LGBT+ Consortium were funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Connect Fund to support the development of LGBT+ charities’ approaches to outcomes-based evaluation in order to help strengthen the social investment market infrastructure in England.
The LGBT+ voluntary and community sector is extremely diverse, composed of a wide range of organisations that vary significantly in size, form and focus. However, all of these organisations face multiple challenges that limit their capacity and resources to engage in outcomes-based design and evaluation. This, in turn, has created an evidence gap around the achievements of the LGBT+ sector in the UK.
LGBT+ Consortium commissioned Traverse to help begin to address this evidence gap through the creation of a sector-wide outcomes framework that organisations could use as a reference point when designing and evaluating their work. The framework aimed to help organisations identify the difference that their everyday activities have on the individuals and local communities with which they work and consistently demonstrate how these contribute to wider outcomes across the sector as a whole.
The project opened with a set of exploratory ‘listen and learn’ workshops with LGBT+ organisations’, which captured their perceptions and experiences of outcomes-based design and evaluation and. This phase identified a core set of outcomes that most organisations focused on across their work – and a core set of principles that were embedded within this work.
Traverse then cross-referenced these draft outcomes and principles with available literature to create a draft outcomes framework that: outlined five core areas of impact and associated sub-outcomes; three underlying principles; and a list of suggested data collection tools and measures that could be used in support of the five core areas. These were tested by a wider range of LGBT+ organisations, whose feedback fed into the development of the final common outcomes framework.
The framework was published as an online resource, complemented by a training webinar outlining different approaches to/uses of the framework. Traverse also delivered a series of tiered outcomes training workshops for organisations with different evaluation capacities, which introduced organisations to the basics of outcomes-based design and outcomes-based measurement, as well as how to use the framework in support of these.
The framework was also publicised at LGBT+ Consortium’s 2019 annual conference.
The outcomes framework has since been used by a range of LGBT+ organisations in support of their work, but is reported to have been particularly well-received by medium-sized organisations (who are often required to demonstrate outcomes, but have limited capacity).
Organisations that attended the outcomes training workshops and went on to use the framework reported that it had, as intended, helped them think about and deliver specific strands of outcomes- focused work:
“We’re just reviewing our strategic plan at the minute – [the framework] has been helpful with that… I think we know what our basic aims are… we’re not chasing the framework, but it’s a good sense check.”
“With the new confidence in our effectiveness [from the training], we’ve been able to speak much more confidently about our service provision. We speak with great confidence about the need – what we do in response to what people ask for – but now we can speak with more confidence about the difference that our services make.”
At the same time, the framework also helped organisations to feel part of a bigger picture in terms of the wider LGBT+ sector – and demonstrate this to funders:
"[The framework] helps us to establish our credentials – shows that we’re part of something bigger and wider, that we’re connected to the sector and contribute to the sector… it’s been useful to quote [in funding bids].”
“I was writing a funding bid 3 weeks ago… we used [the framework] to demonstrate what makes the consortium different, the outcomes framework provides a common framework for us to all work around and speak the same language. I think that was one of the main differences that helped us get that funding.”
LGBT+ Consortium have since commissioned Traverse in 2020 to provide tailored support to three organisations to help them deliver substantial organisational development projects based off the outcomes framework. This included use of the framework to support the development of: a new organisational strategic plan; an organisation-wide evaluation framework, aligned to the framework’s core outcome areas; and the design of an evaluation plan focused on co-production initiatives. This work will finish in December 2020.