In this blog Elaine Mowat, The Welcoming, reflects on her experiences and learning from attending last year’s Inspiring Impact Network events.
Reflection on Inspiring Impact events 2017/18
- Making it stick, Summer 2017
- Getting others on board with evaluation, December 2017
- Sharing tools for evaluation, March 2018
- Sharing news and feedback from evaluation, June 2018
Who wouldn’t want to be inspired about impact? This programme of events from ESS for 2017/18 looked like a great opportunity to share experiences of evaluation with third sector colleagues and to gain some new ideas and insights and I was eager to take part.
I’ve always thought that it’s worth attending an ESS event just to see what the icebreaker is, and these events didn’t disappoint with fun and relevant warm up activities to get us all thinking and connecting. What followed was a good mix of tasks, case study presentations and networking that covered lots of ground. Looking back on the series, four main themes stand out for me:
The need for clarity with evaluation came through in several different ways. From the very beginning, clarity about outcomes and indicators sets the scene for effective evaluation methods and tools to follow. In terms of who gets involved, staff, volunteers and participants all benefit from us being clear about why evaluation is important and exactly how they can contribute. Clarity in reporting is critical too – what is the main message you want to convey? In terms of overall process, this was well illustrated by Evelyn Mitchell’s informative account of Changeworks’ experience of embedding evaluation systems throughout an organisation, in which clarity in purpose, planning, point of contact, timescales and documentation proved key.
There’s no need to be alone with evaluation! Many examples were shared of how to inspire and organise colleagues, volunteers and trustees to get involved. Identifying the best way that people can contribute according to their skills, interests and personalities is also a good means to ensure that evaluation is as effective and enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.
Genuine curiosity is at the heart of evaluation practice and is what pushes us to get at real and meaningful understandings about the impact of our work. It’s a mindset that also helps us to be on the look out for evaluation evidence in unexpected places. One of the most powerful moments of the series for me were the examples shared by Marion Findlay from Volunteer Edinburgh illustrating how volunteer’s unique stories and experiences can convey just how much they have made a difference for others in their lives.
Another key take-away from the series was the reminder that we don’t need to keep using the same old evaluation tools or the usual reporting format. There are lots of possibilities to try, from logic models, sticky walls, body maps, tactile feedback and smartphone voting in terms of tools to journey maps, flow diagrams, mazes, digital snapshots and infographics for reporting. We could also see from the examples shared that you don’t have to spend a fortune either – there are some excellent free or low cost options out there. I wasn’t actually able to make the event in March on tools for evaluation but I kind of feel like I was, having benefitted from the account that was posted online afterwards – well done to ESS for always capturing and communicating good event summaries.
Together these events did a great job of reminding us that although evaluation should always be organised, careful and accurate, it can be creative and collaborative too. Many thanks to ESS and to everyone who participated for all the ideas and inspiration.