Some personal reflections on the project so far

Author: Caroline Barker

We’ve got just over a week until our storytelling event and our time is very stretched getting everything ready for that. But I just want to pause for a minute and summarise some of my key learnings in the last week.

I am really proud of my new skills in how to monitor and evaluate

We’ve been lucky to work with independent evaluators Jai and Catherine (commissioned by INVOLVE to evaluate the whole project) and it’s been so invaluable. They’ve made us realise all the assumptions we’d made within our project. By recognising these, we can make sure we ask the right questions to establish exactly what aspects of the project do or don’t work in reality.

That doesn’t make me any good at documenting my learning formally

Magnus’ visual drawing during work to develop our monitoring, evaluation and learning framework.

Journaling is one of the means of documenting our learning as we go but it’s proving difficult to find the time to do it properly. This project is time consuming, and at points is all consuming. We’ll have a meeting or conversation which will make a huge change or provide some insight and learnings but we don’t then have the time to sit and reflect on this, then document that – we’ve already moved onto the next meeting or activity. We need to correct this, and that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this post. You can expect to see more reflective posts – on past and current activities.

Working with a creative mind is amazing

Debs brings such a wealth of experience to the table and she doesn’t find it difficult at all to come up with more engaging ways to do something. We were unsure of how to introduce the next stage of the project at the end of the storytelling workshop (the CCAG – more on that later). We just knew we didn’t want a formal presentation or to put people off by overcomplicating it or putting pressure on individuals. Debs suggested that one person could be interviewed by another. We’ve seen Debs do this at another event, and it felt really authentic and interesting, and seemed to be a format that resonated with the audience. We’d have never thought of this on our own.

Don’t forget to address “what’s in it for them?”

Alex once again reminded us about to address ‘what’s in it for them’ in some of our communications materials. This is not the first time this has come up, and yet we keep forgetting. We have two different groups to address in our projects – communities/organisations as a whole, and the individuals who take part in the project. Alex has provided some guidance, from his experience, about what might appeal to each of these. We’ll be asking people if that is of interest when we chat more with them.

I have my own barriers to working with new audiences

I find working in public involvement extremely rewarding, but it’s also an area where you have to constantly adapt, and it’s often very difficult to predict how much time or resource a project requires. Reaching Out has been no different. It’s such an exciting project but it’s also been difficult to fit it all in around my normal work load.

We’ve needed to give up our weekends and evenings. I’ve learnt what my own barriers are and been pushed outside of my comfort zone. For example, I’m not even that great at networking at an academic conference – so me walking into someone else’s comfortable space and having to approach them has been tough. Once I’ve got through my own barrier, everyone has been so approachable and so willing to talk. This does lead to the question of how many of these ‘barriers’ to involvement are we creating ourselves?