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Recognising & celebrating the energy that is created: Street Storage & The UCL Volunteering Awards

8 August 2022

Senior Research Fellow Dr Gemma Moore reflects on the UCL Volunteering Awards and the Evaluation Exchange Project of the Year - Street Storage.

bags on shelves

Over the last year several colleagues, students and friends had recommended to me the work of the researcher and popular author Brene Brown – whose work focuses on (in its broadest sense) leadership and culture change (… yes, I know am late to the party!). At the start of the summer holidays, I finally managed to delve into some of her work and my mind kept meandering back to what we do in the Evaluation Exchange.  In particular, I was struck by a quote, by Brene Brown herself, on the value of relationships and connections: 

Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment."

This quote resonated with me, making me think of the ethos behind the Evaluation Exchange: notably, the power that comes from the relationships and connections that we broker, nurture and support. The quote also brings to the fore the value in recognising and celebrating the energy that is created. 

One key formal way that reward and recognition happens is through awards. Back in late May we were lucky to be invited to the UCL Volunteering Awards, held in the prestigious Bloomsbury Theatre. The annual UCL Volunteering Awards, was a chance to recognise the efforts by many who are connecting, giving, and receiving (without judgement) – see full list of awardees here.

We, the Evaluation Exchange, were very privileged to present an award at the event, the “UCL Evaluation Exchange Project of the Year”. The 13 teams involved in this year’s Evaluation Exchange were nominated, and 3 were shortlisted by the panel. These were:

  • Team Wac Arts (read about their work on the Evaluation Exchange here).
  • Team Street Storage (read about their work on the Evaluation Exchange here).
  • Team Lifeafterhummus (read about their work on the Evaluation Exchange here).

My 10 year old daughter, Ariane, (as it was half term!) joined me to present the award to our worthy winners: Street Storage

Street Storage, a relatively new organisation, headed up by Rachel Woolf, provides people experiencing homelessness (including those sleeping out, in vulnerable housing situations, leaving violent home situations or in the prison system) with free, secure and accessible storage for their belongings.

The Volunteering Award’s panel was  impressed by what team Street Storage had achieved within the 6 months of the Evaluation Exchange, especially the appropriateness of their developed evaluation tools.

The researchers and staff at Street Storage focused on developing simple tools for people using Street Storage’s to feed back on the service. The aim was to find creative and non-intrusive ways to collate and collect data from a group for whom feedback on a service is not a priority - and for whom surveys and online forms are not an option. The researchers and Street Storage staff came up with some fantastic and creative ideas that do not strain staff time or overtake the more pressing priorities of thier beneficiaries. Ideas came from the researchers, and the wider team at UCL, VAC and Compost. The researchers also looked at ways to collect statistical data, and how to report the impacts from this work. 

Following their involvement in the Evaluation Exchange, Street Storage have been left with creative feedback collation techniques in place and a solid statistical reporting system (to capture demographics, length of storage, outcomes). These tools have been implemented with immediate effect and in place for the future to improve impact reporting.

Street Storage noted how: 

The students and researchers met us at the stage that our charity is at, rather than providing grandiose and unachievable goals”.

During the 6 month programme, the Street Storage team faced personnel changes, and faced issues around capacity – they continued to be involved in the Evaluation Exchange, but had to be focused with their work.  

Jasmine Cockroft (PhD student, Psychology and Human Development) lead the collaboration from UCL, and reflected on what was achieved: 

While the data stage we reached was a starting point it was a really good chance to see how early planning of data collection can be inbuilt into daily practice and then lead to a useful outcome to build up a cycle. As in research! It was very satisfying to see the real-life application of data”.

We feel that the work undertaken by the Street Storage team on the Evaluation Exchange is a great example of the energy (and innovation) that is created when people come together, and are supported to work together.  A belated congratulations to those shortlisted and to Street Storage! Well done.