Thursday, 31 May 2007

Enter the research team

Met today with Dr. Bob Smith director of the University Social Science department's Regeneration Institute, and Rebecca Siân Edwards, a post-doctoral fellow, proposed to take on our research, to interview them and give them my version of the project. It seems the project is attracting interest from faculty members, and that's an encouragement. I think we're in good hands.

My only concerns are that the University bureaucrats will take endless amounts of time drawing up a contract, and that by the time the project is fully mapped out, it will require more time to do well than we can really afford from the grant. However, seeing the prospect of some additional mileage for the Institute in this kind of research, the possibility of them looking for additional funding - something also mentioned by Roy - emerged in conversation.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

First Steering Group meeting

First proper meeting of project Steering Group tonight.

We adopted our terms of reference and a broad action plan.

Roy reported on his negotiations with the University Sociology Department's Regeneration Institute research team. This was the body commissioned to undertake a piece of social and economic research about aspects of life Cardiff in its centenary year as a city, published it as a souvenir contribution to the celebrations. Surprisingly or not, there was no chapter in the book on the contribution of religious communities to the life of the city. It was not part of the briefing the team received.

It seems there is a post-graduate researcher who would be interested in taking on our project, under the supervision of one of the senior staff. It remains to interview them both, and draw up a contract.

The next task is to produce a web-page containing a general description of our project and all involved in it, plus relevant contact details.

Meeting minutes here

Friday, 25 May 2007

Gweini on the case

Met with John Martin Evans today, working for the Evangelical Alliance's council for voluntary service in Wales (aka Gweini). He is researching the social contribution of Christian voluntary organisations across the Principality, under the heading 'Counting our Communities'.

His brief is similar to ours in that it seeks to assess the contribution of religious bodies (in the economic sense) to civil society, but it's much broader in covering all of Wales. He is about to put out a questionnaire to a thousand religious organisations in Wales (Christian and other faith). He's been preparing for a year, and also has FCCBF funding.

There may be ways in which we can collaborate at a later stage, as we are covering one of the denser areas of religious enterprise, roughly a quarter of the contact list for the whole of Wales.

It's interesting the impulse to ask questions about religious bodies and society is stimulating such a response amongst evangelical communities and the historic mainstream churches at the same time. It's a little disconcerting that CDF made no effort to guide these initiatives towards each other and challenge their advocates to work together.

But it's interesting to see how reluctant civil society is to challenge religious bodies to work at reconciling and harmonising their contribution the society. Meanwhile individual secularising campaigners to make their attempts to discredit religious communities and exclude their participation in public life. It's left to religious bodies to assert their own value to society, if not defend themselves from disinformation and downright abuse.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Website created

Designed and posted a first basic web-page to advertise the nature of the project, and display some information about it, to which casual enquirers can be referred. <> is the registered address.

It's an acronym for "Social Appraisal of Religious Communities in Cardiff", which attempts to summarise the task in hand. No doubt we'll think of different straplines and a different catch phrase with which the promote the product, as we go along.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Inspection Time

Roy and I met today with Irene Everson, a FCCBF consultant from a Welshpool based organisation called 'Resources for Change', tasked with evaluating funded projects from an organisational point of view to see if there are any areas in which FCCBF can help grant recipients pursue their objectives.

For various administrative reasons, FCCBF has not yet released any of the promised grant money to us. No doubt our delays in getting organised at the outset have not helped at all, but as we've got to the point where we're going to need money to pay our way, with PTP. and the Regeneration Institute making agreements to work on the project, not having cash in the bank to cover any emerging needs, is a bit nerve wracking. So it was good to have someone official to beef about this to in person.

Irene seemed to be fairly satisfied with our proposed method of operation, and our plans, so hopefully her report will be reassuring to CDF, and set us in motion soon.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Project Steering Group born

Roy Thomas is a commercial lawyer who works for the Cardiff based Public Trust Parternership. He is also a member of St John's church congregation, and we share a great interest in the value of Christian presence and activity in the world of business and government. Unlike yours truly, Roy has done a course at the famous St George's College in Windsor, and knows all about courageous leadership. Last year he led the Welsh National Botanic Garden project out of danger of death from its debts, as interim CEO.

He accompanied me tonight to the meeting of Cardiff City Centre Churches Together council to explain his ideas which, having heard them, I am happy will provide us with a way forward

Roy proposed that the research be handed over entirely to a professionally competent organisation within a University, which would be offered a fixed fee to produce a report according to the briefing established by a project steering group. His role will be to manage the research team and eventually to publicise its findings and organise the conference.

This was well received, and appointments to the project steering group were made, including Mr Malcolm Thomas, secretary of Ebeneser, Mr Chris Daley of St David's Metropolitan Cathedral Council, Prof. Paul Ballard, Cardiff University's professor emeritus of Pastoral Theology, Revd. Monica Mills, Chaplain of Cardiff Bay active in the work of Cardiff Inter-Faith, Roy and myself.

Monday, 7 May 2007

New light in the tunnel

My possible volunteer to handle the employment of a reseach worker has expressed misgivings about what is proposed, thinking that the costs of advertising and setting up are going to be far in excess of what was originally proposed in our grant application budget, with no guarantee of sucess given the short time-scale - we need someone to start by end of June if we are to stick to a timetable that concludes the research by the end of the year. Not good news.

However, a conversation about the management with another member of the congregation yesterday morning took me by surprise. Without realising, I have someone whose day-job is managing projects, consultations and development processes. So I sent him all the documents I'd prepared and had a positive reply before retiring to bed. I must now wait to hear more fully what is on offer.