Being able to evidence the need for your work,
Demonstrating the Difference We Make
Sustainability isn’t about keeping projects and activities going for their own sake. But when services and jobs are at stake, there can be so much pressure to keep things going that longer-term sustainability gets forgotten. We end up chasing money, which pulls us out of shape and away from our core purpose and values – which makes things less sustainable.
Focusing on making a lasting difference right from the start improves sustainability in lots of ways.
Once the need for a piece of work is clearly understood, activities and resources are focused on where they can be most effective. There are baselines to measure progress against. Evaluation isn’t left until the end, it’s built into everyday practice – projects have clear outcomes to work towards, and systems are in place to measure them.
As the work develops, everyone can learn about what’s working and what’s not – the people you serve, your colleagues, managers and boards, and your funders, donors and commissioners. Sharing this learning demonstrates that you are committed to improvement. It also builds trust, showing that you know what you are doing. Being able to contribute credible evidence can also help to influence organisational, local or national policy.
The problem with measuring impact therefore isn’t about why it matters. It isn’t even about how to do it: there are lots of tools and frameworks available. It just takes time to think about how to make them work for you. The resources in this section have stood the test of time and we return to them time and again.
Planning, gathering and analysing data:
Easy Evaluation Toolkit: Produced by the Short Break Fund for carers’ organisations, the tools in this guide can and have been used by non-profit organisations of every type, shape and size. A one-stop shop of useful evaluation tools, with lots of information, templates and real-life case studies.
Evaluation reports don’t have to be boring, and creative reporting isn’t the same as creative accounting! These are some examples of creative reports we have produced:
Support in Mind Scotland
Support in Mind Scotland – Stafford Centre
Our brief was to create a report that could be displayed within the Edinburgh Stafford Centre. The centre already made good use of wall space for evaluation (with feedback boards in every room and an ‘evaluation tree’ in the lobby), so it made sense to design something for the walls – a poster-style report. Thinking about how information is displayed in other workplaces, we took inspiration from the Health and Safety information posters most UK buildings have. This gave us ideas for colour schemes and layout but also for content: information could be both narrative and graphic. This led us to think about telling a story (always a useful metaphor for report writing), so we hit on the idea of giving the experience of reading a ‘normal’ report, which would expand into a poster in a series of steps.
At first glance, an ordinary report! The report opens up on an A3 two-page spread with the main narrative parts of the report. At this stage we wanted readers to feel like they were reading a magazine.
Because this is printed as a poster, the A3 page then opens up to an A2 spread, with lots of images and icons to help convey complex information simply. Each page is A3 size, meaning they could be used as posters on their own.
Finally, the A2 page opens up to reveal the A1 sized poster – all the other pages are printed on the back of this. The poster uses easy-to-understand spider diagrams for maximum impact, brought to life by quotes from people who use the service.
Update: If you would like to see how evaluation at The Stafford Centre has continued to evolve, visit: https://staff1.wixsite.com/evaluation2017
Creative Scotland – ArtWorks visual report
This is another poster style report, taking inspiration from the one we designed for the Stafford Centre. Creative Scotland’s in-house design team put the poster together, using colour and simple infographics to communicate clear messages.
The report’s compact A5 format makes it easy to pick up and unfold into two A2 posters, one on each side of the paper.
There is also a narrative report, available here.
Scottish Waterways Trust
Scottish Waterways Trust – canal college® report
We designed this report as a short, visual summary of a fuller evaluation report we wrote on this three-year pilot project. Inspiration came from two places. Firstly, as a landscape-based project, we wanted to base the report format on an Ordnance Survey map. But this could have become unwieldy so we also thought about tourist-information leaflets, as the project was based between the Falkirk Wheel and Edinburgh Canal Basin, well-known tourist destinations. This led to a two-sided report. The front presents a metre-long panorama, showing a journey through an imagined ‘landscape’ of outcomes.
The back is folded into sections, like a tourist information guide, and features case studies, quotes and pictures.
Although it works best as a paper document, the PDF version is available here.
Wren and Greyhound
Wren and Greyhound – Our annual report format
We have used this novel format for our annual reports since 2013. Using one side of printed A4 it is affordable and simple to produce. It’s based on a ‘mini-comic’ format that is common in the world of indie-comics (Graeme is a devoted reader of comics and graphic novels).
As with other reports showcased here, it starts off as a small, attractive front page, easy to pick up and interact with (it’s only 10x7cm).
It is folded to be read like a booklet – and it can be read very quickly.
Normally though, people just want to unfold it and find out how it works!