The final report for this project is almost finished. I have had the great honour of volunteering on this effort with Kate White (who is super enough to deserve many blog posts in her praise) and the other leaders of the task and finish groups, and the HUGE pleasure of working to be a contributing member of a community and place that is (rather newly) my home.* That is London.
Before I hand in my blogging pen for this project, however, let me give a bit of extra attention to three important meetings we had that have not been mentioned earlier in the blog.
1. We met with James Banks, Chief Executive of Greater London Volunteering. James is a wise and very humble person. He imparted immense knowledge about the undocumented volunteering that happens all over London (and in most places). As a data collector and researcher who likes to study social issues, I was enthralled. Of course, much of this activity was known to me, already. I know how much time I spend volunteering in sports related events and clubs, and I know how most volunteers, historically, have volunteered through their religious organisations. Until James asked us to consider ways to incorporate these groups, though, I had assumed that the project was not going to try to incorporate those two - possibly largest - groups of voluntary organisations. The researcher in me was eager to get out there and get to it (imagine Dora the Explorer)- ready to collect masses and masses and masses (maybe even from masses) of data about what all these really kind and energetic people do to take care of other people in the community.
2. We met with Sharon Long, a few times, to consider issues around data and youth. Sharon is a passionate and energetic advocate for young people. She exudes an energy for resolving problems faced by youth in London. From Sharon we heard a desire to really use - with young people - big data sets to interrogate what is working and not working for kids who grow up in London. She stands willing, eagerly to work on big data projects, and to involve the youth of London in resolving challenges.
3. I sent a message out to London Sport, and was warmly welcomed to come along and start working with them as they endeavour, already, to use data to make London the most active city in the world! Yay! They, too, have committed resources to data collection and data sharing, and they are happy to plan projects with civil society.
Taking on the challenge of engaging with all of the faith-based volunteer groups, awaits the next phase of this project. It is a huge and important part of collecting data about needs and resources in London. We made a few contacts in this sweep of stakeholders, however. In those conversations though, it was very apparent to me that groundwork needs to be laid and trust developed. This was an unfortunate finding, given that the groups I contacted are working with large populations of people in real need. James was right. There is a lot of work to be done there, and it is important if we are serious about co-production and understanding community need. The good news is that there are thousands of great people to work with!
Working with youth and sport organisations, though, has a different challenge - they are ready and willing! We'd better hurry. There is loads that we can learn!
It is all very exciting! I can't wait to see how it turns out! Go Team London!!