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Many Impact & Insight Toolkit users appreciate the flexibility of conducting quality evaluation with the Toolkit; however, there have been some questions about the consequences of this. One of the most prominent consequences of this organisation-first approach is that using the Toolkit requires the user to invest time and thought to obtain maximum insight. There is a more light-touch option, but it isn’t unique to a specific organisation. Some users might see the light-touch option as a stepping stone to the full process, whereas others may be able to delve straight into the organisation-first approach.


Is there a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the Toolkit?

Each Toolkit user will be in a different position to others, whether that’s ACE funding type, or amount of resources and capacity, or the style of work that’s delivered…. We love working with the huge variety of arts and cultural professionals that we do, and we are delighted that Arts Council England has supported a more organisation-first approach to quality evaluation, where most funding recipients can choose a suitable quality evaluation framework.  If they opt to use the Toolkit as their framework, they can also choose which questions to ask of their participants and audiences.

Consequently, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the Toolkit.  This is complicated further by additional ACE-funded projects which do have a set of specific requirements. So, there are two roads to consider:

  1. Optional use with flexible question choice, but encouraged to use the Toolkit in a certain way to demonstrate best practice
  2. Mandated use to fulfil funding agreements, but with the option of adding to this and therefore tailoring it to your needs

If you are a Toolkit user, you will likely know which of the two roads are yours to go down.

If you are a venturer of road 1, there will be more decisions to make, simply because there is much more flexibility from the off.  In turn, this means that the guidance available on our website is more complicated. We need to ensure that the information we provide is relevant to all Toolkit users, not just those that are venturing down a specific road and then taking a specific turning off that road!

But now, enough of the metaphor. The point I’m making here is that Impact & Insight Toolkit evaluation guidance cannot be a simple case of ‘step one, step two, step three…’, because those we work with, the arts and cultural sector, are not homogeneous. That is the beauty of the sector.

Signposts stating 'one way' pointing in different directions
Photo by Brendan Church


So, how do we address the uniqueness of quality evaluation needs in our guidance?

We offer guidance and support in various guises:

  1. Written guidance
  2. Video guidance
  3. Live demonstrations/tutorials
  4. 1-to-1 support with a nominated team member, via email, telephone or Zoom

This means that the user can dip in and out of whichever guidance is best for them. If a user feels overwhelmed by, or uncertain about, the guidance on our website, they are encouraged to contact someone at CWC to take a more personal approach.

Our website also features a ‘search’ function so that, if a user knows what they’re looking for, they are likely to be directed to the most appropriate piece of guidance.

Furthermore, when someone initially joins the Toolkit project, they are directed to the Evaluation Guide, which provides an overview of the approach to quality evaluation whilst taking them through the options available.  Dependent on the options a user takes, they would most likely then explore the Platform Basics or join a live demonstration.

Finally, it is worth noting that we have explored many options regarding the presentation of our guidance and information. We even established a flow chart, with images to support the textual information, but found that it grew so wide with variations, that it was nearly impossible to keep track of!


In summary…

Yes, there is a lot to consider, but there are a lot of options.  The aim of having all these options available is to ensure that any data collected through evaluations you create is truly organisation-centric, helping you to understand your organisation’s impact and fuelling important conversations.

We hope that this blogpost goes some way to reassure Toolkit users that the team at Counting What Counts is aware of the quantity of information and that we are here to support you through your use of the Impact & Insight Toolkit.  Remember, if you have any questions, do just get in touch and we will be very happy to support you, 1-to-1.



Featured image: Annie Spratt on Unsplash


retro, grey, film photography, and nostaglic by Annie Spratt