Research Update with Anastasis Bougesis, Joep van Agteren and Cassandra Dunlop

Anastasia – Hi everyone, I’m Anastasia and I’m the project lead for the Wellbeing Project and I’m here with Joep today who’s our research lead for the Wellbeing Project. 

Joep – Hi. 

Anastasia – Joep we’re about to launch round three of the quarterly surveys, almost at the halfway point at the study. Can you share a little bit about what we’ve learnt so far? 

 Joep – Yeah, sure. So we’ve been able to help DRA identify some specific opportunities to improve the volunteering program. So Members are telling us a couple of things they’d like to see: 

  • More opportunities for training. 
  • Some improvements to comms.  
  • More social and team building activities, with some specifically mentioning the desire for an annual event of sorts, as well as specific local activity.  
  • There’s a request for better promo and visibility of the array of awesome work you all do; and  
  • A focus on recruiting veterans while also ensuring that non-veterans feel welcomed as equals. 

Anastasia – Thanks Joep. That’s some really valuable feedback that we’ve been getting.  

So we are working through addressing all of those suggestions so that we can better support members and improve their volunteering experience.  

We’ve invited Cassandra Dunlop, who’s DRA’s newly appointed Strategic Communications Manager to share her plans to improve communication with members. Welcome Cass.  

Cass – Thanks, Anastasia. It’s early days, but it’s already clear that our volunteers want to hear a bit more about what’s happening on operations and more regular updates about the organisation and the training opportunities we’ve got available. 

So for me that is a priority. In the coming weeks I will establish a communication schedule so that our Members can receive regular updates and know what’s happening.  

I’ll also explore how our Members want to receive the information. We know that newsletters and emails don’t necessarily work for everyone, so I’ll be looking at what platforms we have available to us to share the news. 

It is an exciting time for the organisation, so there’s lots of information to share.  

Anastasia – Thanks Cass. 

It is exciting times and it would be nice for our Members to have easier access to information and about what’s going on with DRA.  

So we’re also going to keep members up to date regarding progress on the other suggestions that have been made. 

Joep, we have a few persistent questions that keep coming up from our members and I’d like to ask you about those ones.  

So firstly, Members are wondering why they have to do so many surveys and why the questions are the same every time. 

 Joep – Yeah, so in this specific study, we’re trying to untangle the impact that volunteering has over time. So for examples for any new starters, the effect of volunteering at DRA will take a little bit of time to materialise. So that kind of means that we have to do multiple surveys over a longer period of time.  And because we’re comparing over time, we need to make sure that those surveys are more or less the same. Otherwise we can’t really reliably track any changes over time.  

We’re doing this on a quarterly basis, so 5 surveys in total, so we can minimise what we call bias, we split it.  We specifically want to minimise bias from special events. So, for example, if we were to have a COVID outbreak at the exact same time as when we were doing our final survey, this would really impact our results quite drastically. So by doing it a couple of times per year, we hope to minimize this problem for the study. 

Anastasia – Excellent. Can you tell us how the survey questions have been chosen? 

 Joep – Yeah, they’re all scientific scales that measure different aspects of our mental health and wellbeing and while it may not feel like it, they’re chosen because they’re both reliable as well as short. 

So while we often need to ask questions in a slightly different way to make sure that we actually get a comprehensive image of what we’re measuring, which means that we sometimes just have to repeat a couple of items per measure. 

Anastasia – Yeah, that makes sense.  

If people miss surveys, should they complete the future surveys that come out? 

Joep – Yes, please.  We can use some fancy stats methods to help deal with some missing data. So missing one survey here and there is not a big problem, but don’t please take this as a free pass for you to skip the next one. We still need quite a lot of respondents, as many as we as we can get, and DRA is already doing a great job compared to other studies. So let’s keep that up. 

Anastasia – Fantastic, thank you and thanks for your time and for sharing those findings with us today.  

And a big thank you to all our Members who get on board to complete the wellbeing surveys. Please stick with it through the last survey in August to give us the best shot at accurately assessing our volunteering program. Every survey counts. 

Joep – Thanks Anastasia. Cheers.