Building Skills and Confidence – Supporting Change and Impact Evaluation
Rocket Science was appointed by the Big Lottery Fund to evaluate a £60 million fund designed to build the skills and confidence of around 1500 grant-holders. Supporting Change and Impact funding was developed to support rant-holders by helping to improve their sustainability and their impact. The fund was split into two elements, Supporting Change – a small grant up to £10k focused on organisational development support and Supporting Impact – continuation funding for up to one year. We were asked to design a method that captured the experience of projects as they sourced and benefited from support to inform BIG’s policy on Building Capabilities and Impact.
Drawing on our experience of delivering three large evaluations for BIG, including the Awards for All programme and Community Asset Transfer (England and Wales) we designed research tools to help projects develop their reporting skills which encouraged and secured participation, whilst keeping the costs of primary research down. The methodology was designed to capture information on a number of levels, so that we could provide answers to key research questions; what should BIG consider in developing its approach to building the capabilities of organisations in order to deliver better against their outcomes and support their sustainability? How can BIG identify and support excellence in future? This comprised a three phased approach: Phase 1 included a baseline survey of all funded projects, a review of policy and practice around impact and sustainability, interviews with internal and external stakeholders and a series of case studies of funded projects to understand in more detail how projects were using their funding. We used an on-line survey which captured high-level data which we able to revisit in order to analyse trends in Phase 3. Phase 2 focused on gathering further insights into how other funding arrangements worked and explored this practice with detailed case studies with five lead partners. We also developed the Supporting Change and Impact Drilldown tool (SCID) to capture more detail from a mixture of projects and produce a baseline report. Phase 3 included a revisit of the baseline survey, telephone interviews with a selection of projects to explore how the funding has supported the organisation twelve months on and follow up research using the SCID tool to track the impact of the funding.
Our findings concluded that Supporting Change and Impact was a timely, well-regarded resource for existing grant holders. Although some projects may have closed, organisations were still on their journey towards greater sustainability, others were using the outputs to promote their services to funders, stakeholders and their communities. The diversity and nature of services delivered through BIG grant-holders reflected the different ways in which the funding was used. Flexibility in determining how to diagnose and source support was really important, allowing projects to tailor support to their own circumstances. But, it had implications for BIG in how it took forwards its policy on building capabilities, in particular the extent to which it wants to promote support to grant-holders. Evidence suggests that organisations already have access to the support they need, and do not readily use directories or other tools to source this.
Early findings also suggested that Supporting Change could become a universal grant, built into the award at the outset and avoiding the need for an application and associated administration costs. Throughout the evaluation we involved funding and policy staff in the design, planning and review of the evaluation. This was effective in enabling live learning and implementation, as well as ensuring that findings from research were translated into action.
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