Since March 2020 the pace of activity in Local Government is like nothing we’ve seen in the last 20 years in the public sector. Coming in close is perhaps the first year or so of austerity when all hands were on deck to find big, quick wins. And we thought we were busy then! The Pandemic has showcased local government for what we’ve always know it to be: everything. We are health and wellbeing, the local environment, education, culture, social care, infrastructure, democracy, green spaces, life events, community and safety. But when dealing with ‘everything’ how much time did you give to reflection and evaluation? (not much, right?)
Like most superheroes, local authority staff were front and centre of the Covid-19 response for their communities. And like most superheroes, we were all about the action. We went from well-intentioned aspirations of ‘we are an agile organisation, the place to work, rest and play’ to ‘everyone works from home from Monday and we need to feed people. Now.’
Overnight local councils took on a new identity as leaders of rapid, dynamic and very public change. Project timescales went out the window (along with business continuity plans) and we found ourselves in an unfamiliar situation: funded.
And we shone.
We rediscovered our purpose and we had clarity: protect people, keep them indoors, feed them.
How did we do this? If we asked you to list everything you’ve done in the last 18 months could you do it? If we asked you how you managed to achieve in weeks what previously would have taken months, if not years, would you know? (clue – it wasn’t magic, you did it!)
We collaborated, took action, we focused on progress, not process and we kept going. We put people first, we had courage and we had permission. For many it felt like our wings had been clipped and we were finally able to do what we came to local government to do, make a difference.
So what did we learn? That we are amazing (obviously), that things can be done differently, and that we can’t go back.
Right now, your partnerships are empowered, your communication has never been better and your leadership has brought out talent and pride in your staff. You may have even reached the heady heights of positive comments on your town Facebook groups.
How do you capture your transformation and learn from it?
How do you put everything you have experienced and use it to make informed choices about the future of your community?
The answer is meaningful evaluation.
There is value in evaluation:
- Share your journey and successes with residents, members and partners
We know you’re great, but do your residents? A focused evaluation demonstrates to stakeholders that you embrace transparency and development. We have all changed in the last two years and mapping that transformation will allow you to share where you were, where you’ve been, where you’re going and most crucially, what you’re taking with you and what you’re leaving behind.
- Build a knowledge bank of content for funding applications and award submissions
Funding windows are tight and funders want to know that you are evolving your approaches, tapping in to your community and having meaningful impact. The amount of work (and let’s face it, stress) that goes into bids for funds such as Community Champions, Community Renewal or Levelling Up cannot be underestimated. These are big ticket items and they come with the expectation that you will take this precious public money and use it wisely. Demonstrating that independent evaluation is built into your project governance as standard is so awesome that central government will give you more than you ask for – only joking, but it is impressive.
- Inform the scrutiny process with case studies that highlight the impact you have had
Stick around long enough (and for many in local government it’s decades) and we become part of the system that has served us and our communities admirably for generations. We have democratic processes and valuable regulation, we are professional, proud and we play by the rules. Call me a sadist but I’ve always enjoyed a good scrutiny meeting, they affirm great practice and raise real questions. Scrutiny is not a bad thing; we need it and we embrace it with challenging panels and accountability. Adding to the scrutiny process with independent evaluation brings continued member support to your projects.
- Reflect and learn so that you can design and implement sustainable projects
An independent evaluation from a critical friend moves us forward. If it didn’t, we’d be stuck. Sustainability is more than a commitment to net-zero projects and recycling campaigns, sustainability builds resilience, assures progress and develops a dynamic framework where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The private sector calls it synergy – we public sector do-gooders shy away from terms like this, but it is time friends, we need sustainability, we need a kinder approach to change and we have to learn, improve and move on.
Why choose independent review?
- Independent review brings credibility and transparency to your projects
We don’t mark our own homework or proof-read our own reports for a reason: it doesn’t work. Use whichever idiom you prefer - a fresh pair of eyes, an outsider’s perspective, looking at things in a new light – there is credibility in opening your work to independent evaluation and nowhere is this more important than publicly funded projects.
- Using a public sector specialist will bring benchmarking and peer comparison
No local authority is an island and development, learning and comparison can only be done in the wider context of the public sector. The values, obligations and processes needed to run publicly projects demands a level of understanding of local and central government that will enhance your projects. We all want to be understood and to learn and to do that, our evaluation partners need more than a potted history of local authority funding, pressures and demands, they need to have lived it. Independent evaluation from public sector specialists is not a tick-box exercise, it’s an opportunity to learn from people who have been there and who want you to succeed as much as you do.
Where do we start?
There is no wrong time to consider learning from and evaluating your projects. Funding and grants such as Community Champions, any and all Covid response funding (bet you can’t list them all) Restart Grants, Community Renewal and Levelling Up are all great starting points for developing a learning approach to change. Grant funding is fleeting, some of the project timescales for funds are six to nine months and in that time you need to demonstrate learning, sustainability and value for money. Much like misery, money loves company and building on learning from these funds can bring further investments to your towns.
Why Trueman Change?
- We will empower you to make the right changes, independently and honestly. Yes, really. We have developed evaluation programmes tailored to different local authority needs and will build the right evaluation for you. We look at projects holistically, we bring clarity to successes and give options for development opportunities (not a euphemism, we really do see all learning as an opportunity).
- We are transparent about our prices and provide three levels of evaluation starting at £7k. We have a menu of evaluation options and you can find a sample report along with our case studies.
- We have the skill and capacity to take you beyond review and on to sustainability. Our reviews are not limited to a list of “things you did well”, we look at how you’ve changed, what sparked this change, your practices, culture and governance. We provide options for turning your successful projects into a model for your organisation.
- We have developed a Covid response evaluation programme in use by a number of local authorities already – check our case studies for more. We work with our values at all times and we ask you to evaluate us – our references are honest and we strive to improve every day.
- We only work with the public sector. We might use words like synergy but we are shaping change in local government, we add social value to all our commissions and we have 70+ years of public sector experience (and that was gained in the last 18 months, at least that’s how it feels)
Get in touch to find out more, take a look at some of our Change Chats, sign up to our newsletter or read our White Paper: Lessons from Lockdown, Managing Change During the COVID-19 Crisis.