Turning evaluation into action

In her third and final evaluation blog trilogy, evaluator Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin reflects on the evaluation of CYCJ and looks forward to actions and next steps – joined by Liz Murdoch, Youth Justice Team Leader at the Scottish Government.  

When the evaluation of CYCJ was first planned, the Youth Justice Team in Scottish Government, alongside CYCJ, clarified the aim of the project through the following statement in the invitation to tender:

The aim of the evaluation is to identify and document CYCJ’s processes, stakeholder perceptions, impact on policy and practice as well as areas for change.

Now that the evaluation is complete, what are our reflections on this aim? What is achieved? And what are the next steps?


From my perspective as an evaluator, I think this research has given CYCJ and the Scottish Government more clarity around CYCJ’s role as a boundary-spanning intermediary organisation. When I began this research, I was struck by how difficult it was for people to explain CYCJ’s work and how heartening staff, and stakeholders alike, found the language of ‘boundary spanning’.

One of the important insights for the Youth Justice Team and CYCJ is the knowledge that boundary-spanners must do a daily balancing act to be effective.

These organisations cross many ‘worlds’ – policy, practice, academic research and lived experience. They need to fit with the culture of these different worlds in order to be credible, but they do not ‘belong’. Their role means they see different perspectives, and so they also challenge these ‘worlds’ to support learning. But there are limits to how far they can push before they are rejected and seen to lack credibility.

Understanding the role of a boundary-spanner helps CYCJ, and the Scottish Government as their primary funder, to know the strengths and limitations of the organisation. In the evaluation report I show the tremendous strength that is CYCJ’s reach across the sector, into the depth of practice and the height of policy making. But I also show that CYCJ’s reach is a risk that will need to be managed, so that they balance the insight that is gained from boundary-spanning with the need to be representative and robust.

I’ve promised to come back to CYCJ in the summer and support them to reflect on the actions they have taken. We’ll also celebrate their role as a boundary-spanner and the important contribution they make to the policy infrastructure, service development, individual practice, and the lives of young people.

Liz Murdoch

From my perspective as the Head of the Youth Justice Team, I think this has been a helpful exercise to assist not only the Scottish Government but also external partners.  As a boundary-spanner, we value CYCJ’s work in a number of policy domains and at a range of levels. I would like to see CYCJ continue to use their position in the sector to capture insights and intelligence about the opportunities, areas of best practice, and to stay alert to emerging issues affecting young people. I see CYCJ’s role as being a support mechanism to Scottish Government but more importantly to practitioners, managers and local commissioners. The insight CYCJ can offer is an important resource for the Youth Justice Team as we continue to advance our vision of Scotland as the best place to grow up for all our children and young people.

I am pleased to hear that Catherine-Rose will come back over the summer and support CYCJ to reflect on their learning and the actions they will take from this evaluation. CYCJ has always had ambitions to take their work deeper in to known challenges and further in to new areas but their available financial resource means that they can’t do everything they would like to. I look forward to hearing the views of CYCJ about how they see their work progressing and reflecting and challenging themselves about what they are doing, how and with whom.

This is just the start of the process and we look forward to continuing to work with CYCJ as they move forward.

Watch this space! CYCJ will be publishing their action plan from the research. You can also expect us to report back on our workshop in the summer, where we’ll reflect on CYCJ’s learning.

Useful links

Future-proofing youth justice in Scotland (event resource page)

The Contribution of CYCJ: Boundary-spanning and System Development

The Contribution of CYCJ: report summary


How to do good evaluation

Innovation in evaluation: CYCJ’s learning journey

Evaluation – how was it for you?

Image credit: Sarah Ahmad

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