And it has come to an end. A really interesting experience…
I finished the main report I was putting together for the waste campaign. This will be published on the Birmingham Friends of the Earth website in the near future and also will be used in other publications and communications of the organisation.
Along the road, I benefited from feedback and insight of other long-lasting members of the organisation; to understand the campaigning basics and specifically with relation to the waste campaign. The campaign has got more to go before achieving its goals, and of course the end success matters hugely, but I think the journey is greatly rewarding as well and something to enjoy.
It’s been over a month now since I finished my Charity Insights internship with Sense About Science and amidst the hectic nature of freshers week and returning to university I have been reflecting on the experience.
Before my internship I was interested in the work done by SAS and I knew a lot – or at least I thought I did – about the interplay between science, society, politicians and the media. Since my internship I have come to realise that the issues and solutions are much more complex, but also much more interesting. This idea was always stewing in the back of my mind during my time at SAS and was really brought to the forefront when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2015 Sense About Science lecture: The Ugly Truth.
I arrived fresh on Monday morning ready to take on the most exciting and interactive part of my project at Tamil Women Development Forum. This was the interviewing of some of the members of the TWDF, as well other key women’s rights activists with regards to the situation of Tamil-speaking women in the North and East and plantations of Sri Lanka. I arrived a little early on the first day of interviews, a little nervous and unsure what to expect. Thankfully, as was always the case when interacting with people attached to the Centre for Community Development (the overall charity of which TWDF is one initiative, among others, that they are responsible for) the interviewees were very warm and welcoming.
Much of my first week had been spent conducting a literature review on the material with which I planned to include in my report, though this continued intermittently a few days into the second week. As mentioned in the last blog post, I found it very interesting to see how long the Tamil Women Development Forum had been around. It was humbling to be analysing the work of many great and inspiring women’s activists and I often found myself engrossed while reading decade’s old literature that had been produced by them well past my leaving time – even when it was not directly relevant to my project!
As mentioned in my last blog post, the raised beds had been severely damaged. After discussing the practicability of the raised beds with staff, I found that raised beds are not any more advantageous for wheel chair users than normal flat beds are. I decided to change the plans and remove the raised beds, this fitted with our model for sustainability as it meant the garden was a lot easier to maintain the long run.
Getting rid of the raised beds meant hiring a skip, which meant tenancy meeting. This impacted the budget and a lot of man power was required to shift the more than 3 cubic metres of soil.
One major problem with politicians today is there is a huge lack of trust. People simply don’t believe their claims. The same issue can be applied to society more broadly, particularly media and advertisements. People know that when something seems too good to be true it probably is, but they don’t know what to do about it.
To address this Sense About Science set up the ask for evidence campaign, and in particular askforevidence.org to encourages the public to challenge unbelievable claims directly, asking those who make them to provide evidence which can then be scrutinised and evaluated. Since it’s launch less than a year ago askforevidence.org has seen over 1000 queries from frustrated members of the public seeking evidence from those who make extraordinary claims.
Here we are, my third post. Two quick section here, one on my work progress so far, and then a bit from my experience of doing Charity Insight.
Section a) The work keeps getting even more interesting, as we go along. I am still working on the first bit of research I was doing for waste management strategy for Birmingham. We have found some interesting facts about other local authorities and how they manage their waste and what lessons are to be learnt from them. The report will be public after finishing it if anyone would ever be interested to have a look.
The works began on the garden and would continue for my remaining time on the internship. We were slightly delayed as BT sent a team, as a part of their charity pledge, to clean up the garden; however they had not completed their works and the wooden borders containing the existing raised beds had been damaged.
As the garden hadn’t been maintained or weeded for more than several years a good deal of time was spent clearing these weeds and trees growing out of the patio slabs. We were again delayed as we weren’t clear to use chemicals in the garden as there were several pets and we didn’t want to risk poisoning them.
My final week at the foundation was unfortunately disrupted by acute tonsillitis, meaning I had to stay at home some time to rest, before moving on to being able to work some hours from home and then finally returning to work in the office.
In this week I returned to a project given to me by one of the Trustees during my arrival. This was to compile a spreadsheet containing information about some of the wealthiest millionaires and billionaires within the borough, particularly with regards to whether or not some of them might have charitable foundations in their name to which the foundation may be able to apply for support.
If you’re working hard with your head down and without time to look up, time flies by, something I have been reminded of this week. One of the first tasks assigned to me by the new Director was to modify a document used by her previous charity to act as a form of agreement with high profile supporters, detailing exactly what the Foundation would require of them as well as what they would expect of us. This helps clarify the potential relationship, making things unambiguous and clear, therefore reducing the chance of disagreement and disappointments on either side. It also gives the request a sense of professionalism and makes it easier for the prospect in question to say yes and agree to help get the Foundation’s message across to people.