Friday, August 14, 2015

Wheelchair project management.

We've learnt new things while dealing with the Wheelchaired For a Day challenge this month. We still learn more every day. And I don't only mean about human nature- how our invitees and volunteers react to the wheelchair and to themselves in it. How it's a tool that many fear and dealing with it may not be as easy as trying it out for a day to make it all better. I don't even mean all the interesting ways people have turned us down after initially saying yes. I can't fault people for not wanting to do it, for not wanting to be a part of our project, for not feeling safe and secure about something that has all this negative stigma attached to it. And I can't expect people to do something I'd like them to just because I ask if it requires even the smallest investment of time and effort. It's their call and I'm always grateful and excited when they sign on and try to be gracious when they back out. But with this- we've learnt a lot about our own abilities to manage a project. To run a schedule. To contact people in the community and then follow up. To figure out how to recruit, manage and keep the volunteers interested. To operate when a videographer doesn't show up, a person reschedules or doesn't show. To figure out the most efficient way, given our limited resources - to produce videos. What I like about what we do in August is that we can afford to be flexible. That we can mess up slightly. Not to say that this project isn't important- because in many ways it becomes so much more that we've ever contemplated- but we will have more projects coming up straight after this one and there will be no room to mess up. I needed to know how we work as a team. Which volunteers should we invite back to help us with our bigger scale plans that have the potential of bringing in some money. I needed to see how we work under stress.

 Our Creative Director likes to have everything figured out before we get started and that's her job. These are our goals, this is the procedure, this is how things will look and feel. She might not like me saying this, but what I like about Wheelchaired For A Day and how we made made it up as we went along. How we changed things we felt were not realistic and over ambitious. How, yes, ideally 31 people for every day of August would have been a nice neat little program, but it's hard to be there to interview, film, switch out participants every day- but that's a lot of work and spacing it out - taking a day or two to take a break and regroup works better. How the project took a life of it's own. We went from "let's do a simple writeup and rely on social media" to have our participants provide us with the content and limit our amount of work and time investment to doing a before and after interview every time.

Some use the GoPro Camera while others do not. One person even decided to give us 90 minutes of self made content. This project appears to have a different meaning to different people. While many go about their normal day, others use the opportunity to do wilder things- like a stage show, a concert  or crossfit. I was hoping at the end of this to have a collection of pictures and videos to illustrate and to inspire, but leaving it a bit open ended in turn leaves us open to new ideas, new projects and new avenues. And gives us a life's worth of experience managing a disability project. Gives us credibility as an institution that is doing something rather than talking about it. And gets us well on the way to establish the connection, the exposure and visibility to do other things. Bottom line: as this idea progressed and evolved along with us- it became something different from what we originally planned, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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