This summer I had the pleasure of completing a 10-week project placement with Nifty Sustainability. The opportunity presented itself through my MSc in Sustainability and Consultancy at the University of Leeds. My time with Nifty involved a consultancy style project with their partnering organisation International Mixed Ability Sport (IMAS). As a keen sportsperson, I was really excited to work with IMAS and help spread their message of inclusive sporting opportunities. My research for IMAS involved exploring the concept of ESG and considering the opportunities it could present them. This offered an exciting research prospect for me, as it would unite my passions of sport and sustainability.
The project process brought some great personal experiences and insights. The first of these involved being invited to IMAS’ weekly catch-up with their trainers; the IMAS trainers are individuals who work and volunteer for IMAS, helping to spread the Mixed Ability message. Meeting these people demonstrated the power of Mixed Ability sport and its impact on society. Hearing the Trainers' passion about Mixed Ability sport helped me reflect on my preconceptions about sport and disability. The experience also demonstrates that inclusion, friendship, and competition are the core values of sport, rather than results and personal achievements. I was also fortunate enough to visit Barnsley College with IMAS. This day involved presentations about IMAS and some inclusive physical activity. It was great to see IMAS’ work first-hand, get involved with some Kin Ball, and experience the College students’ reception to Mixed Ability.
My final two weeks of the project placement involved conducting semi-structured interviews with IMAS and Nifty representatives. This was a great opportunity to understand more about IMAS and gain primary data for my project dissertation. These conversations were honest, insightful, and enjoyable. The interviews and observations provided valuable data and analysis for my dissertation. The dissertation due date was the end of August and it kept me busy during the summer months. Despite some difficult days, Claire and Jen were so helpful throughout the whole process - their support and knowledge of academic research and writing was invaluable.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to Nifty Sustainability and IMAS for providing such a great placement experience and welcoming me into their organisations. Following this project placement, I started my full-time professional career with the infrastructure company, AECOM. I will reflect on Nifty’s values throughout my future career and pursue work that promotes social value and creates effective change. I will be starting my job in Leeds and look forward to catching up with Nifty and IMAS in person soon!
When I started working with Nifty Sustainability in the November of 2020, I was sure I’d somehow misled Jen and Claire into thinking I was more capable than I was. I couldn’t see in myself the qualities they saw in me, the potential they saw, but I decided I wasn’t going to hold myself back, and that I would battle through the doubt, anxiety, and imposter syndrome to hopefully prove to myself that they had made the right choice, even if I didn’t believe it at the time!
When I began work on my first research project, Jen and Claire were wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for better or more supportive mentors. They took time to explain and guide, but most importantly, trusted that I could do what was asked of me, even when I secretly wasn’t sure if I could do it myself. I kept proving my inner critic wrong, with every victory, big or small, I started to believe in myself the way that Claire and Jen believed in me.
The moment I noticed the most progress was when I started working on another research project. I realised I was capable of supporting another researcher and helping them during interviews and the various steps to gathering and analysing data, and the biggest surprise of all came when I discovered how much I had improved when writing research summary drafts. The quality of my writing had improved, didn’t have to be reworded or edited as much and the process I used to write the first draft had become more efficient and better suited to my needs.
Learning on the job in such an immersive way was really beneficial to my development. I was able to see how Nifty worked and pick up skills through observing, I got involved with practical sessions and open days with IMAS and Unorthobox and attended various online events, and really began to understand the importance of the work we were doing. I even picked up a few hobbies on the way!