The Agency: Questions for the people

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This week was all about research. Finding out what members of the community wanted, needed and would support.

After getting warmed up in Providence we were quickly in the media suite generating Questionnaires that would enable all the Agents to ask people in Battersea questions about what they thought would benefit the area. This happened remarkably quickly. With the help of Roxanna, one of our new research assistants, and a concerted effort from everyone involved, within half an hour everyone had come up with nuanced questionnaires with an accompanying answer sheet to allow them to record their findings.

The next problem was the printer! We couldn’t seem to work out the childproof printing system so we emailed them all to Roisin who ran up to BAC to print them out while we finished up, locked the premises and headed up to meet her equipped in the new Agency hoodies!

The next two hours were spent overcoming the fear of approaching people. I was out with Arnold and Mohammed and it was brilliant to see how quickly they found people they thought would be interested in their ‘Get Fit Fast’ playground and fitness training idea, honing in on parents who might be keen to see a new free resource for their children. It was really great being up and down the high street, and seeing all the Agents clipboards in hand doing their thing, researching their idea and trying to get people to sign a sheet in support of it.

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We were back in Providence at 3 to eat pasta and pesto, which was the first time we’d really made use of the cooking facilities there! It felt really great! Everyone commented on how nice it felt to come back to cooking and how homely it felt. Especially returning after such hard and committed work. Stevanie had gone out on her own and got 64 signatures! (We were aiming for 50 over 2 weeks!) The events team had over 100 between them. Sydney had met another lady who mixed her own products and was full of new ideas and Zack & Teddy had met an incredible and inspiring man who had got a criminal record about 15 years ago and was now running a football programme to engage young people who were going down the wrong route and was incredibly excited by their idea for a local channel following local heroes.

All these stories and more came out as we went back into the room and had a debrief using a method I learnt on Creating Routes (Big up Talawa and EEA!!!) where you use each of the fingers of your hand to reflect. The Agents used their 1. Thumbs (up) – To share one good story about what had happened, 2. Index – One thing that that they’d like to point out, that they learnt for example, 3. Middle Finger – One thing they wouldn’t do again! 4. Ring Finger – An idea or development that they were now wedded too. 5. Little Finger – Any little extras.

During this process it was fascinating to hear how quickly the experience of speaking to people face to face had changed them, how much they learnt and what difficulties they’d overcome. One thing that particular stood out was how wrong a lot of them had felt they had been with their judgements about who would be interested and who wouldn’t be. Once they’d started asking people indiscriminately, rather than based on who they thought would go for it, they found they were often wrong about who would stop and give them the time and genuinely help them shape their ideas. Rochelle and Kayon both seemed to have grown notably in confidence and really gained something, which when the circle reflection and the stories were translated into the 5 cards amounted to something like having acquired the skill of being good at approaching people. All steps on the path to being socially buff.

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