Author Archives: Nick Booth

Using Evidence to inform policy and practice: notes from a session at #locality16

Some note from the Panellists ay the Locality Conference in York in 2016.

Richard Harries.  I know how hard it is for community groups to get their voice heard.

Emma Stone:  Every time we fund research it feels like a hatchling – we have no idea which one will survive to make a difference.  We spent 40k on some research on the impact of the social fund, it came at a good time and led to a £250m boost to the fund – which was then scrapped.

At JR Housing – we invested quite a lot in scoping what we could do on dementia by working with people who deal with it or have it.  Academic research was less important than what was being done to address dementia and address loneliness.  Across the country lost of people are having the same conversation.  So the research leads to informal collaborations.

Last example is a long term partnership with Loughborough University around minimum income standards, because it’s only over time that you build up a cumulative effect where people start to trust the relationship and the approach.  How do you keep research grounded in the real world?  Communications is important –  we have had to try and build up new conversations in terms of poverty.  A tool to help people see where thye sat on the scale crashed the BBC website.

We can solve poverty in the UK

We can solve poverty in the UK – click to download report.

Various form of evidence can work – including impact measurement used by the teams at the time.  They are very good at influencing at a local level – but to influence at a national levele you may need more detailed academic research

Work out the value of what you have found out to influence where you want to see change in your world.  (This is just what we work with our clients to do –  to capture the difference they are making and use that to influence the change they want to see)

The key is to be clear on the value. The inference you draw from lighter touch measurement may be different from more in depth research. Be open about what you think it means.

Communicate the finding of your work.

  • Understand what you need to record.
  • Identify the key people to communicate with.
  • Amplify your reach.
  • Invite people to see you at work.
  • Celebrate what you achieve.
  • Share what hasn’t worked so well.

You can also use a wider range of media. Techniques such as story telling can make a huge difference (the stories you can collect through the Impact APP

Click to see the toolkit

Click to see the toolkit

Dan Corry

Evidence needs to be strong. It helps if it’s independent, it also helps if it fits the direction the government is going in.

Mentioned Feinstein about evidence of investment in young people by showing how crucial early years were and amplified surestart.

National Minimum wage and national Living wage policies born out of evidence.  Other work in the 1980’s showed the impact of long term unemployment on people.  Further evidence that short term prison sentences are a waste of time – which included work from Downing St Delivery unit.  This couldn’t change policy because politicians believed it was at odds with what the public want.  Evidence  of the impact of sugar on obesity is slow to take hold because of the power of the sugar lobby.

We are also doing some work on social prescribing to show DR’s how loneliness is effecting health and that introducing people to local community groups will improve help. NSPCC changed it’s tactics by using evidence to influence professionals.

One thing that is crucial is cost effectiveness. Something may work, but if it is to expensive it wont be adopted.

What do we want from evidence

  • Helps us understand problems
  • Causal drivers
  • What are the options to solve problems
  • Robust methods for evaluating
  • We want things that will ‘help ministers achieve their  objectives’

I’ve always wanted to know the ‘right’ answer to the problem we’re tackling. That may not fit with what government or the public wants, but it helps you respond as a civil servant in the most effective way.

What do police makers need:

  • Don’t forget policy takes place in a political environment, shaped as much by that as evidence.
  • Public opinion means we shouldn’t expect an automatic hearing for evidence – so present it well, clear of waffle and jargon and at the right time
  • Ministers are more interested in evidence than you might think.
  • Change may take time so persevere.
  • If you want to influence you need to work through a wide range of challenges, engage with civil servants, build relationships, get a secondment to a department to understand their world.
  • Civil servants keen for new ideas, especially on cheaper ways to do things.
  • We need policy and systems which encourage experimentation and trial and error.

Don’t just engage with civil servants, talk to the ministers or other people advising them.  Civil servants alone may be to late in the policy making process – often decided when politicians are in opposition. So talk to them.   At the moment our present prime minister wasn’t in opposition or able to develop that before becoming PM – chance now to influence what and how.

Also mentioned Ministry of Justice data models which makes it easier for small organisations.

Dan Corry – caught in a trap, between public servants needing simpler information coming back fro the sector and the third sector looking to find fresh ways to measure their impact.

Compliments for the Impact Assessment App from the Royal Society for Public Health

One of our closest clients, Gateway Family Services,  won a couple of big awards last week. Huurah and congratulations.

richard-gatewayusingtheimpactappThey were the Royal Society for Public Health’s Three Year Health and Wellbeing Award and the Public Health Minister’s Award.

One of the things the judges identified was this Impact Assessment app, which we developed with guinea pig help from Gateway, who were among the first users.  They still use it in their daily work.

The judges said this of the way gateway understand what difference their services make..

…the strategy for the compilation of clients’ feedback is accessible and innovative, facilitating the capture of users’ comments and feelings about the service they are receiving.

Below is a video they made of just one workers use of the impact app in one week

and Gateway also  blogged about how they use the app.

We take feedback every session, no matter how short the statement, or how negative the client might be feeling. Often the negative feelings are useful because in future sessions we can look back together and say ‘look how far you’ve come!’

“I find it really useful to be able to show people how the work they’re putting in is having an effect over time.”

As an organisation, the feedback every service gets from every client is extremely useful, as there is such a variety of data. Hearing from clients directly, rather than ticking boxes, means that we are getting a truer picture of the impact we are having. Recording clients in this way means that we often see issues and patterns that might not otherwise have shown up, which helps us to develop our services. It also makes it easier for us to present information about our work, and the impact it has, to others.

The Impact Assessment App allows you to capture what clients say in text (which can they be analysed)  and also video, audio or images.



Gateway Family Services – capturing impact in public health

Gateway is one of the earliest users of the Impact assessment app.  They have used it to track the progress of more than 8800 clients across 5 projects. Their work is varied.  From health trainers helping people lose weight, stop smoking and get fitter to their Pregnancy Outreach Service, which supports some of the most vulnerable pregnant women in Birmingham.

The app sits very well with Gateway’s approach, which is to recruit staff from the communities they are supporting and build a rapport with the people they help.   The app builds on that trust by providing a simple and friendly way to give their clients a voice.

So feedback can range from a casual “Yeah good ” or “I’m not too bad thanks, have a cold though

through to people sharing intense experiences…

am a drug addict, on a script but still using heroin, i am living in a hostel and am 23 weeks pregnant. i have had two children taken away and know this child will also be taken away, but would like to have some contact with this baby. I have metal health issues and receive the higher level of ESA, I would like support with bettering my situation to enable me to have contact with this child.


I disclosed my domestic violence incident and went to hospital for an x-ray on my jaw – the waiting time was too long so I walked out. Since then we split and … I am living in temporary accomodation and feel safe here, I have suffered from depression previously, but feel anxious as my hair is falling out when I brush it. I don’t have much support from family, friends or partner, I am now 21 weeks pregnant. I am grateful that you have come to see me.Thanks for the Tommy’s book to read. You filled out the booklet for me to claim Healthy Start Vouchers.

The focus is always on what the client wants to talk about, creating space for them to share and helping track their journey; their progress in their own words. The culture is to listen and then respond to what comes out.  And people have shared experiences more 25 000 times using the Impact Assessment app.

“It gives us a greater sense of what we are achieving every day.  It gives the managers, the board and out commissioners a much deeper insight into  what the staff and clients are facing and how they are making things better.”  says chief executive Katherine Hewitt.

The Impact Assessment App has helped Gateway:

  • Get all four key services recommissioned in the face of severe budget cuts, work worth more than £1million a year.
  • Develop iterative improvements to services through analysing what the clients say and then share that with partners.
  • Introduce more mobile and digital ways of working, which have replaced a line of filing cabinets several metres long and saved on administration costs.
  • Search the evidence they are collecting quickly and routinely.
  • Take a lead with commissioners on simpler more useful ways to capture and record their impact.
  • Pitch for new work and provide evidence for bid writing to demonstrate the work they do.
  • Run their annual reporting process, with stories told straight from the Impact Assessment App.
  • Tell a constant flow of weekly case studies to show commissioners, colleagues and partners what difference their services make, Stories like Daniel’s and Rumbudzai’s

The Impact App is also been used alongside other systems and is designed to help you cross reference with any system you’re using.



YMCA Crewe capturing the impact of their work with young people

The Foyer has used outdoor survival to help build confidence and resilience.

The Foyer has used outdoor survival to help build confidence and resilience.

Crewe YMCA is a Foyer that provides a home and support for young people.

Some of their work can be measured in specific qualifications and achievements. Other work is softer; just as important but harder to track.

The Foyer started using the Impact Assessment App to track a healthy conversations project begun with the Foyer Federation.

This not only supports young people with day to day choices they make about their health but also offerers challenges and new experiences. The Impact Assessment  app allowed them to capture what people were experiencing in routine ways but also on special occasions, such as the 24hr survival challenge.

From Project Working to routinely capturing progress.

YMCA_CreweJoel Lewis, from the Foyer, said “It works well for us and now we have moved it from just one project to starting to capture the progress of all the work we do with the people who live here.”

“Not only do we capture their voice, their direct experience, but we use it to make notes from the workers.  By using the hashtag #notes we can separate out what the young people are saying from what the staff are saying and analyse them separately.  It also allows you to work with people to show how they have progressed and lets you track progress through a range of different programmes.”

“The benefit  is being able to report on a almost infinite range of softer outcomes, the challenge is integrating into how we do our work on an hour by hour basis. “