Like those of many social programmes, the goals of Sail Training voyages are long-term: In this case, to improve young people’s life chances, involvement in employment and training, and sound mental health. However, many organisations which provide Sail Training cannot conduct or commission high-quality longitudinal studies that demonstrate an impact on these long-term outcomes, because of complexity and cost.
So Giving Evidence was delighted to be asked to identify short-term outcomes that, if ‘produced’ by an intervention, have a beneficial effect on key longer-term outcomes. If future research can show a link between the intervention(s) and certain short-term outcomes, and there is a known link between those short-term outcomes and particular longer-term outcomes, then one can make a coherent and evidence-informed claim about the long-term outcomes produced by the intervention.
Our findings are here.
Our process was a rapid systematic review of existing literature. We looked for which short-term outcomes for young people produce which longer-term outcomes and with what probability and in what circumstances. We looked beyond outcomes produced by (and research about) Sail Training.
Sail Training organisations can use this in at least two ways. First, for designing future research: specifically in choosing reliable measures of important short-term outcomes. And second, in making the case that their work produces particular long-term outcomes.
The plan is that after this will come some empirical, experimental research to explore whether (and when and how) Sail Training produces the short-term outcomes which are good interim indicators.
Interestingly, this work is funded by two umbrella/ memberships bodies in the Sail Training sector, as a ‘communal resource’ for the sector: the Association of Sail Training Organisations which has UK-based members, and Sail Training International, its international counterpart. Since so many charitable sectors have this pattern – of pressure to demonstrate long-term outcomes but inadequate resources to do so experimentally – this kind of communal resource might be a useful tool for other infrastructure bodies to provide.
Giving Evidence partnered for this work with the EPPI Centre (Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre) at University College London. Not only is the EPPI Centre expert in this area, but we had already partnering on the systematic review of the effects of outdoor learning more broadly, to which this project is clearly adjacent.