So you are up and running – developing more groups, delivering services, managing volunteers and supporting local people. But the challenges continue. Are you delivering as well as you could? Are you having a positive influence? How could you be better?
These are all questions you will want to ask of your group or organisation. But partners and funders will want to know too. In fact, having the answers to these questions is probably the best way to bring in future funding. And the key to good monitoring and evaluation is to build it in from the start.
Monitoring and evaluation is about telling your story. That story will include the ‘Who’, ‘What’ and ‘Why?’
- Who: This includes who you deliver your services to and why, plus how many are involved.
- What: What it is you deliver (sometimes called your activities)? Also, dow do you deliver it?
- Why: Its important to ask yourself the why, or ‘so what’ question – can you show (sometimes called evidencing) that your activities are benefitting people?
One very good source of help on this is Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS). ESS are a fabulous resource for groups that want to find out more about how to monitor, evaluate and report well. We strongly recommend you sign up to their newsletter.
ESS recommend an Evaluation Pathway for groups thinking about monitoring and evaluation. The Pathway is a good way to identify what is needed:
- Setting outcomes and indicators: This means being clear about what you will measure and how you will do it.
- Collecting Evidence: This includes the techniques or ‘methods’ you might use. There are lots of interesting ways to collect information, so be creative!
- Analysing and Reporting: It is really important that you inform people about the work you do and its benefits. This could include your Board, community and a range of other stakeholders. Don’t assume people will know how good you are – be prepared to demonstrate it and prove it.
- Acting on your Learning: One of your main goals will be to benefit your clients, so you will need to know whether what you are doing is really helping. Be open minded and learn from what doesn’t work, as well as what does. Funders like the National Lottery Community Fund place a high value on ‘critically reflective’ ways of thinking and working.
Some organisations like to develop a logic model or theory of change. This is a more complex model which shows how your activities will, over time, bring about important changes for your clients or the communities you operate in. The approach can be valuable if you intend to achieve major long-term change.
We suggest that if you want to explore any of the above you get in touch with the MVA team. We are keen to see more and better evaluative work in the third sector. As such we would be happy to discuss your organisation’s needs, make suggestions and put you in touch with others who will be able to help you. From time to time we also run training sessions on these topics, so keep an eye on our Midlothian TSI training and events page and be sure to sign up to our bulletins for regular updates about what we’re offering.