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Reflecting on our impact

The events of 2020 have created many challenges, but it has also enabled much creativity and innovation. As a small, flexible and nimble organisation Sound Connections has always been able to be responsive to the needs of the community or practitioners we support.

From April – December 2020 we were able to deeply consider how we encourage, support and develop inclusive practice in times of a global crisis, and how we progress our own and our network’s learning, understanding and commitment to anti-racist practice and intersectional diversity following the horrific murder of George Floyd in May, and the subsequent events that followed.

What emerged was a dynamic range of professional and personal development activities for all those working with children and young people through music, not just in London but beyond. The success and subsequent impact of these activities has led to a complete rethink of Sound Connections workforce development programme going forward.

Our impact during this period has been made possible by people. We have had the privilege of working with a brilliant range of practitioners, thought leaders, workshop leaders and speakers who have brought so much perspective, expertise, knowledge and creativity to our offer.

Here are some headlines about our impact.

Training and development

We hosted 15 online training events with 650+ music leaders and teachers attending. 84% of these places were made available at no cost, or were heavily subsidised

  • 94% stated that the course met their expectations
  • 88% felt that their skills had improved as a result of the course
  • 95% felt that their confidence had improved as a result of the course
  • 96% felt that their knowledge and understanding of the topic had improved as a result of the course
  • 97% stated that they would apply something they had learnt in their own practice

“I thought your approach to online training was the best example I have seen (and I’ve attended a fair bit throughout lockdown now). It was well thought out, confidently managed, well presented, made good use of technology and involved zero ‘flapping’ when the tech didn’t work as planned. It provided excellent space for both chatty and more reserved participants and was creative, refreshing, intelligent and incredibly beneficial to be part of.” (Training attendee)

We have extended and expanded the freelance practitioners who have delivered activity – particularly those who are typically under-represented due to race, ethnicity, disability, gender or age. This has resulted in us engaging and supporting 37 experts to deliver, most of whom are freelance, with eight of these being young people under the age of 25. We prepared a resource pack for how to deliver and present online, and worked with individuals pre- and post-event to ensure they felt included, valued and supported. Of those workshop leaders / presenters who completed the feedback survey:

  • 100% stated that they felt included, valued, and able to be themselves
  • 100% were happy with the production and delivery of the course
  • 90% agreed that attendees skills, confidence and knowledge increased during the delivering of the course

“Sound Connections are genuinely committed to inclusion and this comes across clearly in your working practices and offer. The team are always friendly and non-judgemental.” (Workshop leader/presenter)

Financial support

We awarded 15 professional development bursaries of £250 to freelance practitioners to support them financially to invest in their own personal or professional development. This ranged from enabling individuals to attend training courses, embark on research projects, upskill on technology and more. You can find out more about the outputs of the bursaries here.

“Some positives that came out of quarantine was having time to reflect on my current practice, explore other opportunities and to delve into the plethora of online courses on offer. As with so many freelancers most of my semi-regular freelance jobs have been put on hold or cancelled so I’m exploring other work opportunities. Knowing my natural strength areas is helping me to focus my search. Thank you Sound Connections for awarding me with this bursary. It’s been invaluable in allowing me to set aside ‘headspace’ to work out how I move forward with the next stage of my musical career.” (Bursary recipient)

Providing careers advice and guidance

We provided 48 one-to-one mentoring sessions delivered to music leaders and teachers including providing careers advice, guidance and signposting to those at the beginning of their music leading careers. Of those who completed a feedback survey following their peer mentoring session:

  • 100% said they found the mentoring session useful
  • 87% felt the mentoring would help them develop their practice

“My mentor helped me not only realise where I was as a business, but also guided me towards the right direction. Since our meeting I have applied and been successful for a grant and I have restructured part of the business to better respond to the current climate.” (Mentee)

We have continued working with a team of four young people aged 18-25 from our Wired4Music network who have supported the online training events. This has involved them attending training on facilitating online courses, attending courses and participating in discussions, and hosting breakout room discussions.

What next?

We are committed to continual reflection and review to ensure that Sound Connections work is modelling and supporting inclusive and diverse practice. This will include the following:

  • Delivering a two-day virtual event (11th and 12th February 2020) ‘Inclusive Practice in Action’ with the theme of diversifying the music education workforce. We have established an advisory group of 10 music leaders/practitioners who are often under-represented in music education events programming, or who are under 25, who are supporting us with creating the format and content
  • We have engaged music leader, composer and lecture Brenda Rattray to consult practitioners in our network who have experienced racial discrimination to understand current issues they may be facing, and to advise Sound Connections on how we can better support these practitioners in our network
  • Two partnership projects will see us deliver a series of online events targeted at bringing together practitioners and organisations who are working with vulnerable young people in particularly challenging circumstances:
    • Working With Chaos’ with Bollo Brook Youth Centre, where speakers and young people will debate issues such as censorship, broadening horizons, and youth voice, with the aim of establishing a community of practice
    • ‘I Speak Music’ with Surrey Music Hub, which will provide inspiration, support and guidance to practitioners working with young refugees, displaced young people, and unaccompanied migrants
  • Delivery of a transition into music education ‘Level Up’ session, which will provide signposting, guidance and opportunities in the music education sector for 18-25 year old musicians/artists who are interested in developing their artistic portfolio to include education work. This session will be planned and produced by a team of young people.

In these unsettled times, let’s keep talking, learning, sharing, innovating and connecting. It’s what we do.

Abi D’Amore, Associate Programme Manager

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