Need an evaluation partner? You’ve come to the right place
An evaluation needs to show funders, commissioners and the people you work with the difference you have made - But we know that many organisations find evaluation a difficult thing to do.
We are experts in evaluation techniques and have worked on major evaluations for the BIG Lottery Fund and Office for Civil Society, for trusts and foundations, national charities, government agencies and local authorities - But we are also practitioners so we understand the everyday challenges facing organisations in delivering their services and support.
We have created a simple framework and approach for an evaluation to work alongside and add value to project delivery. By working with us you get the techniques and expertise at your fingertips, coupled with a practical, grounded process and an interested supportive partner by your side.
Four steps to a great evaluation...
Design it well at the beginning, dovetail it into Delivery, Discover what worked and what didn't, then get out there and Disseminate your impact.
Your evaluation should be integral to the design of your project, knowing where you are going and what you want to achieve will ensure that you gather data and information at the right point in the project journey. If you try to do this at the end of the project it can be impossible to access the right kind of information to evidence the difference you have made.
An evaluation does not have to equal lots of bureaucracy and paper work. Once we have designed how an evaluation will work with your project, we can then work out practical ways that data and information can be gathered without adding lots of burden.
An evaluation is not just a report it should be a process that encourages 'live learning' to your teams and organisation so it adds value to your project and the people that you work with.
Get out there and disseminate your impact and learning. We don't believe that evaluation reports should gather dust on shelves, so we'll work with you to visualise your impact and help share your findings in accessible and interesting ways.
Design your evaluation at the same time as your proposed project.
You may have heard of logic models, outcome maps and Theories of Change – these are tools to help plan the journey of your project. They also help you plan how to measure progress and the kinds of information and data you will need to collect.
We think these tools are great ways of planning your project, helping you to really understand the connections between the activities you propose and the outputs you expect to deliver and most importantly the outcome(s) you want to achieve.
Depending on the requirements of the funder or commissioner, we will guide you through the methods required and the range of recognised tools and approaches that can be used, whether this is about measuring the impact, process or both. As independent consultants we do not advocate one approach over another, rather we look at their different merits, whether they are appropriate and tailor an approach that provides the best fit for your needs.
- We will work with you to design the evaluation and build it into the delivery of your projects.
- We can help you write your project/bid application and ensure funding requirements are met so that you have a better chance of securing funding.
- We can train your staff on evaluation principles and process.
- We can help you develop your own impact framework and demonstrate how your projects contribute to different funder outcomes.
- We can set up and support an independent expert panel to provide an external 'critical friend'.
In our experience, the time you already spend collecting data for monitoring your project is often all that is needed to provide evidence for your evaluation.
So we work out practical ways to minimise paperwork and data collection burdens where we can. We have designed special monitoring tools to make it easy to collect data, often with in-built analysis so this reduces the need to spend lots of time interpreting data. These tools are really important for projects that rely on partners and other organisations to supply information or for consortia arrangements and we can ensure that information about the project is being collected systematically and within a common framework.
We also know the pitfalls that organisations fall into when collecting data. Simple things like access to contact data; emails; mobile numbers can make or break an evaluation. There are also research ethics to consider especially around informed consent and for certain beneficiary groups which can make primary research difficult to deliver. As your evaluation partner we can anticipate these challenges and work with your operational teams to make sure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
- We can develop a data monitoring and collection framework to show what information is being collected, for what purpose, by whom and by when.
- We will develop a risk assessment for the evaluation and ensure that appropriate mitigations are in place to reassure your funders that your approach is robust.
- We can design customised data collection tools to ensure information is being collated consistently throughout the project.
- We will design research tools such as questionnaires, discussion guides, surveys and diaries to guide the research and ensure these are aligned to Social Research Association guidelines and ethics.
- We will support your project teams in promoting and securing participation in the evaluation, sometimes through incentives and other times through alternative engagement methods such as apps, texting and living experiences.
Evaluations have the greatest impact on projects if they facilitate ‘live learning’ and build the skills and capability of organisations.
The impact and evaluation industry is awash with jargon. Randomised Control Trials, Counterfactuals, Control Groups, Standards of Evidence - you don't need to be an expert on the terms but you do need to know the benefits and pitfalls of using certain methods. As your evaluation partner, our job is to help explain these to you in easy language and recommend which evaluation approaches are going to work best in your circumstances and to your budget.
To help share our learning, we run simple courses on evaluation methods for front-line workers, volunteers and operational teams so that they understand what is involved and can feel more confident in their participation. We also use approaches that involve beneficiaries, building in peer-to peer learning and opportunities for volunteers and others to take part in fieldwork and consultation. Something we know can add value to your project as well as build your own capabilities for future research and evaluation activities.
But most important is how the evaluation can shape and inform your project as it progresses. Using live learning methods such as action learning and longitudinal studies we use insights from the project as it evolves to shape future delivery; capture the journey; gathering case studies and information; helping people learn from each other. This makes your evaluation become a dynamic and interesting process as well as adding value to your project and building the skills of those you work with.
- We can conduct a short one day workshop on the principles of evaluation and processes at the beginning of the project.
- We can design a learning and development plan to sit alongside the evaluation which sets out opportunities for learning and review at key points in the project journey and capture insights, findings and learning.
- We can run courses to support the development of peer researchers either as staff or volunteers. Or run bespoked training sessions on particular aspects of research and evaluation methods.
- We will facilitate learning sessions and workshops which put project teams in the driving seat to explore their own learning and design solutions and ways forward.
- We can work with external partners and stakeholders to bring new ideas and thinking into the learning and development process and build opportunities for peer to peer learning with other projects facing similar challenges and issues.
The true test of an evaluation is how the lessons and insights it produces influences future programmes, policy and investment. This is just as important for your organisation as it is to policy-makers and funders. Evaluation reports should not end up as door-stops or get dusty on a shelf, so we will work with you to develop a plan for disseminating your findings which may require different tools, documents and approaches. We will build costs for dissemination into the evaluation, which are likely to be around the look and design of your findings so that they can engage and inspire policy-makers and funders.
- We can run events which bring together key stakeholders and people you work with to reflect on the findings and make recommendations for taking forward these into the future. This can be an important element in producing a final report so can be built as an integral part of the final evaluation activity.
- We can arrange webinars, speaking engagements and produce news articles which can be supported by a social media campaign to get your messages out there to as wide an audience as you want.
- We will produce accessible and informative executive summaries using different ways of visualising findings such as infographics so that the findings will appeal equally to a service user as they will to a policy-maker.