About Prove It!
Prove It! was developed by The New Economics Foundation in partnership with Groundwork UK and Barclays PLC. It provides a method for measuring the effect of community regeneration projects on the quality of life of local people. This tool is best suited to:
- Help understand the effects of small or medium-sized projects, (as opposed to larger-scale regeneration programmes).
- Look at the effects of projects that involve local people as workers, volunteers or beneficiaries.
- Organisations concerned with local community involvement.
- Those interested in evaluating a project’s effect on social exclusion and other quality of life issues.
Prove it! seeks to make data collection part of the process of regeneration, with local people involved in a project’s evaluation as well as its delivery.
Prove it! Toolkit is made up of files containing instructions for running participative workshops, designing simple questionnaires and inputting data that allow a thorough and robust exploration of a project’s impact. The aim is to make it easier for organisations to take those first steps towards undertaking effective impact measurement.
The Prove it! Toolkit incorporates three main tools:
- A Storyboard exercise for understanding how a project’s intended activities will lead to change.
- A Survey Questionnaire to be used at the start and end of the project.
- A Poster Evaluation exercise in order to reflect at the end of a project on its impacts and the lessons that have been learnt.
In addition there are notes, guidance and templates provided to assist project managers in planning the evaluation process and presenting findings.
“How can we go about measuring and documenting the ‘outcomes’ of our work?”
“How can we measure the ways in which communities’ and individuals’ quality of life is changing as a result of our endeavours?”
Measuring social outcomes can help to demonstrate the full value of regeneration or other local improvement activities to external bodies, such as funders. There is widespread recognition among policy-makers that evaluation often fails to involve local people, which Prove It! effectively addresses.
Prove It! can provide a comprehensive story or hypothesis for a project. With a strong hypothesis established at the start, a better case can be made at the end that a particular intervention has brought about the changes. The tool is relatively simple to use and has scope for adaptability to an organisation’s specific needs. It can be used for a wide variety of projects, not just regeneration.
Its participative process can help involve local people and help contribute to the building of trust in the community so that the collection of data becomes part of the process of regeneration itself. This can help to build capacity of local groups and people and galvanise further action in other areas.
Prove it! may be useful as a complement to other evaluation tools.
As with all participative forms of evaluation, there is a need for caution in labelling certain people or groups of people as ‘local’ or representative of ‘the community’. There is potential for the exclusion of voices of groups or individuals in the local community as well as the potential for local pressure groups dominating the evaluation.
A participative process may bias the answers of participants – people may tell you what they think you want to hear.
Prove It! works best if there is a confident member of staff with some experience with working in a participative way with the community and stakeholders involved.
Prove It! seeks to measure only the effects of a particular project or initiative. It may not identify activities within other people’s lives that can have an effect on social capital and quality of life in a local area.
Who can use Prove It!?
Any third sector organisation working on projects and initiatives involving a local community can use Prove it! It can meet the needs of regeneration and community development organisations including Development Trusts.
It works best with smaller projects and less well for large projects or those with no community involvement. Prove It! may also be useful for project officers from agencies, local government and other decision makers who are likely to commission evaluations of specific initiatives and use the results to inform policy decisions.
The Prove It! Toolkit will help you evaluate your community project by:
- Involving volunteers and beneficiaries in telling their project’s story.
- Looking beyond the ‘easy-to-count’ to the important changes for the participants and their communities.
- Investigating how change takes place, and how to improve impact.
- Sharing and building on the learning gained from peoples’ experiences of taking part.
The Toolkit follows three steps: deciding what to measure with a Storyboard, collecting information with a Survey and looking back on what actually happened with a Project Reflection workshop.
Each step features worksheets and instructions for a range of participative evaluation exercises. Pick and choose from these materials to support your management, measurement and reporting activities throughout the project cycle.
In addition, two supporting documents help with evaluation planning and reporting.
The Prove It! Toolkit has been designed to help project managers evaluate their own projects. NEF Consulting are happy to offer bespoke training and support if required.
- Explore how a project’s intended activities will lead to change.
- Describe what that change will look like.
- Identify the best ways of knowing (indicators) that it is happening.
Use the exercise as close to the start of the project as possible, ideally in preparation for a grant application, so you can plan subsequent evaluation activity and incorporate it into the project’s delivery. To prove whether a project is making a difference, you first need a hypothesis, or underlying ‘theory of change’ on how the project’s activities (the inputs) produce results (outputs) that help to bring about change (outcomes).
You can use the Storyboard and Impact Mapping exercise with a mixed group of staff, volunteers and potential beneficiaries involved in a project in order to map out the ‘theory of change’. By the end of the exercise you should be able to identify the best ways of knowing that change has taken place, and therefore what sort of questions to ask of participants and beneficiaries.
Download the instructions for the Storyboard and Impact Mapping exercise.
You can use the Survey questionnaire with project participants and community members over the lifetime and beyond the completion of a community-based project. Ideally the survey should be administered before and after the project activities are completed for a sense of the extent to which the project has made a difference.
An Excel spreadsheet provides space for responses and to present and compare data collected from two rounds of surveying.
To make the Survey simple to administer we have chosen a core list of the most powerful indicators of a project’s impact on social capital and quality of life. For each indicator there are 1 to 3 simple questions for project participants and non project-participating members of the wider community. This core list relates to the potential effects of a project on:
- Frequency of use of the new space or facility.
- Attractiveness of the neighbourhood.
- Levels of community safety.
- People’s inclusion, involvement and trust in local decision-making processes.
- People’s networks and contacts:
- for achieving change
- for feeling connected to a community
- in case of a need for help.
The Survey questionnaire contains ready-made demographic questions to help report on the specific groups of people involved in or affected by a project.
Project managers can design additional questions for a survey using the additional question templates.
The Project Reflection Workshop is an opportunity to bring together people who have been involved in, or affected by a community project. Participants gather round an interactive poster that uses a timeline to help them:
- Share their version of the project’s story.
- Describe their personal high points and low points.
- Identify evidence of the project’s impact.
- Explore what can be learnt from their experiences of being involved.
The interactive poster provides the structure for a 1½ to 2½ hour meeting that can involve project staff, volunteers and members of the wider community. A facilitator, ideally someone other than the project manager, uses the instructions provided to help participants reflect on different aspects of their project.
The workshop explores the unintended and unexpected consequences of a project, and to identify what can be learnt from the experience. A recording sheet captures the main points of the discussion for a report.