Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Believe*

There are times when we question the meaning to our lives
Do we understand our purpose, is it more than meets the eye
Is our future really just an open door
We all want to know what we're searching for

As I gaze into the heavens, I'll tell you what I see
Stars that shine forever, they shine for you and me
Do you wonder if we're all part of a plan
let me share with you the things I understand

I Believe that I'm a shining star
I believe the dream that's in my heart
even when hope seems to fade away
I believe that I can find a way

I believe my best is yet to come
I believe in love for everyone 
When the night ahead seems cold and dark
I can use the vision in my heart 
*I Believe - Susie Davies-Splitter and Phil Splitter

I love this song written by some friends of mine, I love to play and sing it, and it helps me realise that life is bigger than just me and my tiny little contribution. It helps me to keep picking myself up.

Picture of a rare sunrise seen by ME.

After the other day during my time of contemplation, I decided the way forward was to get on with some study. I remembered something I read - when in doubt, forward motion. I felt this was something that would give me a sense of having achieved something in a relatively short time.

In beginning my exploration of ontology (what exists, or can be said to exist), I realised, it is really about what I believe - informed by my reading of course.

I am looking at evaluation, and really want to know how to evaluate process. The process for me is much more interesting than the outcome but it is not fully addressed through current evaluation methods and tools. The journey is more important than the destination. How do we evaluate the journey in therapy, or community arts?

What I want to know, therefore, is: 

How can we effectively evaluate Community Music Therapy/Community Cultural Development?

So I began by thinking about what I believed from my own experience, and allowed this to inform the beginnings of my literature search. I believe that qualitative methods of evaluation are far superior for finding out what it is I want to know, than quantitative methods of evaluation.

My experience of working with questionnaires and quantitative data, has led me to believe this cannot effectively measure individual or group responses of the journey undertaken. I am in no way saying that quantitative evaluation is not useful, of course it is. It is a type of evaluation that is understood by funding bodies which is definitely a consideration when thinking about innovation.

Apart from anything else, qualitative evaluation suits ME best. I realised that, in effect, what I have been doing over the past few years while learning to live with CFS, is qualitative evaluation, and more particularly, participatory action research.

I have been trying different ways of managing and when they work, building on them, and when they don't, working out why not, then trying something new.  I am an action research project in progress!

Dusk on NYE 2010 from the park near my house looking at the city of Melbourne by ME.

One of the most important things that I have learned is to stop and smell the roses. Oh yeah that old chestnut, but for me it has become a really important part of learning to live with this disease. I have learned that just because I have a goal, does not mean that I have to complete what is needed all in one go. I have a couple of personal examples that illustrate this.

1. I really wanted to start my PhD last year, and so I did in March last year. I threw myself into it guns blazing. Two months later, I had to take a leave of absence because it was too much. I had over committed. I was still adjusting to a new job that I had begun the September before, and adding the study, just pushed me too far. So I took the rest of last year off study, and concentrated on work, rehab and fun.

2. The next example is much more mundane, but I learned an equally important lesson. There are certain days of the week that I cook dinner. My usual routine was get home from work and immediately begin preparing dinner, followed by the dishes and falling in a heap! I have learned that taking 20 minutes or so when I get home, to sit and do nothing, means I will have lots more energy for the rest of the evening, which means that I am more fun to be around, that I can engage in conversations with my beautiful partner, and be more present.

So my own ongoing participatory action research project is part of what informs my beliefs and in turn my study. I should also add that I have plenty of years of working in community settings, in many different roles with experience in evaluation of music therapy and community projects. These also inform my study, but my own experiences are the most relevant and illustrative for me at this time. There may be other stories for other times.

Mostly at this time, I believe I can do anything, as long as I take my time and honour the process.

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