The opportunity to work on a “real” project with an active charity was a major influence on my decision to study at York. I chose a local charity, Survive, mainly because I had joined its board of trustees a couple of months earlier; it presented an opportunity both to get to know the organisation better and to engage with a cause that strongly resonates with me. Survive supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and survivors of (mainly historical) adult sexual violence. Funding in the charity sector is notoriously precarious; although Survive has strong indicators for improving well-being over the course of their support, the organisation seeks to better understand the extent to which these positive effects are long-lasting or transient. “Measuring Long-term Impacts of Short-term Interventions” was my project.
It would have been ethically untenable to attempt to conduct any long-term follow-up activities with Survive’s former clients, as we had not sought prior permission to reconnect. Instead, we set out with several potential directions for the project to evolve. However, we frequently found that the information we wanted simply did not exist. Resilience and flexibility were vital for us. Over the course of the two weeks, we conducted a mix of focus groups and interviews with several survivor organisations across the UK, and academics from three continents. We also spent considerable time teasing out how this piece of work connected to human rights; the international projects’ human rights angles are certainly more easily understandable.
As someone geographically constrained in terms of future employment, discovering how much could be achieved in the not-for-profit sector without leaving Yorkshire was hugely reassuring; looking back I’m also amazed by how much we achieved in such a short time. For me personally, the module learning was less about the technical skills (project management, risk management, survey design, interviewing skills, etc.) and more the research strategy and making sense of often contradictory qualitative data.
The age- and experience-gap within our team (I am twice the age of my two co-projecteers) was very challenging at times, but out of this I have developed new strategies that I believe will enable me to manage people and projects more effectively in future. I loved doing the research itself – literature-hunting on a little-researched topic; reaching out to so many complete strangers, sometimes as a student, and sometimes switching “identity” to use my membership of the organisation as a way in.