Evaluation can be objective yet still make an impact on the evaluators.
We are working on a few landscape scale projects at the moment, including the Long Forest and Elan Links programmes. Given we are not the types of evaluators that just turn up and observe, we like to get our hands dirty and work alongside the volunteers. That has led to planting lots of trees for the Long Forest project and even having a go at hedgelaying (not our strong point!)
This has really made an impression on our director, Alun. Since getting involved in Long Forest, he has bored his family with facts about hedges and joined the Woodland Trust. However, the Broadleaf magazine which comes with membership has gone down well not only with him but with his sons too. The autumn feature on hedgehogs really got everyone interested. So thanks @HeritageLottery for funding these projects. Not only can we report objectively that these projects are delivering success, we can also say they are from first hand experience too.
Intern Learns with 20 Degrees
We enjoyed having Jack with us as an intern during the summer. This is what he thought of the day he spent with us at the Direct Payment Conference run by Disability Wales in July.
Where does all the time go? It just seems to zip past. Once again it has been far too long since we posted any updates.
All of the projects in our last news post have been completed and we are busy working on a new set of projects. In some cases these are with new clients, in other cases we are delighted to be working with established clients.
Autumn saw us start a three year evaluation of the Long Forest project on behalf of Keep Wales Tidy. That's a fascinating HLF-funded project working in four areas of Wales to either re-establish historic hedges or to lay new hedges as part of a drive to conserve historic wildlife, such as red squirrels in Anglesey.
A very different project is the development of a bi-lingual volunteer coordinator toolkit for Sport Wales. The toolkit will be available soon on the Club Solutions website. The work builds on our evaluation of the work of volunteer coordinators last year. Although this project is a change from the various evaluation projects we undertake, in another sense it is familiar ground. So many of our evaluation projects are with the third sector and involve volunteers.
Another established client that we are pleased to support is Disability Wales. Their Citizen Directed Co-operatives Cymru project was supported by Big Lottery's Innovation Fund to test a new model of social care support for disabled people, run by disabled people. It aims to mange and use direct payments for support services using a co-operative model led by the users of the services.
A final evaluation project receiving our attention for the next few years is the Big Lottery-funded Connected Carers project. So many Big Lottery-funded projects have worthwhile intentions, and this is no exception. GVS is managing this project, with delivery led by Cardiff & Vale Parents Federation and the Touch Trust. So often parent carers of children with lifelong or life limiting conditions are isolated and have no one with whom to discuss life's ups and downs who can truly empathise. Connected Carers seeks to link such people in small, carer-directed social gatherings.
So that's an update. It's not all we are doing but gives a flavour of our current main projects. Let's hope we get around to writing again soon.
Life continues to be varied! We've had a rich variety of projects over the last year, indeed so many that we've blogged rather infrequently
It has been really interesting to add Sport Wales to our list of clients with an evaluation of the work of volunteer coordinators. Once again, it is rather humbling to hear the stories of so many people up and down Wales that freely give their time for the benefit of others. Frequently these volunteers are busy people juggling work and family lives, yet still giving so much of their time to help young people in their community.
While many of our evaluation projects, such as the People's Cathedral and Sustainable Play are about community building, we were pleased to be part of a nation building programme in South Africa recently. The Technology Innovation Agency in partnership with the British Council is investing in a cohort of early stage researchers and innovators to commercialise intellectual property from South African universities and research institutes. We were pleased to contribute by facilitating three days of workshops in Johannesburg in February. It was such a pleasure to work with such an engaged group of participants.
The interim evaluations of FamilyPoint Cymru, Sustainable Play and Go Green for Health went well and we are starting on the next phase of each evaluation now. It is striking that the two organisations behind these projects, ProMo Cymru and Groundwork Wales, are places where the staff appear to be happy and enjoy their work. Maybe that is because they are values-driven organisations that attract staff drawn to those values, or maybe it is simple good leadership. Certainly, organisations with good leadership and strong values tend to thrive.
While evaluation remains the major component of our work, with projects on-going with Guildford Cathedral and Jisc, it is not the only string to our bow. Development of project management across organisations remains a core activity. In this respect, we are currently helping a household name consumer product company to improve its approach to managing projects.
An exciting development has been drawing together our strengths in training and project evaluation to create the new Inquire tool with our friends from the PD Centre. This agile approach to organisational evaluation can be applied to address a wide range of needs, from understanding the organisation before designing a training intervention to understanding whether a project is likely to bring about intended change.
Well, that was a busy start to a New Year...and that's not a complaint!
Groundwork Wales have awarded us an additional contract to evaluate their Go Green 4 Health project. In some ways, this is very different to their Sustainable Play project, nonetheless their hallmark approach to getting people active in the outdoors comes through loudly and clearly on both projects. From an evaluator's perspective, these projects are interesting as they involve data collection from people while they are engaged in all kinds of different activities rather than simple interviews over a cup of tea.
In some senses, another of our recently won evaluation projects is very different; the People's Cathedral is a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project at Guildford Cathedral. While a capital project at one level, the story of the people who built the cathedral and continue to support it today is fascinating. Oral history, schools work, community engagement, artists in residence, concerts and interpretation work are just some of the facets of this project. It is amazing to think that over 200,000 people donated money to buy a brick to realise Sir Edward Maufe's vision of a modern cathedral...it's worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
If these projects are not interesting enough, we've also won some work in Kazakhstan to help build capacity in 7 universities. We've always enjoyed working internationally when that has been possible, so we are pleased to be working with British Council to help make this possible now.
It is a good job we like people. All of our projects involve lots of them!
In mid November we delivered a presentation to health professionals and volunteers to conclude our Interim Evaluation of the Big Lottery funded Sunflower Project. This is a befriending project delivered by GAVO (Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations) to patients of two hospitals run by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. That was a great project that brought us into contact with a lot of patients, predominantly older people, and volunteers of all ages. Somewhat like the John Lewis Christmas advert, it really brought home to us the importance of people simply making time for others. What we think of as a quick chat with a neighbour really can be of huge significance and value to the other person.
At the same time that project finished, we started two new evaluations for Groundwork Wales and ProMo Cymru - respectively Sustainable Play and FamilyPoint Cymru. That's going to bring us into contact with lots of children, young people and other family members/carers. More of that in the next update. In the meantime, we are busy finishing off an evaluation of an e-learning module for the NHS Centre for Equality & Human Rights. It is really interesting to hear from health professionals about the way attitudes towards equality issues have evolved over the last ten years or so. Certainly people seem to be a lot more aware than used to be the case of the diversity in our midst.
While the children were off school for their summer holiday, we continued to gain new clients and diversify the range of projects on which we are working.
We are delighted to have been chosen to work with the British Council to support their work internationally via the Newton Fund. It builds upon our experiences in the Higher Education Sector but opens up the opportunity to work with people from a range of countries with which we have not worked previously. Hopefully this will give us interesting stories to tell in future posts .
Closer to home, we are delighted to add Public Health Wales to our growing list of clients. We will be evaluating an e-learning module 'Treat Me Fairly' developed by the NHS Wales Centre for Equality and Human Rights. We are looking forward to starting that project later this month.
Once again, our forward workload looks interesting.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) has two 100% single bed hospitals at Ebbw Vale and Ystrad Mynach. While being highly effective at reducing the spread of infection and providing patients with peace, quiet and privacy, some patients can feel lonely or isolated.
GAVO (Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations) set up a flagship collaboration with the Health Board to tackle the issue: The Sunflower Project. We are evaluating progress of the project as it harnesses the time and energy of volunteers to befriend and provide a more stimulating environment for patients.
More information on the project can be found at http://www.gavowales.org.uk/sunflower-project
One of the joys of a project-based business is that you never know what the next assignment might be or when it will come along. We are grateful to our clients that 2015 has started well for us.
Bangor University has appointed us to undertake an evaluation of the CADARN Skills Centre on behalf of themselves and their partners Aberystwyth, Glyndwr and the Open Universities. This contributes to our growing portfolio of evaluation projects, an area of particular strength for us.
Our work with Higher Education Institutions will not be stopping at the Welsh border. We are excited to be working with Swindon and Wiltshire LEP in support of their innovative City Deal venture. We will be providing advice on working with HE partners as they attract universities to deliver courses within the county to address a growing need for highly skilled individuals. Even a cursory look at the employers in Wiltshire would leave no one in any doubt that Wiltshire is a county to watch for R&D growth.
We are also excited to be joined by a new associate this month. Bethan Emanuel is a first language Welsh speaker and will enhance our evaluation project capabilities in Wales and beyond.
All in all, a very interesting and exciting start to the year!