Rhiannon Bowen

How an intern’s work can support action research and practical engagement with local communities – People & Work

People & Work (PAW) have received funding from the Rank Foundation for a number of years to support their pioneering action research work in Wales. This is the third year they have employed a Time to Shine intern.

Rhiannon Bowen, from Porthcawl, applied for the research-focused internship having recently completed a Degree in Sociology with Study of Religions at Bath Spa University, where she achieved 1st class Honours. Rhiannon’s work at PAW focused on the Rhondda, working with a variety of local community organisations, studying what works in improving outcomes in education and employment for young people; researching local, regional and wider labour markets; helping develop indicators of success, all to support the development of a logic model for the Unit’s work.

From the January reports, at the start of the internship, it is clear that there is a good fit between the PAW role and Rhiannon’s research skills, but there are challenges:

“Initially, it was daunting engaging with large numbers of people from varying fields … as my knowledge of the field grows I am developing a great deal more confidence in my assertions and networking is coming more naturally.”

From the mid-year review, it is clear that Rhiannon is contributing a great deal, with her manager reporting that she has excellent research skills and is very keen to learn; that she has taken on board a huge amount of detailed community information and has developed good presentation and inter-personal skills. Rhiannon’s work is having significant impact on the organisation through developing a comprehensive range of research statistics for the Rhondda, useful mapping tools to show correlation of statistics on health, education, employment and developing an evaluation framework for action research projects.

A highlight for Rhiannon at this point is the acceptance of an abstract about her research for a conference and publication by the Welsh Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD).

In his final report, James Hall, Rhiannon’s line manager at PAW is very positive about the contribution she has made to the charity:

“Rhiannon has also been an invaluable member of the research and project teams of the Unit, helping us to question and explore the underlying values and assumptions of our work and that of others whilst maintaining a respect for the experience and understanding of those she has met.”

It is clear, from Rhiannon’s own report, what a difference the internship has made to her personally:

“… I have learned about facing difficulties in the workplace and received practical support from my fellow interns and PAW colleagues when I have needed it. I have also experienced the positive feeling and passion that comes from feeling appreciated, having amazing feedback and seeing the research that I have done being taken on board by the PAW and integrated into their work against the root causes of poverty in South Wales.”

She sees that the internship has greatly enhanced her career prospects:

“The experience I have gained as an intern with the Rank Foundation has undoubtedly been an invaluable factor in helping me to gain future employment. I have been offered a fantastic position as an editorial assistant in the sociology and law journal department of Taylor and Francis. This is a great achievement for me and it would not have been possible to take this next step without the support I have had over the past year.”