Our aims are focused towards access and wellbeing so our evaluation follows that.
We develop a conversational way of getting feedback so it can be more accessible, allowing more fluidity in the way people get involved. In an event, this could take the form of:
A wall with questions and photos which people can add post-it notes to
Questionnaires for people to fill in on their own
A chat with one of us
The activity itself (i.e. drawing what you’d like to see in your alleyway)
People’s feedback helps shape the project, and helps us do “problem solving” long term.
For example, for our autumn-winter activities funded by Manchester Wellbeing Fund, we had originally planned to give notebooks out for participants to write/draw in at the end of each session and in between sessions - but we quickly realised that due to the drop-in format, we were often getting very different participants and didn’t really have a continuous group for the notebook idea to work. So for that project, we are making an evaluation film with the participants which can track the experiences of the participants that come and go. The participants themselves have been involved in making the film through skill sharing workshops.
Being local residents of the area where we organise sessions has also an impact on our interactions, ways of collecting feedback and ideas outside of sessions.
Mo talks about being a focal point, a visible presence in the community, which reminds people that even though we are not doing physical events during Covid, we are still there and we still care. Mo has had a similar experience when she was working in an area where she was living - except this time LKG isn’t a “job” and is about making something more specific and collective happen (community gardening) rather than supporting people individually.
Maintaining a high level of availability for conversations can be difficult in busy events and we have often felt that we could have done with more helpers during sessions - which would have enabled us to take time to talk with people more. One thing we do is to ask members (who might not identify as being part of the organisational team) if they’d like to chat to newcomers. Always making a point of asking people’s first names and making time to visit their backyards also shows they have joined a team.
Photographs - we don’t tend to ask people to sign forms. Instead we initiate a conversation about taking a photo and what we would use it for. We feel that this is more appropriate and enables a better understanding than if we were asking people to fill in forms. We usually show the photo to check the person is happy with it and offer to send it to them as well if they don’t use social media. We always record a vocal permission when filming someone. We give people control of when they are being recorded and when they’re not, and do not keep recording without their consent.
We also try to make GDPR/data protection more understandable, for example - we once found rubbish and personal forms dumped into the alleyway - we went up to the house they were from to ask the person to take the rubbish away but also to explain to them that someone could have used their personal information against them.
We keep reviewing the people who we are attracting - and think of why some people are or are not coming, what things impact on the degree to which they get involved, and how to make our project and its measurement more accessible: we keep problem solving and taking action on people’s feedback throughout the project.