The work at VANL is nothing if not varied!
On arrival I trawled through my email Inbox and sorted messages into news for publication and jobs to be done. Then I made a start on extracting the text from news stories ready to go on the VANL website. Some need redrafting; others need pictures finding. Many arrive perfectly formed!
At eleven o’clock I was off with Vickie and Helen to carry out some research on behalf of a customer. We knocked on doors for two hours and interviewed those willing to speak to us – which was most of those who answered the door. In some ways this is really rewarding work because we can often solve the problems that are upsetting local people; in other ways it is highly depressing – I’ve been carrying out community research for around 15 years now, and the responses we get in some areas are exactly the same as we did 15 years ago. Nothing changes.
I’m surprised that people keep on telling us the same things – teenagers are running riot because there’s nothing for them to do and no-one to answer their questions; people who own dogs don’t clear up after them; the police don’t turn out when a crime is reported (often this seems to be because the caller doesn’t explain exactly what’s happening, and the police aren’t psychic!). A lot of people are looking for work, but the help they need isn’t on offer – single mums and stay-at-home mums need childcare, many people who have been out of work for ages need help with transport to get to the jobs available, disabled people need equipment or support to enable them to earn a living.
I have heard all about these problems before. So have those who might be able to solve them, but nothing is done, even when money is available. Lateral thinking is required. Please submit ideas that will work to me and I’ll kick up a fuss until they are set in motion. That’s part of my job!
After the research we headed back to base to write up the results. I grabbed lunch on the run, then I was on Reception while other staff were in a meeting. I used the time to write up more news articles for the Community Interest Group. As many as possible of the articles eventually surface on the VANL website, and they are circulated by an email with links to the website, by Twitter and Facebook – where links are posted for people to read the articles if they interest them. We have a circulation of well over 1,000 now through the three avenues, and people are beginning to notice that news passed through the CIG can attract wider interest. I can also advise on writing press releases, organising press campaigns and attracting interest for your group or activity through social networking.
And finally, a quick catch-up on emails and off to a meeting.
Community Development workers often attend meetings of the groups they help, to advise on procedure, problems that have arisen and projects being drafted. We can help to find funding when the project is planned and costed, and we can recommend training and other help to surmount problems, but we do try not to get further involved because our time is very limited.
As I said, a varied existence!