22 June 2016
Back in 2012 London Youth began a journey to develop our understanding of what works, so that we can say with confidence that the work we do makes a positive difference for the young people we work with. Two years later, and as part of our role as an early adopter with the Centre for Youth Impact, we started sharing our learning with our members and during 2014/15, supported four organisations to strengthen the way they evaluate their programmes. Thanks to the support of City Bridge Trust, we have been able to roll out and scale up this work to a further 20 members over two years through our Defining Success programme.
Defining Success is a year-long programme run by London Youth to build the capacity of members to evaluate their work. During the last 9 months, we have been working with the first ten of these organisations to support them develop a theory of change and evaluation plan for their projects, and have these externally validated through Project Oracle.
During the process of working with these organisations, it became clear to us both the power of using this type of approach, but also the challenges that many of our members were facing in their attempts to strengthen the evidence base for their programmes. We wanted to share this learning more widely and as this year’s programme draws to a close, we convened a seminar for youth practitioners and funders to get together and share learning from this journey.
This provided a practical opportunity for funders and youth organisations alike to to reflect on their evaluation practice and the steps they had taken to develop the evidence base for the youth programmes that they were delivering and/or supporting. We also asked the group to take a forward-looking view and consider where they would like to be in 10 years’ time.
It was clear from the discussion that whilst all of the organisations on Defining Success were different in size and focus, they all had a similar experience and thatthe theory of change process provided them with a structure and framework to talk about the difference that they make. Many organisations spoke about the cultural shift they had experienced as a result of going through this journey.
Funders also reflected on the role that they have to play in supporting organisations to undertake meaningful evaluation, and the potential for greater collaboration to ensure that youth programmes are evaluated in a robust and proportionate way.
The event finished with attendees making a commitment to an action they would take in light of what they had heard and shared.
We will… ‘Challenge ourselves about what we could do better and upskill organisations around theory of change and sharing our own learning as a funder’ – Funder
I will ‘Think about how we, as a funder, can help support the sector to overcome challenges around collaboration between funders and supporting peer learning’ – Funder
I will… ‘Keep young people informed about progress and use of evaluation gathered’ – London Youth member
Our own commitment is to continue to support our members to develop their evaluation practice through Defining Success, as well as being an advocate for, and active member of, the growing community of youth organisations committed to working together to improve practice in this area. It’s not a journey without its challenges, but it’s certainly a journey worth taking.