Relying on relationships

By Eibhlin Ni Ogain 14 May 2013

It may seem like the most simple thing in the world, but time and time again, research shows that our ability to develop positive emotional attachments with significant others  is crucial to leading a positive, happy existence.  And this applies to people of all ages from all kinds of backgrounds. Improving these bonds and ties with significant others is something that a number of charities have at their core. It’s also something we’ve been thinking  quite a lot about as part of our work for the National Offender Management Service, which aims to develop a toolkit to measure the impact of work to improve the family and peer relationships of offenders.

Our relationships with others act as a buffer during life’s ups and downs. Most of us are lucky to have strong relationships with family or friends that help us through whatever life throws at us. But some people do not get the chance to develop these strong attachments early on, or find it hard to maintain them during a life transition.

There is a growing body of evidence linking social bonds and positive relationships  to offenders’ risk of reoffending. Research like this illustrates the  value of strong bonds and the need to invest in a timeline that allows these bonds to develop. This isn’t an easy area of work—the most successful interventions (no matter the issue or approach)  require long-term involvement and intense contact with people.

And so measuring the impact of such work can also be challenging. Most people experience a lot of ups and downs before things get better; evaluation will not present a picture of straightforward improvement but will show incremental change in the long term. Evidencing this kind of change therefore requires investment in evaluation over a longer period of time, which can put charities off.

However, by not measuring the value of such work, organisations risk missing out  on the opportunity to argue for funding and investment in this area. We hope this is something we can give a boost to with the toolkit we are developing for NOMS. We are also hoping to discuss how to measure and evaluate relationships, as well as other soft outcomes, at our Measuring and evaluating outcomes in practice conference on 23May.

So if you’re interested in finding out more about how to evidence your impact on relationships and other soft outcomes, do sign up here or keep an eye out for research we will be publishing as part of our work for NOMS later this summer.