used to inform strategic decisions in the email process rather than to track user-specific activity. This is opposed to website tracking, which can be intrusive on the individual and pose some ethical questions.

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You never know who's got eyes on your data if you allow for website tracking

An email takeaway from this is to not buy big data lists. Data on these can usually be traced to having been sourced from website tracking, and this is arguably an unethical practice. Did the person who allowed website tracking truly know that you would end up with their data?

It’s a very grey area, and probably better to be safe than sorry. Focusing on your own prospect data capture methods rather than buying in data lists is a great way of making sure this is achieved. Ethics aside, doing it yourself means you know the data you collect is going to be reliable and from interested parties. Better to source the needles yourself than try and find them in many haystacks.

Don’t be afraid to change it up

One of our favourite talks was from Akil Benjamin from Comuzi, who immediately opened up about struggling with mental health issues after a large set-back for his company.

For a male business owner to be so open about a mental health issue, and to be so candid yet vulnerable too, was refreshing and inspiring. Men, especially those in positions of authority, tend to be a demographic that is very closed off about their mental health. But what came from this dark place was a fresh perspective on work processes and ethics.

There was a strong focus on being brave. Brave enough to change up a product or a work process if things are going wrong. Brave enough to collaborate and bring in other people’s expertise. Brave enough to inject an ethical viewpoint into the work, at the risk of profit, in order to be as inclusive as you can.

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Don't be afraid to raise your hand, ask questions and challenge the norm. Positives can come from a shift in thinking

This may seem radical; too much of an extreme shift that it cannot be done. But it’s just a shift away from the normal to the better. Comfort zones can sometimes be prohibitive after all. There is an obvious note of caution here though - make sure the change is for the right reasons, and not just for the sake of change. Making change is good when it needs to be done, but also must be with the consideration of third parties it may affect.

He also encouraged us to draw notes, actions, and other thoughts on our office walls. Though maybe consult whoever manages the office space before you crack out the Sharpie’s.

The environmental impact of conferences

Even before we arrived at the conference there were climate considerations in place. New Adventures had implemented an non-prohibitive and excellent climate impact policy, which aimed to reduce energy waste from the conference, and gave great tips and ideas to delegates to help them cut their impact. The organisers did mention that ethical choices did reduce some sponsorship options you may find at other conferences.

Throughout the conference we saw climate-friendly steps. Re-using old giveaway items from previous conferences and no single-use plastics were to such ideas.

We are looking forward to seeing if other conferences this year are aiming to reduce energy waste, and how they go about doing it!

New Adventures 2021

Given the plethora of new ideas and perspectives we encountered this year, we will most definitely be heading back in 2021! We encourage anyone with an interest in design, or different ideas on work processes and ethics in general, to attend too.

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