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Guest blog - ‘Make a start and build momentum!’

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

Our work with third sector organisations tells us that building the skills and knowledge to do self-evaluation is only one part of the picture. In order for organisations to put in place good evaluation systems that work well for their staff, volunteers, and service users, sometimes support with planning to do evaluation is just as important.

At ESS we want evaluation to be proportionate, but it is important to acknowledge that for evaluation to be useful it does need an investment of time, resources, and commitment.
 
Having a clear and well written set of outcomes is the first step of our evaluation pathway. Breaking these outcomes down into measurable indicators will make it clear what information you want to gather to tell you if you are making the difference you hope to make. Spending time at this stage is time well spent. Ideally your outcomes and indicators will be informed by your experiences and those of your service users, can you set time to sit down with colleagues and service users to get a shared understanding of what they should be?
 
We encourage organisations to think about building evidence gathering into their day to day work so that it doesn’t feel like a big additional task. This might include some extra time at the end of delivering an activity to make a note of what happened, or making sure there is enough admin support to keep records up to date. The methods we come up with to collect information might not always work the way we planned, so it’s always a good idea to give time to testing them out and being open to changing them based on feedback from staff and service users.
 
Building evaluation into what you already do can help keep it in your plans. Having an item on your team meeting agenda to focus on evaluation and share stories from your work is a good way of planning as you go. Allowing time in staff and volunteer supervision meetings to talk about evaluation can help to make sure the systems you have in place are working well and reflect back on the achievements of an individual’s work.
 
Even if your organisation has good evaluation systems it can be useful to stop and reflect if these are still working well for the project and/or organisation With that said, don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good! Organisations we have worked with told us:
 
 “ doing something is better than nothing… so make a start and build momentum”
 
“it doesn’t need to be perfect. Learn to live with complexity and imperfection”
 
Have a look at our free resource ‘Making it Stick’ and webinar on embedding evaluation for more information.