When writer and performance poet Louisa Adjoa Parker applied for an ACE project grant to deliver literary workshops in prisons, schools and community centres across the South West, she already had a range of experience delivering the type of evaluation that was a condition of her funding. Louisa identified, however, a struggle with taking the requisite step back to assess her processes clearly - a particularly difficult task with a multi-strand project like For The Love of Words, which involved both the delivery of a confidence-building community writing programme and the simultaneous creation of a companion novel and poetry anthology. Having decided on the need to enlist an external evaluator from the off, Louisa approached Senior Evaluation Consultant, Adrienne Pye, to steer the process – from initial evaluation design through to final report delivery – on a very limited budget.
Drawing on extensive knowledge of ACE’s evaluation requirements, Adrienne delivered two bespoke half-day mentoring sessions, designed to enable Louisa to learn how to self-evaluate future such projects on an equally tight budget.
- Session one: The first session focussed on the creation of a flexible evaluation framework that Louisa could deliver with ease across her various activities, covering templates for both workshop feedback and equalities monitoring. A digestible table of aims and objectives was also drawn up for monitoring the project’s progress against its funding conditions.
- Gathering responses: Given the sensitivities of the project and its participants, Louisa took responsibility for managing the feedback acquisition process itself. The in-person feedback forms were designed so that they could be easily tweaked for different groups, allowing Louisa to deliver the most appropriate and accessible version in each instance to maximise engagement and gather a useful and representative set of responses.
- Session two: In the second session, Adrienne and Louisa jointly reviewed the feedback from the various sessions, evaluating it against the pre-determined aims and objectives and drawing out a narrative of successes and learning points from the responses. Drawing together Louisa’s own self-assessment and the evidence gathered throughout the process, Adrienne was then able to compile a final report, looking at the project’s strengths and achievements, for Louisa to then share with ACE in order to release the final round of funding.
Aside from successfully fulfilling her funding requirements, the evaluation process provided Louisa with tangible and quantifiable improvements and developments to apply to the project moving forward. Being able to enlist expert support for the administrative parts of the process allowed her to engage fully with creatively delivering project, whilst still then being able to critically assess and build on its successes for future incarnations. The flexibility of the templates and procedures that The Audience Agency put in place mean that, should she wish, Louisa will be able to fully self-evaluate her projects moving forwards, understanding how to adapt the materials to suit her participants and achieve the most useful feedback on future activities.