Evaluation of the Big Green Challenge

Start date:
September 2007
December 2010

In 2007 NESTA launched the Big Green Challenge, a £1million challenge prize designed to encourage and reward people working together in community groups to find innovative ways to reduce carbon. Brook Lyndhurst conducted a formative evaluation of the fund which addressed both its contribution to the achievement of NESTA’s objectives and examined whether, and how, the resulting approaches by community/third sector groups actually delivered carbon reductions and behaviour change in their respective communities. This involved working closely with NESTA and their delivery partners across the two years of the prize fund and beyond. It also entailed research with the community/third sector groups themselves, both at a ‘distance’ (through questionnaires and event feedback forms, etc) and more closely (through visits and conversations with participants). A phase of follow-up research was conducted in late 2010.

The main research objectives of this study were to:

  • Understand the impact of a challenge prize when addressing a social issue;
  • Understand the impact that the Challengers have had and why, with particular regard to behaviour change and carbon reduction; and
  • Understand how the Challengers relate to their communities and partners.

The evaluation focussed around four phases of work:

1. Development of an evaluation methodology (Oct 07 – Sep 08), which involved:

  • Initial data collection from applicants to the challenge prize  (including a review of applications, surveys, discussion group and attendance at regional roadshows) to get a sense of the type of projects and groups that applied and their motivations; and
  • Discussions with NESTA and project partners for initial feedback on how the programme was working.

2. Gathering and analysis of project/programme performance data both from finalists and non-finalists (Oct 08–Nov 09). This included:

  • Visits to the ten finalists to see them in their working environment and allow a ‘qualitative’ baseline and follow-up assessment;
  • Interviews with competition judges, NESTA, advisors and delivery partners for their perspective on the impact of the fund and the finalists;
  • Analysis of finalists' quarterly reports as well as behaviour change and carbon data to track progress;
  • One focus group with other ‘innovative funds’ to compare models and relative success;
  • A behaviour change workshop with key experts to provide external feedback to initial findings;
  • Telephone interviews and discussion groups with community participants to assess the projects' impacts;
  • Stakeholder telephone interviews to gauge the breadth and depth of the projects' reach;
  • Non-finalist follow-up e-survey with booster telephone calls  to understand the influence of the challenge prize on non-finalist projects; and
  • A series of learning seminars at key intervals during the year to exchange views on findings to date with other delivery partners.

3. Reporting of results (Nov 09 – Feb 10) – involving analysis of all data collected, reporting and dissemination; and

4. Twelve-month follow-up of project and programme impact (Oct 10 – Dec 10), in order to assess the longer term effects of the fund especially around the projects' growth, replication, transferability and future sustainability.

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