We were busy this year! Pushing forwards substantially on improving the quality and use of evidence in our three areas of interest: assessing interventions, assessing charities, and assessing ways of giving.
Read our 2015 Year In Brief.
Oh dear. The NSPCC seems to have lost the moral high ground to – of all people –Vice magazine, a trendy periodical that is mainly about trainers and unconventional sex.
The children’s charity recently claimed that a tenth of the UK’s 12 to 13-year-olds were addicted to porn. It was an eye-catching story that was picked up by many media channels. The Conservatives immediately pounced on it as an election issue, pledging that they would block internet porn sites that did not have controls to prevent people under 18 from looking at them.
Vice was alone, it seems, in wondering what those numbers actually meant and where they came from. “Such inflammatory findings when published by a respected national charity would usually be accompanied by a full report of the study,” Vice says. “But not in this case. All the NSPCC would offer was an extended press release with some more quotes from concerned parties.” Continue reading
Proof is a big concept, and in social science – which is what impact research is – it almost never happens
Suppose you hear of a new intervention that’s never been tried or tested
before. What are the chances of it producing decent results? Clearly, you’ve no idea: the uncertainty about its results is sky high. Now suppose there’s an intervention with teenage mothers that a well-conducted, rigorous evaluation in the US suggests reduces child abuse and neglect, reduces child injuries by 20-50 per cent and improves children’s educational outcomes. Will it produce those results in, say, Edinburgh? Continue reading
In 1929, Werner Forssmann, a junior doctor in Eberswalde, Germany, found in an obscure 19th century journal a print of a man passing a tube through a horse’s jugular vein into its heart to measure changes in ventricular pressure.
He wondered if it were possible to investigate human hearts in a similar way. His seniors said he was crazy for asking and told him to go back to work. Undeterred, he sneaked into the x-ray room, made a slit in his own arm, threaded a small tube into his own heart and took some x-rays showing the position of the tube.
He was fired. In 1956 he won a Nobel Prize for, in effect, co-founding the field of cardiology. Continue reading
Any single piece of evaluation research, designed to understand the effect of an intervention, has limitations. It will examine the effect of a particular intervention on some particular outcomes in a particular group of people (‘population’), at a particular time. That’s fine, but it inevitably limits the value of the research for organisations using, say, the same intervention on a different population. Studies also vary in their robustness – the chance that their answer is wrong – and even a good study can get a weird result by fluke.
Better, then, to look at multiple impact studies when designing programmes or making funding decisions. This is what the Blagrave Trust, a foundation, recently asked my organisation, Giving Evidence, to do on the subject of outdoor learning, one of its funding areas; the report will be published next month. With University College London, we looked for every relevant study of outdoor learning published over the past 10 years. ‘Systematic reviews’ such as this enable people to stand on the shoulders of myriad giants – and see a long way. Continue reading
If campaigns to raise awareness of global poverty and progress fixing it are only reaching people already interested, what should we do? The Gates Foundation is one of many bodies concerned about this, and asked various communicators and academics to design some communications and campaigns to reach other audiences. They knew well the literature which shows: how people respond to messages, and that comedy can be a Trojan horse carrying messages beyond their normal reach. It also shows that engagement with social issues is hindered by ‘otherness’, the notion that they only affect people very different and far away; and ‘narrative transportation’ a well-evidence theory created by two psychologists, that when we’re transported deeply into a story, our barriers to persuasion fall. Continue reading
The church in Berkeley in Gloucestershire has a plaque that commemorates “the many virtues and great usefulness of Miss Sarah Merrett Pike of this town”. How delightful: I’m sure we’d all like to end our days reputed for our “great usefulness”.
So it was with our friend Stephen Lloyd, the great charity lawyer who was taken from us in an accident this time last year. It’s taken me a year to be able to write about him. I was fortunate he was a trustee of the charity of which I was chief executive – one of our various shared ventures. Continue reading
The closure of Kids Company on August 5th raised the question of charity’s management and effectiveness. Caroline spoke to BBC News about it:
And, once it emerged that there are 60,000 children’s charities in the UK, she spoke about whether there should be consolidation:
Caroline was also on BBC Radio4’s PM programme on the same day, which FeedbackLabs turned into a podcast, here. Continue reading