Friday, 16 May 2008

a vision of the future

I've just been looking up some websites about social firms - businesses created to provide employment opportunities for disabled people. A disabled person in this instance could be someone with a physical impairment or mobility problem, have an understanding or communication difficulty, a mental health problem, impaired sight or hearing.

One of the websites is IMBY (I'm assuming it stands for 'in my back yard') which has been around since 1996, employs more than 20 staff, has a turnover of around £600K and believes that 'disabled and non-disabled people should be able to live and work alongside each other without anyone being surprised about it'. There is a page on the website that describes a vision of the future: and I thought I would share it with you as I found it interesting and thought provoking. The author Mark Powell is the Chief Executive of IMBY and I've heard him before on a podcast talking about social firms, an inspiring speaker who makes you want to find out more about the subject.

Not sure if this is completely to do with adult learning but there is a link I suppose if we think of 'barriers to learning', how to involve people with disabilities and how to be more inclusive.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

starting interviews & focus groups

I'm having a week off just now, enjoying the sunny weather and getting into the garden. Also preparing for next week's start of the one-to-one interviews and focus groups, a chance to speak to people about learning - the learning they have been involved in and the learning opportunities they would like to access.

We'll be using a semi-structured interview style, some focussed questions that also allow the interviewee time to talk about their views and opinions. Hopefully people will be able to discuss their hopes and dreams linked to the learning experience, what they would like to achieve in the future if the barriers were removed and if they had the confidence and information at hand to do this.

It's good that I will be helped in this work by a postgraduate community education student who has been on placement with the council, and she is already contacting groups and individuals to prepare the way. We will both learn more about narrative interviews and focus groups by doing it and by reflecting on the experience. I remember when I was a student on the same course over 10 years ago, the excitement and challenge of the placement, gathering all the required evidence and matching it up with other bits of evidence and linking it to different criteria - not an easy job .... At the same time we had to write reflective accounts of every event and it seemed like telling the same story over and over again!

I'm also getting lots of help from the other project team members, thanks to all of you, and it's been an enjoyable piece of work because of the support from this team. They are the people on the ground doing the day-to-day work, organising learning opportunities, helping people to meet up with each other, reducing social isolation and just being there.

I hope that I can do a good job of writing the report, capturing the essence of the work that is going on, the learning opportunities and also revealing some of the hoped-for learning and the potential revealed in these regeneration areas. There is a lot of hope already there, many people who are true community activists and give their time in serving the community, working with each other to improve communication and services.

This could be summed up by the phrase 'the complete is more than the sum of its pieces' or 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts' (attributed to the Greeks, possibly Aristotle)