Building capacity in self evaluation
Evaluation can generate powerful insights into what has changed for people using a service, how efficiently a service is run, and how it might be improved. It involves asking questions about the impact of a project, programme or service. Independent evaluations generally involve commissioning an external organisation or individual. An organisation may also decide to undertake self-evaluation – using its own staff, skills and resources. One of the benefits of self-evaluation is that it can help an organisation to build capacity in gathering data and evidence, analysing and applying it to improve your services.
We have supported organisations to build their capacity in self-evaluation through our work supporting the Big Lottery Fund Impact of Alcohol Programme, and the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme. Both of these projects involved CES working with community and voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland. In the Impact of Alcohol Project, we developed tools and resources to help organisations plan self-evaluation activities, based on logic modelling and theory of change approaches. We also engaged with organisations to ‘capture learning’ from their experience of engaging with self-evaluation tools and processes. Organisations highlighted the time and effort needed to gather data, and the importance of communicating the value of data gathering to their staff. They also identified the skills needed to do self-evaluation, and the importance of providing training, support and resources for staff involved in this work.
The process of ‘capturing the learning’ during the Impact of Alcohol Programme was of benefit to organisations as it helped them to identify and capture the contribution of their services and interventions to the people they worked with, and to reflect on the knowledge, skills and experiences of staff delivering services. They also developed their capacity in collating data and communicating learning to other providers, funders and policy makers.