Ideas to Actions: The Evaluation Exchange

In November and December, we ran the second training workshop for our Evaluation Exchange teams in Newham and Camden, to support our 60 person community in designing and implementing sustainable evaluation practices in the 13 participating organisations. We hoped that the workshop would encourage our amazing teams to reflect on how they are working together and what they are going to do next (as we creep towards the halfway point of their 6 months together!). We also used the workshop as an opportunity to share learning between the teams and discuss specific evaluation issues.

We crafted a number of ‘troubleshooting sessions’ on specific evaluation issues (detailed below) highlighting the skills and expertise within the Evaluation Exchange delivery team (e.g. UCL, Compost and VAC) whilst bringing expertise from our wider network to both inspire and show the variety of approaches to organisational evaluation. We described these sessions as an ‘introduction to and troubleshooting on’ to recognise the range of experience within our Evaluation Exchange community: many of those involved in Evaluation Exchange have specific research skills or have been working at the forefront of service delivery and have implemented a range of evaluation practices. All useful experience to share. We wanted the workshop to be a space for sharing experiences, asking questions and discussing the application of different evaluation practices – with everyone involved in the programme.

When planning our training workshops we, the delivery team, strive to create and facilitate a space where different knowledges and perspectives can be shared and valued – equally. We are keen to make sure that the workshops are structured in a way where different knowledges and perspectives are aired and valued – different disciplines and different forms of knowledge (i.e. research vs practice).

The Evaluation Exchange is part of a larger knowledge exchange project called ISIKLE, funded under an Office for Students/Research England. Within ISIKLE we have been discussing and reflecting upon what is knowledge exchange (and what is effective knowledge exchange). This has been good for us to stop and think about what we do (and why). The term knowledge exchange covers a range of processes – to bring together researchers and the wider external communities. Fazey et al. (2013)[1] state that within definitions of knowledge exchange there is an implication of “a two- or multiple-path process with reciprocity and mutual benefits, maybe with multiple learning, but not necessarily recognition of the equitable value of the different forms of knowledge being exchanged”. A fundamental part of our practice, in the Evaluation Exchange, is the appreciation of different forms of knowledge – and we hope our workshops, and the support we provide to the teams, help to create the conditions for this.

For instance, the agenda for our second workshop was set by our teams. We asked what areas of support was needed – and anyone could put forward ideas to discuss. The sessions in our training workshop were broad and covered:

  • What is a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework and how to create one (led by Anne Crisp from Compost) 
    This session outlined what a M&E framework is, and what it (tends to) include; described the key steps to creating an effective M&E framework; and provided examples from practice. 
  • Everyday evaluation and creative methods (led by Briony Fleming from Compost/UCL)
    Briony provided lots and lots of examples of evaluation methods that can be used day-to-day, whilst discussing key considerations in selecting practical evaluation methods i.e. who is involved, evaluation needs, topic, timing.
  • What is a theory of change and how to create one (led by Gemma Moore from UCL and Caroline Rouse from Compost) 
    This session outlined what a theory of change is and how it links to evaluation practice; providing some examples of theories of change and how they are applied; and described the key steps in developing a theory of change for a programme or project.  
  • Stakeholder and community mapping (led by Caroline Rouse from Compost)
    Caroline described, with the teams, approaches to build an understanding of a community of interest or stakeholder group. She outlined key steps of profiling and mapping, again with lots and lots of examples.
  • Social return on investment (led by Donna Turnbull and Kevin Nunan from VAC)
    Social return on investment (SROI) is a popular method for measuring social value or social impact. Donna and Kevin provided an introductory background to social return on investment as an evaluation approach, giving some examples of where it has been applied in practice and the opportunities and limitations of it as a method. 
  • Including user experience in service design (led by Giuseppe Salvia from UCL) 
    Giuseppe was kind enough to share his experiences of including a diversity of voices into design of services; and provided examples of where user experience and expertise has been included in service design.

Within each of these sessions lots of examples were shared to provoke discussion – and the teams were encouraged to share their experiences. We have compiled the resources and recordings from the sessions to share with the teams. Please do get in touch if you are interested in seeing these.

Alongside these troubleshooting sessions we ran an exercise (the river of life) to reflect on progress together. This gave a chance for the teams to hear from each other, and we hope it helped to support connections across the teams.

We are currently planning our third and final workshop for our Newham and Camden teams, taking place in January and February 2022. And in doing so, we are thinking about and reflecting upon our role in connecting research and practice, showcasing and championing evaluation and creating the enabling conditions knowledge exchange. Watch this space to see how we continue to turn our ideas to actions!

[1] Fazey, I., Evely, A., Reed, M., Stringer, L., Kruijsen, J., White, P., . . . Trevitt, C. (2013). Knowledge exchange: A review and research agenda for environmental management. Environmental Conservation, 40(1), 19-36.