Well, you’re nearly at the end! Do make sure that you give yourself enough time to pack up, and don’t skip the evaluation as you’ll find it really useful for your own learning and to help you plan future projects.
When you’ve finished, you need to make sure you’ll be invited back by the landlord or letting agent and that means filling a few black sacks, getting the polyfilla out, and having a good scrub up.
First clear everything you’ve brought into the shop, and make sure you have black sacks to clear any rubbish. Of course – separate your recycling. If there’s anything that you don’t need that might be useful to someone else, pass it on. Use landfill as a last alternative.
Make sure you show the landlord or letting agent the space before you return the keys, so there’s no future dispute about the condition when you left. If you’ve made improvements, make sure they know. And make sure they get a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers – it ensures they will remember you, and leaves some goodwill for the next project.
Evaluation & Documentation
Just because you’ve packed up and locked the door, it doesn’t mean your project is over. You need to evaluate and document your project; for your own satisfaction, to show people when you’re planning your next project, and to add to the nationwide empty shops map. If you’re working within an organisation, there will be set evaluation you have to complete and if you have worked with project partners or received funding, you may need to provide them with certain evidence and evaluation as well.
As with everything else to do with empty shops, don’t make your personal evaluation complicated, and keep it light-touch. Enjoy the process of recording the good work you’ve done.
On one side of A4, write down how many people were involved in your project; as exhibitors or contributors, as volunteers, and how many people visited while you were open. Note down any organisations or businesses who were involved, funded or supported the project.
Record your actual project budget: what everything cost, and what money came in and match this against the estimates in your plan. They won’t be exactly the same, but unless there were major changes or big unexpected problems, they should be close.
List any key media coverage, with a note of date and the author, including local newspapers, national press, TV and radio, and of course any blogs or websites which wrote about your project. It’s always worth keeping copies.
Keep as many photographs as possible, ideally starting with an empty shop, through the setting up, to a full and busy space with people in it, and then an empty shop again.
Write down any comments, from exhibitors, contributors, visitors, neighbouring shops, that stand out –record the negatives as well as the favourable ones, as these may well be more useful and help you learn lessons for next time.
And write your own thoughts and feelings down; what worked, and what didn’t? Why did some things swing while others were stuck in a rut? Was the project too long, or too short? When was the highpoint, and what was the low?
Keep all of this in a portfolio or folder, to refer to when planning future projects. Because now you’ve done it once, you’re going to want to pop up again!
(c) Dan Thompson www.danthompson.co.uk