You guys have been awesome since the weekend when I was meant to get away to conference and then on holiday. Again I’ve been blown away by the support, friendship and morale shared with me via my friends over on twitter. So instead of moaning I wanted to show you something that is making me very happy this evening:
That is all – due out on Thursday at 8am, please keep all your bits crossed Thanks.
I’m officially on holiday and am heading into London town to see what or who I can find to entertain myself!
Am feeling much calmer than yesterday and far less angsty about the possibility that I’ll not get away on holiday; I’ve always believed that it is how you deal with situations in life that defines you, not the situations themselves…so as my bootneck mate advised me yesterday I’m “sucking it up”!!
I’ve put on one of my favourite Howies t-shirts and am going out to explore and have every intention of having a great couple days in London town. Suggestions of places to visit so far include Houses of Parliament, Tate, London Eye and Covent Garden.
Please leave a comment with anywhere you think is worth a look – and go on, be generous, I know you wouldn’t normally share your favourite haunts with the masses in case they become too popular and you can’t enjoy them any more – but just this once, please
Photo by Dimitry B
For a while now I’ve been following a few people on twitter who have one or two feet in the design camp (or at least I think they do). I’m thinking of @fergusbisset @rufflemuffin @redjotter @segelstrom and @niccombe for starters. I’m quite strict with myself on twitter and am determined to keep my following count to under 200 so as tempted as I am to follow more like @designthinkers @choosenick @wenovski @thinkpublic @sidekickstudios to name a few, I’m trying to keep my distance! Part of the reason for keeping a distance is that I figure all the good stuff tends to get retweeted these days and I think the danger of following too many people is that I’d risk losing my objectivity.
I have been particularly drawn to a lot of talk around service design and some of the applications of it. Whilst genuinely seeing the potential for a lot of the methods that service designers seem to talk of, I’m also intrigued in the overlap to good old fashioned social science research methods.
One of the methods that I was particularly drawn to was the idea of using personas (disclaimer: I’m not sure if these are a service design method, or some other sort of design method, or not really a method at all). From my uneducated design stand point they sounded like a great idea; I thought they’d be similar to case studies or vignettes that we use in social work and I have used in the past in education settings. Except when I first started looking at a few personas in papers that people had sent around, or in following discussions on blogs and project pages etc, they all looked a little too simplistic. They tended to be talking about people who were uni-dimensional, so for example there might have been one person who had a mobility problem, then another who had a visual impairment or the like but never have I seen a persona where both of those factors are combined.
So, in short, personas were just not real enough for me; people are complex and personas were simple!
Social workers tend to work with people who need lots of support in society and the people that they are involved with on a daily basis tend to be complex beings. So one client might have mobility difficulties, a visual impairment and a mental health problem; another be an elderly person requiring support with getting up and dressed in the morning but also caring for their adult daughter with a learning disbaility; I strongly suspected that people who require the support of social care services would rarely fit what appeared to be a persona model. So its fair to say I was sceptical.
Over drinks the other week I shared this scepticism with @niccombe and @fergusbisset; what followed was a defence of the approach from Ferg, some challenge from Nic and even more uncertainty for me. Fast forward a month or so and I’m stranded in London not able to go away on holiday, you can read more here or here but it’s a sorry tale so you’ll need a hanky ;). Anyway there is a silver lining to this volcano cloud in that today I found myself reading this book:
Within this book there is a whole chapter on personas; it explains the thinking and the theory, the pros and cons, the whats and whys, how to create them and so on. I’m not going to just copy chunks out of the chapter but the most reassuring bit for me was to hear that personas are nearly always created following user research and aren’t just dreamt up out of creative thoughts; that they focus on skills, attitudes, behaviours, aims and goals; and that they are not ‘average’ but rather they are typical, which I think is a really important distinction and much easier for me to imagine the benefit of them. The other point the chapter covered that I was glad to see fronted up was why personas were easier to use than real people (save time, dont start to think like the design team and don’t have idiosyncrasies like colour preferences) – a question I’ve often wondered but never really explored.
So I’ve understood one more thing today, I’ve got loads more questions and will be looking to explore how design can impact on social work further, but for now I’m one step closer to being convinced of the value of personas. If anyone reading this has any examples of design being used in social care I’d love to hear from you, please post a comment here or come talk to me on twitter @georgejulian.
Photo by Josef.Stuefer
So yesterday, if all had gone according to plan, I’d have flown to Canada for a conference. Right now those that made it (teams from Australia, Canada and Americe) will be getting up and ready for the day, I’ve spent the morning clearing an email backlog and am about to go and find a cafe to sit in and read a report that is with our designers to give them feedback, before turning the work laptop off for two weeks and concentrating on some me time.
Having had my flight cancelled twice already, at the moment I am scheduled on a flight out of London on Thursday morning that would enable my holiday to go ahead with minimal disruption. Although really I’m not overly optimistic that I’ll be going anywhere.
So where does that leave me. Well to be honest I’m a bit lost! I’m usually quite a resilient person but for the last few days I’ve felt the cracks appearing around the edges. Those of you who know me will know that I’ve had a fairly pressured past six months, I’ve been promoted; been trying to keep a very stretched and very short staffed team together; missed out on my holiday last year in a (definitely misguided) decision to try to do what was best for work; been living my life out of a suitcase and trying to function on far too little sleep! So I really, really needed this holiday – my first in 18mths.
The realist in me knows that it looks like the holiday wont happen. Since Saturday I’ve been looked out for by a few close friends who’ve helped to maintain my sanity, to provide me with accommodation, to supply me with company, food and chocolate brownies. I’m amazed at their generosity but am also feeling unsettled about needing to rely too heavily on it. Thank you to @katiekatetweets @fergusbisset and @niccombe.
So what’s to do? At the moment it’s a case of sitting it out and waiting to see whether Thursday’s flight will leave – for me that would be the best case scenario for a number of reasons. Sitting and waiting is really rather hard though, especially when your fate lies in the hands of nature….don’t worry I’m aware that it always does, we’ve just created a society where that truth is well hidden from us most of the time. The other option would be to be proactive and decide to cancel the holiday – this doesn’t even feel like an option I want to consider but it does have the silver lining of at least letting you feel that you are in control. For now at least the first option wins out, I’ll work this afternoon, take tomorrow and Wednesday off to explore London town (anyone who wants to meet up give me a shout) and hope that the situation changes in time for Thursday and I’ve promised myself not to keep checking the NATS website for updates.
I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve realised with you all:
- None of this matters! I was musing yesterday about the bigger impact for other people, remembering when Dad was ill and the panic I felt when his consultant went on holiday in case anything happened to him or he didn’t make it back! (Irrational I know) That said, there will be people whose lives are likely to be changed forever in very real ways as a result of this – I know I’m not one of them
- I am way too hard on myself, I’m constantly trying to be reasonable and keep hold of the fact that none of this matters; but it does matter to me (I know, I know I’m contradicting myself) and getting frustrated and irritated by it is ok in small doses
- Never, EVER work yourself so hard that you reach a point where you need a holiday to maintain your sanity – because there are no guarantees in life. I was challenged this weekend about whether I needed a holiday to run away/avoid something or to seek/find something. I think the reality is both, either way I know I should have slowed down or stopped before this.
- So much in life is affected by how much autonomy or control we have over a situation. The problem is that we don’t *really* have much control over lots of things in life and I think the challenge I face is learning to accept things more as they are and not seeking control.
So some parting words of wisdom from the Desiderata:
With all it’s sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful, strive to be happy.
I’m not sure about happy, but accepting will do me
The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft a-gley; And leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy
As I type this I should be relaxing on a train winging its way to London to spend the night with friends before jumping on a tube up to Heathrow and checking in for my flight to Canada. I might even have been enjoying the work of Robbie Burns whose quotation is above
Two years ago the organisation I work for, research in practice for adults, joined forces with our sister organisation, research in practice, to host an international conference looking at the use of evidence in improving social work practice. We were joined by teams from all over the globe, who came to Dartington for a couple of days where some brilliant discussions were held, some contacts were made, resources and ideas shared and friendships formed. Two years on and our friends at PART (Practice and Research Together) together with the Child and Youth Mental Health Information Network in Canada have taken on the mantle and are hosting the next conference.
This conference has literally been two years in the planning – or at least in the thinking. A beautiful lakeside venue has been booked, teams are attending from Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden and the USA, papers have already been written and a publishing deal negotiated. The conference has a great timetable, including opportunities to start moving on establishing some international projects. I have ten days of holiday tacked onto the end of conference – my first in 18 months. So, altogether exciting times.
….and then a volcano in Iceland decided to start erupting.
At this time it looks like the Finns, Irish, Scottish and most of the English teams will not be making it. I am determined to do my best to get there – and not just because I have a holiday afterwards (although that might be fuelling my determination) but because I know how much hard work goes into organising something like this. The Canadian hosts seem remarkably resilient and accepting of the situation, I’m amazed at their attitude, in awe almost….although there have been several mentions of the size of the wine order and the anticipated benefits of a reduced attendance I guess it’s quite simple really, some things in life are genuinely out of our control, a lesson worth remembering.
Volcano dust permitting next week I will be at conference in Canada before ten days on a very long overdue, and desperately needed, holiday. So I have to take some work gear with me (laptop, couple papers, smartish clothes) and clothes for 10 days holiday; I’m deluding myself (am quite good at this) and taking my running gear; might need a winter coat – need to check the weather report before going and I’m very aware that the holiday bit involves quite a lot of train travel so I don’t want too much luggage.
So I thought I’d let twitter and my blog readers help me out…what one thing do I need to take on holiday with me? What do you always take, or always take too many of, that I should leave behind? What am I most likely to forget?
Oh and if you’re going to be helpful, and I know all you lovely people will want to be what is the one thing/place/experience/food/pub that is unmissable in Toronto, Montreal, New York or Niagara? Help plan the itinerary, you know you want to. Thanks.
So last night nearly 10million people in the UK settled down to watch the Leaders Debate on ITV. I’d been around my best mates house for dinner and she was more interested in watching DIY SOS than election stuff so I came home to watch it and to be honest I was really glad I did because I found the whole thing irritating beyond belief.
In a nutshell I felt that Nick Clegg did much better than I was expecting, Gordon Brown was also better than I’d imagined he would be and I found David Cameron really disappointing. Annoying arse of the evening award had to go to Alistair Stewart though.
I was all fired up last night and wanted to blog but I’d deliberately left my power lead in work so I only did 3.5hours work and by the time I went to write a post I was out of juice. In the cold light of this evening I’m much more chilled and hopefully more reflective so this might make more sense anyhow.
My general thought this evening is centred around what a missed opportunity it was! I thought the format was alright but no more than alright. I felt that it would have really benefited from some genuine audience interaction; I wanted to hear more from each of the leaders – I’d have rather it covered fewer topics and they’d actually discussed their policies rather than a liberal dosage of politics by anecdote. While I was delighted to hear social care get a mention, I was less pleased to see cancer treatment rolled out as a political issue (and trust me cancer is an issue I care about deeply but not above and beyond all other matters) and couldn’t believe that no-one mentioned dementia. I was also pleased to hear support for school federation but didn’t really learn enough about any of their education policies…agreed entirely with the 17 year old lad who asked the question though, my experience is that the education system is far too focused on targets at a cost of education for education’s sake. Finally I welcomed the acknowledgement and agreement of all the leaders that carers are heroes…now if only they didn’t forget that.
Having said all of that I was really hoping that I’d learn more and actually have a clearer idea of who to vote for as a result, sadly that isn’t the case. I am absolutely no clearer about how I should use my vote….and my vote is worth more than most, 0.330 in Newton Abbot over a national average of 0.253…you can find out more at the Voter Power Index.
The other thing that has been surprising me lately is that normally if I want to learn about something I don’t know much about my twitter stream is a useful source. However since the election was announced there appears to have been a huge increase in people passing views or anecdotes or slagging parties off, but very little constructive comment. I’m truly not interested in what the Prime Minister’s wife’s toes look like, or where Samantha Cameron is visiting, or how many of those living on the edge of society our leading politicians have had a chat with this week, or where they went to school, or indeed what class they are. Neither am I interested in people I usually respect on my twitter stream just slagging other parties off.
I respect people who stand up for what they believe and I have a lot of time for those who are committed to a particular party or viewpoint…however I still don’t know who to vote for and I’ve received very little convincing policy information or ideas from their representatives or from my usual favourite twitter suspects and I’m a bit disappointed really. I’m hoping someone will rise to the challenge and try to convince me why I should use my vote for the party they support…based on some real policy argument; please…someone…anyone…pitch to me why I should vote for your party? Or even why I should vote?
In the meantime, take a butchers at this piccie that @paul_clarke tweeted just after midday yesterday – his predictions for the twitter coverage of the leaders debate that were completely vindicated and sum up all my waffle above far more eloquently
Big thanks to Paul Clarke for letting me copy his piccie.
Now please would someone convince me to vote! Thanks very much.
OK, this is a random post…I’m not sure who I’m kidding that most of my posts aren’t random, but this one is particularly random. I’m blogging purely to share this pic that I found searching the creative commons images on flickr. I love it!
The photo was taken at Carbon Bar in Marble Arch, London and the explanation is that the men’s toilets were signified by a spanner and the women’s a rolling pin (nothing like a nice bit of gender stereotyping) and the disabled toilet is unisex – hence the sign.
I think next time I’m up in the smoke I might try and find the Carbon Bar…let me know if you fancy coming along and hooking up for a drink; I’ll even bring my rolling pin!
A couple days ago I blogged on the excuses that I tend to hide behind when I’m not in the mood to go for a run. I was delighted at the response this post got, a few comments on here but mostly over on twitter. I have yet to see whether it actually had any real impact and genuinely encouraged anyone else to go out for a run…but I guess time will tell.
So I went for a run on Sunday and prefer to have a rest day in between runs (I love the way I type that like I’m marathon training or something; lets just pretend that I do enough to warrant resting, indulge me for now) which meant I should be running yesterday (Tuesday). Except I didn’t sleep well the night before… and I had to get a train that morning… and I was walking to the station… and you get the picture, see what I’m doing here, they’re creeping back in the excuses! Tuesday night I was staying in London and so I decided to throw my running gear in my case, just in case I was in the mood to head out this morning!
This morning came, I turned the alarm off, snoozed for half an hour, then turned it off again… then eventually gave myself a stiff talking to and realised I was only kidding myself with all my excuses (I’m too tired, I’ve not got time now, I don’t know where I am etc etc etc)… so I am delighted to announce that I did force myself out for a run and better still, I really enjoyed it I was irritated at myself for delaying it earlier and it meant I really could only spend about 25mins outside. I was staying near Marble Arch and had the complete pleasure of running in Hyde Park. It was awesome, there were loads of people around, the horseguard were exercising their horses, there are monuments, a lake and things to look at….really London people, get out into your parks, they’re awesome.
Photo by @Larsnow
So I had an awesome time this morning and was delighted to have bothered; I was so enthused (and a little sweaty) that I even avoided the lift and walked upstairs when I got back to my hotel…all 81 of them!
One thing I do want to share with you all though is my most bemusing moment to date! As I headed out on my run, I was dressed in my gear (admittedly I dont look like a pro but I have trainers, a sports top and lycra leggings on…not an outfit I’d wear for any other reason I promise), turned the corner by Marble Arch tube and the guy offered me a Metro… urgh purlease, could he not see I was a highly tuned athlete about to embark on a serious exercise session?? Obviously he couldn’t, at first I was insulted but later I realised it was fantastic…for those of you who like the idea of going for a run but are put off by the reality…head to Marble Arch, grab a metro and go sit in the park. Happy days.
I got home from work tonight just in time to catch Young, Autistic and Stagestruck on Channel 4+1. I’ve not been up to speed on tv lately and would have missed this but I’m hoping someone would have told me about it…altho there was surprisingly little chat in my twitter stream about it! So keep an eye out, it’s a series so I’ll be setting the V+ box.
The programme information on the Channel 4 website states the following:
Rather than make a four-part series that simply observed the lives of young people with autism and highlighted what they can’t do, we wanted to work actively with them to show what they can do. In particular, we wanted to see how involvement in an artistic process – in this case, putting on a show – might benefit them.
I’m very familiar with autism and have a curious fascination with how people with autism perceive the world. My first in-depth experience of someone with autism came when I was volunteering at uni, with a lad called Ben. Myself and my mate Jane visited Ben every week on a Wednesday afternoon, and every week without fail we would watch the Lion King…honestly if I never see Simba again it will be too soon. Ben was very ‘typically’ autistic – if you can be such a thing. He liked routines, wasn’t fond of strangers, showed very little empathy and struggled to keep control of his temper…I really can’t imagine him liking anything about the idea of taking part in this show, which is partly why it grabbed my attention.
I’ve not finished watching it yet but I wanted to blog already about Claire! She’s the one in the grey cardie in the middle of the picture above. Claire is very musical and during the first episode there is a scene where the group are taking part in a singing session – piece of cake you’d think, Claire really doesn’t have anything to worry about, she has a great voice and can sing. Except she makes a mistake, a very small mistake and sings the wrong part at the wrong time. The guy leading the group stops her and points it out, I thought very nicely but Claire is inconsolable.
There follows a heart breaking moment for me where the film crew ask what is wrong (as the tears and mascara are streaming down her face) – Claire responds as follows:
“I don’t like making mistakes because back in the past when I did people kind of, made a mockery of me, I’m too frightened to make mistakes. People can’t just respect you for who you are, they can’t, they absolutely can’t. Sometimes its a mistake, I make mistakes being myself as well”
Claire goes on to say that she feels it’s a safe place for her to cry because ‘outside’ it’s not. Wow, what struck me was the instant sense of community these guys had created (it was only day two) and they were all strangers beforehand – no mean feat with any group of ten young people, never mind ten young people who all have autism.
On a different level, I felt that Claire really spoke for all of us – no-one likes making mistakes, lots of people can’t just respect you for who you are, and I for one am always making mistakes being myself! I really would urge each and every one of you to take an hour and go watch this show, to see the struggles these young people face, but also to realise just how similar their struggles are….I’ll not even start about Andrew and his wants for a girlfriend, that’s for another time.
Pick what you’re interested in…
- @C0tt0n1 @CharStamper thanks both, think am gonna give it a miss - neither of you sound massively convinced!! tweeted 21 hours ago
- @Samhudmiller @CollegeofSW I'll be blogging that session on the @LSE_SCEIP project website soon so wld love to carry on this convo #cclive13 tweeted 21 hours ago
- @C0tt0n1 @CharStamper is it worth a watch on +1 and/or will I just end up shouting at the TV? tweeted 21 hours ago
- RT @isleofeigg: Pls RT Calling all DOCTORS Amazing GP job in Eigg Small Isles & West Lochaber! West coast Scotland at its best. http://t.co… tweeted 21 hours ago
- @Samhudmiller @CollegeofSW and the discussion focused on whether individual's have a personal professional responsibility to prioritise tweeted 22 hours ago
- @Samhudmiller hi Sam, was quoting Owen Davies from @CollegeofSW in those #cclive13 tweets...the college have plans to support that capacity tweeted 22 hours ago
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