Evaluation guide

The site exists to help encourage and enable those who work with offenders to evaluate their work.

The guidance offered on this website is designed to help people to do small scale evaluations that will help develop their practical work. Limited resources can make it hard to find time for evaluation, so this guide aims to keep things as simple as possible whilst also providing useful information for more experienced researchers.

There are great advantages to taking an evaluative approach to your work with people supervised in the community; to help you answer important questions associated with what works best in your own context.

The website can be used as a step by step guide for someone who as little or no experience of undertaking or commissioning evaluation, or as a source of guidance on new techniques or examples of evaluations undertaken and instruments developed elsewhere for those who are more experienced. For ease of understanding the guide frequently refers to the evaluation of programmes, projects or interventions, but the discussion can equally refer to general work which is not a specific project.

This guidance is draws on the substantial experience of evaluation and teaching of the design staff which is informed by the work undertaken in the other workstreams of the STREAM project. Another important component has been the partnership with two pilot sites, San Patriagnano in Italy and Ubique in England, who have undertaken an evaluation study following the guidance of researchers, and their learning and experience is incorporated here.

One should note that the focus of this website is on 'doing evaluation' not exploring 'what works' in reducing re-offending by people involved in the criminal justice system. There are two broad purposes for evaluation: formative and summative.
Formative evaluation is designed to inform the development of a piece of work, the results of which are primarily for internal use.

Summative evaluation is designed to inform others about the worth or value of project. This is sometimes for reasons of accountability, sometimes to support an application for funding, but also, importantly, to add to the body of knowledge about effective ways of working with offenders. Although the main focus of evaluation may be to assess whether and how a way of working is achieving its objectives, it is also important to assess the extent and nature of any unintended consequences of the work.

Evaluation helps decisions and actions to be made based on evidence. Good evaluation is essential to the improvement of practice and service delivery. Robson has suggested that ‘the purpose of evaluation is not to prove but to improve’ (1993: 180).