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The Evaluation Exchange launches in Newham

29 September 2021

UCL students and researchers co-creating innovative solutions with London community groups: The Evaluation Exchange launches in Newham!

Dark corridor with neon lights

And so it begins…. The Evaluation Exchange has officially started in Newham. Last week, we held our first workshop bringing together 25 researchers from UCL (ranging from PhD students to Research Fellows) with six voluntary and community organisations from Newham, to collaborate for a six month period. We will be supporting these teams to work together to tackle an evaluation challenge — whether designing an evaluation strategy, analyzing data, or developing novel methods. The programme supports a creative and collaborative approach to co-creating transformative solutions for community-based organsiations. The Evaluation Exchange 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.

Its aim is to bring together different forms of knowledge to innovate: “connecting the know-how to the how-to” giving 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. The principles of the Evaluation Exchange are connection, innovation and experimentation– working together, trying new things and bringing about change.

Despite the challenges of online workshops (and everyone’s zoom fatigue!) we spent 23rd September, apart but together, with our teams connecting and sharing; starting to understand each other’s perspectives and asking lots and lots of questions!

We’re very pleased with the response to the programme, following a series of taster sessions earlier this year to generate interest. We have an impressive cohort of researchers and organisations who are engaged, open and enthusiastic about getting started.

Welcome to the organisations, who we are working with in Newham, each bringing a great set of expertise and experience – and thank you for opening your doors to us - they are:

  • Skills Enterprise are a grassroots organisation, set up in 2006 to support vulnerable and marginalised people living in the London Borough of Newham, to eliminate the barriers that lead to social exclusion and poverty.
  • Deafroots have been providing help and support to improve the lives of the deaf and hard of hearing community in the London Borough of Newham and neighbouring boroughs of Redbridge, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Barking and Dagenham.
  • Money A+E is an award winning social enterprise that provides money advice and education to diverse ethnic communities. They provide money advice, coaching, mentoring and education to diverse ethnic communities and socially excluded groups.
  • Institute of Imagination is a Newham based charity running a range of creative programmes for children and young people. They also work nationally and internationally; a charity that champions opportunities for children and young people of all backgrounds to develop their imaginations, a quality that is vital to creativity and the next generation’s ability to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
  • Forest Gate Community Garden was opened to the public in 2016. Transformed from a derelict site, now a haven for wildlife and residents, 2000+ people have made one or more visits. They host many local voluntary and school groups, run workshops and hold community events.
  • SubCo Trust seeks to improve the health and well-being of frail, isolated and housebound elders from diverse communities in Newham. The Asian elders we work with are particularly frail, physically weak, housebound and isolated, requiring high levels of support. They work with Asian elders and unpaid carers in Newham providing a range of services.

Within our first workshop we started conversations to share our values, to think about how these teams will work together over the next 6 months. The importance of ‘honesty and openness’ was mentioned by many of the teams, alongside the value of ‘learning for a range of experiences’. Some teams noted the value of ‘thinking holistically’ commenting how it can be useful to step back and think about the wider systems to find solutions.

We left the workshop excited about what lies ahead and the conversations that were started. We can see that this programme will give the researchers an opportunity 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. Many of the organisations spoke about the need to demonstrate the value of their work, and also to make evaluation and learning integral to making strategic decisions.

Our second workshop is in November, and we cannot wait to bring everyone together again to spark conversations and share ideas. 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.

We also are running this programme in Camden – so watch this space to find out who is involved! If you want to know more about the Evaluation Exchange please do get in touch.