What’s in a Name?

It might not matter for roses but it would appear that when you are recruiting volunteers to undertake peer evaluation it can matter quite a lot...

A meeting in Bristol last week provided me with a wealth of information about the other forms of peer evaluation being used by Ageing Better Programmes across England. I met staff, and most importantly some of the peer evaluators from across the country, and learned about the different approaches they are taking.

In Bristol, they have a cohort of ‘Community Researchers’ who have been with Bristol Ageing Better from the beginning. One of the lessons learned was that if there isn’t meaningful work to undertake volunteers get very frustrated; however, it has meant that they have had an opportunity to be involved in a wide range of activities including designing the research questions.

In Sheffield they have had a very small cohort of ‘Peer Researchers’ and found it difficult to recruit more. The information was interesting but there was not enough of it. They have had a rethink, and re-name and now have a cohort very similar to ours. Their volunteers are now ‘Story Catchers’, but unlike our one meeting light-touch ‘Volunteer Listeners’, they will be undertaking longitudinal studies with participants of specific projects.

In Torbay they are called ‘Citizen Evaluators’ ; supported directly bythe SERIO team from Plymouth University they are able to undertake independent evaluations. They too were recruited near the start of the programme, received a good programme of training in a range of research skills, have been involved in helping to decide on methods and approaches, and have found the process empowering.

In Leicester they are undertaking quite a different project. They have ‘Community Explorers’, who will be undertaking independent research projects to try to identify and solve issues for older people that interest them. This is taking place as afterword to the Leicester Ageing Together programme which is coming to an end in the autumn.

These different names, representing different methods of carrying our peer evaluation, should together result in a rich vein of learning from the programmes, enabling everyone involved to leave a valuable legacy.

My final learning point was that I should learn to be nosier about my fellow passengers on the train! Aletheia from Sheffield and I sat next to each other the whole way from Sheffield to Bristol, but as we had never met before we had no idea we were going to the same meeting or were running similar projects – opportunity missed!

Jessica Duffy
Time to Shine Learning Facilitator

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