In undertaking evaluations, our evaluation designs often seek to answer four main research questions;
- Should it work? (Theory of change) What is the underlying ‘theory of change’ which explains how the project will make an impact? An understanding of the theory of change that underpins the project will ensure that we measure the things that really matter during the evaluation.
- Can it work? (Process/Implementation evaluation) How was the project implemented? Has the project been properly implemented? What were the challenges to implementation and how were they overcome?
- Does it work? (Impact evaluation) Many of our evaluations investigate the impact of the intervention. For example for a criminal justice intervention, long-term impact might be assessed using a measure of recidivism with data drawn from the Police National Computer (PNC). Where practical we favour evaluation designs that involve a comparison or control group. However, we also recognise the value of in-depth qualitative data to help us understand why an intervention had the impact it did.
- Is it worth it? (Economic evaluation) It is anticipated that, if successful, projects/interventions might receive a wider roll-out. It will therefore be important to consider whether such an approach is cost effective and cost-beneficial. The methodology used will depend in part on the results of the impact evaluation. We use a range of approaches including cost effectiveness analysis, cost benefit analysis, break even analysis, and Social Return on Investment (SROI).