Raising money for Comic Relief

We held a bake off competition at the Veysey Building today to raise money for Comic Relief.  Based on the feedback (empty plates, full tummies), it was a success, and it raised over £160, which is excellent.

But it got me thinking, is there a middle range theory to explain how a bake off actually works?  So I thought I’d have a blog…

What is the mechanism of action?  What causes a bake off to work?

The mechanism of judging offered participants an opportunity to get involved with the heart of the enterprise (no one left out, all have valuable contributions) in a way that ignored traditional roles and boundaries within a hierarchical organisation.  For a time, the usual rules about seniority, status or power were suspended as all cakes were set out for judging by all.  The powerful combination of ‘all included, all equal’ reflects a potent human need for belonging and balance.  Once it was clear to participants that this was how the ‘resources’ were offered, their reasoning was to get stuck in.

In what circumstances does a bake off work?

The distillation of our reasoning was simple: people like to eat cake, and at Veysey, people are quite passionate about the cake they eat (another conducive/responsive context?).  AND, being researchers, there is a degree of competitiveness and perfectionism within the organisation already, which would make the idea of a competition appealing to everyone. (another conducive/responsive context).

Who were the winners and losers of the bake off?

Apart from the Amazing Helen Davey and her Red Velvet Clown Cake (who was the ultimate winner), the outcome pattern was surprisingly one tailed – I would humbly suggest that everyone had a good outcome, whether baker, judge, winner or ‘loser’…  all played a part and could share in what was a successful morning of community together.  It would be interesting to understand the experience of those that did not attend, because in a sense, they lost out…but it is likely that the context was actually constraining their involvement, rather than enabling it.

The actual outcomes delivered are quite interesting, because they can be viewed in terms of the individual participants (eaten delicious cake, so feeling full), or in terms of the ’cause’ (Comic Relief).  It is likely that participants didn’t necessarily consider these two outcomes separately though: it is something about the magnified benefit of cake and giving that creates the ultimate outcome of a bake off, which is it makes people feel good.  Some participants will probably have participated because of the blending of the individual reward (cake fullness), and the realisation of a goal for a cause.  Raising money for charity is still considered a ‘good thing’, and this was once again born out today in the bake off. I am consistently surprised that even though belts are tighter than ever, people still give generously!  Well, belts have been loosened at Veysey today.

So, for the future, to generalise the findings of this morning, perhaps we could look at how the theory of ‘status suspension’ might apply in different contexts: we could test out this theory by creating a different opportunity to suspend status, but within the same context, which also held a reward (both altruistic and intrinsic), in order to see if the same outcomes occurred.  But I hope it won’t be to do with Cake anytime soon – I’m all caked out now!

Helen Davey’s cake.  Clowns – still scary!

(scary clown cake)

The Hive…. it’s going LIVE!!!

Well, it’s not long now before the email containing our ‘umble plan to run a workshop on realist evaluation and synthesis wings it’s merry way across the inboxes of early career researchers and postgrad students from Humanities and Social Sciences as well as the Medical School…. soon, our plans will come to pass, and we shall, once and for all, be the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE!!

I have always wondered precisely what is meant by Early Career Researchers – is the plan behind calling those at grades E and F ECRs some form of trying to show that at some point, we shall reach middle age, and then older age, and then die off?  It seems a funny way of looking at things, particularly if you came to academia ‘late’ like I did.  I mean, I’m only (only!) 37, so I’m definitely not ‘early’ in my career, but this is my first academic job, so I guess I am an Early Academic Career Researcher… which is even more of a mouthful.  Either way, we are hoping that the Blog, Wiki and the Introductory session and book group will gather a broad range of interest from across the University, as well as across the grades of researchers.

Looking forward to meeting you…..