Wales Council of the Blind

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Feedback from Benchmarking Conference 2007.

A conference to launch the VI Benchmarking was held in Swansea in 2007. Here is the feedback from delegates.


Initially there was no funding for this conference so a host was sought. The City & County of Swansea offered to host it and this offer was accepted. A venue was provided but not the refreshments. Consequently it was agreed to charge a fee. Later a grant of £600 was made by S.S.I.A. towards the costs of the conference and this was used mainly for a flyer and other smaller costs.


50 people were booked in but 63 attended on the day. This clearly had an impact on the responses under Q 3 and 4.

16 of the 22 local authorities were represented by staff whilst 5 of the remaining 5 were represented by the vol org that was contracted to provide services in the area.

3 of the 4 large vol orgs. attended and 3 of the large UK orgs. for v.i.

One person remarked that not enough managers were present and that they needed to be there because they could do something.

Evaluation forms.

Q1 Overall has it been successful in reporting back on progress and in agreeing a programme of work for the year ahead?

Very good - 11; Fairly good - 13; Not very good - 3.

There were numerous complimentary comments but some criticism in that not enough progress was shown and so it was repetitive.

Q2 How informative were the presentations?

Altogether there were 60 Very Good, 44 Fairly Good and 4 Not Very Good. They were evenly spread.

Q3 Accessibility and comfort of venue

There was strong criticism of the venue with 3 Very Good, 12 Fairly Good and 11 Not Very Good. The negative comments were that the room was too small, too cramped with no natural light, not enough toilets and not very accessible. The acoustics were judged to be poor. But it was also remarked that it was an interesting venue.

Q4 Refreshments

The 9 who deemed it Very Good commented that 'All needs were catered for' and 'Covered all tastes'. 7 said they were Fairly Good and 9 'Not Very Good. Amongst the latter were those who got to the table when food and drink were running out.

Q5 Any other comments?

This section drew a couple of negative comments but far more positive comments. 'An excellent day', 'Extremely enjoyable'. People appreciated the opportunities for discussion and networking.

It was judged useful to discuss with other authorities but also:

'I am keen to progress the benchmarking with others in the authority'.

One person remarked 'Challenge ahead' and another 'Keep the dream alive'.


There is clearly an appetite for a regular participatory event and there is a sense that grassroots workers are relying on the Network to fight for recognition for them.

"This is very informative and needs to be an annual event to keep us up-dated and high profile"

"Need to have regular meetings due to benchmarking not being wasted and shelved".

If that is to be the case, one of the first tasks of the Working Group will be to identify funding or sponsorship. If we are to rely again on a host, this would best be sought and obtained very early on.

A good accessible venue is a must and this would of course be helped if funding were available. The alternative would be to charge a much higher conference fee.

With increasingly crowded diaries, it would be best to set a date at least six months ahead and publicise it.

It is possible to detect a warm welcome for the benchmarking method but at the same time a nervousness about whether it will be taken seriously. The Working Group will need to decide how that is to be tackled. Another conference will only be productive if there has been sufficient progress in the meantime to demonstrate. Assisting and promoting progress will be the first step to a successful conference.

''A worthwhile exercise but only if followed up effectively"

However it would be unrealistic to rely on a conference to maintain momentum and it seems sensible to look for other means of keeping in touch with the members of this network before then.

'Hope there is feedback and information on issues arising from the day'.