This half day workshop was the first of a new 2017-2018 programme of Inspiring Impact network events led by Evaluation Support Scotland. Guided by feedback from participants at our last Inspiring Impact event in August 2017, we developed a series of three networking workshops to explore some of the more challenging aspects of embedding evaluation. This first workshop focused on engaging colleagues, volunteers and trustees with evaluation. We had a range of organisations in the room- from small and local to large and national. As might be expected for a December workshop we had a few cancellations (7) but 23 participants arrived that morning with their evaluation hats on!
The workshop aimed to support participants to learn with and from each other, share good practice, and think creatively about engaging their colleagues, volunteers and trustees with evaluation and impact measurement. The programme for the day featured guest speakers from local third sector organisations. Evelyn Mitchell, (Project Manager) discussed how Changeworks keep staff engaged with evaluation, and Marion Findlay (Director of Services) talked about how Volunteer Edinburgh evaluates volunteers' experiences as well as how to involve volunteers with undertaking evaluation activities on behalf of the organisation.
First off, Evelyn gave us an insight into how Changeworks has transformed their approach to evaluation. Her main messages for getting colleagues on board included: •Make sure your data collection deadline is well before the reporting deadline! • Have one point of contact and one central evaluation spreadsheet - so everyone knows who is leading on data collation and where the data has to be recorded.
• Use gentle persuasion rather than nagging! • Try out having incentives /competition between departments • Update your colleagues and Board members of the evaluation results so they know what has been learned and what will happen next
After Evelyn's presentation participants worked together to troubleshoot common problems that can occur when trying to gather project evaluation data. Top 10 recommendations: 1. Plan and talk with staff about your evaluation approach in advance so there's time for them to ask questions and to develop a shared purpose. 2. Use accessible language to talk about what you're doing e.g. “I’m not evaluating you, I’m evaluating what we do". 3. Use a negative evaluation experience to do it better next time. 4. Involve service users in producing their own evaluation so they can bring staff on board through discussions and activities that explore their experiences of using the service 5. Communicate your findings regularly 6. Make sure staff know what the outcomes and indicators are for their work so they know what they're aiming for. 7. Take time to take stock of how it's going and remember to keep it simple. 8. Ask for help from colleagues with experience of evaluating. 9. Remember to ask your colleagues what data they already collect before asking them to collect more! 10. Be disciplined about what you really need to know instead of all the things you want to know.
After a coffee and pastries break, Marion Findlay shared some of the methods that Volunteer Edinburgh has used recently to evaluate volunteers' experiences as well as engaging them in helping the organisation to evaluate the work it does.
One of Marion's key messages was that organisations should remember that when it comes to evaluation volunteers can keep you grounded as they see lots of examples of where your work fits in to the bigger picture (e.g. how it makes a difference to people's day to day lives). Marion reminded us that people's stories and experiences can be as valuable as statistics- so it's important to remember this when thinking about what evaluation methods to use. She also said that Volunteer Edinburgh have benefited from of taking time to think carefully about which evaluation activities would suit the skills and personalities of particular volunteers as in the end they know the volunteers feel confident about the evaluation work they are doing and as a result they are getting high quality evaluation data.
Participants then moved around the room for the next table activity- exploring ways of involving volunteers with different kinds of roles in evaluation. Key messages about getting volunteers on board with evaluation were:
1. Ask volunteers what makes them proud when they are volunteering and how the organisation can continue to support that in the future. 2. Involve volunteers in designing your feedback approach. 3. Include evaluation in volunteer training so they know what it's for. 4.Find ways to capture the casual moments- volunteers often see and hear things that staff don't- valuable for evaluation about what's working or not. 5. Make opportunities for volunteers to come along to social gatherings- so there's a chance for some light touch evaluation to happen. 6. Ensure volunteers know what is and isn't expected of them- what information is it OK for them to gather and what isn't? 7. Don't just get volunteers to do the donkey work- make an effort to match their evaluation work with their interests and skills (e.g. confidence to ask questions, ability to write up feedback). 8.Make sure evaluation activities are a reasonable part of their role and not an extra burden 9. Keep volunteers updated on what happens to the data they collect and what difference evaluation has made to your organisation.
The final presentation for the day was from Louise Bowen (Evaluation Support Scotland). Louise drew on Trustees' Week 2017 messages to highlight some of the ways organisations can engage trustees in evaluation, as well as how trustees can support evaluation as part of their governance role.
Trustee top tips from the room: 1. Identify one trustee to lead on evaluation. 2. Include evaluation in your trustees' induction training. 3. Recruit the right trustees- make sure they match with the vision and values of the organisation- so they understand the difference you want your work to make. 4. Keep an eye on the balance- trustees shouldn't need to intervene in operational issues but they do need to be interested in your work. Make sure you give them enough information about what's happening and how it's going so they can govern effectively and don't disengage. 5. Involve staff and trustees in a shared Away Day where you have the opportunity to talk about evaluation together and get to know each other.
We had some great feedback on social media after the event!