Abena Obeng - IVAR intern

An intern’s eye view of action research

Having worked in arts participation where I programmed a theatre skills and employability workshop for about 4 years, I felt the need for a change in my career path and was unsure of which direction to take. To explore my interests and learn new skills, I decided to pursue an internship at IVAR. This opportunity would allow me to test myself and determine whether a career in research would be a good fit for me. And I was glad to get it!

What did I want to get from this internship at IVAR?

At the beginning of my time at IVAR I set out objectives I hoped to reach at my time there. The five weeks flew by, and as soon as I had settled in, it was time to think about leaving- isn’t this always the case?

I had aims to complete a robust research report that highlights successes and areas for improvement when working with young people in IVAR’s current practice and to inform their work going forward. I looked to gain a wider understanding of the varied projects with charities, foundations and public agencies whose main focus was to strengthen communities. Finally, I wanted to develop my own personal Interview style which aids to draw out key themes and learning points, producing concise action points to provide positive impacts to programmes and systems.

What did I do at IVAR?

The work started with attending Community Leadership Academy, Leading in Uncertainty, The Jane Hatfield Award and Trussell Trust meetings where I supported and took notes. My focus alongside this was conducting interviews with young peoples’ project leads and Jane Hatfield Awardees, concluding with pulling all my findings together into a presentation for the IVAR team.

Two main takeaways for IVAR to consider in their work with young people:

What IVAR does well and should continue doing: IVAR provides peer spaces where young people can meet like-minded peers, providing opportunities to network and build new relationships. Remaining flexible enables participants to take part in programmes and at their own pace. Maintaining the balance between stretching and supporting participants to reach their potential. Reflecting on my own experience at IVAR, having a stable routine and the autonomy to work at my own pace has helped me to deliver a good research piece and grow in confidence for my next steps.

Areas for improvement: Outreach would help to ensure a rich mix were applying for programmes. Ensuring the language used in applications is accessible to a wider audience, breaking down terms like “peer researcher.” Finally, looking at the prospect of building an alumni network and places for networking to continue to engage and grow relationships with past programme participants.

And finally…

Overall, my main learning was in research. You may have preconceived ideas of what you expect to happen or the answers to solve an issue, but once you start talking with people you have to be willing to pivot and listen to who is in front of you and champion them. That is the key to helping create change. Whilst observing the different styles of presenting from my colleagues during meetings and report forms, I used this to build my own unique way of conducting research. Completing this research and reflecting on everything that has happened these past weeks, I am proud of my commitment and ability to try out something new. In the new year I look forward to building a career in a charity. whether it be in research working with 16-30 year-olds or people experiencing homelessness.

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