Venture Into Business Engagement (VIBE) is the University of Warwick’s bespoke training and development programme for social science ECRs looking to increase their engagement with business. VIBE, created and delivered by Warwick Ventures, was designed to offer participants the opportunity to both learn new skills and put them into practice. The scheme utilises workshops, mentoring, and financial support; to facilitate ECR’s personal development, helping them grow their external networks, build enabling partnerships and consider the potential Impact from their research in the wider world.
VIBE often encounters ECRs who - for a variety of reasons - are hesitant about engaging with business. We spoke with VIBE participant Dr. Samantha Flynn (based in CEDAR); who researches childhood cancer in children with learning disabilities, to understand why she decided to take part in the programme and how she benefitted.
As she was looking to work with charities and hospitals, Samantha was initially unsure if VIBE was right for her. However, she was keen to engage with prospective partners who could benefit from her research and felt she lacked the experience and confidence to reach out to potential collaborators so after some encouragement from Warwick Ventures she decided to apply.
Along with other VIBE participants, Samantha took part in a series of initial training workshops, before joining the second phase of the programme - an exploratory and partnership development phase; where participants had the opportunity to put what they’d learned into practice. Samantha was supported by the business mentor she was assigned, who helped her prepare before contacting individuals in organisations and reflect upon what she was looking to achieve in meeting with them. Thanks to this support she found the experience of networking and building relationships with potential partners both rewarding and confidence boosting. Not everyone she approached will become a potential collaborator or long-term partner, but in terms of heading towards Impact from her research, Samantha found everyone she encountered willing to share information, and help her make contact with others in their network.
By using the training, mentoring and financial support VIBE offered in this way, Samantha not only overcame her concerns about initiating dialogue with potential non-academic partners but has now done so numerous times including four face-to-face meetings and two telephone conversations with contacts at CLIC Sargent, the Teenage Cancer Trust and Mencap (three of the largest NGOs in her field). Another valuable contact she has made is the Lead Nurse for Learning Disabilities at Great Ormond Street Hospital; who as well as being a published researcher herself, is one of the country’s leading practitioners in Samantha’s field of research.
Reflecting on her experience with Great Ormond Street Hospital, Samantha says that shortly into the conversation she realised that her new contact was very interested in her work and keen to pursue a collaboration with her. This experience was revelatory and far removed from her preconceptions that she’d find herself “pounding people with information” and appearing overly pushy.
Since that initial meeting, they have been working on funding applications which they hope will lead to a post-doctoral Fellowship application for Samantha, to be submitted next year. Considering her experience of VIBE in terms of both engaging with potential partners and her personal development, Samantha has some advice for other early career social scientists considering an application:
“VIBE has really given me the confidence to go out and talk to people about potentially working with me, the whole programme was quite transformational. If you think that the support and training VIBE offers is relevant for you then go for it!”
Samantha’s achievements through VIBE were recognized by the University when she won the 2018/19 “VIBE Learning Award”.