Social Return on Investment; What is it? And do I want it?

Social Return on Investment (SROI) has been around for quite a while, but it’s still not that well understood. Our director, Kirsty Rose Parker, completed the training back in 2010 and has used it on many occasions.

Carrying out a SROI is a robust framework for writing and describing a wider context of value. It puts a financial proxy on to a  project. It is presented in monetary terms but describes value, not actual money. Because SROI is robust and has a structured methodology, it does have some key principles.

  • Change is change and might not always be positive; there may be some negative implications
  • Stakeholders are key to the whole process; an SROI should start with stakeholders
  • SROI uses financial proxies to value change. Throughout this SROI, existing measures of other similar experiences that could also make the changes our participants told us about have been used as financial proxies.
  • It can’t include everything – not everything that changes in people’s lives is down to the project. It is just as important to know when to stop.
  • An SROI should be truthful. It goes without saying really, but on an exercise like this honesty is the best policy. For an SROI to be believable it does need to be based on evidence and data, and not over-claimed.
  • An SROI should be transparent; explaining the process to give transparency to all the decisions made.
  • Results should be verified, either by stakeholders or experts or both

Some funders do recommend ‘Social Return on Investment’ and all respond positively to it. It is a good methodology and we often follow points 1 and 2 in other evaluations, as we like the structure of reminding us to keep an open mind and see what people tell us.

It works best on projects which make big changes to peoples lives; whether that is changes to mental health or overall health, if people get jobs, or are supported to get housing, for those living with dementia or addiction although the process can be adapted to almost all projects or even an organisation as a whole.

It works best on projects which have a clear start point which can be measured, and ideally would look at value over time. If everyone started a project on the same day, it would need to allow a few months for changes to take place. If a programme allows people to join at any time it can be quicker, as then a team of evaluators would be able to talk to people who had just joined and those who had been taking part for a while in the same month.

It is a process of reflection, and evaluation. It will help teams to think about the changes they enable and to see what their impact is. It can help to build pride in a project or organisation. It can definitely increase investment as it gives investors a clear sense of the change their investment enables.

To simplify; If your project changes lives, then yes you want a SROI. If you can get hold of people taking part then yes you can do a SROI. It does need to be done during a project, it’s not impossible to do one retrospectively but it is much harder, so do try and plan one in earlier rather than later.

Give us a call if you want to know more, we’d be happy to chat through the process; over the phone. over zoom or in (socially distanced) person. If you want to do it for yourself…

More information, including a guide to working out a SROI can be found here. 

New Client; Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

We are delighted to be working with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council on their Townscape Heritage Project, Blakey Moor.

The Blakey Moor Townscape Heritage Project is an ambitious £3 million joint investment by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This heritage-led regeneration project is working to transform the historic heart of Blackburn around King George’s Hall and is focused on Blakey Moor, Northgate and Lord Street West.

The Project aims to restore and refurbish historic buildings, improve public spaces and provide local people with opportunities for training in traditional building skills. A programme of complementary events and activities has been taking place alongside the building work and the area’s rich history and heritage used to strengthen its unique identity, attract visitors and promote opportunities in the area.

The Evaluator is working with the project team to evaluate the whole programme over the next 18 months or so, our timetables are flexible to allow for changes due to Covid-19 restrictions. The team includes council staff, architects, local creative folk, residents, businesses, shoppers, students, and is a wide ranging creative evaluation, designed to suit the creative elements of the project itself.

Adapting Evaluations for Covid-19; Three Tips.

We were talking to a client earlier and sharing a newly adapted evaluation for Covid-19 times. None of us know what is coming next or when a return to face-to-face work may be possible. For our clients who often work with really vulnerable individuals this means worry, and feelings of frustration and helplessness. Many charities and not-for-profits have adapted their work: turning to online support sessions; texts; video calls; providing webinars and online discussion groups; YouTube channels; and Digital Festivals. The range of adaptive work is huge and we are adapting away too.

Online work is still making an impact – and work that makes an impact can be measured. That is where we can help: we can figure out how to measure that impact.

Even if you are not working with an evaluation consultancy, here are three simple tips you can use.

1. Use polls

Lots of our clients, and ourselves included, are now using Zoom, which has the option to create polls. You can’t do this ‘live’ during a Zoom call, it must be done in advance. There are lots of simple tutorials online about how to create one. We would recommend you try and think of just one question you can use throughout all your work, and embed it as a poll on each planned meeting. You might be working on increasing wellbeing or connection, or trying to help people cope with new day-to-day lifestyles. You could ask if people feel better for taking part; if they feel better able to cope; if they feel happier for connecting today.

This isn’t just available on Zoom, other systems including ‘Crowdcast’ have these options, so do explore if this is something you could do.

2. Send an online survey

If you are connecting or working with people online, create and send an online survey. We use SurveyMonkey, and would happily recommend it. It’s free for up to 10 questions to fewer than 100 people, and that works well for lots of projects. Today, we have just created a slightly more fancy survey which includes demographic questions, assessment of knowledge and motivation, and marketing and enjoyment. It will take people just a few minutes to complete and the team just have to copy and paste a link into the comments option on each of their webinars. It doesn’t have to be complicated though, and this brings us to our next point…

3. Just ask something

Some information is always better than no information. Just have a go at collecting something. We have recommended simple questions in the past and if in doubt, just ask what people enjoyed; what they think could have gone better; and what they would recommend you do in future.

Good luck working remotely and connecting with people, and we hope you found this mini Covid-19 tips session helpful!

New Client; Crafting the future

72 Seasons now open for Summer

 

72 Seasons is now open for Summer sign ups.

Join us in our beautifully calm and easy nature project. We ask you to fill in some simple online surveys all about health and wellbeing, and then take you on a journey to seek the seasons with us. During Summer we will be looking out for weather changes, plants fruiting and flowering and noticing more of the subtle changes in nature. We will email you three seasons in advance to look out for and then ask what you noticed. It can all be done online, and in your local area. You don’t need to be able to travel far or have a garden, you could take part just by looking out of your windows if you wanted.

 

Summer sign ups has now closed. 

 

We look forward to adventuring with you. Please note 72 seasons is a research project and is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership portfolio of projects.

 

 

Client again Jazz North

How are we coping with coronavirus restrictions? 21 Statistics around our wellbeing…

The world is changing. Here in the UK we are being asked to stay at home, to work from home, and to minimise our movement and travel down to the necessities. We are being asked this to ease pressure on the NHS, to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives.

It’s a strange new world, and we wanted to see if we could understand how people are coping. Well, as you all know, we measure wellbeing regularly. So we did a small survey in our local area, Barnoldswick and nearby to see how people are doing.

Week 2 includes a few more further flung people, as people have shared the survey to friends and family across the UK. This was updated on Friday 3rd April. On Friday 10th April, we added the Week 3 and on Friday 8th May we carried out Week 7 analysis.

Here are the results.

  • 16% of everyone have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks, 84% have not
  • Week 2: 12% of everyone have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks, 88% have not
  • Week 3: 21% of everyone have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks, 79% have not
  • Week 7: 10% of everyone have been asked to stay at home for 12 weeks, 90% have not

This means that our week three audience includes more people shielding than the other weeks.

  • 5% work in the NHS, and a further 11% had close friends or family who worked for the NHS
  • Week 2: 5% work in the NHS, and a further 10% had close friends or family who worked for the NHS
  • Week 3: 5% work in the NHS, and a further 13% had close friends or family who worked for the NHS
  • Week 7 : 8% work in the NHS, and a further 10% had close friends or family who worked for the NHS
Our statistics here are reletively consistent and does indicate that the majority of people are at home, without anyone in their household working on the front line.
  • 23% were considered key workers and continued to work, and a further 45% had close friends and family members who were continuing to work
  • Week 2: 23% were considered key workers and continued to work, and a further 38% had close friends and family members who were continuing to work. This could mean more people are off work ill at the moment.
  • Week 3: 20% were considered key workers and continued to work, and a further 36% had close friends and family members who were continuing to work. This probably does mean more people are off work ill at the moment.
  • Week 7: 33% were considered key workers and continued to work, and a further 37% had close friends and family members who were continuing to work.
We asked the statement; how anxious do you feel for yourself and your family?
  • The average score was 6, but there was a huge range of answers here. 20% were very concerned, scoring 10/10 for anxiety.
  • Week 2: The average score was 6, but there was a huge range of answers here. There has been a small fall to 17% were very concerned, scoring 10/10 for anxiety.
  • Week 3: The average score remains 6, but there was a huge range of answers here. There has been a bigger fall to 10% were very concerned, scoring 10/10 for anxiety, possibly people are getting used to a new ‘normal’.
  • Week 7: The average score has now fallen to a 5. There has been a slight increase as 13% feel very concerned, scoring 10/10 for anxiety. The fall overall means as a whole we are feeling less anxious than we were.
We asked the statement; how anxious do you feel for the world?
  • The average score was 7 with 36% of people feeling very anxious and scoring 10/10.
  • Week 2: The average score was 7 with a larger fall of 21% of people feeling very anxious and scoring 10/10.
  • Week 3: The average score fell to 6 with a larger fall of 10% of people feeling very anxious and scoring 10/10. Please note these were not all the same people who felt anxious for themselves and their family. This is a strong indication that people are coping better in week 3 than in week 1 and 2.
  • Week 7: The average score remained a 6 with 12% of people feeling very anxious and scoring 10/10.
The Warwick- Edinburgh scale of wellbeing measures emotional wellbeing. It’s a well used and well respected scale.

The average Warwick-Edinburgh Score was 44.8. That is MUCH lower than we would normally expect. The average England score here is usually around 51. The NHS states that anything under 40 is indicative of mental health issues and we had 23% of respondents score under 40.

Week 2: Our wellbeing scores are plummeting… 

Week 2: The average Warwick-Edinburgh Score was 41.9. That is MUCH lower than we would normally expect and a significant fall in wellbeing. The average England score here is usually around 51. The NHS states that anything under 40 is indicative of mental health issues and we had 38% of respondents score under 40.

Week 3: Our wellbeing scores are creeping up slowly… 

Week 3: The average Warwick-Edinburgh Score was 42.5. That is MUCH lower than we would normally expect and a significant fall in wellbeing. The average England score here is usually around 51. The NHS states that anything under 40 is indicative of mental health issues and we had 41% of respondents score under 40, which is an increase since Week 2 and a large increase since Week 1.

Week 7: Our wellbeing scores are static.. 

Week 3: The average Warwick-Edinburgh Score was 42.5. That is still MUCH lower than we would normally expect and a significant fall in wellbeing. The average England score here is usually around 51. The NHS states that anything under 40 is indicative of mental health issues and we had 37% of respondents score under 40. This may indicate that wellbeing is not going to change much until life changes.

We asked people what they were concerned about?

Food and Shopping – 66% were somewhat or very concerned

  • Week 2: Food and Shopping – 54% were somewhat or very concerned, a fall in concern levels
  • Week 3: Food and Shopping – 59% were somewhat or very concerned, a rise in concern levels
  • Week 7: Food and Shopping – 58% were somewhat or very concerned,showing a static concern level

Health – 77% were somewhat or very concerned

  • Week 2: Health – 73% were somewhat or very concerned, a fall in concern levels
  • Week 3: Health – 74% were somewhat or very concerned, a small rise in concern levels
  • Week 7: Health – 72% were somewhat or very concerned, a small fall in concern levels

Money – 50% were somewhat or very concerned

  • Week 2: Money – 63% were somewhat or very concerned, a rise in concern levels
  • Week 3: Money – 56% were somewhat or very concerned, a large fall in concern levels
  • Week 7: Money – 50% were somewhat or very concerned, a fall in concern levels

People had visited their GP on average 1.11 times in the last three months and on average take 1.55 types of medication every day.

Week 2: People had visited their GP on average 0.76 times in the last three months and on average take 1.15 types of medication every day. Both of these numbers have fallen.

Week 3: People had visited their GP on average 0.72 times in the last three months and on average take 0.94 types of medication every day. Both of these numbers have continued to fall.Week 7: People had visited their GP on average 0.51 times in the last three months and on average take 0.88 types of medication every day. Both of these numbers have continued to fall.

We asked people on how many days they exercised?
  1. Exercised on 1 day usually; 7%       Week 2: 8%     Week 3: 8%     Week 7: 3%
  2. Exercised on 2 days usually; 14%     Week 2: 12%   Week 3: 12%   Week 7: 18%
  3. Exercised on 3 days usually; 23%     Week 2: 27%   Week 3: 18%   Week 7: 13%
  4. Exercised on 4 days usually; 7%       Week 2: 4%     Week 3: 12%   Week 7: 23%
  5. Exercised on 5 days usually; 16%     Week 2: 15%   Week 3: 11%   Week 7: 8%
  6. Exercised on 6 days usually; 5%       Week 2: 2%     Week 3: 3%     Week 7: 3%
  7. Exercised on 7 days usually; 16%     Week 2: 21%   Week 3: 28%   Week 7: 18%
and only 14% (12% in Week 2, and 8% in Week 3 and 12% in Week 7) did no exercise at all. It will be  interesting to see changes here, as the deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, stated on one of the Covid-19 briefings that they hope people will use the time at home to exercise more. In Week 3 we are starting to see this, as the most popular answer is to exercise everyday and has replaced 3 times a week. In Week 7 this has fallen to exercising 4 times a week is the most common. Are good intentions starting to slip?
We also asked about loneliness, but it won’t make much sense until we repeat the survey and measure the change. We are planning to do this every week or two weeks, in case of illness.

People are feeling more lonely in Week 2, although this eases slightly in Week 3.

Loneliness has remained fairly static between week 4 and week 7.

About our respondents;
  • 44% were working from home and 31% were at home without work
  • 29% were caring for children or other adults
  • 5% were at home and feeling ill
  • 80% were female and 20% male
  • 100% were White British
  • 11% were aged under 30, 64% aged between 30 and 60 and 25% were over 60 years old
  • 61% were not disabled, 32% were limited a little and 7% limited a lot
About our Week 2 respondents;
  • 56% were working from home and 32% were at home without work
  • 44% were caring for children or other adults
  • 4% were at home and feeling ill
  • 87% were female and 13% male
  • 100% were White British
  • 6% were aged under 30, 80% aged between 30 and 60 and 14% were over 60 years old
  • 88% were not disabled, 12% were limited a little and 0% limited a lot
About our Week 3 respondents;
  • 29% were working from home and 43% were at home without work
  • 38% were caring for children or other adults
  • 4% were at home and feeling ill and a further 4% were caring for children or other adults who were feeling ill
  • 88% were female and 12% male
  • 97% were White British and 3% were from a Black or Minority Ethnic background
  • 11% were aged under 30, 65% aged between 30 and 60 and 24% were over 60 years old
  • 71% were not disabled, 16% were limited a little and 11% limited a lot, with a further 3% preferring not to say
About our Week 7 respondents;
  • 45% were working from home and 39% were at home without work
  • 43% were caring for children or other adults
  • 4% were at home and feeling ill but no one was caring for children or other adults who were feeling ill
  • 82% were female and 17% male, and 2% preferred not to say
  • 95% were White British and 3% were from a Black or Minority Ethnic background, while 2% preferred not to say
  • 10% were aged under 30, 78% aged between 30 and 60 and 12% were over 60 years old
  • 66% were not disabled, 5% were limited a little and 29% limited a lot,

How are we coping?

40% of people are using new ways to connect with technology. In Week 2: this had risen to 69%.
In Week 3 56% had been using new ways to connect with technology and 42% were using technology the same as they normally would. Possibly a lot of the learning for new technologies happened in Week 2, and it was now part of people’s ‘normality’. In Week 7 66% had been using new ways to connect with technology and 34% were using technology the same as they normally would. These have increased again, showing how many people are still adapting to a new world.
The following is a list of all the ways people were coping. We wanted to share the ideas and end on a positive note.
  • Daily walk with dogs. Read books. Stay in contact with family and friends. Try to find positives
  • Trying not to think to much about it
  • You tube, walking, videos
  • Walking in the fresh air  , watching comedy on tv
  • Gardening, reading books, trying to limit social media and news
  • Cycling, walking, crafts, gardening, cooking, face timing friends and family
  • Listen to music.
  • Positive mental attitude. I look at the huge opportunities the future presents
  • Playing games, talking to my grandma over her yard wall
  • I’ve been looking at new hobbies.
  • Reading, crafting,
  • Walking the dog. Video links to the gym. Trying to eat well.
  • The whole thing is irritating me as I’m trying to juggle being made redundant and selling my house right now!
  • Enjoying nature
  • Documentaries,  Cpd,  Cooking from scratch
  • Enjoying the sunshine in the yard. Making things at home. Playing games
  • Reading, gardening, cleaning, tv, jigsaw puzzles,
  • Decorating reading and walking
  • chatting to family and friends. started doing some crafts. cleaning
  • Organising/Spring Cleaning  Indoor Recreational Activities
  • PE with Joe Wicks, Video Calling friends and making plans, gardening and planning to grow food, gratitude and positive thinking
  • Creating family WhatsApp groups. Speaking more to people when safe to. Checking in on elderly parents
  • Gardening
  • Gardening
  • Ringing family and friends. Walking alone most days. Spring cleaning. Gardening
  • Keep busy.

Gardening is certainly a popular answer!

Week 2 answers:

  • After I planned for the worse case scenario I am now trying to enjoy some down time
  • Exercise when i can but rare opportunity as 3 disabled kids at home to entertain.
  • Set up a new online shop , filming art tutorials, cooking
  • Daily exercise as usual
  • Trying to stay away from the news, exercise daily & keep in touch with friends  family & colleagues
  • Meditation, focusing on work, spending time with the kids, watching telly, going for runs, walking, starting a journal
  • Walking to get fresh air   Trying to eat healthier
  • Wine!!!
  • Routines;   Daily workouts   work / Admin throughout the day,   Watching a netflix series with my girlfriend in the evening   Xbox   Friday night drinks in the flat with my girlfriend
  • spending time with the children and doing conditioning exercises with Max Whitlock online
  • Crochet essays tv walks
  • Video calling  Baking  Cleaning  Organising  Walking
  • Nothing as I have the virus
  • Focusing on cheering other people up to take my mind off own problems
  • Walking each day
  • Exercise indoors, walks outside when I can. Talking to friends and family often. Reading, watching tv and films that cheer me up.
  • Drinking
  • Getting outside –
  • Gardening / hard landscaping the garden
  • Exercise, Gardening, Gratitude, Jigsaw
  • Landscape gardening.    Playing board games.
  • One day at a time no plans
  • Looking after my horses
  • Have fun at home. Keep in contact with people.
  • Baking and reading
  • Jobs ,gardening , rtf
  • Reading, exercise videos and doing arts and crafts with my children
  • Walk each day
  • Joe Wick’s PE
  • Exercise every day. Cook nice things
  • PMA
  • Daily walk with family
  • Continue working, checking in on neighbours, family and friends, maintaining routine with my children, continuing physical activity
  • Knitting, watching box sets, cleaning

In Week 3, we asked some questions about hope. People on the whole think the shutdown will last about 12 weeks. That would mean these measures continuing to the 15th June.

Finally we asked about hope for the future. On average, where 10 was very hopeful and 0 was no hope, people scored a 6. 10% of people were full of hope scoring 10/10 on this question.

In Week 7 we asked again about hope. On average, where 10 was very hopeful and 0 was no hope, people scored a 6 again. A slight fall, as only 8% of people were full of hope scoring 10/10 on this question.

The picture is now quite static. We have learned an awful lot about our wellbeing during this time. Let’s end this project on a positive as we share what people have been up to, to stay cheerful over the last 7 weeks.

  • Walking each day with family  Eating proper meals  Getting enough sleep
  • My name is David Whipp. I am all I need to stay cheerful and healthy. My cheese and onion pies will sustain me for eternity. I am the law! (I kept this in, all our local Barnoldswick people will understand this, if you don’t – it’s a joke!)
  • same as usual
  • Working. Enjoying the extra free time.
  • Just carrying on as near to usual as possible sticking to the new rules and hoping we’ll be free soon
  • Trying to be positive and only be around positive people. I feel guilty when I go out alone to exercise as I generally spend 2>4 hours out as I’m alone
  • Continued to work as normal, exercise regularly and keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Helping others where safe and possible
  • Trying my hardest to be positive trying to not think I am on my own. I ve tried to cycle to and from work to boost my mood I think most for me is having a positive outlook and think it’s not forever.
  • Making things for charity. Sitting by my front door to get some sunshine when possible as I can’t get outdoors.
  • Decorating   Baking   Doing activities with the children   Daily walks
  • Nature, laughing, thinking
  • Gardening, painting, beekeeping, crosswords, reading,baking.
  • Sorting my life out
  • Jigsaws and Family Tree
  • Walking and eating better
  • Working, baking, gardening, tidying, DIY
  • Exercise, cooking nice things, online shopping, gardening
  • Baking, Reading, Listening to music, Keeping in touch with friends and family
  • Focusing on work. Taking exercise. Connecting with friends & family. Meditation & keeping a journal.
  • Puzzles, Netflix, Baking, Calls with friends and family, crafts
  • get outside and enjoy the area we live in
  • Walking more than normal, making the weekend different by having treats and playing games online with friends. Arranging times to video call friends.
  • Nothing
  • Reading
  • Baking
  • Focus on work. Weekends are hard to deal with
  • Enjoying the garden, going for a daily walk with family,
  • Jigsaw puzzle. Family quizzes by phone
  • Working
  • Nothing particularly hence why I’m not cheerful and my health is not the best and the worry does not help
  • Nothing specific
  • Knitting
  • Trying to keep busy with diy projects but I’ve lost the will now.
  • Nothing
  • Walking and gardening.
  • Gardening
  • Speaking on facebook, telephone
  • PE with Joe Wicks
  • nothing been to busy looking after 2 disabled children
  • Drinking alcohol more   FaceTime   Calling friends, family, work colleague   Being outside in open space-which we are lucky to live in a house with lots of outdoor space
  • Walking my dogs
  • I run a small bird rescue so keeps my mind occupied
  • Baking, eating fresh food
  • Not a lot
  • weight lifting
  • Nothing
  • Joe Wicks exercise every day,crochet headbands for hospitals, baking, trying to master my iPad to do some online sales as shop is closed in Skipton
  • Colouring housework playing games Zumba
  • Baking, watching TV, music, hot tub, walks,drinking and eating
  • DIY and gardening
  • Gardening  Reading
  • Just getting on with it
  • Paint furniture
  • Working and drinking
  • N/a

Any queries about this work, drop us an email at kirsty@theevaluator.co.uk

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18 reasons to love Winter; a creative evaluation of wellbeing

18 reasons to love Winter; a creative evaluation of wellbeing

72 seasons is a year-long research project, designed by Kirsty Rose Parker (founder & director of The Evaluator), to measure how being more connected to nature makes us feel. We do that through working with a team of volunteer seasonal seekers. We have planned a whole year – 2020 – where the seasons change every 4 or 5 days, originally inspired by the ancient natural calendar in Japan.

Our seasonal seekers agree to complete health and wellbeing research surveys and then they start their adventure. Trying to notice the changes in nature, we are building a community around Pendle Hill who look a little bit closer, a little bit more often, even just from their gardens and windows as the world changes. We had never heard of Coronavirus when this project began on 1st January 2020; but despite the changes in our daily lives and massive upheavals in our wellbeing, nature soldiers on, and so do we.

Here we share the results of the nature we have spotted. 180 people began this journey with us, a few have left and a few have since joined. We are a community that ebbs and flows, and people can choose how involved they get.

In 2020, we changed the season ‘Winter’ into 18 smaller seasons and asked our seasonal seekers to go out and about as much as they normally would, and see what they spotted.

The beautiful seasonal illustrations are by local artist, Cath Ford. You can check more of her work out here. Cath lives in Blackburn and she knows the nature we know. She is a very talented artist and we feel very lucky to be working with her.

Season; 1 – 4 January: The Earth is Unyielding 

Season; 5 – 9 January: Bare Branches are Stark


Originally we had planned that this season would be called ‘Frost Adorns Bare Branches’ but this was something our seasonal seekers disagreed with and we chose a new season to replace it, based on what our seekers saw.
This image of a misty Pendle Hill was taken by
Stella Nuttall on 5th January 2020.
This image of bare branches was taken by
 Sam Root on 5th January 2020.

Season; 10 – 14 January: The First Snowdrops Emerge 

This image of snowdrops emerging was taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 10th January 2020.
This image of a snowdrop was taken by
Sally Lambert on 12th January 2020.

Season; 15 – 19 January: The Robin Calls 

This image of a Robin was taken by
Kirsty Rose Parker on 16th January 2020.
As time went by, our seasonal seekers gained confidence in the project and started to connect more with us as a group. People started feeling able to share images of nature that meant something to them. They started to share what they noticed.
This image was taken by
Anita Vine on 19th January 2020.
This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 19th January 2020.

Season; 20 – 24 January: Frost Crackles Underfoot 

Season; 25 – 29 January: The Earth hides in Grey Mist

Originally we were going to call this season ‘The Earth is White’ but very little white was found by our seekers. One explorer shared a little tiny bit of white earth, and another spotted some white, but overall there wasn’t much white to be found.

This image was taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 28th January 2020.
This image was taken by
John Rose Parker on 28th January 2020.

We only keep a season if more than 50% agree with it. Our seasonal seekers complete short surveys throughout the project and we ask them if they have noticed a season or not. We occasionally ask them other questions too.

When we change a season we look for what people are sharing and telling us and then rename it. It was clear people were sharing images of mist.

This image was taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 19th January 2020.
This image was taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 21st January 2020.

In the image above, Pendle Hill is hidden by the mist! That is actually quite common around here. If you can’t see Pendle, you know the weather isn’t great. It’s also what the famous book by Robert Neil is named after; ‘Mist over Pendle’ is a dramatic retelling of the events of 1612 which led to the Pendle Witches being tried for witchcraft at Lancaster Castle, culminating in 10 lives lost.

This image was taken by
Jackie Hindle South on 22nd January 2020.

It was about this point where people began to start sharing many more nature images. Kirsty Rose Parker explains, “I was feeling a bit worried about the project as so many of the first seasons seemed wrong. Even though everyone agreed it was a really mild January, it was difficult to trust the process at that time. However, looking back, so many seasons being incorrect right at the start seems to have given our nature seekers confidence to take part more and be more vocal.”

Not just vocal, but visual too! People were really taking time to look around, to notice the finer details in nature and to share those images with a like-minded, local audience.

This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 22nd January 2020.

People also started to look out for previous seasons and to notice that things were early or late, sometimes missing. Here one of our seasonal seekers had remembered the snowdrop season from earlier in the month.

This image was taken by
Sarah Martin on 26th January 2020.
This image was taken by
Jackie Monk on 26th January 2020.

And another remember the season about Robins and shared an image after spotting one. One person told us, “it has encouraged me to keep my own nature diary of all the things I see”

Season; 30 January – 3 February: Morning Grass Glistens

And, talking of remembering previous seasons, Cathy Dobney spotted some white. we really loved the subtlety of this image!

This image was taken by
Cathy Dobney on 30th January 2020.
This image was taken by
Caroline Porter on 2nd February 2020.
It was about this point, about one month in, when people really began interacting more with each other. Caroline’s picture above of snowdrops created a discussion about what the ‘white thing’ is in the background? Litter, a heron, a goose, a spot on the camera? We just don’t know.
This image was taken by
Sam Root on 2nd February 2020.

We had planned to call this season ‘Spider Webs Glisten’, and Cath Ford had drawn a lovely image. We will try and work this into a future season, in Autumn. Sam’s image above was one of the few webs spotted, so we changed this season too.

Season; 4 – 7 February: Spring Winds Shake Raindrops

This was another change – the mild weather did make for a lot of new seasons! Originally we had planned to call this season ‘Spring Winds Thaw the Ice’ but there wasn’t much ice to thaw. One seasonal seeker did find some ice, but we had to wait quite a few more days for ice to be seen.
This image was taken by
Leanne Duckworth on 4th February 2020.
This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 11th February 2020.

Season; 8 – 13 February: The Curlew Calls

Season; 14 – 18 February: Spring Is In The Air

Two seasons correct in a row! Whoop!

One of our seasonal seekers noticed a meeting of herons and shared a photograph on St Valentine’s Day; maybe love was in the air? Another seeker told us that she always felt that herons were a good omen, and we found out collectively that a group of herons is a ‘siege’. It was lovely to see the group really starting to bond.

This image was taken by
Stella Nuttall on 14th February 2020.
Stella mentioned they once saw a meeting of 27 herons! Have you ever seen more than one heron at a time?

Season; 19 – 23 February: The Earth Becomes Damp

At this point in the year, Storm Ciara was recent and people across the UK were flooded. Storm Dennis finished on the first day of this mini season. There was so much rain, it was literally torrential. It was a sad time.

But, nature comforts. Here a seasonal seeker shared a photograph, possibly thinking of ‘white’ but another seeker commented, “Oh how pretty that looks. Like a Christmas Card.”

This image was taken by
Anita Vine on 24th February 2020.

Season; 24 – 28 February: Haze First Covers the Sky

Unsurprisingly it proved quite tricky to get photographs of haze. Luckily, one of our plucky seekers managed it.

This image was taken by
Cathy Dobney on 27th February 2020.

Season; 1 – 5 March: Plants Show Their First Buds

We really love this image from Cath. They are all special, but there is something about this one. This season is also where the natural world and the weather seemed to start changing into something more hopeful. Maybe that is why?

This image was taken by
Sarah Martin on 1st March 2020.
These images were taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 1st March 2020.

Another seasonal seeker took a nice picture of redcurrent buds on the 4th March, as we had shared a blurry version! It really was starting to feel like we are all in this together.

This image was taken by
Sarah Martin on 4th March 2020.

People were starting to share their feelings more about nature. One seasonal seeker told us, “Ooh spring makes me feel so happy!”, as they shared an image of wild garlic emerging in Townley park.

This image was taken by
Linda Spencer on 4th March 2020.

It is nice when a season is correct and everyone spots it. Then there is a feeling, a certainty, that this is right. It’s hard to explain. It is linked to a feel of community. This quote by Alan Bennett helps to explain it…

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And, it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

This image was taken by
Sam Root on 5th March 2020.

While organising permissions for these photographs, we noticed how many of our names are plant or nature related – surnames like root, earthup, rose, for example. We wondered if having a natural surname means genetically you are more likely to enjoy nature? Or possibly just more predisposed to notice more nature? Or maybe you are always likely to have this many nature names in any selection of people? We haven’t asked for personal details in this project, so it’s not a tangent we can go and follow!

This image of a “beautiful ice sheet on the pond, looked like cellophane”
was taken by Sue Boardman on 6th March 2020.
This image of frogspawn in the pond
 was taken by Judith Cunliffe on 7th March 2020.
Frogspawn is actually a well known indicator of Spring and nature. You may be wondering why the seasons didn’t include this? It’s actually a core part of the project – we deliberately didn’t choose frogspawn because our seasons need to be open to people who might not have a garden – or might not be able to walk to a remote pond. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t lovely to see these, but our research project is designed to be equal access – regardless of where you live or your abilities. This was to prove crucial towards the end of the month.

Season; 6 – 10 March: Hibernating Creatures Open Their Doors. 

After just explaining how important it was that the project was open widely, this season does seem to require access to a garden. However, although hedgehogs might be quite famous hibernators, bumblebees, some butterflies, ladybirds, bats, and slow worms are all creatures commonly found in the UK that hibernate.

This picture of ‘a mouses house’ was taken by
Suzi Earthup on 20th February 2020.
This was a special photograph to share though, as so few of us ever get to see a mouse’s house.
This image was taken by
Kirsty Rose Parker on 8th March 2020.

We managed to find a bee that did look like it had just woken up. It spent about twenty minutes sat on the dandelion warming up before flying away. Another seasonal seeker explained, “that will be a Bumble Queen. They sometimes sunbathe to warm up before they can fly.”

Season; 11 – 15 March: The Butterbur Flowers.

Butterburs do look quite strange and alien when they flower, and can be seen in wild grounds but particularly near canals and streams. Cath Ford, our artist was thrilled to get to draw a butterbur!

This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 11th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 11th March 2020.

Season; 16 – 20 March: The Magnolia Blooms 

People often have Magnolias in front gardens and they are quite distinctive and easy to spot, regardless of whether you own a magnolia or not. They are scented, so worth sniffing if you see one.

Our seasonal seekers responded well to this one, as Tammie began Magnolia watch on the 18th March. This season is possibly a little early, but the majority of people agreed with it, so we have kept it.

This image was taken by
Tammie Beckett on 18th March 2020.
This image of “mine has less buds than Tammies”
was taken by Stella Nuttall on 18th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Kirsty Rose Parker on 26th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sue Boardman on 1st April 2020.

At this moment in time, the world began to slow down for Coronavirus, but it was a good time to spot wildlife. Our seasonal seekers shared some really lovely wildlife images.

We also are very pleased that this project can all be done from home, and that it continues to run and to provide solace in difficult times. Many people know that nature continues and provides comfort, but paying attention to the subtle changes we hope will help wellbeing for everyone taking part.

This image was taken by
Pamela Wilkinson on 17th March 2020.
This image of “my first bee” was taken by
Sheila Moss on 19th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sally Lambert on 19th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Yvonne Carter on 20th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sheila Moss on 20th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sarah Martin on 24th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sarah Martin on 25th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sue Boardman on 26th March 2020.
This image of “dragonfly larvae” was taken by
Sue Boardman on 27th March 2020.

Season; 21 – 25 March: The Sparrow Builds Her Nest 

This image was taken by
Michelle on 25th March 2020.
Michelle shared this image and then asked, ‘does this count as a nesting sparrow?’ And we have to admit, this season was nigh on impossible to photograph. Thank goodness we have Cath’s beautiful images to accompany the seasons.
This image “although we are now at home, we share each other’s journeys”
was taken by Sue Boardman on 26th March 2020.

It has been such a comfort to have a group to talk to about nature, to share our daily walks with, to keep working for (although here at The Evaluator we can work 100% from home, so we are doing).

When we first planned this project, we had thought it would impact on people’s wellbeing, but had not envisaged just how much it would impact on our own – or how our wellbeing would be collectively challenged during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Season; 26 – 30 March: The First Cherry Blossoms

This image was taken by
Stella Nuttall on 27th March 2020.
This image was taken by
Sam Root on 29th March 2020.
This image was taken by
one of our seasonal seekers on 31st March 2020.

And that brings us to the end of Winter. The 72 seasons continue; they will throughout the whole of 2020. It seems fitting to end on Cherry Blossom, as the Japanese season of
Sakura is famous across the whole world, and it was the ancient natural Japanese calendar which inspired the whole project.

Recommissioned for Positive Progressions

We announce new partnerships here, and share some evaluation examples, but we rarely share the details of the project we complete. It’s time to rectify this.

Positive Progressions is one of our earliest clients and we are still working together. Positive Progressions is run by Craven College, who are based in Yorkshire and is all about getting families who are far away from the labour market back into work. They are co-financed by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund and are a Building Better Opportunities (BBO) project.

As their evaluation provider, in the beginning we worked with them to understand the work they were doing and what happened day to day in their project. We looked at the data they had to collect for funders, and spoke to the staff.  The project itself is a 1:1 keyworker support model, which is incredibly flexible. Because staff work so intensively with participants, they get to know them really well. We use that, and get the staff to carry out keyworker assessments.

Overall we have created measurement tools which capture changes in; wellbeing, confidence, resilience and ‘work-readiness’ over time. We chose this list, as these are the aims of the project. We regularly analyse all the data and present it to the wider team at partnership meetings. We can show the project is making an impact. We even can predict when people are nearing the end of their time in the project.

Our numerical information has uncovered unknown issues, for example, that people with disabilities are less likely to cross the final hurdle and get a job. This has helped the project team to focus their time and understanding on supporting disabled participants more.

We have provided bespoke quantitative measurement tools including ‘The Journey Back to Work Road Map’ and the ‘Rose Parker Resilience Scale’ which are very quick and easy for the team to implement and require no additional staff time.

Positive Progressions have consistently been identified as one of the leading examples of good practice in evaluation for all BBO projects across the North of England.

We presented the bespoke findings for this project at a high-profile seminar of good evaluation practice at Newcastle Football Club in May 2019. We were the only project selected to share evaluation good practice!

In September 2019 we were recommissioned to continue to provide their evaluation for the next two years. Working together again, we uncovered what they wanted out of a future evaluation. We decided to continue to use the existing methods and monitor the disability situation and to develop a new arm for evaluation to measure longer term impact. We are currently carrying out a ‘six months later’ impact analysis for this project and as part of that work we are starting to financially proxy the lifetime savings of the project in terms of a public purse.

“The Evaluator has been integral; supporting Craven College to really demonstrate  the impact of Positive Progressions to funders both current and future. From the outset they have developed and adapted methods of collecting data and evidencing impact throughout, this has ensured we can really showcase the success of the project but also to help us constantly improve our practice.” Pippa Syers, Community and Projects Manager.

Hopefully, that will have explained a bit more about what an evaluation partnership can look like. As a firm trying to transform evaluation; we are really trying to make sure it enhances our clients work, and helps them to make data-driven-decisions.

Our Statement on Coronavirus

All of The Evaluator staff are working from home in response to Coronavirus. Our team is normally home based, but now we are not taking any face to face appointments or travelling to clients. We are having video calls, and phone calls, and emailing more people.

Some of our clients have had to cancel all their work, some are busy trying to work out if they can amend any of their programmes. Some are asking us to do more work for them. We are ‘figuring it out’ day by day at the moment and trying to be as flexible and helpful as possible.

We are still considering ways in which we can be of help. People across the world are feeling anxious; about themselves, about health, about food shortages, about money, about work, about life as we know it. Our wellbeing is going to be changing all the time, and maybe we should be measuring that?

None of us know what is coming next, so all we can say is, if you are reading this…

Stay safe & stay sane.