Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Pondering Evaluation

Do you work at a charity and have some involvement with evaluations, impact measurement or report-writing for funders? What works for you and what are the challenges?

In my role as Outreach Manager at Art in Healthcare (AiH) I constantly find myself thinking about our mission, aims and objectives, ensuring that our outreach programme stays focused and relevant to the organisation as a whole. Furthermore, I am very aware that evaluating our services and gathering feedback are key processes that we must incorporate into our daily activities as both educational and a check that our services are proving worthwhile and effective. Unsurprisingly, each round of feedback we gain comes with at least one suggestion or comment that has implications for a slight re-shape of how we do, what we do. To me this is natural development – services are only as worthwhile as they are appreciated by service-users thus organisations are responsible for regular monitoring of their service provision by means of informing this natural development.
Workshop at 'Art from Art' Exhibition, February 2013
I recently attended an event run by Evaluation Support Scotland, an organisation whose aim is ‘to make evaluation valuable, relevant and proportionate’ by supporting voluntary organisations and funders with measurement and reporting of their impact. (See http://www.evaluationsupportscotland.org.uk/ for further details). I quickly became aware that we are not alone at AiH in questioning the effectiveness of feedback forms, of wondering how best to maximise participation in feedback provision and maximising the utility of feedback, largely qualitative, once gained.

I was also especially interested to have some discussion time at the event with funders since, as a project-related fundraiser myself, I often wonder how best to ‘please’ funders with feedback reports at the end of projects, as well as ways to best sell project proposals based on feedback from previous pilot projects.

I should not have been surprised that funders are actually as conscious about their own evaluation processes almost as much as those they fund and part of the reason they often request thorough reports at the end of projects is by means of having their own source of evaluation for their own service provision. It seems everyone is therefore thinking about evaluation and about how best to capture the services they provide for passing on to others.

Art Workshop at Sunnyside Court, July 2013

Being a very visual person, I recently decided to put together a photo book including quotations and story-telling relating to our recent outreach programme at the sheltered housing block, Sunnyside Court in Morningside, run by Hanover Housing Association. To me this neatly gets across the success of our art workshops – pages of happy faces working together on a variety of creative projects, paired with inspiring quotes taken directly from participants’ feedback forms at the end of the project. For me this is evaluation, and a positive one at that, in a nutshell and is something I would gladly show funders, prospective participants and clients alike going forward. (See http://bit.ly/1gHwl79 for a PDF version of the photobook).

Meanwhile, we shall no doubt continue to develop our evaluation methods as we continue to develop our outreach programme and ensure that our services are both valued and evaluated.

Do get in touch with your thoughts on evaluations – what works for you as an organisation? How do you monitor your services and do you feel ‘in touch’ with your service users? What about funders?

Written by Amelia Calvert, Outreach Manager for Art in Healthcare

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