Reflections on evaluating our Confident Transitions programme
On paper, evaluation is a straightforward process. Back in the real world, there are times when it can be more like that trolley that seems to resist the direction you want to go. It’s like each wheel has a different idea about how to get there. Sometimes we have to slow down, pause or even stop and learn from the wobbles.
On our Confident Transitions programme, we’ve worked hard to shape the evaluation process with participating young people, to ensure that it feels relevant and of value to them as well as to us. Even then, the process isn’t tidy. Some young people answer easily and honestly; a few clam-up in front of peers; others shift into bravado mode or use pseudo politeness; most are unpredictable and flit in and out of different modes. When we have all these dynamics in a single space then the complexities are multiplied. So, we have learned to hold our methods lightly and to create multiple evaluation opportunities rather than single hard-mapped slots. As young people explore - and help to design - different ways to express and make sense of what they are experiencing, their confidence grows and so does their ability to articulate what they are learning and why that matters to them.
It’s complex, constantly moving, evolving and never entirely replicable…and in that sense can be frustrating and challenging. But when you draw all of the data together, it hugely satisfying to see strong themes and deep personal insights emerge. Doing so, requires patience, courage, sensitivity, flexibility and creativity, but, as young people make sense of what they are learning, we are forcibly reminded of why we do the work in the way we do - and how important it is for our evaluation methods to be as valuable to the young people as they are to our organisation.