Whenever we think of evaluation it is good to remember the old saying success speaks for itself and failure has a thousand excuses. The biggest challenge for any organisation that sets itself up to support vulnerable people is to be relevant in their lives. Relevance is generally evident in attendance as people usually vote with their feet as we say.
However, in addition to the attendance-speaking-for-itself it is necessary for all organisations to undertake formal evaluations from time to time!
We have undertaken two major evaluations of our day-to-day work in Bedford Row Family Project.
One was a Social Return on Investment (SROI) – a very practical, head type evaluation, and the other focused more on the emotional side of things, or heart, which we entitled Holding the Suffering.
This page has links to the SROI Evaluation (see below), and Holding the Suffering is placed on the Research page, as it is deemed to lean toward Research, albeit evaluative.
We also evaluated our training methods. This evaluation can be accessed from this page also – see second article below.
Social Return on Investment (SROI):
While it is some time since the SROI was done we believe that it is still relevant. It was the first external evaluation that had taken place in the Project since its beginning (1999) and it focused primarily on the three years 2009 to 2011 inclusive.
These years were chosen as they marked the beginning of major initiatives in Bedford Row in response to our Research, Voices of Families Affected by Imprisonment which was launched in 2008. (Click here to read this Research).
One intention of the SROI Evaluation was to inform investors as to what social return they could expect for investing their money in Bedford Row.
Now we have always felt that we are reasonably good value for money – but we were also happy that both fellow workers in partner agencies and members of our focus group were generous in the feedback that they gave to the Evaluators about the quality of our work.
The then Inspector of Prisons, the late Judge Michael Reilly, launched our Evaluation on 13 May 2013. Judge Reilly’s speech can be read by clicking on Judge Reilly’s Speech at Launch of Evaluation; 23 May 2013
Evaluation of Training:
Modern developments in neuroscience will have profound implications for how we help people in the future, and we wish to be fully abreast of developments in this field.
As the purpose of our Family Support and Crisis Intervention Courses have protection of children affected by imprisonment at their core we felt that it would be important to evaluate the methods of education/instruction on the Course from the standpoint of how students’ brains might be developing as they undertake the Course.
Another thing that we are passionate about is good design – after all poor design is both wasteful of resources and bad for morale. We believe that if the qualities which are most needed to protect children e.g. love, warmth, security, trust, safety, (and creativity) are evident in an agencies’ structures, methods, or values the effectiveness of any support work offered is optimised.
Our aim was that this Evaluation would assess what is changing from cognitive, emotional and affect points of view, describe what might be happening in the brain as the change is taking place, and determine what value this is to a student in terms of how s/he will be able, on graduation, to work more effectively with people who have suffered significant trauma.
In early 2013 we asked Prof Billy O’Connor, Professor of Neuroscience in Graduate Medical School, University of Limerick to conduct this Evaluation. (For anyone interested in neuroscience there is a link to Billy’s website Inside the Brain here).
Well, we did not realise how thorough Billy’s evaluation would be – we learned a lot from it and it took a while for us to digest it fully! The full Evaluation can be read here and a Summary can be read by clicking here.