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August 9, 2021

Using evidence to analyse and improve impact

We run free evidence surgeries for organisations working in homelessness. To explain how these work, we have highlighted one example below. We ran a free evidence surgery with Reconnect UK. They wanted to understand how they could use data to measure the success of their charity, which helps people experiencing #homelessness.

Who are Reconnect UK?

Reconnect UK aims to make it easy for local residents, passers-by, local businesses and people who are experiencing homelessness to reconnect with society, using a simple services exchange which allows people to buy or offer vouchers for different services.

They help people experiencing homelessness to feel included and welcome in society by allowing them to access a variety of free and paid-for goods and services.

Reconnect was inspired by the French initiative ‘Le Carillon' created in 2015, which now works alongside hundreds of partners. It also created the network ‘The Chime’, regrouping all projects and organisations based on a similar concept of services exchanges. Based on that experience, we believe that Reconnect can work and grow its network. It has now been launched in the US (Seattle), Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain and soon in Canada.

What was their challenge?

They felt like there was a disconnect between people experiencing homelessness and the rest of the community, who had a bad perception of homelessness. People experiencing homelessness often feel invisible, marginalised and some passers-by don’t know how to help or fear interacting.

Reconnect UK thought it would be helpful to get some guidance and recommendations on the following areas:

● Which data should they be using? They found it challenging to measure the success of their project. What was the most relevant data to use as a measure of the project success and what was the best way to collect this data?

● Data gathering: What would be the best way to collect data while not adding too many constraints into Reconnect partners?

● Homelessness data sources: What sources should they use in general in their communications?

● General strategy: Ideas on how can partners could get more involved in the promotion of the project and advice on how to nurture existing partnerships

What we did in the evidence surgery

The evidence surgery consisted of a Theory of Change workshop. A Theory of Change demonstrates an organisation's assumptions around how its activities lead to short- and longer-term outcomes. By demonstrating a clear logic of how 'what we do' results in desired outcomes, and how those outcomes help achieve overall ambitions (for example, reducing homelessness), we make explicit our assumptions and means for achieving our objectives.

The workshop provided an overview of Reconnect’s inputs (e.g. their relationships with local businesses), their outputs (e.g. vouchers being sold or redeemed) and then their intermediate outcomes (e.g. improved confidence and nutrition), leading to final outcomes (e.g. physical and mental health).

What did Reconnect think about the evidence surgery?

AnneSo, Project Manager, says: “The evidence surgery allowed us to take a step back, and look at things we hadn’t previously considered and which we have now realised are very important. It was interesting to question what we are trying to achieve and if the way we have been trying to do that will actually have the intended impact."

"For example, we want to create links between people experiencing homelessness and the local community; The way the project works at the moment helps practically with the offered services but only goes so far in terms of deeper links and connections. The project in France which we based Reconnect on included community and social events, which means it goes much further in creating lasting, social connections. Realising this was important and we now know that the vouchers are important practically, but they are only the first step and we need to go much further to recreate social links. As soon as we are able with the pandemic, we will try to organise these events locally.

"It was also important to be reminded by CHI of how we check in with other organisations and partners, so that we can check we are not trying to do things that are already being done elsewhere, for example within the local council.

"Since the evidence surgery we have been in contact with ‘Le Carillon’ - the French project - to find out more about how they measure their impact and things like KPIs which we had struggled with up to this point. It was a really useful discussion and we were able to take a lot from it. They shared some of their data systems with us along with a survey they use to collect qualitative data which we will be able to use in the future, once we have more partners and are in a better position to actually measure our impact."

What would you say to anyone interested in an evidence surgery?

AnneSo says: “It's a great initiative because you really helped us to think outside the box and question things we have always assumed, which we needed. The fact that it’s free was also fantastic for such a small, volunteer led project because we have to try and minimise costs which can be a problem."

The CHI team was great, and really helpful and knowledgeable throughout the process.”

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