Case study: Embracing change when embedding evaluation

From dreading to yearning impact practice

Circle is a Scottish charity working at the heart of deprived communities across central Scotland. Their aim is to support the most disadvantaged and difficult-to-engage children and families to improve their lives and promote their healthy development and potential.

The Code of Good Impact Practice recommends that everyone in an organisation takes some responsibility for impact. Measuring Up! guidance also encourages users to involve a variety of people who know the organisation: trustees, staff, volunteers and ideally beneficiaries.

The idea is to bring different perspectives during the self-assessment process to ensure that the whole organisation understands what works, what doesn’t work and how and why they will be working to implement the recommendations from Measuring Up!

Taking on board this guidance, Circle set up an internal Embedding Impact Group in her organisation. The group was varied in terms of roles and responsibilities, but also knowledge and skills. The Code was used to create the terms of reference for the group. Circle’s embedding impact practice group met monthly at first, moving to quarterly meetings when they felt they had a good grasp on their impact practice plans.

The group helped us focus on impact practice, rather than thinking of it as separate from service delivery. We know that when pressure hits part of the organisation someone is there to pick impact practice up.

Making the most of the group

We knew that we then needed to embed impact practice across the organisation. I filled in the diagnostic wheel first; the group then met monthly to review it.

Measuring Up! also helped us go through the process. We could see where our impact practice was strong and where we needed to make improvements. Being part of this group really helped me focus on what we are doing. Starting from our vision and mission, we knew we had one; however, we weren’t using it much or reviewing it. We didn’t have a corporate entity really. When Rhona, our new CEO, joined the internal group she set out her vision for the organisation, which helped focus the work.

We found the Measuring Up! tool very practical and adaptable. It was good to see how our impact practice was improving, seeing ‘ambers’ turn to ‘greens’ and ‘reds’ progress to ‘ambers’. It’s still work on progress but we know we’re improving.

Challenges and successes

Circle’s embedding impact practice group used and adapted the logic model that Maureen produced during the Inspiring Impact sessions for different strands of work and funding bids. We have a staff team of about 45 people. We are all using the SHANARRI outcomes framework. The internal group has been useful to know what outcomes each programme should prioritise. It helped us embed an outcomes approach across the whole organisation and at all levels consistently.

One of the challenges of adopting the SHANARI outcomes framework is that outcomes are for children. We work with children and families so one of the challenges we faced was identifying who owns the outcome, the child, a parent or the whole family. We have managed to clarify this now.

Circle doesn’t just go through the motions. Staff use the internal group lead on the self-assessment process and take forward action plans/ideas for development. For example, The group identified that we didn’t tailor our messages to key audiences so we created a “marketing and communications subgroup” to help change this. We don’t have a dedicated policy person but maybe this is something we could do in the future; for now we agreed that it’s something Managers could take on.

Current plans

The internal group created an action plan to address weaker areas which will also feed into our strategic plan. We do a self-evaluation every year and, on the back of the Inspiring Impact support, we are in the process of reviewing our evaluation feedback forms; up until now we’re evaluating the service delivery part rather than the outcome.

Circle are using this group now to look at how they can standardise what scores like ‘1’ or ‘10’ mean: This will allow us to be more consistent in the way we record information across the country.

Take away message

Embedding impact practice and evaluation is about always looking at what you’re doing. It’s a cycle you should be on all the time.

Practitioners should always use time for reflection. It’s easy to get bogged down on delivery and lose sight of what you want to achieve.

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