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How can we make evidence easier?

This blog was co-written by James Noble from NPC and Amy M. Hochadel from Project Oracle

Using evidence to design and improve services is gradually becoming the norm across the UK’s social and voluntary sector, but it’s easier said than done. Data collection can feel like a distraction from core activities and it is often hard to know where to start.

What is the point of collecting evidence?

We’re sure this question is asked a lot by charities; maybe when you are challenged to show, once again, what you have delivered, or are asked to submit a report to a funder and then never hear anything back. The question is probably asked even more by frontline staff or volunteers as you struggle to get someone to fill in an evaluation form.

The main reason for collecting evidence is often to meet funders’ requirements. But more important than this, you should see the value of evidence for yourselves: it’s about improving services, inspiring staff and volunteers to feel positive about the work, and giving a voice to service users.

The challenges of good evidence

We know that many voluntary organisations are already committed to this, but still find it challenging to implement. A short survey that NPC conducted with about 100 charities working in criminal justice found that:

  • Fewer than one in three organisations had someone for whom ‘impact measurement’ was part of their role
  • Only one in ten thought they had enough funding to collect evidence
  • Only one in five thought they had enough support around evidence

Engaging with evidence

Initiatives like Project Oracle and Improving your evidence (a joint project by NPC and Clinks) have been set up to help organisations chart a course through these challenges. We focus on different sectors, but our aims are the same: to help charitable organisations develop an appropriate and effective approach to evidence.

We have joined forces to create a series of videos and an interactive presentation that starts to show how you should build your approach. The presentation covers four main areas:

  • What is the point?

Provider organisations, funders and evidence experts answer this question from their perspective.

  • Theory of change

Creating a theory of change is a great starting point for any organisation’s approach to evidence as it helps to identify what should be measured. The presentation provides an overview of the approach.

  • Collecting data

We cover the difference between qualitative and quantitative evidence and the practical business of planning evaluations and determining the right standard of evidence.

  • Making use of evidence

The evidence journey does not stop with analysing the data: the next step is to share and implement the learning to further improve services.

At the end of the presentation there are links to further resources and support around the issues raised.

We can’t pretend that collecting and learning from evidence is easy, but we believe it should be easier. We hope that this presentation and our wider support are useful. We want to help the sector to feel confident about collecting evidence and evaluating it. Most of all, we want to support you to use evidence to have a bigger and better impact across all of your work!

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