How can I evaluate my impact on individual young people?

A question that I’ve been asked a few times recently is how to measure the well-being of individuals. NPC’s Well-being Measure is a group-level measure – so it’s perfect for evaluating the effectiveness of a project – but you don’t get data on the progress of individual young people.

Separately assessing the progress of individual young people will result in a lot of data, to save you from wasting time, it’s always advisable to start by asking what you are going to use the data for. If it’s to report back to a funder, what you need will be very different to if you wanted to provide a record of personal progress to a young person.

For collecting data on individual’s outcomes, I think you have three main options:

  1. Case studies – you can gather stories of how lives have changed from young people’s perspectives. The advantage of this is that the information is ‘real’, and can be used to convey the richness of your impact in a way that statistics can’t. However, case studies give no quantitative data so can’t be used to generalise.
  2. Asking adults around them (eg, parents, teachers, social workers) – it might sound obvious but there is no better way of getting a sense of an individual’s progress than speaking to the people that work with them every day. They will see changes in attitudes and behaviour that other methods can miss.
  3. Using a case-working tool there are a number of tools available to track the progress of young people, which are applied by cases workers in a one-to-one setting. The main advantage of these tools seems to be in their practical application: opening a dialogue with young people and motivating change. As a robust measure of change, there are issues around their reliability, consistency and the influence of the case worker on responses. This also affects the ability to aggregate data in a meaningful way. The most well-known of these tools is the Outcomes Star.
  4. Clinical academic tools – these are survey-based measures, usually developed by academics, that chart a particular aspects of a child’s life. There’s a huge range out there, of varying quality. They tend to focus on a limited range of indicators and be quite mental health focused – so it depends on exactly what you want to measure. They can also be difficult to use: you will need to invest in processing your own data and doing your own statistical analysis. Two examples are Goodman’s SDQ and Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Health Scale. During the development of NPC’s Well-being Measure, we drew on this work and selected the ‘best bits’ to form our well-being scales.

Finding one method that does everything you want it to is an almost impossible ask, so you may need to combine the options above, alongside NPC’s Well-being Measure.

For advice on choosing the right evaluation method for you, contact NPC’s consulting team by emailing wellbeing@philanthropycapital.org.

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About John Copps

John is part of NPC's research and consulting team and is the founder of NPC's Well-being Measure, a social business that provides an online tool to measure young people’s well-being. He has eight years experience of research and consulting, and is passionate about how data can be used to improve the performance of organisations. John is a regular contributor to NPC's blog and has also contributed to pieces for BBC Radio, the Guardian, and the Financial Times. John is a governor of a secondary school.
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