Measuring behaviour change is no easy feat, but this new(ish) tool could help

Earlier this week I went to the launch of the Change! Tool held at NESTA. CAG consultants and WWF have been developing the tool over the past six years and it has existed in various forms before now, but its live online launch happened this week thanks to NESTA support – you can check it out at this link: http://www.community-engagement.org.uk/

“What is it?” you ask. Well, it is an evaluation and project management tool which enables community group practitioners to assess the impact of their activities in terms of behaviour change towards more sustainable lifestyles.

At Brook Lyndhurst we have been asked by several clients to measure the behaviour change impacts of various community groups’ initiatives. In our formative evaluation for NESTA’s Big Green Challenge, for instance, we found it extremely difficult to quantifiably assess the myriad valuable outcomes that the ten Finalists achieved (for more information read our executive summary here). In our earlier work for Defra on evaluating their Environmental Action Fund we found that the fund had brought a great deal of small-scale innovation and re-innovation to tackling behaviour change by developing new products, engagement tools, partnerships and bespoke packages for particular settings. However, again, quantifying these impacts in a standardised manner across 34 projects was very challenging.

Putting numbers on the results of the work of niche, inspiring, local communities is difficult and, in most cases, does not do justice to the true, wide-ranging impact of their work. However, the latest Change! Tool is a definite step (if not stride) in the right direction. The tool is designed for (and largely by) community groups, therefore ensuring that the benefits in its use go directly back to the community. It is not a tool merely for the benefit of evaluators and funders.

A one size fits all tool to measure behaviour change runs the risk of being too generalist and not tailored enough to individual community groups’ activities. However, the creators of the tool are keen to engage further with users and critical friends in order to inform its further development. So, at this stage, it’s up to community groups to make good use of this tool and shape it in a way that is most useful to their aims. (We’d also love to hear from anyone with experience of using the tool).

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