Impact story: Implementing learning across teams

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is a multi-disciplinary educational charity based in Scotland. Hannah Ormston, Impact Officer, shares her learning about how the RSE have implemented peer learning across the organisation.

Embedding evaluation

People learn in a variety of different ways and each with their own preferred style; developing a learning culture around evaluation therefore required flexibility, creativity, and adaptability – much like evaluation itself! We used a variety of different approaches and methods to engage and develop the team’s knowledge and understanding; from creating an internal ‘impact bulletin’ with links to key learning resources and case studies relating to the RSE’s impact, to running workshops and organising tailored training sessions.

We used ‘Making It Stick’ – an ESS resource about embedding evaluation. This provided practical tips and ideas for creating a learning culture and for generating discussion. Around the same time, we established an internal Impact Champions Group. The Impact Champions meet to discuss ideas and share experiences around evaluation in an informal setting. During the first few sessions, we discussed one topic from the embedding evaluation diagnostic wheel per meeting– taken from the ESS resource – and used the wheel to identify and map where we were in terms of evaluation as an organisation.

The impact champions group meetings have been a success. They take place every six weeks, usually on a Friday with some form of sweet treats which always helps to encourage staff attendance. The meeting has grown organically, with members now bringing their own examples of good evaluation practice to the meeting and engaging in discussions and debates about what constitutes appropriate impact evidence. I normally use the opportunity to trial an evaluation exercise which helps to get the group thinking, whilst showcasing the different tools available for use. We then have an informal discussion about what everyone is working on, plans for future work and ways to learn from each other.

Challenges and successes

One of the key challenges over the past year has been maintaining staff engagement – particularly from those who work ‘behind the scenes’. The first step was to identify some allies, our impact champions. Monitoring impact activity can be a huge and daunting task, but having a network of people within the organisation, who understand what we are trying to achieve and are enthusiastic about trying new methods for evaluation, really helps. Working with this group of like-minded individuals – who are committed to impact practice – has been invaluable and having a regular meeting in the diary has a helped to keep our evaluation momentum going. I have learned to never underestimate the power of peer learning.

As the evaluation team comprises only ‘me’, I have found this a good way to keep people engaged and has ensured the team takes ownership of evaluating their activities! We also had leadership buy in from our CEO which has ensured that the importance of regularly monitoring and evaluating our activities is high on the agenda and is frequently discussed at staff meetings.

The difference we made

Over the past year, the RSE team are increasingly keen to discuss appropriate and tailored evaluation methods, either during team meetings or on a 1-to-1 basis. I frequently receive ‘good news’ emails, demonstrating that a culture of sharing impact information is growing. Furthermore, staff are utilising the feedback we receive – such as following a public event – both to report on the success of an activity, and to think about improvements for the future. Their continuing commitment is also demonstrated by the representation we have at the Impact Group; there are ten people who regularly attend, which is almost 25% of the RSE team.

What we learnt

  • We needed enthusiastic staff to help spread the word.
  • We had to be consultative and willing to adapt to bring all staff on board.
  • We had to find a way of continuing the conversation and communication.

If you are thinking of doing something similar we suggest you:

  1. Identify a group of like-minded individuals within your organisation and create your own network of support.
  2. Get to know your colleagues, their preferred methods of working and learning, and create effortless ways for information to be recorded in a way that best suits them.
  3. Communicate frequently and learn peoples preferred methods of communication
  4. Keep the momentum going – don’t give up however tempting!

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