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An update on our evaluation training workshops

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I’m on my train journey home after a great day spent delivering our sixth evaluation training workshop and it seems a good time to write a blog update about how the workshops are going.

Some of you may have participated in an earlier round of workshops focused on the use of good evidence in appraisal, and making the case for schemes.

This new round of workshops, developed for the second phase of the centre, is much more focused on dissemination and evidence co-creation. It asks the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. The intention is to spend a day thinking through, in non-technical language, key concepts around evaluation and how they apply to different policy areas in the local growth sphere.

So, during the day we covered questions such as:

  • What does ‘good’ impact evaluation look like?
  • What stops us from doing ‘good’ evaluation more often?
  • What are the best options for a control group or counterfactual for different policy areas?
  • How can I design my policy or programme in a way that makes it easier to evaluate?

We provide plain English explanations of the key concepts that underpin evaluation. We also draw on case study material from our website to show how different types of policies have been successfully evaluated so far, using a range of approaches. We spend some time talking about when and where randomised approaches might be possible or appropriate and, when they’re not, what the better alternatives are — rather than simply comparing outcomes with the area or demographic averages. We also talk about how to commission good evaluation — what to ask for, and how to ensure you’re getting what you really want out of it.

My favourite part of the day is the afternoon workshop session, which is spent developing an evaluation plan for participants’ real current or future programmes. This is typically done in pairs or small groups and it gives participants the time and space to apply what we have talked about to the specifics of their day-to-day work, and for us to roll up our sleeves and offer advice. For the policy or programme of your choosing, we will think about the most robust and proportionate approach, what might be the best data sources, and the practical issues around getting it done. We hope that these conversations will develop into working relationships where we can help practitioners follow through on these evaluation plans and contribute to expanding the base of evidence that policymakers have to draw upon.

So far we have delivered these workshops as full-day sessions where as many people as possible from their organisation attend. In our experience, it works well to have a mix of programme managers, monitoring and evaluation officers, senior strategic decision makers and also procurement officers. This is our preferred way to deliver the session, and if you would like to arrange a free workshop for your area, please get in touch.

However, we do recognise that not all organisations are able to get all their staff together on a single day or they may have staff who aren’t able to attend the organisation’s bespoke training workshop. For these reasons, we are also offering a series of open access workshops, in partnership with the  Institute of Economic Development. Economic development professionals are welcome to come on their own to these workshops, or in small cohorts from their organisations, and work alongside policymakers from other locations. Subject to demand, our intention is to run these sessions quarterly, in a range of locations. You can read more about these sessions here. They are open to IED members and employees of Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Authorities and Combined Authorities.