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February 24, 2022

So long, and thanks for all the data

Profile image for Lisa Fearn

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Time to Shine

Data: ‘facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis’. ‘…things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation’. So why am I grateful?

As Time to Shine draws to a close I asked delivery partners to reflect on their experience of being part of the programme. Collecting data, evidence and insight is something that we’ve done regularly in this large and complex programme since 2015. 

I’m grateful for the time and effort that partners put into gathering data. I’m grateful for the skill and expertise of the local and national evaluation teams who analysed the data. But, perhaps most of all, I’m grateful that people – in Leeds and beyond – actually use the data, experience and insight from Time to Shine to help them shape their own services.  This saves time, effort and money. As one delivery partner puts it:

Leeds Older People’s Forum has introduced projects to each other, making it easier to work together. They kept us informed of best practice locally and nationally and this informed our approach. This allowed projects to get on with delivery rather than reinventing the wheel.

The resources section of the Leeds Older People’s Forum website is the repository for all manner of useful learning reports, short films, toolkits and templates, including our new Monitoring and Evaluation toolkit and Creating a cohesive programme: A Time To Shine toolkit. The long-anticipated suite of ten final reports from the Centre for Loneliness Studies (University of Sheffield) is also there.

Although Time to Shine ends on 31 March 2022 Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) will, of course, continue. We’re excited that the National Lottery Community Fund is funding a continuation of the learning dissemination role until March 2023. We’re fortunate that Jessica will stay with LOPF and continue to share Time to Shine learning in this new mentoring role.

So how have people used the data, experience and insight? What are people doing differently? What has the overall experience of being part of the Time to Shine programme been like? In short, what’s changed?

Here’s what Leeds Community Foundation had to say:

“… we feel that being part of the Time to Shine programme has been a positive experience for Leeds Community Foundation, the community organisations we have funded and the people they have supported.

Delivering the Time to Shine programme has been a fantastic opportunity and it has influenced our working practices in a number of ways.

The programme was one of the first for which we had more representation of people with lived experience, in this case older people, on our panels. This has since become embedded into our practices and we strive for all panels to have members with lived experience relevant to the programme.

We also brought together Time to Shine Small Funds projects at the start of each round. This is something we have seen the value in and are working to implement more across our programmes.

The learning we gained through Time to Shine informed the theme of our Leeds Fund Strategic Grants programme in 2018, which was Loneliness and Inclusion.

Having a substantial, multi-year programme not only provided a level of sustainability from a financial point of view but supported Leeds Community Foundation to become a significant local funder for work with older people, and to increase our profile and standing in the city.

Another benefit of the multi-year programme is that it allowed us to build our understanding year on year, and to adapt the programme to meet the needs of communities. The team at Leeds Community Foundation has also been able to respond to emerging needs through the Seasonal Loneliness and Connecting Older LGBT+ People streams of the programme, both of which have provided opportunities for learning to help us better understand how to support different communities at different times. While it was more difficult to generate applications for the Connecting Older LGBT+ People programme, it provided an opportunity for us to learn more about the landscape of organisations working with older LGBT+ people in the city, and our work to engage these communities will continue.

In terms of sustainability, 21 organisations received more than one round of funding through the Time to Shine Small Funds programme, and many have gone on to receive funding from our other programmes. We also encouraged grant holders to think about the sustainability of their projects at the point of application. Additionally, Leeds Community Foundation is generally moving towards more longer-term funding, providing more security for community organisations through multi-year grants and supporting organisations’ essential running costs where possible.”

As for me, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside delivery partners, funders, local and national evaluators and of course the team of staff and trustees at LOPF. Although I’m sad that Time to Shine is ending, I’m excited to start work on LOPF’s new Enhance programme, created in partnership with Leeds Community Healthcare.

As with Time to Shine, monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of Enhance as projects work across sectors to support safe and sustainable discharge from hospital into a secure home environment. The focus is to enhance capacity in both the health sector and the third sector and to gather data on what does (and does not) work.

I look forward to meeting a new set of colleagues over the coming year and hearing more stories and quotes from people who’ve taken part.

Lisa Fearn
Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Time to Shine