About Us

A voluntary community group founded in 2006, Action for Involvement, was set up to widen participation and make space for people and policy makers to exchange ideas.  We do this by taking a neutral position on issues raised at our events or seminars on social issues affecting all of us.

In doing so we use education and understanding of issues to empower people so they feel comfortable asking people they meet at our events to help develop their ideas and identify resources they can tap into to make their visions happen.  By making space for people to explore their concerns openly and safely,

Some of our initiatives include events, seminars, blogging  and tweeting on current social issues: environment, transport, health, regulation, housing, education, technology, engineering, energy and consultations which come to our attention. Blog posts are sent to Twitter, LinkedIn and then Facebook in that sequence.

While we are happy to run events or seminars whether on our own initiative or enable and empower others to pursue their goals, we see our role as making space  to explore your concerns and share ideas with each other. Dignity and respect play a central part of our core beliefs, values and ethos and is essential to our facilitated event design.  Most recent successes include:

  • The Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Grant funded project to widen participation and increase public appreciation of engineering
  • Prof Ian Rotherham’s Uplands and Moorlands seminars (May and September) following our 1/2 day seminar on 27th June 2013 with George Monbiot et al on this hot topic.

Posts on this blog are likely to reflect current social issues from sources such as other blogs, newspaper articles, features, facebook and linkedin. Posts are intended to bring important social issues to the table intended to give airspace and are for information only.

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Registering to vote; postal & proxy voting

The EU referendum is a landmark date in the UK’s political future and history so it’s vitally important to vote.  Following our post about the EU referendum on Thursday 23rd June, our local Electoral Office advised that registering for your vote is a centralised online process and that to qualify to vote, they must receive your application 11 WORKING days before an election or referendum in order to vote.  Eleven WORKING days is TWO weeks and ONE day.

  • Postal voting – anyone can apply and no reason is required; simply download, complete and return the postal application form at least 11 WORKING DAYS before the election votes in May or EU Referendum Vote on 23rd June 2016.
  • Proxy Voting – Complete the  Choose the proxy voting application form. All proxy voters must vote in the area where you live and anyone who is a registered voter can vote on your behalf and they’re allowed to vote in the same type of election. Each person can be a proxy voter for up to two people at the same election, or more if the extra people are close relatives. Usually, you need to apply for a proxy vote at least 6 WORKING DAYS before the election or referendum. You will need to explain the reason that you’re unable to attend in person to cast your vote which is likely to be because:
    • be away
    • at work
    • attending a course
    • disabled
    • living overseas
    • serving overseas as a member of the Armed Forces
    • British Council employee or Crown servant overseas civil service or diplomatic service.

Send the completed form to your local Electoral Registration Office.

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Your Voting Rights: For or Against the EU – Brexin or Brexit

Whether you’re for or against the European Union (EU), whatever you do it’s vital to register your right to vote as that will allow you to tell the Government what you think.

The main purpose of this post is to help raise awareness of the voting process, how to go about registering to vote if you’re not registered and what to do if you’re going to be away from your home constituency on the day of the Referendum.

It’s possible to vote in person, by post or by proxy where someone votes on your behalf.  Full details of these procedures can be found on The Electoral Commission’s website which explains how to register and vote.

For those going to a polling station, on your arrival, a clerk will check your details against the Electoral Register and give you a ballot paper listing the referendum options posed as a question which will ask whether you want to remain or leave the EU.

As only individually and correctly registered electors are entitled to vote, using the Electoral Commission Register to Vote postcode checker gives your local Electoral Registration Office full contact details.  For Sheffield residents, the contact details are:

  • Electoral Registration Officer, Sheffield City Council, Town Hall, Pinstone Street, S1 2HY
  • Phone:  0114 273 4093
  • Email:  elections@sheffield.gov.uk
  • Website:  sheffield.gov.uk

If, for whatever reason, voting in person is inconvenient, it is now possible to vote by post or by proxy provided  you’re registered under the new system which came into effect last year.

Anyone wanting to vote by post must complete and return their original and signed application form – at least 11 working days before the poll and usually by 5pm.

Unsigned forms for postal applications will be rejected because of the security precautions to protect your voting rights.  Your postal vote can be sent to your home or elsewhere including overseas but it must arrive back by 10pm on the polling day.

Visit The Electoral Commission’s webpage for its guidance on postal voting.

People who want to vote by proxy must give a reason and the person appointed to act as your proxy voter must be registered to vote.  People who are unable to go to the polling station on the election day who would be entitled to apply for a proxy vote include:

  • you are away on holiday
  • a physical condition
  • employment
  • an educational course
  • British Citizen living overseas
  • Crown Servant or a member of HM Armed Forces

You may need to get someone to support your application for a proxy vote and the deadline is normally 5pm six working days before an election.  In exceptional cases it may be possible to apply for an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm on the polling day.

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Go With Me – SHU Dragon’s Den Winner

 

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 Dragons’ Den Finalist Entrepreneur Groups + Judges at Sheffield Hallam University

 

As a former student of Sheffield Business School, it was a proud moment when I was invited to join a team of Entrepreneurs and Academics as a Judge at the School’s international Dragon’s Den event to evaluate the business pitches for products or services developed by over 100 Chinese students.

I felt the buzz of excitement for the evening with 100 + students keen to present their pitch to each of the four Judges’ teams. Principal organisers, Dianna Conheeney and Poppy Turner facilitated the Dragons’ Den for twenty groups of approximately 100 undergraduate Chinese Level 6 students attending the University to study: hospitality, finance and management and 10 different event management courses.  With so many participants, the competition was staged in two heats with the three winning groups going through to the Final.

Winning entry, Go with Me Travel Pal Cup Holder, showed the team was on top of their brief which they delivered with style, flair and creativity offered at a competitive price with a clear marketing strategy and a sound understanding of their supply chain. The runners-up offered a: Back Pack that converts to a Sleeping Bag and an Automatic Water-Boiling Cup.

Sheffield Business School has run this successful and popular inter-cultural evening over the past six years to enhance the motivation, engagement and confidence of their students who are usually asked to pitch within the first semester of their joining the University.

John Grant, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of the Natural & Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University praises the way non-traditional teaching models such as Dragons’ Den engage students far more intensively than chalk and talk methods. He adds that “it’s great fun to be with a distinctly different crowd than the daily routine and to be with people who keenly anticipate they’ll make a difference to the young contestants and increase their business nowse rather than doing the same old stuff”.

Factors that we Judges considered in deciding on the winning teams, were how the groups delivered their presentations in terms of the business plan for the product they’d created and the extent to which they met the brief of pitching a viable business plan. The calibre of the winning teams’ presentations was to a very high standard and it was evident that their excellent teamwork had shone through.

Although original ideas were welcomed, as Judges, we were looking for outstanding delivery, excellent presentations and a strong business case where all the financials stacked up. Many good projects fell by the wayside because of weak business plans.

In Wendy’s team there was some high drama when one of the groups were called back to resolve queries about their excellent business idea to simplify the process of buying rail tickets. Wendy said the app would have saved her hundreds of pounds on regular trips over the years to visit friends and family in London.  Unlike their strongest competitor, that team had also neglected to ask the Judges to back their proposal. Much as Wendy loved the concept and definitely wanted to back that team, very sadly, they were pipped to the post simply because the proposal omitted the financial data required for the Judges to send the project forward to the Finals.

The winning team received a day trip to Cambridge, the City that inspired the famous Chinese poet, Xu Zhimo, to write his poem, Leaving Cambridge. A romantic expressive poem, it is taught in all Chinese schools and has made the City of Cambridge the must-see City to visit for all Chinese tourists.

Other Judges included Annie Matthews of Statement Vintage, Jayne May of Clear Pathway Hypnotherapy with Business Studies Lecturers Diana Conhoney and  Jo Webster.

I felt it was a great honour to be a Judge at Sheffield Business School’s Dragon’s Den and a representative of Sheffield’s Business Community because I am very keen to forge strong links with the School and its students. I love to coach or mentor young people and am confident they’ll make really super contacts with the Entrepreneurs at this inspirational event which the Business School is running for the sixth time this year!” Having launched my research career with Sheffield Business School’s M.Sc. Organisation Development, I can see that the Dragon’s Den model as the ideal framework to help students learn how to present themselves effectively.

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Making the most of my time

Today I want to talk about two life-changing tools that I’ve been using for the past 6-8 weeks:

I came across Strides, which is strongly recommended by Forbes etc by chance, following a personal recommendation I’d received to use Pomodoro (Italian for tomato) to improve my time management and workload which – at the time – was so voluminous that I felt overwhelmed by everything that was going on in my life – research for a Uni assignment, writing various articles, exam revision, a PR Marketing Course with Faye Smith of Keep Your Fork Fame, long outstanding coursework for my NLP Master Practitioner with John Cassidy-Rice of Training Excellence as well as work on major structural changes to Action for Involvement to develop a more viable structural framework.

Over the past 6-8 weeks I’ve been learning how to use Flat Tomato Pomodoro which has been a real lifesaver particularly with tasks I’ve avoided such as the accounts or, at a personal level, adjusting voile curtains for my massive bay windows. Since I’ve been using the Pomodoro tool, I’ve seen a major increase in productivity, productivity and making far better use of my time.

The basic principle is to set a timer for 25 minutes to work on a task, followed by a 5 minute break with any other activity, ideally something that’s pleasurable and enjoyable, e.g., reading, chatting with friend or whatever.  The aim is to focus solely on the task and in order to do so the Pomodoro also includes a function to record distractions such as social media, taking calls, making a drink and doing anything but the specific task.

As a result of all this, I’ve learned how to make a more realistic estimate of the time  specific tasks take to complete, usually in good time as I bring focussed attention to the work in hand, therefore saving and freeing up my time for other things.

I’d definitely recommend the £1.49 it costs for the calendar extension to connect with your phone’s calendar and To Do List which will list the work you’ve scheduled for the day.  Otherwise you have to enter each day’s activities manually.

The penny finally dropped after I’d listed everything I had to to do regardless of timescale or deadlines and there was so much stuff that it went from A-Z!  At that stage I saw this little message on my screen: “If you’ve reached this point, you’re trying to do to many things!”  I then realised that I needed to be far more realistic about what I could hope to achieve in any given 24 hour slot including time to sleep, prepare and eat meals, my health & fitness and leisure activities.

In a nutshell, Pomodoro is a powerful tool to help with introducing, creating and maintaining a well balanced lifestyle.

Now on to Strides – that is the most awesome tool ever! It’s helped me set goals or targets and measure how I stack up against those objectives in order to increase my effort, outcomes and productivity.

Available either for the iPhone/iPad or on the web for the rest of the world, the Strides app is a goals, targets and habits tracker tool which works really well alongside the Pomodoro, most notably for those tasks and activities which could benefit from time management, eg

  • project management,
  • developing or monitoring a habit such as going to bed by 10pm or getting 7 hours sleep a night.
  • tracking a goal, for example, money management, health and fitness targets and so on.

As well as monitoring actions taken towards achieving the goal, Strides can also track the frequency of a bad habit; there’s no limit to the number or type of habits or goals that can be tracked with Strides.  It includes charts, graphs and recognises succcess with stars so I’m using those stars to give myself meaningful “real-time rewards” such as time off, going to bed at 7.30pm to watch a film or reading a book.

Although it is possible to use Strides to monitor progress on bad habits, my general view is that it’s better to identify the positive behaviour and track my success in Strides to create positive reinforcement.

 

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We are changing!

It’s been a very busy few months behind the scenes here at Action for Involvement. Some of the things we’ve been developing include:

  • Ingenious Forces @Play! Project Report approved by Steering Group;
  • Faye Smith of Keep Your Fork’s excellent Brand Booster’s Course;
  • Google Garage Leeds excellent advice on how to upgrade and developour website;
  • Sheffex invite for Ingenious Forces@Sheffex! on 7th December;
  • Recruited SHU interns to implement Google Garage expert advice, upgrade social media platforms and develop event offerings;
  • Reviewing our strategic plans and event schedule for 2016 and beyond;
  • Photoshoot for upcoming media schedule
  • Developing our giving back to align with our ethos to achieve effective results with our educational remit;
  • Promoting events for other organisations through Twitter  instead of our blog.

Changes will include: updated content to reflect recent developments, larger and clearer font style with more contrast against background for easier reading and revised site structure.  We are looking forward to implementing these and other developments by early next year.

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Sheffield’s trees – it’s our responsibility

Join over 12,o0o other signatories who are protesting about the way in which Sheffield’s trees are at high risk of being felled for no earthly reason other than that it’s easier, and therefore, cheaper for Sheffield City Council’s sub-contractor, Amey, to manage the built environment regardless of whether  or not the trees really do pose a risk to Sheffield’s human population.  The tree below is one of many trees threatened with the chainsaw.  This tree is one of several in the Psalter Lane area which definitely does not pose a risk to anyone, ie, there are no roots pushing through the years-old tarmac.

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Marcus Brigstocke’s Dr Zeus climate change poem

Marcus Brigstocke’s Dr Zeus climate change poem at the Arts Hays Festival, 30 May 2015

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