It's almost a Year since I finished at the University of Derby to pursue HEIER, ESME Creative and other interests. I wanted to pop a little blog post together about what I've been upto.
It was odd leaving at the start of the 2020 lockdown, a very quiet departure (after fretting whether I'd be allowed to recover my books and belongings from the office because of COVID) and in the knowledge that I was unlikely to be able to say an in-person goodbye to former colleagues. And of course, the virus was completely unexpected (I've often muttered to myself - 'what a time to leave secure employment?!')
Self-employment has been weird and wonderful all at the same time. I've definitely been busy over the past year - although January was eerily quiet (in part to be expected, I'm told absolutely normal but also I'd consciously decided to take a bit of a break in January).
HEIER - Impact, Evaluation and Research Services
I was really lucky that just as my employment was ending with Derby, there was a really ideal opportunity to work with a UK University to develop their response to KEF, and in particular to develop a module that would introduce their staff and students to Knowledge Exchange. And - importantly - I was able to win the work! Over the past year, I've managed to secure similar opportunities, developing training and approaches to aspects surrounding REF and KEF, and research impact more generally. I'm currently developing a module on Evidencing Research Impact for a HE client.
I've just been appointed onto the Irish HEA's International Expert-Led Review Panel, reviewing institutional self assessments and impact case studies of Irish HE Institutions. It's been great to see more of the diverse and innovative practice across the sector.
I've also undertaken some really interesting work with some private companies who have wanted to use data better to drive practice, and again, content development has ensued from that.
My vision is that, as institutions consider the impact their current research may have, that they engage in the support of HEIER to provide advice and support, and explore independent evaluation opportunities. After leading an independent evaluation-rich REF2014 and then an internal evaluation/testimonial-rich REF2021 UoA, independent evaluation certainly makes for easier, more compelling evidence - and less leg-work/distraction for internal research teams!
ESME Creative is slightly unusual given my academic background but started as a hobby 10 years ago. I self-trained in graphic design and website design to support friends and family businesses and community groups/charities, gradually completing courses to learn more, I found it was such a rewarding creative outlet.
I'm often asked where 'ESME' came from - it represented E (digital) coming together with SME's (small and medium enterprises). Although, it hasn't been until I have left academia that I've realised how few small businesses resonate with the term SME (whereas we used it a lot in HE)!
We deliver websites, training graphics and logo design.
When I'm busier with HEIER then I've a small team of Associates who help me with ESME Creative. We've just had one of our busiest months handing over 4 websites, supporting around 8 more with smaller tasks, and handing over 8 final logo designs - we've picked up some lovely new commissions too.
It's been great to be a mentor on the Digital Boost scheme, and I've worked with a range of charities and businesses to work on their digital profiles too.
The rest of life
I recently finished my term as a Director of the UK Evaluation Society but continue as a member. I've also resumed a trustee position with the South Derbyshire CVS and continue to be a very active trustee of my local Village Hall.
The boys are good - although like a lot of working parents through lockdown - I may be guilty of letting them watch a little bit too much YouTube! (and as I write this on a Saturday afternoon).
I'm just restarting my coast-to-coast cycle training for the National Autistic Society as I'm sure they'll spring a re-arranged date on me before long so I need to be a little more prepared just in case.
I'm still publishing, mostly with former PhD students, and will keep posting updates on here about that.
All the best