Solace Blog

All the evidence suggests you need to attend this Solace Masterclass

By Neil Wholey, Head of Evaluation and Performance at Westminster City Council and one of the Solace Deputy Spokespersons for Evidence-led decision making. He is also Chair of LARIA (Local Area Research and Intelligence Association). 

Solace will be holding its next Evidence Masterclass on Tuesday 9th May 2017 in Leeds. I attended one last year and found that it establishes a clear way for senior decision makers to not only make the case for the use of evidence, but to do so in a very practical way.

In a world where cries of #FAKENEWS seem to be trumping the evidence of “so-called experts” it is vital that we have the skills to keep a more rational head. Good evidence tells a convincing story that can be scrutinised. It should make sense of the complex, give a steer on the right path to take and provide genuine insight that motivates people to act to achieve a real impact.

The Evidence Masterclass provides three main ways to ensure that evidence is valued and used in this way. These are to use the framework, check the provenance of the evidence, and to embrace risk.


There is a very clear framework for collating evidence.
It is known as a logic model or a theory of change. Within this model different types of evidence can be brought together in a coherent way. To work it needs to focus on an area of activity with clear aims and objectives. It then draws together background context, the inputs in terms of the amount and type of resource put in, outputs, the outcomes achieved as a result and what impact has occurred.

Overall this framework is a common evaluation language that should be understood when discussed within the organisation or with others, such as government or public sector partners. It can be used as the basis of developing robust business cases and can help iron out the aims and objectives of a whole range of activities.

Done well the use of this framework should present evidence in an easily understood way to a non-technical audience as well. The facts and figures are in there but you can use the information to help explain why you want to achieve something and how you plan to do it. In my experience the more you use the approach the less scary evaluation becomes. It is not a magic thing only a few people can do, but rather something everyone should have the skills to understand and use.

We are producing more data and analysis than at any point in human history. With so many competing voices it is no surprise that we are drawn to easily understood facts, headlines and charts. If you are making evidence-informed decisions you need to check the provenance. Within the Evaluation Workshop we went through exercises looking at real evidence and how to make those sometimes tough decisions on whether the evidence is robust or not.  We need to understand what #REALNEWS looks like, and the only way to do so is to know where it came from and how it was put together.

Finally, and I think most importantly, an evidence-informed approach should aid organisations in embracing risk. It does this by supporting the development and implementation of activities from the initial idea to the final evaluation. This includes identifying what has worked in the past and what should work in the future, establishing how you will monitor and adapt activities while they are being implemented, and to be very clear on how you will judge impact. An evidence-informed approach helps you embrace complex and difficult risky issues with confidence.

I would recommend you attend the Evaluation Masterclass if you want to learn about how you identify, present, understand and use good quality evidence. It will support you to make the decisions you need to take and will build confidence across your organisation that there is a real impact in the work they do.   

If you wish to attend, please email Sue at events@solace.org.uk - please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.