Kristine Hill, Funding Officer at the National Lottery Community Fund is responsible for supporting and monitoring projects who have been successful in receiving funding. Kristine shares her experience of project evaluation and speaks to a project that stood out for doing it well.
Working in grant management, occasionally I come across a project that’s clearly making a huge difference but struggling to show the impact of their work.
Soft outcomes, such as increased confidence or reduced isolation, can often be difficult to evidence. And while feedback forms do have their place, they’re not always the best way to evaluate as they can be impersonal and provide limited information.
Streets Ahead, which finished earlier this year, was a three year project from The Wallich which supported over 600 vulnerable adults across Cardiff and The Vale who had or still experienced homelessness to improve their confidence, learn or refresh skills, build positive relationships and feel part of their communities.
The project stood out as the team exceeded their target for reduced isolation by an amazing 450% and for increased sense of citizenship by 177%.
I met with Learning and Development Coordinator Ellie Pearson who led the project for some evaluation inspiration and her ideas were too good not to share!
“The key to evaluation is being able to show the beneficiary’s journey. In order to do this, you need to create as many platforms as possible which will empower people to tell their story. Think of all the different ways you can talk to participants and ensure their voice is heard.
It’s important to remember that funders aren’t just looking for a number of forms with the correct box ticked. Be creative and make sure evaluation activities are fun and relevant to your beneficiary group.”
Some great examples Ellie provided include:
- Newsletters – easy to set up and a brilliant way to involve service users, who can either take charge and run it or contribute articles, pictures or poems relating to their experiences. As well as providing an outlet for beneficiaries, it’s also a great way to keep stakeholders up to date.
- Learning lunches (informal focus groups) give beneficiaries the opportunity to get together and share their stories. They’re also really useful to find out what works and what doesn’t so you can shape and develop your project according to the needs identified by the group you’re working with.
- Brief case studies can be gathered throughout the project and by the end create a strong evidence base to demonstrate the need for your work. Regular catch ups and observations can feed into these.
- Celebration events at the end of each project year can be used to highlight progress made by participants. Even better if the events are planned and organised by the service users themselves. You could also include an awards ceremony to highlight particular achievements.
- Peer mentors can give a valuable insight into how effective your project is, they can report on progress, pass on feedback and have the advantage of previously being service users themselves.
- A short film like the one below from Streets Ahead is another great way to capture the journeys made by beneficiaries and has the potential to attract large audiences. Julie, who features in the video, has since enrolled on a foundation course for a Forensic Science degree and won the college’s Adult and Community Award!
Streets Ahead came to an end in March of this year but the good news is that learning and evaluation from this project contributed to another successful application to People and Places. BOSS (Building Opportunities, Skills and Success) will support prison leavers across South Wales to gain sustainable employment by offering training and guidance, helping them improve their skills and confidence, as well as their ability to access work and/or set up their own businesses. For more information on The Wallich, visit their website: thewallich.com and for further information on evaluation, take a look at our guide here