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Ready, set, go! The Evaluation Exchange has launched in Camden

2 November 2021

Photo of a railway bridge with Camden Lock written on it

Following our launch in east London, the Evaluation Exchange has now officially started in Camden. This month, we held an online workshop bringing together 27 researchers from UCL (ranging from PhD students to Research Fellows) with seven, yes seven (!) voluntary and community organisations from Camden. This workshop kick started the 6 month collaboration, with the researchers and organisational teams working together to tackle an evaluation challenge set by the organisation.

The local, inspirational, organisations who are working with us to co-create solutions, include:

  • Calthorpe Community Garden: An inner-city community garden and centre open 7 days a week to improve physical and emotional well-being. Their aim is to facilitate the connection between local residents to help people get to know their neighbours while getting some gentle exercise and learning something new.
  • Central YMCA: As the world's first YMCA, they are a national charity that advances the education, health and wellbeing of our communities. They break down barriers to create improved access to life changing opportunities. Their vision is to enable everyone to achieve their potential, live a fulfilled life and contribute positively to society.
  • Lifeafterhummus Community Benefit Society: Provide support to local residents who have been affected adversely and disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Their local volunteers make it possible to collect surplus food from 45 stores every week on foot, by bicycle or by car. These supplies are then sorted and placed in their ‘Request what you eat, Eat what you request’ “shop front” where volunteers prepare weekly food parcels 1-to-1 with households on our support list. This close-contact with each house allows the organisation to identify what other support is needed; from debt advice, care navigation, to employability.
  • Kentish Town City Farm: A vital green space for local people to connect with nature. They engage people from different backgrounds in their activities to work together, caring for the animals and the land. They run targeted activities for older people, young people and early years groups.
  • Street Storage: Provides people experiencing homelessness (including those sleeping out, in vulnerable housing situations, leaving violent home situations or in the prison system) with free, secure and accessible storage for their belongings. Street Storage receives referrals from national charities such as Crisis and Shelter as well as a wide variety of grassroots and community projects, local authorities, domestic violence refuges, soup kitchens and shelters.
  • Women + Health: Provides complementary and alternative medicine therapies and counselling. They support the mental and physical healing of domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors. Their priority clients are women who are disadvantaged by physical and mental health issues, environmental challenges, isolation and poverty, those caring for members of their family and women survivors of domestic violence and rape.
  • WAC Arts: A vibrant, inclusive, accessible, and affordable multi-disciplinary arts charity. For 40+ years they have provided high quality arts training for young people aged 5-26, with a commitment to those who face the greatest physical, social and/or economic barriers to opportunity. Their mission is to empower young people to change their world through the arts. They provide creative opportunities enabling young people to explore their creativity and cultural identity, tackle important social issues, while building transferable life skills.

We feel incredibly lucky to be working with such a diverse group of organisations with so much experience. Please click on their links and read about them – what they do and how they do it is incredible!

We, the Evaluation Exchange, supports a creative and collaborative approach to co-creating transformative solutions for community-based organsiations. The Evaluation Exchange is delivered through a collaboration between UCL, Compost London and Voluntary Action Camden. Following a pilot in 2018, the programme has proven to be an effective method to increase skills in evaluation of both UCL researchers and staff from the voluntary and community sector, as well as making a real difference for how organisations can understand and articulate their impact. We provide the structure and support to give researchers a valuable opportunity to apply and develop their research skills and gain ‘hands-on’ experience of the voluntary sector, and organisations a chance to build their capacity for effective evaluations.

Our day-long workshop together, on 14th October, flew by with everyone meeting each other, understanding each others’ perspectives and start generating ideas. Despite the 2-D situation, the energy, warmth and enthusiasm to get going was beaming from our screens!

We believe creativity is crucial to coming up with solutions – so we aimed to encourage space for creativity and curiosity within our first session together. Our conversations were captured by the wonderful artist Jenny Leonard, who perfectly captured our values, principles and expectations for the programme on this illustration.

cartoon depicting connections, handshakes, crosswords with words outlining the goals of the evaluation exchange such as Build on partnerships, fresh perspectives creative evaluations, knowledge, intersectionality, incorporating fun, questioning curiosity

The workshop finished, but this wasn’t the end it is just the beginning!  We will be coming together again in December for workshop 2, focused around ‘evaluation troubleshooting’, and we cannot wait to bring everyone together to share their experiences and help us shoot those troubles! At the end of the 6 months, in April 2022, we’ll be holding a symposium to celebrate the work that’s been done and share learning.

The Evaluation Exchange aims to provide an opportunity for researchers and students to enhance their skills and practice outside of a formal university setting and make real, long lasting connections with communities in London. For the organisations, we’re hoping that this project lays the groundwork to create real and lasting organisational change. We know this is hard, but after meeting the wonderful, talented teams there is no doubt: anything is possible.

Watch this space for more blogs and updates from us and our teams.

The Evaluation Exchange is now running in Camden and Newham, and fits within a wider set of initiatives of UCL in London aiming to make far-reaching economic, health, environmental, cultural and social contribution to our home city. If you want to know more about the Evaluation Exchange please do get in touch.


Photo by Zck_ on Unsplash