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Blog: Expectations of FunderFest2016

Christine Scullion, Head of Development at The Robertson Trust talks about her expectations for FunderFest2016

As the closing speaker at this year’s FunderFest, I plan to share with you a little about the successes and challenges we at The Robertson Trust have experienced in our own development of how we use evidence.

I am looking forward to sharing the steep learning curve we embarked on in 2004, when we first began with our development/partnership approach and set aims around influencing practice and policy.

I will also share the story of how we first worked with Scottish Government analysts in 2008 to improve our ability to collect, understand and use high quality evidence.  However, most significantly, I’m looking forward to speaking with and hearing from my funding peers to discover more about your stories; the challenges, the successes, the future plans and the ways in which we can all work together (along with ESS) to improve evidence gathering and use going forward.

When I first started at The Robertson Trust in 2000, such opportunities were few and far between primarily because it was highly unusual for funders to dip their toes into anything other than traditional grantmaking. Most of us, The Robertson Trust included, operated in a world of numbers, targets and reports that rarely resurfaced after submission.

Fast forward 16 years, and funders are playing a pivotal role in building stronger communities and evidence bases that highlight solutions and disconnects relating to some of Scotland’s most persistent issues.

While different funders have different objectives, many of the challenges will be familiar to all. For example:

  • Our own experience has shown that the power relationship between funder and funded is always present and can make it difficult for honest conversations around what hasn’t worked in a project and why.
  • We are increasing the emphasis we put on supporting organisations to collect, report and analyse their own data, borne out of a struggle to commission good quality external evaluations and a recognition that, first and foremost, evaluation skills and data need to be embedded into the delivery organisation itself. That said, we still need to improve in our ability to commission and manage external evaluations, which, if done well, are useful.
  • We would also like to see a consistent definition of “good enough” evidence across funders in order to make it easier for organisations to have clarity of funder’s expectations. These should always be proportional to the level of investment.
  • Is it the role of funders to explicitly use the evidence we collect to impact on changes in policy and practice in Scotland at both local and national level? If so, what are the most effective ways of doing this?

Whether we find solutions at FunderFest to these issues and others remains to be seen.  However, I’m in no doubt that the range of topics discussed will provide useful learning for all and reflect the exciting, dynamic and challenging world of funding in 2016.

Join us at FunderFest2016 Last few places available. 

Christine Scullion can be seen in “Evaluation Support Scotland Making the Difference” talking about collecting evidence and using it to influence policy. We will be launching “Walking the Talk”, a guide for funders on how to evaluate policy and practice influencing work, at FunderFest2016.

Watching the film will show you how ESS works with funders.

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