How can evaluation be worthwhile and useful?

We have recently completed an exciting and innovative action research evaluation of the Cedar groupwork programme.  This provided a systemic and reflective approach to evaluation which is likely to be of interest to others who want to blend action and analysis in all areas of public policy.   Our perspective was that if research is to be worthwhile, it should contribute to changes in practice as well as report the outcomes of the programme.

The design of the evaluation process created a blended multiple sources of evidence of all kinds, including the perspectives of the children and mothers, in a series of different types of reflective and participatory spaces.   This approach has meant that emerging evidence arising from the implementation of the pilot has been trialled, interpreted and subjected to the hard test of complex live practice.

We used a number of innovative participatory research methods to involve programme participants and professionals in the generation and analysis of narrative and story-based evidence, including the use of composite stories which allowed the voices of children and mothers to remain in the foreground.  They also revealed much about the deeper issues and meanings that professionals and participants attached to their experience; the assumptions, values, expectations, ways of seeing and emotions of which they may not always have been aware, may have found to be ‘un-discussible’ or chosen not to speak about.

Here’s the final report:  We Thought They Didn’t See

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