With CYCJ’s evaluation exercise nearing completion, three team members share their feelings and experiences of the process, what they’ve learnt and what they’ll be taking away from it.
When we were told that CYCJ was going to be taking on an independent evaluator to help us assess our impact, I’ll admit I had mixed feelings. Questions, having to ‘be on your guard’, someone from outside the team observing our every move, extra work…I knew the means would justify the outcome and that being evaluated is something every organisation needs, yet I couldn’t help but approach it with a degree of wariness.
However, from the day Catherine-Rose arrived at CYCJ, it became obvious what she had in mind was something different. She promised she’d be honest, transparent and accountable in the work that she would be doing with us – and she’s kept her word. Through team sessions, interviews and reflective sessions, CR has been working hard to get to know every one of us and how we work – as a team and as individuals, placing equal emphasis on both. She’s been working WITH us, side by side as a team member, and I think that’s been crucial in gaining our trust, respect, and cooperation.
During our many chats, I’ve found myself reflecting differently on what I do and why I do it, and having some genuine ‘lightbulb’ moments, making for an interesting and – dare I say it – enjoyable process!
The reflective sessions have been particularly useful. Always accompanied by a snack of some sort (CR clearly knows where our priorities lie) we are gently encouraged to look back on the work we’ve done that week, what worked, what could have been better and if there’s anything we’d change about our working practice. Again the wariness raised its head …but I came out of my first session with a determination to sort out my ever increasing (and increasingly chaotic) to do list. Thanks to this action, I’m feeling calmer, more organised/in control of my workload, and that was all down to an informal chat – and a few squares of yummy Green & Blacks chocolate.
In addition to this, CR has been privy to the minutiae of our office chats; everything from guilt over missed gym sessions and cake binges to sleepless nights due to small children/new dogs/politics. She’s joined team nights out, celebrated her own big birthday with us and has quietly made the most excellent coffee and left it on my desk, unprompted.
So my conclusions on the process of evaluation? I believe it depends on the evaluator – CR has been an excellent choice, she’s passionate and supportive of our work here at CYCJ and it’s been inspiring to see her commitment to the process of self-evaluation (something she applies to her own development). For me, it’s given me the space to pause and look at my working style – something you don’t get the chance to do during a busy day. I’m really looking forward to seeing the results of this exercise and importantly, where we can go next as a team and as a sector. CR has given us the tools – it’s now up to us to use them! We’ll miss the coffee and snacks though…
I’ve found the process challenging, but rewarding. Challenging, as finding the time to think reflectively about practice whilst in the maelstrom of several competing demands. If nothing else, it has served as a reminder of the difficulties faced by frontline practitioners who are expected to deliver services in a reflective and thoughtful manner, yet face even greater levels of demand than we at CYCJ do.
Setting aside a small part of each week to reflect on what work I have undertaken, and how I could have undertaken it differently, has been helpful in considering how the ambitions of CYCJ can be realised. In particular, I’ve been able to reflect on the differing levels at which CYCJ operates, ranging from direct practice with young people, all the way to influencing legislative changes in Holyrood. I’ll definitely be trying to incorporate regular reflective exercises into my working routine in future.
I found the experience to be really insightful and beneficial on many levels. Basing herself within the CYCJ allowed CR to build positive relationships and fit into the CYCJ team. I thought this was a refreshing approach to evaluation which could give her work honesty and legitimacy.
I found the group reflective sessions to be really helpful. It allowed me to factor in time and space to reflect on my work. I thought they were structured well and I found the appreciative approach to be motivating and affirming. I thought these sessions were facilitated well and felt listened to and challenged as CR asked the right questions.
Whilst I may not be able to factor this in weekly, I think a reflective set time perhaps fortnightly or monthly would be good for practice. The workshops were also very insightful. I found CR’s input really interesting and particularly liked learning about the theory of change and influence, particularly how information is disseminated and the potential reach that different approaches can make. I thought she captured a lot of information and provided good feedback and updates on progress.