As reported on the blog earlier in the year, Hannah Bradshaw, a doctoral student in SOCLAS, has just completed a prestigious internship with the Welsh Assembly Government. Hannah tells us a bit more about her experiences here:
During 2010, and early 2011 the Welsh Government launched Delivering a Digital Wales and Digital Wales: Delivery Plan, a framework for action and set of goals and activities needed to make Wales a ‘truly digital nation’.
My project remit contained three areas; a review of the evidence, a framework of analysis and a series of case studies.
The purpose of this review was to describe the main findings and shortcomings of recent research into the economic and social costs and benefits of digital inclusion and exclusion for individuals, businesses, and wider society, while challenging underlying assumptions of policy intervention in these areas. This helped develop the evidence base for the Welsh Government and informed further Social Research Division reports as they move forward with this policy area.
From the review of the evidence and the methods informing this, recommendations were made on how to develop a robust framework for exploring costs and benefits in Wales.
Leading on from the review, and informed by existing studies and the methodological recommendations in part II, were a series of case studies with older people in Carmarthenshire, designed to provide an understanding of the lived experiences of those affected by these policies.
Why do an ESRC internship?
When I began the Internship, I wanted to gain experience of working in the civil service, and to develop my confidence with research design and presentation outside academia. I thought that it would be interesting and helpful to experience the different ways of conducting research and to further understand the workings of evidence-based policy making.
I also felt that it would be helpful to do this before travelling to Colombia for my fieldwork as that will be quite an intense experience and I hoped that this time in Cardiff would be a rewarding, interesting and positive learning experience while allowing me to step back from my PhD project for a short time and analyse it from a different perspective.
I also hoped to have contact with researchers based in South Wales who are working with media and identity in small nations.
I found the Welsh Government an incredibly stimulating environment to work in. I was provided with ample opportunity to attend training days, discuss my findings with others outside the department, participate in meetings and explore my ideas.
I was also able to attend conferences that had importance for my PhD research and was able to combine the two quite well due to considerable overlap (Cyfrwng 2011: International Conference on Media and Culture in Small Nations – was particularly pertinent and really interesting. I hope to participate as a presenter in upcoming years).
On the whole I would say that my original expectations were met and exceeded and I would recommend participating in the programme to any ESRC funded students, as it is well worth it.
Sharing of results
I have shared the findings from my project with the researchers in the Social Research and Statistics Divisions within the Welsh Government. They have also placed it on file within the Welsh Government system (and physically deposited in the Library at Cathays Park in Cardiff and with the Communities 2.0 teams in Merthyr Tydfil and Llandaff) so that others can access it.
I am also now in touch with people from Age Cymru and the Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services (who work with the idea of Digital Inclusion with older people) who wish to use the research that I have done. We are discussing adapting it to the various fora.
I am looking at writing a paper combining my MA dissertation and internship research, but as I am travelling to my fieldwork location immediately after finishing, timing will depend upon external factors.
I fully intend to maintain a relationship with both the Welsh Government and the IWA. This will necessarily be long distance until 2012 as I will be outside the country as part of my PhD fieldwork, but I would really like to work with them again.
I have also begun developing a relationship with the Carmarthenshire Association of Voluntary Services, CAVS, that runs a community radio station in the area and wishes to develop a sharing project with a Colombian counterpart.
I definitely feel more confident presenting findings in varied environments, as well as working with different sectors. I would like to work in Social Research in the future, and this has shown me that it is a very real possibility. I have been able to make contacts with academics with whom I intend to continue working both in the UK and abroad. One of these is based in Auckland, New Zealand (working with the Maori and community radio, so incredibly close to my own research) and the possibility of utilising the opportunity of the Overseas Institutional Visit and comparing research findings once I have completed my fieldwork, would be amazing. I feel that I have extended my research network, and become part of the conversation in my own field, at the same time, building on my understanding of what that entails.
I have found this to be a really positive experience on the whole. It has built my confidence in my own research and writing abilities, and I am thankful for the opportunity. The feedback that I have received from the Welsh Government has made me realise that this is actually something that I am good at!