Finding the Rhythm. An inspiring blog from Maureen Grant, who runs the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s West Yorkshire Programme, and is on a fascinating sebatical to Canada.
More than 1,200 employers involved, with staff walking in 158 different countries.
A website – available in twelve different languages – that sends you on a virtual journey as you and your team members pool your steps, giving encouragement and advice onphysical activity and nutrition.
This is the annual Global Corporate Challenge® (GCC), and Bradford College is taking part for the second year running. The goal is better mental and physical health and improved engagement, productivity and team-working.
As one of the College walkers, I am having a great time.
The GCC’s European office happens to be in North Leeds, so I went to meet Senior Account Manager Stephanie Griffiths to find out about the Challenge and discuss some of the ethics issues.
Stephanie explained that GCC was set up in 2004 by an Australian ad agency. One of the agency’s clients wanted a wellbeing programme for all of their staff, and turned to the agency for help with a creative solution which would engage their employees. That’s when walking became the central focus: “It’s so straightforward,” Stephanie says. “Nearly anyone can walk. Many activity programmes appeal only to the converted. This is for everyone.”
The figures tell the story: the scheme is now truly a global concern, and remains very inclusive. “The GCC encompasses different forms of mobility,” Stephanie says. “Everyone used to be issued with a pedometer, but this year we’ve introduce an ‘accelerometer’, which measures almost any significant movement in any direction. So if you are into kayaking you can wear it on your arm. If you are in a wheelchair you can use the accelerometer, or an odometer which measures distance.
“For some people, managing a few thousand steps a day is a major achievement. For others, the challenge gets them hitting a very high step count. It works for everyone, whatever your level.”
The big ethics question that my team members at College sometimes discuss is whether people are being honest when they enter the steps. On the website there is a ranking of all the teams, and those at the top have individual members who regularly clock up 50,000 steps a day – this is incredibly high, and some teams are very competitive.
Stephanie describes the checking procedures: “Anyone entering a particularly high step entry is asked to give a short account of how they achieved it. We check in part because sometimes people make mistakes – it’s easy to add an extra digit and not realise. We also ask for information if someone suddenly spikes when they have had fairly low step counts before, or if someone’s entries are very erratic.
“But there is no cash prize, no fixed reward for being the team that walks furthest,” Stephanie adds. “You are challenging yourself to improve, and if you cheat, really you cheat yourself.” The number of reports of possible cheating are very low.
“People participate in the programme as employees: employers expect honesty, and we find that most people are very honest,” Stephanie says. “There’s the team factor as well: other people are walking with you, encouraging you – they can usually tell what step count is realistic for you. And the employer gets the statistics for their teams, so that’s another point of review.”
GCC is a private organisation, and companies pay per team to take part. The same fee applies to businesses, public services and charities. “In a few cases, businesses subsidise the scheme or pay only for the lower paid staff, with higher salaried workers covering their own costs. But the great majority of organisations pay for their staff to take part because it brings so many benefits and fits with social responsibility goals.”
Another ethics issue that comes up, Stephanie says, is security. The GCC website is clearly designed by professionals – it is colourful, interactive and very engaging. Psychologists and other health and wellbeing experts have helped with the development of the Challenge and the GCC site to maximise the benefits and encourage lasting behavioural change. “A lot of data is entered and it’s important that the information individuals and employers enter is secure,” Stephanie says. In addition, step counts can be kept private to the individual and their employer. “Your colleagues on the scheme, and other organisations taking part, do not have to know your count if you don’t want them to.”
There is a strong charitable component to the Challenge, which is linked to UNICEF. “Through the Challenge we are raising funds for UNICEF water filtration projects,” Stephanie says. “Each dollar donated by a walker or employer will be matched by GCC.” Last year was the final year in a three year scheme that enabled some 380,000 primary school children to undertake a shorter walking challenge at no cost to parents, school or government. GCC has a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy of its own, with an emphasis on ethical procurement and managing environmental impact. All the staff at the Leeds office are wearing accelerometers and clocking up steps.
Finally: Stephanie’s role is to work with organisationsin Europe, the Middle East and Africa, encouraging them to take part, helping them through the process, and – when feasible – attending the celebrations that take place on completion of the Challenge.
My verdict: I am not someone who goes to the gym. I drive to work, where mostly I sit at a desk. But for two years running I have had the pleasure of being part of a Bradford College team and walking a lot, far more than I would normally. So I have to finish by saying that I am hugely impressed. The physical and mental benefits of the scheme are very clear to me. Thank you Bradford College and my team, and thank you Stephanie for the interview.
Bradford College hosts a Trade Union Studies Centre, running TUC courses for union representatives and members, from introductory and short courses to Level 3 Diplomas. Steve Davison runs the Centre, with a small staff of experienced lecturers.
I met up with Steve, to find out about the ethics behind the Centre. Steve himself has an interesting background, steeped in trade union activism.
“I started out in engineering, working in the Bradford District, and I joined an engineers’ union. I became shop steward, then factory convenor, and then I was chair of a group representing some 8,500 workers.
“But I got made redundant. Put on a blacklist, which was common then in engineering and construction and its still in the news today. It meant I went from one short job to another, all over the place.
“And then I got a call from the man running the Trade Union Centre here at Bradford College. I’d never taught before, but in those days what mattered was whether you had the direct experience. Trade Union Reps need teachers who know what its like, and what are the issues that come up.”
Up to a few years ago, Steve was active at the highest levels in the trade unions. Through a series of mergers, he became president of AMICUS, with 1.2 million members. In that position, he was part of a delegation to create the first global trade union, called Workers Uniting, formed with the American and Canadian trade union, the USW. It has 800,000 members and is still going strong. AMICUS later merged with the TGW to form Unite. It had 1.5 million members, and Steve was Vice President.
Three years ago, he had a heart attack and his family persuaded him to step down national trade union activity. Steve reflects:
“It was great. I met President Morales of Bolivia, I addressed the Venezuelan Parliament. But the thing which has left the greatest impression of all was working in Bangladesh with the ship wreckers.
“The wreckers are men who work along the coast, salvaging debris from boats broken at sea. They get about 20p an hour, and its very dangerous: a worker is killed every week. We were there to help them unionise and through that try to improve working conditions. They were amazing men. I’ll never forget it.”
Trade Union Studies at Bradford College
Steve explains: “Bradford College has been a progressive College from the outset, and it set up the Trade Union Centre in the 1970s. The College is rooted in the community, and Bradford at that time had a large industrial workforce, which was unionised – in textiles, engineering, chemicals and the catalogue trade.”
There are about 70 Trade Union training centres across the UK, with several in Yorkshire. “Our Centre remains popular,” Steve says, “but we don’t have the numbers of students that we used to get. There’s a threefold challenge: the absolute decline of manufacturing, engineering and textiles; the deterioration of Bradford city; and the rise of Leeds as the undisputed centre of West Yorkshire. That all impacts on employment, and has led to a huge decline in union members and therefore union reps.
“There is no longer a national solution, especially to the problems of work and jobs. The decisions about whether people in Bradford work or not are made in the US, Brussels, Delhi and Beijing. So we offer here the practical courses people need to advise and negotiate for their members, to help them gain or maintain a fair wage and decent conditions of work, and we also have a global focus.”
The Union Reps attend on day release. “The right to time off for Union training was established by Harold Wilson in the 1970s,” Steve says, “and it has stuck. No subsequent government has tried to dismantle it. It is in the interests of the employer to have an educated workforce with whom they can dialogue, with an understanding of the legal framework.”
Moreover, the training is free. “The right to this training is important: for labour relations and fair treatment, and also because for some reps it is an opening into education,” Steve adds. He explains that some reps go on to other study in the College, or elsewhere. “You can build up enough level 3 credits on our Diploma to start on a degree if you want. Sometimes there are people – women in particular – who’ve had little education and been out of the workforce, and they come to us and the world of education opens up for them. The College is therefore an important base for us, and it has always been very open, accessible and welcoming to our students.”
The trade union ethic
“An important ethic for us is that of equal treatment,” Steve says. “It’s enshrined in our courses – equal rights, equal opportunities, and the celebration of diversity. The most powerful inequity is that of class, and the aim of the trade union movement is to challenge that by raising its members from poverty.
“At the same time, solidarity with others is a massive issue. Empathy. There’s the old Methodist phrase – you are your brothers’ keeper. You have a responsibility to the workforce and to the community. We encourage people to be active, to be part of communities and causes.
“Our actions have consequences, and that can be very complicated for a Trade Union Rep who has to balance the long and short term interests of the workforce, and decide when to compromise and when to stand firm. That’s why training, and contact with trainers and other Reps, is so important.”
Finishing with a film…
I ask Steve to recommend a film or two for anyone wanting insight into labour relations and trade unionism. He comes up with three:
It’s a great way to plug a short course coming up in November that any Trade Union member can apply to join. Titled Contemporary Trade Unionism, it will look at how the labour movement changed Britain after World War 2. Its six Tuesdays evenings from 5 November, and maybe they will run it again for those of us busy on a Tuesday.
For more information about any of the Bradford College Trade Union courses, download the brochure: 122782 BC TUC Autumn 2013Final-1 or contact farhana Khan on 01274 436115, email firstname.lastname@example.org
At Bradford College, staff and students are using the internet in various ways to develop dissertations and research projects. There are lots of possibilities: online interviews and focus groups; questionnaires; observing or participating in forums; using information from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more.
Involving humans in research on or through the internet raises complex ethical issues, so I went to a workshop at the University of Leeds to find out more.
The workshop: Is one of a series on research ethics, held by the University of Leeds. (You can read about an earlier workshop I attended, about involving humans in research, here on the blog).
The workshop was led by Dr Alice Temple, who works with the University Research Ethics Committee, other University Ethics Working Groups, the Inter-disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the UK Universities Research Ethics Committees Group, concerned with national issues of the ethical review process in Universities.
Recent situations: During the talk, Alice mentioned real instances to show how ethics can play out with regard to the internet. Here’s an example:
- participants in a sexual abuse survivors online forum found their words had been used for research. Their response was that this was a form of violation, and their online support community no long felt like a safe place.
Sitting on park bench? Alice explained that one academic asks people to visualise that they are sitting on a park bench (a public space) chatting to friends. If you then found you were being recorded for research purposes, how would you feel? (Waskul, 1996)
The workshop explored these and other issues raised by internet research. A summary is set out below. For the best set of guidelines, Alice recommended a report from the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) titled ‘Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research’.
Privacy and confidentiality
The internet presents greater risks to individual privacy than many other forms of communication. Many people aren’t aware that IPS addresses can be traced back to them. You may think you are participating anonymously in a discussion, but in all likelihood you can be identified. And people don’t realise how public or permanent information is, or how easily it can be picked up by search engines.
This means that a researcher must be clear about anonymity, including the instances when anonymity might not be respected (for instance if a participant discloses something illegal).
The internet offers researchers the possibility of eavesdropping – of observing behaviours and attitudes, of taking part in conversations without disclosing that you are doing research. Nearly all these approaches are likely to be unethical.
What is public and what is private?
This is no easy matter, but it is vital that researchers assess how ‘public’ an online environment is before they make it part of their research. Most blogs, and some forums, are in the public domain, easily accessible. Other groups you have to register to join and it is clear that a greater degree of privacy is expected. However, people who comment in more open online environments can be unaware of how easy it is to find what they are saying, and that it is a permanent record, so they may have shared information openly that was meant to be private.
Other factors to take into consideration when defining the degree of confidentiality that might apply include the sensitivity of the information that is shared or discussed. There is a considerable difference between a group that meets to talk about sports fixtures and a group that is reflecting on sexual abuse.
The vulnerability of participants is also a concern, and the profile of the people involved – people who are high profile have an expectation that their words will attract attention and that their privacy will not be respected. The potential harm that the research process or publication could cause is another consideration.
Participants as subjects and participants as authors
This has been put forward as a useful way of determining the degree to which privacy should be respected. Where participants are subjects, they are taking part in discussions without seeing their communication as something they intend for wider publication. Where people author material, for instance on a website or blog, they are deliberately placing information in the public domain for others to read.
The guidance on best practice from AoIR deems that consent is essential if using private or semiprivate sources, such as email groups and closed chat rooms. With regard to open access forums (newsgroups, bulletin boards) consent is not always a necessity – the more open the place, the less onus for consent.
How to get informed consent: If you are using material on a blog, you can contact the author and ask their permission. But on a chat forum it can be much harder because people come and go.
One option is to post comments on the forum several times, explaining your research and their role in it. You can do this before and during the research. Seeking retrospective consent is more problematic, because the people may be harder to contact.
Even on a public site, such as a newspaper with comment forums, you should try to gain consent if you intend to quote participants. If you use aggregated data from an open forum, without quoting participants, this lessens the need to get consent.
Options include contacting the owner of a forum and requesting their consent, and/or arranging for people to tick a box to indicate they consent to taking part. With online surveys and questionnaires, if a clear introduction is given to the participant, their consent is implied once they choose to take part.
The credibility of the researcher is important to securing consent. You should have a link to somewhere online that explains who you are, the research you are doing, and how to contact you. You also need to consider whether you are confident that people taking part in the research are who they say they are, including whether children might be taking part in appropriately.
It is standard research practice to acknowledge sources. Copyright law can apply, requiring acknowledgement. This is to be balanced with providing confidentiality and anonymity where appropriate – this requires the stripping out of demographic data and names. Sometimes it is impossible to ensure confidentiality, and in these cases the ethics issues should be considered very carefully before research goes ahead.
The ethical issue here is whether your sample is representative or inclusive if you use only online sources: many people do not or cannot access the internet. In addition, it becomes harder to be ethically sensitive online, where so many different cultures can be present. Language is another factor – in international or transnational research, it is possible that many or the majority of participants will not have English as a first language.
There are a number of risks: emails can go to unintended recipients, messages in a chat room can be copied, and in general security can be breached in a number of ways.
Good practice in ethics requires the researcher to feedback to those involved in the research. This is also important to building a long-term positive research environment – poorly conducted research can alienate participants and make them reluctant to be part of future studies.
Key areas of law are libel, harassment and intellectual property. These vary from one country to another. EU legislation has been increased recently: it is necessary to have tobtain explicit, freely given, specific and informed consent from individuals in order to be able to lawfully process their personal data under EU data protection laws.
“What is legal falls short of what is ethical here,” Alice explained, “because there isn’t sufficient legislation to deal with all situations.”
At Bradford College, all research is submitted to ethics review. Student research up to masters level is reviewed by staff within the relevant Department. Individual research proposals that cause concern are then referred to the College Research Ethics Committee. All research conducted by staff and outside researchers is reviewed by the Committee. Contact me (Ruth Wilson) for further information.
The College Ethics blog is delighted to have led the first College Ethics walk – to mark national walking month and the start of the Global Corporate Challenge. You can find out about our walk in the slideshow below, and there’s also a short audio clip about Doris Birdsall and some useful links. Thanks to everyone who took part.
Listen to a recording of Sandra Vine-Jenkins and Jillian Mercer remembering Doris:
Other useful links:
- Find out more about Ethical Tissue on the College Ethics blog.
- Find out more about the Free City Bus on the College Ethics blog.
- Doris Birdsall: an obituary in the Guardian, and a profile on our 175 Heroes website.
- University of Bradford Ecoversity
- Green Solutions (College-owned recycling, re-using and storage business)
Ethical biscuits: palm oil
- UK sustainable palm oil targets are too weak, say retailers (The Guardian)
- The Rainforest Foundation report ‘Seeds of destruction’: palm oil developers threaten Africa’s rainforests
- Orangutangs and oil palm plantations: hanging on but just barely (World Wildlife Fund)
- Our experts, Dr Susan Boyce, Ben Tongue, Ian Brown, Sandra Vine-Jenkins, Jillian Mercer, Neil Moore, Pam Sheldon
- Our Walking Champion, Jonathan Curtis
Susan Boyce – Ed Briggs – Zoe Corcoran – Jonathan Curtis – York Dixon – Joanne Fawthrop – Gail Hall – Gail Holmes – Emma Haycock – Susan Houlbrook – Vanessa Hutchison – Julia Kendall – Maria Mousawi – Linda Taglione – Ben Tongue – Sandra Vine-Jenkins – Fran Walker – Andy Welsh – Ruth Wilson
Text by Ruth Wilson, images by Ruth Wilson and Jonathan Curtis, Bradford College
Next door to Bradford College, on the top floor of a secure building on the University of Bradford campus, is a unique service: Ethical Tissue.
It responds to requests from researchers for human tissue, and it stores tissue for biomedical research. Ethical Tissue is unique in providing a primary source of tissue solely for research purposes.
There are important ethical issues in human tissue donation and use, so I went to talk to Dr Susan Boyce about the work of her team. Although they deal with many requests for tissue in a year and have thousands of samples serving multiple uses, the space is surprisingly compact: a small office, and a laboratory where the samples are stored and prepared, and just three members of staff delivering the service: Susan (Head of Ethical Tissue), Senior Scientist Wayne Burrill, and Khadeja Suleman, Research Nurse.
First, Susan provided a definition of tissue: “Tissue is anything that contains human cells – that might be substantial body parts, small slithers of flesh, or blood, urine and so on.”
Susan then explained what makes Ethical Tissue special: “Being a primary source of tissue means we are involved in finding potential donors, meeting them, explaining what is needed, and getting their consent.”
“Nearly everyone has something to give,” Susan says. “Sometimes we need donors with particular conditions, or from particular ethnic groups. Sometimes we need normal tissue. We usually get a very good response. Nearly everyone we ask says yes they want to help researchers. We are always very grateful when people do decide to donate.”
The legal requirements are covered by the Human Tissue Act and regulated by the Human Tissue Authority :
Relevance: The tissue has to be collected for relevant research. In most cases, the research is providing new insight into medical conditions, or helping with the development of treatment.
Donor consent: Samples must be provided with the informed consent of the donor. “You own your body tissue,” Susan says, “and you have the right to say what happens to your tissue during life and after death.”
Securing consent means accepting without pressure someone’s decision not to donate. Most people are very keen to help: we are hardly ever turned down. None of the major faiths have an objection to tissue donation. Sometimes people are facing complex and serious operations and they do not want to consider donation. This is of course acceptable, we always respect the wishes of the individual.“
Informed consent: Another important ethical aspect of consent is that the donor understands the purpose of the donation, and can ask for further information if they want. Not everyone is capable of informed consent: “We do not take consent from vulnerable adults ” Susan says. “We take samples from children if the parents consent, and if the child actively assents. The next of kin can consent following the death of a patient – this does not delay the funeral arrangements.”
Generalised consent: “When people donate tissue to a tissue bank, they cannot specify what they want the samples used for,” Susan says. “They cannot request or rule out a particular kind of research. But sometimes we are able to tell them if there is a specific research project involved, and they can read the findings if they want when those are made public.”
Not for profit: “We make it very clear that there is no financial element for the donor. This is an altruistic gift,” Susan says. In addition, the service only seeks to recover costs from the researchers that it helps. “This applies whether our client is a public sector or charity researcher or a large pharmaceutical company developing a drug. We are heavily funded by the University, and this enables us to provide the service at a cost which enable research to go ahead.”
Anonymity, confidentiality and security: Every tissue donation is unique and is assigned a number, so the database is anonymous. The donor names are never stored on a computer. The samples and all records are in a highly secure, restricted access building and office, with any sensitive information kept in locked filing cabinets.
Timeliness and optimisation: If somebody gives tissue it will often be with the researcher very soon after, or it may be optimised – this means that the tissue can be used in several ways, to minimise waste and increase utility.
Deciding which research requests to respond to: “We don’t decide who gets what tissue,” Susan says. “We have independent scientific advisers (ISACs), all reputable and appropriate experts, and they decide which research requests we should respond to. We never meet the ISACs. This means we don’t send tissue to projects run by our friends, and we can’t favour investigations into health issues we are particularly concerned about.”
Validity of the research requests: “The research must be relevant and reasonable, the standing of the researcher must be acceptable, and they must have sufficient funding to complete,” Susan explains. It is the role of the ISACs to determine whether this is the case.
Susan Boyce is a clinical scientist with a PhD in neuroscience. She began her career working in a burns unit in the NHS. She then moved on to set up a skin bank for therapeutic transplantation at the University of Sheffield, before coming to lead Ethical Tissue at Bradford.
“This is the ultimate in re-cycling,” Susan says. “It is very ethical. It gives you relevant results that are for the benefit of all.”
The Bradford Free City Bus was launched in September 2008 by Metro and Bradford Metropolitan District Council.
The bus enables many of our students to reach the College free of charge and is therefore very important to helping us provide education opportunities that are accessible to people on a low income, or from low income families. If it is used by significant numbers of people who might otherwise travel by car, it also helps reduce carbon emissions.
There are three free Bradford buses travelling a single circular route which includes Bradford College as one of the stops. They travel at a 10 minute frequency between 7am and 7pm on a weekday and 8am to 5.30pm on a Saturday. (Details of the route here.)
The following facts and figures have been kindly provided by Neil Moore, Senior Transport Planner, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, and Pam Sheldon of Bradford College:
- The service costs around £270,000 a year to operate.
- Funding is split between Bradford Council and Metro.
- These costs are offset by sponsorship of the service which cover approx 10% of the costs. Currently Bradford College and Bradford University sponsor the service.
- The cost to Bradford College to sponsor the bus is £12,500 per annum and £2,500 for signage to the side of a bus.
- Sovereign Healthcare and Grand Central (rail operator) have also sponsored the service in the past.
- The council recently guaranteed to fund the Free City Bus until the end of March 2014.
- Due to cuts in local government grants funding for the service beyond this date is uncertain.
Campaign to keep the bus going
- In February 2011 the Council indicated that it wanted the service to end in April 2011 due to budgetary pressures.
- Following a campaign organised by Bradford College and the University the Council had a change of heart.
- The campaign included a petition with 440 signatures.
History and targets
The Free City Bus was initially launched on a 6 month trial. It had to exceed a number of targets before the Council committed to the service on a permanent basis:
Patronage The target was 4,170 passengers per week (actual = 17,558)
Modal Shift The number of passengers who would have used their car to make the journey instead if the service was not running. Target was 2% of users (actual = 2% which is the equivalent of reducing car tips by 351 in a typical week)
Mobility The service should carry a higher proportion of mobility impaired passengers than a typical bus service. The target was 9% of users (actual = 14%)
Trip generation The number of passengers who would not have made the journey if the service was not running. This target was set at 1% of users (actual = 3% or an extra 526 trips into the city centre).
Therefore the trial comfortably exceeded it’s targets.
User Demographics (2010 survey)
Gender 54.8% Female, 40.2% Male
Age groups 0.4% under 16, 19.5% were 16-19, 43.9% were 20-39, 17.5% were 40-59, 16% in range 60+
Reason for using the service T get to work 18.4%, Education 27.3%, Leisure/recreation 6.2%, Shopping 34.1%, other 14%
Feedback 46% rate the service excellent, 49% good, 1% poor, 4% no response
Most popular boarding stops
Weekday – Oastler Centre (27%), University (21%), Interchange (17%)
Saturday – Oastler Centre (31%), University (14%), Interchange (13%)
Most popular alighting stops
Weekday – Interchange (29%), University (18%), Market Street (12%)
Saturday – Oastler Centre (21%), Interchange (20%), Forster Sq rail stn (14%)
Environmental impact (from Ethical Consumer 2008)
Well-used buses help reduce carbon emissions:
|Means of transport||Fuel efficiency (km per litre)||CO2 emissions per km|
|Bus (well-used service)||28-50kpl per passenger||80-45g|
|Rail (normal suburban)||18-52kpl per passenger||130-45g|
|Rail (high speed, few stops)||14-28kpl per passenger||165-80g|
|Air (long haul)||8-12kpl per passenger||330-210g|
|Large cars, SUVs etc||5-9kpl||400-250g|
|Air (short haul)||4-8kpl per passenger||460-300g|
Source: Aviation Environmental Federation, http://www.aef.org.uk
Useful links: The Campaign for Better Transport