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Evaluating services during a pandemic: learning from our COVID-19 grant round

In July 2020, we launched our £6.4m COVID-19 Grant Round. We had two aims: first, to provide targeted support to young people at risk of being involved in violence during the pandemic; and second, to learn fast about the best ways to reach young people during a period of physical distancing. 

Today, our Learning Partners (Dartington Service Design Lab, Centre for Youth Impact, Research in Practice and University of Plymouth) have published a new Insights Brief, to share some of the things we’ve learned. By looking at the funding applications and analysing the support needs of our 129 grantees, they’ve made recommendations to help organisations  get ready  to be evaluated. By developing skills in and capacity for evaluation, youth organisations can improve their services, make the case for funding and provide the best possible support to the children and young people they work with.  

They suggest that youth services should: 

  • Generate simple but clear descriptions of their services and their Theory of Change (which explains how the activities they provide lead to the change they want to see for the children and young people they work with)  
  • Develop long-term learning agendas, to make sure that growing and improving is always part of their work  
  • Investing in their practitioners, to help them improve their evaluation skills.  

Evaluators, commissioners and funders also have a crucial role to play. They should:  

  • Support the services they work with through basic evaluation training and help to develop long-term evaluation plans  
  • Consider funding for embedding evaluation and research capacity within provider teams (for example, researchers-in-residence).