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Blog: the dos and don’ts of Monitoring and Evaluation

Alliance of Sport’s comms lead Mike Dale explores how some Sport for Development organisations are innovating in how they record and demonstrate their impact. 

Sport for Development organisations who work in the Secure Estate or in the community with people on the fringes of criminality face numerous pressures. Their work has a profound effect on individuals and wider society, but is often so demanding that they lack time and resources to properly evidence their impact. 

In May, Levelling the Playing Field (the £1.7m project managed by the Alliance of Sport in partnership with the Youth Justice Board) took an in-depth look at how its specialist partners approach the often-overlooked area of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). 

Hannah Hammond, Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, leads research into the impact of Levelling the Playing Field on individuals and communities. 

Dr Hannah Baumer
Dr. Hannah Hammond

Dr. Hammond said: “To save time, avoid duplicating your work – often different funders will be looking for the same outcomes, but worded in various ways. Be strategic with your approach to funding and the data you use to report back to reduce the amount of time spent collecting it. 

“Use an online data management tool like Upshot or Views to record your participants’ data so you can easily export and share whenever you need to. Some of them are free to use for smaller organisations and they can promote your sessions to a wider audience, so it’s worth having a shop around to find one that suits your organisation. 

“Think about the processes which underpin your outcomes. Your outcome might be happier or healthier young people, but how do you achieve that? It could be something like supportive coaches, or access to education or employment opportunities. Informal group discussions with your participants are a good way to find out what these golden nuggets are, and then you can measure the scale of the impact through focused questionnaires across all your young people. 

“Harness the power of your young people! If you’re struggling to find the time to focus on M&E then perhaps they can help. If they have an interest in business, numbers, data or impact, then get them on board with your data management. Levelling the Playing Field may be able to provide training for that young person to help them further their interest, and support the growth of your organisation at the same time.” 

Dr, Craig Corrigan

Dr. Craig Corrigan from LtPF’s specialist partners Sport 4 Life UK in the West Midlands said: “M&E shouldn’t just be a tick box for funders”; it should be the basis for how organisations learn more about themselves and their participants in order to get better. 

Some organisations’ annual reports talk about how they’ve “engaged” several hundreds or thousands of participants, without explaining what that actually means. “M&E should be about stories, not just numbers,” said Dr. Corrigan. He added: “Don’t overclaim! If you are having a great impact on 10 people, shout about it and be honest.” 

Read more of Dr. Corrigan’s Top 5 Tips on Monitoring and Evaluation here 

Gloves Not Gunz and Urban Yogis, sister organisations based in Croydon, South London, are implementing a fascinating system called AMBIT, an approach for working with socially excluded youth with mental health problems and co-occurring difficulties (e.g. conduct disorder, family breakdown, homelessness, substance misuse, exploitation and educational failure). 

AMBIT provides a framework for measuring young people’s emotional development as they progress through their boxing, martial arts and yoga programmes. It sets out key indicators such as how well participants regulate their emotions, risk-taking, dealing with conflict, managing relationships and engaging in education and employment. 

Ben Eckett

Ben Eckett, Director of Gloves Not Gunz and Urban Yogis, said: “The AMBIT model gets us to think a bit more about how our work can have a greater impact on participants’ lives – and of course it measures our success more accurately and at a deeper level. It works at every level of participant; from someone who is deeply entrenched in gang life and violence to a young person using boxing or yoga to stay fit and healthy.” 

Read more about AMBIT and Gloves Not Gunz/Urban Yogis here 

Levelling the Playing Field’s training partners Aspire Sport (UK) Ltd revealed how the T-Cup CheckUp system has allowed them to accurately monitor the often-overlooked area of staff health and wellbeing and put things in place to improve it. 

Read more about Aspire Sport and the CheckUp system here 

Perhaps the most intriguing insight into the world of M&E in general was offered by Matt Stevenson-Dodd, former CEO of Street League and now founder and CEO at Trust Insight. 

Matt Stevenson-Dodd

Trust Insight have worked with 56 charities so far, helping them find the best ways to measure and demonstrate their impact. 

Their first priority with any organisation is to identify their core purpose. This is a trickier task than it might seem (“Sometimes the Chair and CEO give totally different answers,” Matt reveals). 

Trust Impact and the organisation then nail down between three to five things they really want to know in order to understand how well they are achieving that defined core purpose. Next, they work out the most straight-forward way to measure their success in delivering those three to five things. 

Matt’s insights in this area are intriguing and will give leaders in the Sport for Development sector much food for thought. 

Read more from Trust Impact CEO Matt Stevenson-Dodd here