What is Social Action Evaluation?

The Centre is experienced in carrying out evaluations of a wide range of projects and services. Wherever possible these involve community members and service users in determining the themes for the evaluation, gathering information and contributing to the analysis. Past commissioners include local authorities, voluntary organisations and centrally funded community programmes such as Sure Starts and the Children Fund.

Evaluation helps to consider whether interventions have been effective or not, it is important to know if something has been successful or not, and what has contributed to that performance. This might be for funders or, because projects want to know if what was intended has worked or not and what works best for themselves.

What information will need to be collected and how best to find it out will depend on what people are trying to do, how and who it needs to be shared with. Evaluation should not only be an exercise to satisfy the demands of the funding body but also inform and improve practice and be a catalyst for learning and change.

Monitoring and evaluation are different. Monitoring is checking out if things are happening according to the plan set out. Evaluation is about seeing how effective and efficient work has been in reaching the goals set for the project. Outcome evaluation is concerned with assessing what an activity has achieved. Process evaluation tries to explain how it has been brought about.

Social action evaluation shares much with our approach to research. Like social action research social action evaluation is based on three key principles. First of all, Social Action evaluation involves starting from the ideas and understanding of a range of stakeholders.

This does not mean only including users or patients, but all of the stakeholders who have an interest in a particular evaluation. Social Action evaluation involves respecting and viewing positively stakeholders as ‘knowers’ - the experts in their lives. It involves a realisation that evaluation, just as empowerment practice, is a process of learning, development and change and that the evaluator is a practitioner, as much as an evaluator, in facilitating that process.

Social action evaluation works very closely with service users and those who provide services to establish common agreement as to the focus of evaluation.

The Centre works with projects to decide the most appropriate methods to evaluate their particular project. There is no 'right way' to approach evaluation, we look to gather information from a variety of means. One important aspect is getting the views of the people who have been involved in the project or activity directly – and this may include children.

Social action evaluators look to use creative and innovative methods of information collection and to find ways by which all people involved in the project can take part. Much of our evaluation work is with projects working with children and young people and so a variety of interesting and engaging ways of giving them opportunities to voice their views and opinions have been developed.

Recent evaluation work undertaken by the CSA

Howard League, U R Boss evaluation
U R Boss
is part of the Howard League for Penal Reform. It is an innovative youth justice project that provides an enhanced legal service shaped by and for young people in custody and those recently released into the community. Funded by the Big Lottery for 5 years, U R Boss provides a national programme of participation opportunities and support for young people. U R BOSS is a project led by young people aged 10-24 years old for young people that are or have been involved in the criminal justice system and may have been in some form of custody (2010-14)

Hine J, Fleming J and Smith R (2012) Embedding Participation London: The Howard League

Smith R and Fleming J (2011) Welfare + Rights: An interim evaluation report into the Howard League’s legal service for children and young people London: The Howard League

Nottingham City Council, evaluation of SupportNet - Evaluation of the a programme to encourage community involvement in the Putting People First agenda in 2 communities in Nottingham.

Fleming J (2010) SupportNet evaluation report

Participation Works evaluation – managing the evaluation of Participation Works which aims to support voluntary organisations to actively involve children and young people in all aspects of designing, delivering and evaluating services that affect their lives, in order to successfully meet their needs. (£51 450, 2008/2010)

For full list of evaluation projects undertaken by the CSA – (PDF)

© Centre for Social Action, DMU


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