Case Studies

Evaluation Support Scotland’s response to COVID-19

Section: MembershipThe ALLIANCEType: Case Study
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ESS has continued to support the third sector to navigate and drive evaluation in the midst of the pandemic.

Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) works with third sector organisations and funders so that they can measure and report on their impact.

Our services include ‘Let’s Evaluate!’ workshops and tailored support sessions for third sector organisations. We deliver learning events (events for third sector organisations and funders to share learning together), as well as work on specific evaluation issues, such as evaluating health inequalities. We provide free online evaluation resources and webinars. We work with funders to offer evaluation support to their funded projects through Evaluation Support Accounts. We also convene the Third Sector Research Forum and Knowledge Translation Network.

Through our virtual workshops, tailored support and webinars, third sector organisations have been telling us that COVID-19 has affected their ability to deliver their services. Due to the nature of their service or lack of technical support some have not been able to move online whilst others have adapted their services but find their evaluation methods now do not fit in with their delivery mode. Some organisations have had to change what they were offering to meet their client needs better. Evaluation at the best of times can be seen as time consuming and difficult but in times of crisis some may question the need to evaluate when everyone is busy fire fighting. Funders told us they were happy for grantholders to adapt services to meet client needs better but they were interested in the third sector’s learning.

Although previously most of our work was face-to-face, we are delivering all our workshops and tailored support virtually now.

Our initial step was to think about what third sector organisations would need to know about evaluating in this crisis. We developed key messages and resources to respond, such as

We set up a COVID-19 webpage (this link will take you away from our website) so that organisations could quickly see new resources and events, which we continue to update. We communicated with our service users via e-bulletins and through social media. We adapted our ‘Let’s Evaluate!’ workshops and tailored support in order to deliver via video conferencing. We learned new techniques such as using jamboards to increase interactivity within the sessions.

We delivered ‘Evaluating at a time of change’ webinar early in May which gave us the opportunity to hear from many third sector organisations who were struggling with evaluating the rapid changes to their services. We published the key messages from this event and reassured organisations that they were not alone.

Our advice is, yes it’s definitely challenging, but it’s important to keep evaluating now to motivate staff and volunteers, to make sure you are reaching those who need you most, and to inform your future services and post-COVID-19 recovery. ‘Keep it simple!’ is now and always has been our mantra. In response to the concerns voiced by third sector organisations and funders we are delivering a series of ‘Why Evaluate?’ web events capturing the learning from each.

In addition, our director Steven Marwick was interviewed in a web event organised by Corra Foundation and Wren and Greyhound about using data and learning to inform the future.

We’ve learned a lot in a very short period of time about how to deliver our ‘Let’s Evaluate!’ workshops virtually via video conferencing. In this blog (this link will take you away from our website) ESS Training Officer Shona Wells talks about how we deliver and evaluate these virtual workshops and what we learned in the process. We used the feedback to improve our practice and to celebrate.

As a small team we can respond quickly to new challenges. Before lockdown we already had systems in place to access our IT systems and our communications channels as well as our database online.  This meant that the move to working from home was made easier. We work as a team to use our learning to problem solve and we have good connections with third sector organisations and funders to get a sense of what is happening in the sector.

Being part of and working with the third sector enables Evaluation Support Scotland to demonstrate our values of supporting organisations and funders whatever their size and situation, and the freedom to work innovatively. Our enthusiasm to enthuse others about evaluation has not been dampened by the challenges of the last three months.

We will continue to listen to third sector organisations and funders and develop ways to meet their evaluation needs. If you have any comments or require our support, please do not hesitate to contact ESS at

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