Paraplanners Powwow

Paraplanners Powwow: An unforgettable professional gathering

Last week we fulfilled a big ambition and played a pivotal role in the successful staging of what we believe is the first professional unconference in UK financial services history: the Paraplanners Powwow.

More than 70 paraplanners travelled to Aynho – on the North Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire border – and met in a teepee encampment to meet in rolling farmland under open skies.

But the journey to the Powwow stemmed from a conversation about a year before — in August 2012.

Despite its emergence as a specialist research and analysis role within the UK financial advice arena over the past decade, a growing population of paraplanners lacked a made-to-measure gathering for their profession.

Richard Allum, a leading figure within the UK paraplanning community, asked us a question: how can we create a genuinely unique event experience exclusively for fellow professionals?


Our strategy was to create an unforgettable gathering with a strong sense of social, practical and professional purpose for paraplanners from across the UK.

Taking inspiration from native American powwows, and in order to make a clear break from convention, we created the Paraplanners Powwow – an event held under open skies, which exploited the unique character of teepees to act as catalysts for conversation and cooperation in-the-round (you can see the reaction to the event via this real-time search on Twitter).

By adopting unconference principles for content, participants were able to design their own day from the outset – determining the date and location of the event all the way to the topics for discussion on the day itself.


Organised as a strictly independent, not-for-profit event, we worked with Richard to create the lowest cost/highest impact event as possible. To do that, we complemented income generated from participants ticket sales by pooling contributions from a portfolio of enlightened financial services brands who expressed an appetite to support — and paricipate in — the Powwow event.


The success of the format has led to a proliferation of smaller regional Powwows in Leeds, London, Nottingham and Manchester, which are independently organised by paraplanners but supported by the original Paraplanners Powwow. These mini-Powwows have also been boosted by being granted continued professional development (CPD) accreditation by the Institute for Financial Planning (IFP).


We managed event experience from strategy through to live event production – including web, e-mail and social web content and communication, ticketing, and pre and on-event coordination of teepee construction, catering, audio visual, branding, signage and event continuity.


Web: Paraplanners Powwow
Twitter: @ParaPowwow

National DNA Database

Home Office publishes the National DNA Database Annual Report

The Home Office has published the digital edition of the National DNA Database Strategy Board’s Annual Report at

It’s a project that we were commissioned to research and write in 2012 in collaboration with Bond and Coyne. Working with designer Chris Nuelle, the format draws heavily on the idea of ‘extraction’ of data — the process that samples obtained from crime scenes and individuals undergo via DNA analysis.

Because it is deliberately simple in format, the design acts as a potential template for future Annual Reports, eliminating the need for The Home Office to generate a new design each year and so reduce potential future costs of production.

Bond and Coyne have published a couple more pictures of the print version of the Report at their site.

Helping the RSA drive student ambition

Over the past year, we’ve been back in the classroom at the North Oxfordshire Academy — in nearby Banbury — to support an initiative set up by local Fellows of the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA).

RSA Driving Ambition is a project designed to encourage ‘the diversity of skills and experience within the Fellowship and the local business community to help drive ambition among students in North Oxfordshire and beyond’.

As Max says in this video produced by the RSA the initiative “gives us access to a generation that we wouldn’t always have access to. They have a different way of thinking about things, which helps to open our minds a little bit, and makes us think differently.”

Max has been involved in one-to-one mentoring as part of North Oxfordshire Academy’s participation with the national Careers Academy initiative. Meanwhile, Ian has led three 90-minute classroom sessions in which students have deconstructed the ‘Justin Bieber brand’, discovered why marketers struggle to persuade people to eat healthily, and learned how brands employ all the senses to encourage brand recognition.

It’s proved to be a really rewarding experience and one that we are committed to continue to support in the future.

Ian confirmed as speaker at TEDxCheltenham

We’re really pleased to say that New Tradition’s Ian Thomas has been confirmed as a speaker for TEDxCheltenham in October.

He will join an impressive range of speakers including Professor Tanya Byron, chef Rob Rees and Sir John Whitmore at the independently organised TED event being held on 20 October 2012.

Ian will be talking about technology’s influence on communication design, its potential to challenge conventional thinking about what we mean by ‘brand’ and, as a result, the possibility that people can transform ‘socially irresponsible’ industries for themselves.

It’s an idea that Ian is pursuing via Bebanking, a project to discover:

  • whether it is possible to create a national banking platform which enables people to easily create peer-to-peer (P2P) banking services within their own communities; and
  • whether prevailing law and regulation act as a barrier to the creation of alternative banking services which would offer a genuine challenge to traditional banks.

You can follow Bebanking on Twitter or by liking Bebanking’s Facebook page.

Royal Ascot

Conveying the challenges of contemporary policing

What’s involved in policing a major sporting event or investigating a murder or carrying out an anti-drugs operation?

We’ve just completed a project for Thames Valley Police - the largest non-metropolitan police force in England and Wales — where we worked closely with senior investigators, local area commanders and assistant chief constables to create infographics that help convey the often complex nature of policing operations as simply as possible.

The infographics feature in Thames Valley Police’s prospectus ‘Policing the Thames Valley’ which has been published in anticipation of one of the most far-reaching reforms of modern policing — the election in November 2012 of Police and Crime Commissioners for Force areas throughout England and Wales.

Police and Crime Commissioners will be accountable to voters for setting policing priorities and working with local police forces to implement them. Thames Valley Police’s area covers a population of 2.2 million people across three counties.

The prospectus — which we produced in collaboration with designers Bond+Coyne and former Thames Valley police inspector Clare Mackintosh (more widely known as writer Emily Carlisle) - is the first document of its kind to be published in England and Wales.

Designed to provide candidates and voters alike with comprehensive information about the operation of a modern police force, the 28-page prospectus covers topics ranging from how Thames Valley Police decides what to police to how it prioritises the actions resulting from 999 calls.

To do so, we conducted more than 20 interviews with police officers and staff throughout Thames Valley Police, and reviewed independent research conducted on behalf of Thames Valley Police Authority — the body which currently has public responsibility for policing in Thames Valley.

A single document with multiple uses

Given Thames Valley Police’s active participation in social web channels like Twitter and Facebook, we proposed the production of a base document with the ability for content to be easily shared digitally in multiple formats.

So our approach has been to create a document with with a narrative thread which can be read from cover-to-cover as a document in its own right, but also in a way which means that double-page spreads can be distributed as individual factsheets and infographics — as a PDF, JPEG or PNG image.

The proportions of the landscape format also mean that the majority of graphic elements of the prospectus are able to be included in PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Docs as-is or scaled to fit typical presentation slide proportions — enabling easy use by Thames Valley Police staff or members of the public who may wish to use the images.