White Water Writers Research

I’m delighted to share some research into White Water Writers peformed by one of our experienced leaders.

The executive summary is:

All of us are subject to dominant narratives. These are ideas of what is normal, accepted behaviour and attitudes. Dominant narratives are culturally constructed and resistant to change. Personal narratives are associated with identity and are constructed by ourselves. If personal narratives disagree with dominant ones, psychological distress may be experienced by the individual. One such dominant narrative is that further and higher education may not be suitable for young, working class people in certain geographic locations. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) funds projects which have the aim of widening participation in further and higher education in areas of low participation. One such NCOP funded project is White Water Writers. This is a project that gives groups of young people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a novel in a single week, with the intention of raising aspirations in the writers. The idea being: if I can write a book in a week, what else can I do? Previous research into White Water Writers has shown the project has a positive effect on a number of outcomes including locus of control and well-being. The present study sought to evaluate the efficacy of the project by asking the following questions: What are the main themes that the writers tackle in the novels; how do they reflect on the process and what they learnt from it; can White Water Writers raise aspirations in the writers. It did this by analysing the books for themes, and interviewing the writers and staff members. Two main themes were identified: diversity and connectivity. It was found that culturally constructed, dominant narratives clashed in the books with personal narratives. It was also found that the writers explored aspects of themselves, using fiction as a safe place to experiment with new ideas and to say things they would not ordinarily be comfortable saying as themselves. Moreover, it was found that writers’ confidence was increased by taking part and that they felt more able to achieve other goals in life, including academically.

…and you can read the full paper here.


Organisational Budget for 2019-2020

We’ve prepared the organisational budget for 2019-2020 (our year starts on September 1st so this blog is less late than it sounds).

As part of that process we ran our first proper ‘variance analysis’ (or ‘I compared the budget to the actual spend’) for the last organisational budget and you can see it at  BudgetvsActualsForThisYear.  The variance analysis wasn’t actually complete because the year hadn’t ended and there were various payments/invoices to process that will improve the bottom line) but it’s broadly accurate. Worth noting this was only for six months – it runs end of Feb to end of August.

I’ve used the actual spends to build a Budget for 2019-2020. I’m assuming an increase in income from licencing White Water Writers and a matching increase in cost of sales, but I’m otherwise assuming the same spend in the same categories except for staff pay as we have COO salary to cover. At the moment, we’ll make a (coverable) loss on the year unless we bring in another decent grant.



Long answer to a short funding question

Wrote this because we’ve been asked a simple question in a funding application wanted to put the reasoning somewhere in case we were asked about it in future.

We’ve got this question (it’s for Children In Need)

Over the duration of your project, how many children and young people in total will benefit from your project?

  • Year 1
  • Year 2
  • Year 3
  • Total     

We’re applying for funds to set up 60 supertitle camps in schools over three years. We’ll be starting them something like:

  • Year one: start 25 clubs
  • Year two: start 20 clubs
  • Year three: start 15 clubs.

From the pilot, a healthy club has an average attendance of say 10.  Also, I’m willing to put down the marker that 50% of clubs last more than 10 weeks (our research cut off) and 50% of those stop within a year).  I’m willing to say that clubs that last more than a year (we have to do some work on the restart after the holidays) will continue semi-permanently.

Making the simplifying assumption that all of the new camps for the year start on the same day (these are spherical clubs in a vacuum)

  • Year one starts with 25 clubs and ends with 13.
  • Year two starts with 33 (20+13) clubs and ends with 16 (10+6)
  • Year three starts with 31 clubs and ends with  18 (6+5+7).

We’re going to assume that each club has a healthy attendance at the start of the year and that any child that turns up gets a benefit. So that’s:

  • Year one 250 students benefit
  • Year two 330 students benefit
  • Year three 310 students benefit.

…and the benefit for this group eventually stabilises at 150 students a year, which we can probably push up quite a bit with a small bit more funding (not counting the fact that the project should become seriously self sustaining by that point).

The total is going to be tricky, because it’s not as simple as adding them up.  Hmm.  Oh, wait, no it isn’t because it’s straightforwardly the total number of camps set up multipled by the attendence, so 600.

White Water Writers Wordcounts

Quick post because I found a file in our dropbox that hadn’t been processed properly.

I checked how word count changed over time for 20 white water writers camps over a reasonable period. The camps are all (I think) early secondary school: the outliers are groups with particularly difficult circumstances.  This is what the chart looks like:


(this is all very rough btw, I crunched the numbers in excel and labeled the columns manually with an image editor…)

In general, I’d like a different shape to the chart: the highest word count should be late wednesday and then edit down for a couple of days, but it’s hard to be too grumpy about that when the camps I personally run show the same behaviour… I’m going to be doing a bit of thinking about how to push for more editing and less writing in the second half of the week and suggestions are very welcome.

Raw data is in this file:  Wordcounts.


Flowers for Turing Report 2019

Note, this post would normally appear on the website, but I’m currently, ahem, locked out of that wordpress installation…

So, this is what Alan Turing’s Status looked like on his birthday!

Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 09.41.05

You did this, once again you came together and did this, and you raised £2,100.15 for Special Effect.


Okay, the accounting part:

  • We were again approached by a private donor, who, at our advice, sent £1,000 to special effect. We remain staggered by this.
  • The Paypal pool raised £1,076.41.
  • Bath University sent Joe personally £43.74 (they had those payment details from a previous year)
  • Flowers cost £202.63. The receipts are below.
  • This leaves £1,917.52 to transfer to Special Effect, of which £1,000 was already sent by the single large donor above.
  • The Pay Pal pool was withdrawn to Joe’s Personal Paypal (there doesn’t appear to be another place it can go directly from the pool) and then the relevent amount was donated to Special Effect.
    Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 09 33 17

That should be sufficient that donors can be sure that their money went to the right place (There’s some more details that are relevent for Charity Govenance, but they can be sorted out shortly)

flowers for turing receipts page 1 of 2 1
flowers for turing receipts page 1 of 2
flowers for turing receipts page 2 of 2

Communication Matters

We’ll be presenting at Communication Matters 2019.

Our abstract is:

Last year Comic Relief gave us £45,000 to make copyright-free resources for AAC.  We made what we thought would work, interviewed some AAC VIPs and then found out that we’d built the wrong thing.  So we made them again. We repeated that process a couple of times and rewrote The Open Voice Factory (our free open source AAC-software) completely from scratch.

In this talk we’ll show you the software and pagesets we made. We’ll talk about the many ways we messed up. We’ll talk out being on the wrong end of fraud, being prepared to bankrupt our own organisation, crying down the phone at regulators, and about how it’s easier to talk to Lee Ridley than it is the RCSLT. This talk is for anyone who wants to share their work, anyone who has written a pageset, and anyone who’s ever been enraged by red tape.

…and we intend to live up to it.

New release for Open Voice Factory!

This Friday we’ll be updating the Open Voice Factory website.  There WON’T be much of a change for users, but there will be quite a lot of back end changes that make life a bit easier for us to add new features.

The alteration WON’T affect any existing aids that have been generated, but it might mean that there is some downtime that prevents new aids from being created.

Our notes for the release are here.  The short summary looks like this:

  • Added: The python code now generates correct OBF!
  • Added: Many more python tests have been added and are passing.
  • Added: Some javascript tests have been added and are passing.
  • Refactoring: Lots of refactoring to make life easier.
  • Cleanup: We’ve removed some older files that were getting in the way.
  • Fixed: an issue were border colors weren’t been identified properly. 27faccc
  • Minor: logos and readme files updated.
  • bugfix Issues #92, #113

This should be the first of a series of releases over the next few weeks, you can find out more about our plans by look at our roadmap.

New project proposal: Digital Local Heroes.

A project we are currently workshopping…


For UK residents looking for historical information, Wikipedia is invariably the go-to resource. The English Wikipedia alone has over 2.6 billion words, covering 4.4 million articles.  There are many examples of extremely rich, detailed, beautifully illustrated historical articles.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia also suffers from a systemic bias of editors. The average Wikipedian on the English Wikipedia is male, technically inclined, formally educated, aged 15–35, and likely employed as a white-collar worker or enrolled as a student rather than employed as a blue-collar worker.

This has the result that articles of local heritage are massively underdeveloped or missing.  Worse, the very people who are most passionate about local heritage are often inhibited by a lack of familiarity of technology, or inexperience with Wikipedia’s approaches.

We propose the Digital Local Heroes project.  We’ll provide the space, training, and expertise for groups of people to work together to improve the coverage of their local heritage sites on Wikimedia projects.  Their training will includes taking and uploading photos, drafting articles, producing sources, and all the skills that enable groups to make this difference to their local community.

Once users have been trained and have gained some experience in the use of Wikipedia, they will be much more confortable contributing outside of the project, making this an extremely sustainable approach.

As a form of ‘secondary gain’, we shall be focusing on those groups that are underrepresented on the Wikipedia Project, and groups that have much to gain from being involved.  The Digital Local Heroes project allows jobseekers to gain, develop and demonstrate a range of important employability skills such as research, copyright law, sourcing, non-fiction writing, teamwork, and proofreading  in addition to the obvious information technology skills.   Moreover the Digital Local Heroes project allows older people to stay engaged digitally, and to continue to give to the local communities in a way that gives them pride.


Our theory of change can be download here, and has been reproduced below: