We need to evidence our outcomes in order to show the difference we make! But what is evidence?
Evidence means different things to different people. We hear about courtroom evidence, case review evidence, laboratory evidence in our day to day lives – but what does evidence mean for third sector organisations?
Professor Jonathan Sharples says “good evidence is useful evidence. It is information that can help a charity make better decisions, provide better services and raise standards” (quoted in Evidence for Success). This makes sense for us working in the third sector, and it also gives evidence a purpose – to inform our thinking and to have direct impact on decisions.
Our evidence comes from a range of sources such as feedback forms, lived experience stories, case notes, reflective practice, observation and capturing what people say to us verbally or on social media. Occasionally we might want to make use of evidence from elsewhere (for example research evidence might be helpful to show that we are addressing risk or protective factors).
We’re not introducing a new medicine or rolling out a national programme. Both need extensive evidence, and for medicines a particular type of evidence. As third sector organisations, we are checking that we are making a difference and trying to understand what works best for the people and communities we work with. We still need convincing evidence, but we can be more light touch and pragmatic. We can learn and change our services as we go.
If you want to be convinced that your evidence is good enough, try TREBLing your evidence. The TREBL test – a framework, adapted from Levitt et. al. (2010), will help you judge whether your evidence is ‘good enough’ or ‘good for the intended purpose and audience’:
· Transparent: clear methods, acknowledged limitations
· Relevant: up-to-date and appropriate
· Enough: strength of evidence vs proportionality
· Believable: accurate, representative and reliable
· Legitimate: coming from the right sources.
By asking yourself if the evidence you’ve gathered is TREBL(ed), you can be reassured that your evidence will be convincing. But if you need more help with this please contact ESS for their support: firstname.lastname@example.org
This guide covers things to think about when designing a suitable evaluation method for the evidence you want to collect.
Summary report with actions from the Evidence for What? roundtable discussion event. April 26th 2018, Edinburgh
Programme and discussion paper for Evidence for What? roundtable April 2018
This infographic shows Evaluation Support Scotland’s learning about evidence.