Jane Marryat, ESS Research and Communications Officer gives an insight into ESS’s own self-evaluation process
The month of April induces a variety of emotions in different people. One person may think of spring coming, warmer weather, longer days, and holidays; for a finance person it may evoke end of tax year and audits but here at ESS it means self-evaluation month!
This is the time when we put our money where our mouth is! Spending our time talking to third sector organisations about how to set outcomes, write indicators, collect evidence to analyse and report to their organisation and funders reminds us that we, too, have to do the same! It is also easy for us to echo one of the challenges that we hear on a daily basis –
“We don’t have the time”.
Good practice is to embed evaluation throughout the year into all aspects of an organisation so although we say April is evaluation month we are, in fact, collecting evidence all the time. For example, we evaluate our workshops, tailored support and events; individually we add feedback from our work to our support and supervision notes; at team meetings we have an item to celebrate successes and another to focus on a particular piece of work to draw together the learning.
But April is our time to bring together our evidence and learning into one place. It is helped that there is a clear process that the team expects and knows. The starting gun goes off at the April team meeting when we decide which aspects of our work we will focus on and each member of the team is allocated a section of the self-evaluation report to work on. By the end of April it is the enviable task of the director to organise the information into a coherent impact report which is then discussed at a dedicated meeting when the whole team draws out general learning points for ESS.
The final self-evaluation report is presented to the Trustees in May; a shortened report is prepared for Companies House and OSCR to accompany our annual returns. Subsequently, I use the reports to inform the annual review which is created over the summer for the September AGM.
And so the cycle continues from year to year. It is right that ESS should clearly be seen to practice what we preach, not only because it is good practice to learn and improve our work but it also reminds us about the challenges of evaluating impact, and so keeps us grounded and empathic to third sector organisations that are learning to do this for the first (or umpteenth) time! However, arguably even more importantly, this process allows us as a team to take the time to stop and learn; to see the difference our collaborative effort has made to third sector organisations and funders we work with, and reminds us the reason for ESS’ existence.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you who take the time to give us feedback and allow us to quote you.
If you would like to comment please email Jane.