Beth Collinson will be joining the Fulfilling Lives national evaluation team from April 2019 leading on our learning programme. In this, her first blog, she talks about the inspiration gained from attending a recent event held by one of the Fulfilling Lives partnerships.
Throughout my PhD, the social contagion of recovery (from substance misuse), became a predominant element of my work. In one of my first presentations, I explained that just as human emotions like happiness can be contagious, recovery is too. A colleague of mine (Professor David Best) explains in his work that the social contagion of recovery has the potential for “transmitting hope and the belief that recovery is possible even to those who are not yet ready to commit to abstinence“.
The national evaluation team have published key findings from local evaluations in their latest report, Promising Practice. The report:
- Highlights approaches and interventions that appear promising based on local evaluation evidence;
- Shares learning on successful implementation of these approaches;
- Considers how different interventions are contributing the the programme’s systems change ambitions; and
- Informs further evaluation activities.
Having purpose, an eye for detail and a sense of curiosity are the Fulfilling Lives workforce attributes I have flagged as desirable in previous blogs. Time is often at a premium for staff. Smaller caseloads and flexibility are ways of extending the time available to beneficiaries. Which brings me round to another attribute for the practitioner which, is pragmatism.
As I said in the item on curiosity, practitioners engaged with the evaluation of theory not only contribute to better practice but ensure theory is grounded in pragmatism. Thereby theory becomes better as well. People become less inclined to say: ‘that is alright in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice’. A pragmatic practitioner doesn’t just know the theory, but they act on it because it works.
It’s now six months since I joined the Fulfilling Lives national evaluation team. My background is in community and criminal justice research, so I have a degree of familiarity with the target group. I have evaluated initiatives to help re-engagement on release from prison, to provide pathways to education and ultimately employment, and to help with accommodation and independent living. Offenders often have chaotic lifestyles and multiple needs including experience of homelessness, alcohol and/or drug dependency, and/or mental health issues. You can often find childhood trauma, special educational needs or attachment issues as well. What struck me time and time again when listening to offenders and their workers tell me their stories was the lack of coherent support available to people who are in desperate need of help.
The latest national evaluation report on the Fulfilling Lives (Supporting People with Multiple Needs) programme, published today by CFE, shows continuing high demand for help. The 12 funded projects have successfully engaged with nearly 3,000 people affected by homelessness, substance misuse, offending and mental ill health.
Beneficiaries who remain with the programme show clear signs of progress, but this takes time and substantial resource. Project staff often need to spend extended periods of time with beneficiaries and have to be flexible to cope with chaotic lives. However some beneficiaries have needs for which they will always require support. What constitutes success varies from person to person and in many cases, success is about developing strategies, resilience and understanding to effectively manage their needs.
The report includes clear messages and promising practice, providing recommendations not just for those who work to support people with multiple needs, but also for service commissioners and funders.
Read the full report here: http://mcnevaluation.co.uk/wpfb-file/annual-report-2017-v1-final-pdf/
A key feature of Fulfilling Lives is that it is a learning programme; it aims to gather and share learning about what works, what doesn’t and what needs to change. A frequently used method to collect views and experiences from which to develop learning is the survey. In this blog, Kerry Dowding (Research and Evaluation Officer, Fulfilling Lives South East) shares her tricks and tips on how to get the most out of your survey design. Kerry has been creating surveys for the voluntary sector for the last eight years, and received a Masters of Research in 2016.
It’s 4.50pm, and you remember that you promised to send out a few survey questions by the end of the day. You scribble out some questions that roughly fit the bill, and send them off. The responses you get back are less than inspiring. So you end up going with the ideas you originally had for the project. We’ve all been there!