As many PB events across Scotland are coming to an end, I was delighted to pick up my local newspaper in Troon and read positive comments from the local Councillors in support of PB and read with interest residents letters to the editor about what a great experience PB turned out to be. Letters much like this one below to the local newspaper in Ullapool.
Just one example of the kind of high praise directed towards the many volunteers who form the steering groups that generated such a buzz in Scotland's communities. These hard-working volunteers may now feel that their job is done, now that the chairs are stacked, the last table folded, and the last stubborn voting slip from under the radiator is scooped up by the brush. Unfortunately, there’s more to do with one last, but vital step. The much appreciated volunteers who form the PB steering groups should now get back round the table to ask some fundamental questions about their PB process, like:
- What did we learn?
- What worked or didn’t work?
- What will we change when we do this again?
- Did we reach the less heard groups in our community?
On the bright side, this evaluation is easy to do, shouldn’t take more than 60 minutes as a group and is an effective way for demonstrating impact.
There are seven simple evaluation questions that any PB steering group (or agency doing mainstream PB) should ask themselves and seven questions they should ask the community. As we know many civilizations over thousands of years have thought highly of this enigmatic number seven. They believed that using the number would impart magic into their lives and surroundings. We only have to look at this legacy in our lives today. There are seven days of the week, seven colours of the rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale.
Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson and the other gunfighters in the 1960 film were magnificent, and you know why!
So here are the seven questions that the Steering Group should ask those who participated in the event:
- Did you enjoy the PB event? Yes/No
- Did you feel that you had an opportunity to vote for the projects you preferred? Yes/No
- Did you have enough information to make your decision – (e.g. presentations/leaflets)? Yes/No
- Did you understand the voting process? Yes/No
- Did you have the support you needed to participate? Yes/No. If no, what extra support would you require for a future event?
- Would you come along to another event next year? Yes/No
- What can we do to improve the PB process and events for the future?
And here are the seven questions the steering group should ask themselves based on the responses from the community above:
- How well did we involve the people and organisations that might want to participate in the PB process? For example, did you involve a wide range of participants whose interest might be affected by the PB fund/process?
- How good were we at identifying and overcoming any barriers to participation? For example, were actions taken to remove any barriers and support people to attend or be part of the discussions?
- How clear were we about the purpose for the PB process? For example, was there a clear plan and theme for the funding? Was there enough time and resources to support the process and allow people to be involved?
- How well did we work together to achieve the aims of the PB process? For example, were roles and responsibilities clear and understood for all those involved in planning the process? Did the methods of communication during the PB process meet the needs of all partners involved in planning the process?
- How good were our PB methods? For example, did you use a variety of methods e.g. online participation, community pitches, community stalls etc to ensure that there were plenty of opportunities for deliberation? Did you obtain feedback on the method(s) to ensure that you are learning and adapting?
- How well did we communicate with the people, organisations and communities involved in the PB process? For example, was information clear and accessible on the lead up to the PB process? Did you provide feedback to the community on their pitch? Did you highlight alternative funding options to those who missed out on funding? Did you advertise to the wider community those who were awarded funding?
- How would we describe the immediate impact of the PB process and what has been learned to improve future PB processes? For example, is the community happy that it was a transparent and democratic process? Has PB improved relationships between community groups? How will you assess the long-term impact?
The first set of questions for the community could be asked after the event e.g. through survey monkey or as a feedback form at the event. The answers to the first seven questions will inform and provide evidence for the seven questions for the steering group or agency.
By measuring the impact of PB at a local level the steering group is ensuring that vital lessons (positive and negative) are being captured. This document could form the basis for a further PB funding application or provide transparent information for the wider community. And just as importantly, lucky number seven will be restored to its rightful place in the universe.