Evaluation of WRAP's Waste Reduction Advisors programme

Start date:
June 2009
December 2009

WRAP’s Home Composting Advisers have an established track record in working alongside local authorities and other partners to provide advice to consumers on composting. In April 2009, the programme was expanded to cover waste minimisation in the round, with the advisers taking the new title of “Waste Reduction Advisers” (WRAs). The evolution of the initiative brought with it new challenges and accentuated the need to monitor the programme’s success.

As an evolving and relatively new programme, the WRA scheme was ill-suited to a rigid, data-driven, targets-based evaluation. A more reflective, formative approach therefore offered greater scope to add value. This project consequently primarily made use of qualitative research techniques.

Brook Lyndhurst carried out a formative evaluation of the WRA programme in order to:

  • Highlight areas in which the WRA programme was particularly successful;
  • Explore areas in which the service could be improved;
  • Better identify areas in which the WRA programme brought added value to local waste minimisation campaigns; and
  • Provide comment on the potential future development of the programme evaluation – e.g. to incorporate more ‘hard data’ indicators, if appropriate.

The project consisted of a number of distinct phases:

  • A small literature review;
  • Interviews with WRAP's Waste Reduction Advisors;
  • Interviews with partner organisations;
  • Interviews with members of the public at events attended by WRAs; and
  • Analysis and reporting

Literature review
In order to place this work within the context of other evidence on waste prevention advice to consumers, we reviewed the results of a number of related projects. This work formed the backdrop for the analytical phase of the project.

Interviews with Waste Reduction Advisers
Interviews with the WRAs formed the backbone of the project. WRAs were asked about, among other things:

  • The mechanisms by which interested organisations hear of WRA services and how they then approach them, including which methods are thought to be both more effective (and more cost-effective);
  • The different models for outreach favoured by WRAs and why;
  • The particular areas in which advice is particularly well-received – e.g. strategic advice on running campaigns, advice on measurement and evaluation, developing communications materials, front-line engagement support, and so on;
  • Whether WRAs feel that the support they provide to the organisations they work with is effectively retained and ‘cascaded’ by those organisations;
  • What factors make for a more effective working relationship with partner local authorities and community groups; and
  • What sorts of problems do WRAs experience in building and maintaining relationships with organisations they work alongside?

Notes from the interviews were written up in mind-mapping software, enabling us to carry out a rapid first wave of analysis and allowing researchers to identify links between issues early on, highlighting areas that might warrant further exploration in later interviews.

Interviews with partner organisations
No evaluation of WRA outreach could be complete without speaking to those organisations to which WRAs provide support. The issues covered included:

  • A brief discussion of the role of the WRA, including the manner of their involvement, the start point and duration of their involvement and the current state of the organisation’s waste prevention activities;
  • How the organisation first came into contact with WRAP and the WRA (or Home Composting Adviser) scheme;
  • What benefits the organisation believes were offered by the WRA that would otherwise have been unavailable;
  • Whether the WRA had influenced the organisation’s strategy in terms of delivering outreach work and engagement around waste prevention;
  • What criteria the organisation used to measure the success of their waste prevention campaign and whether this has been influenced by the advice of the WRA;
  • Whether there was any aspect of the service offered by the WRA that could be improved upon; and
  • Whether the advice and lessons brought by the WRA has been retained and extended.

Again, notes were entered directly into mind-mapping software to allow speedier analysis and reporting.

Scoping for additional community organisations
We used a ‘referral approach’ to identify additional community organisations running campaigns that might be interested in working with a WRA. This essentially involved asking key decision makers to identify organisations and individuals who might either:

a) be interested in promoting the work of WRAs to their members or affiliates; or
b) be able to identify other influential organisations or individuals in sectors we are less familiar with.

Event interviews
We attended a small number of events at which WRAs were working and conducted exit interviews with a random sample of those leaving (e.g. every tenth person) in order to find out whether they are aware of the WRA’s presence or had come into direct contact. Interviews were informal and semi-structured, with the emphasis being on picking up useful insights that could help to improve the service offered by the WRAs rather than collecting hard quantitative data.

Analysis and reporting
The final reporting phase brought together all of the evidence collected, highlighting the key areas in which the WRA programme is working well and making suggestions about areas in which its value could be increased. 

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