How are we Doing? Mid-Term External Evaluation praises ‘Wales for Peace’ Heritage Innovation

"The project... brings together quite opposed sides of discussions around war and peace, encouraging really critical engagement with the past and what it means for today. It constantly challenges your own prejudices and standpoint. And the last 6 months have seen a real shift in how people respond to the project, given the changes in the world" (partner)

“I found the whole volunteering experience amazing – loved it. We’re all thrown in together, on the same steep learning curve… Now we feel like friends and family.” (volunteer)

“This is the best school trip we’ve ever had. Some of our students have now become dedicated historians - who desperately want to do GCSE History.” (teacher)

"It felt like rediscovering a lost history, of Wales' contribution towards the struggle for peace. From a longer background of anti war tradition, trying to create a more peaceful world today." (placement student)

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An external evaluation at the halfway point of the Wales for Peace programme has reported positive findings to WCIA and the Heritage Lottery Fund – along with useful learning towards focusing work deliver deeper impact for the remaining strands of the project through 2017-19.

Commissioned as a ‘peer learning’ initiative with the AHRC-funded ‘Voices of War and Peace’ WW1 Engagement Centre project, the evaluation was undertaken by Dr. Jenny Kidd with Carrie Westwater of Cardiff University School of Journalism (JOMEC), who have also been leading research on ‘the significance of the centenary’ - including the impact on the public of the 14-18NOW Poppies Tour.

The collaboration has presented a unique opportunity to not only pool impact data and public responses from multiple activities, but for WCIA and VWP to share experiences across alternative approaches between academic, heritage and voluntary sectors. This approach should prove invaluable for maximising impact and cross-sector learning for the final ‘Wales for Peace’ programme evaluation in 2019 – which will also judge how well WCIA apply this mid-term learning.

Scope of the Mid-Term Evaluation

  • Which activities have been the best use of time and resources towards the outcomes of the project?
  • How close are Wales for Peace to telling the ‘final story’ of the project? What is missing?
  • How effective have WCIA systems been at monitoring project activity so far?
  • Whose voices are not being captured – and what are the implications?
  • What lessons have been learned that can be shared with the wider sector, and what needs to be done differently in the project going forward?

Methodology

The External Evaluation team reviewed three tranches of information:

Gwynedd 'Remembering for Peace' programme                 Temple of Peace Tours, Cardiff

Successes

  • Strong outcomes for heritage, individuals and communities emerging through project, especially reflected in diversity of previously unknown / uncollated ‘hidden histories’ emerging across Wales eg on women, refugees and peace activists, as well as physical spaces such as the Temple of Peace. Substantial progress already exceeding targets in many areas of the project, underpinned by extensive data capture and monitoring systems.
  • Extensive, fast paced and impressive reach; volunteers involved (610 volunteers to date, contributing £116,770 of 'time credit') have felt valued, autonomous and empowered to ‘own’, ‘discover’ and ‘make connections’. They shared stories of unexpected personal skills development, knowledge (especially on use of technology and creativity), and have been inspired to become passionate advocates for peace heritage and further community volunteering.
  • Exposure to project activities often moves participants to significant changes in attitudes on complex issues of peace, conflict and international affairs – above all, a greatly deepened understanding of complexity and exploring solutions.

Challenges

  • Programme scope and ambition is very broad (with over 37 substantial sub-projects, this has proven unwieldy to manage in a small team Wales-wide). In the second half of programme the project should focus down on ‘gaps’, in particular where deeper M&E can be harvested, and with more generous timescales for sub-projects involving participants especially schools.
  • Partnership working – Wales for Peace messages and critical questioning should be foregrounded as a pre-condition for future strategic partnership projects and any shared volunteering (with timeframes / joint responsibilities that are both agreed and adhered to). WCIA should feel confident 'saying no' to organisations where practices / arrangements are not based on ‘partnerships of equals’, or where partners place higher demands / expectations than WCIA's WfP team has capacity for.
  • Volunteers have often reported great experiences, but have been less able to articulate specific transferable skills development (particularly where training has proven impractical to deliver as planned 'skills-based' modules, due to volunteer availability / access in rural areas). The project has been successful in engaging many hundreds of community volunteers, but has found it more difficult to identify, recruit and train dedicated, high-level contributors and peace champions to deliver specific HLF project objectives and research.
  • The value in facilitating discussions around the heritage of the white poppy and red poppy is one of the project's most powerful educational and engagement tools, though 'controversial' to many traditionalists and populist media. This will remain a challenge but is also a 'USP' for WCIA to continue facilitating challenging conversations around remembrance, conflict and peace.     

 

'Peace in Action' Schools Conference, October 2016         Youth Digital Storytelling Workshops, November 2016

Recommendations

Some of the recommendations are being implemented immediately in development of online content and material; whilst some will be rolled out or strategically developed further over coming months.  

  • Use the Website to ‘tell the story’ and give clearer narrative of the project, with use-centred navigation to online resources, and galvanise users to more fully interact with digital content being developed, as ‘tools’ for their own projects / personal development and for sharing learning.
  • Showcase innovative pilot projects and develop toolkits for others to emulate, especially with schools and curriculum learning initiatives. Deepen IT Training for staff, volunteers and partners; and use more comprehensive promotion, analysis and use of social media and online data / responses, with links driving user traffic back to the website and project narrative so as to reflects the ‘digital unfolding’ of the programme journey.
  • Greater skills emphasis on volunteer skills training & development and transformative experiences, and more targeted recruitment to focused development opportunities, attract diverse audiences, and deliver quality / depth of volunteering experience (rather than increasing numbers of local contributors). Manage expectations, and provide greater clarity from the project as to how contributions relate to the bigger picture of the project story.
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) – focus down on key event milestones and indicators that matter for rich data collection, and earmark significant time early in activity planning in order to accommodate creative, fun approaches (especially for major public events and schools engagement, which respondents flagged as requiring long lead-in times). Take a lighter touch approach with a selection of ‘off the shelf’ standardised methods for other activities.

Going Forward

The WCIA team will be working with the project partners to ‘rebalance the narrative’ through the second half of the Wales for Peace project, acting on the learning identified by the Voices of War and Peace / JOMEC External Evaluators. By Summer 2017, we plan to:

  • Redraft the website (completion by end July 2017) to reflect the project narrative and themes, with a stronger focus on ‘user groups’ and toolkits for self-led work and project initiatives, in particular on Hidden Histories.
  • Develop new project plans / team objectives with longer lead in times
  • Map out key dates between Summer 2017 and Spring 2019 as 'hooks' for advance planning of major events /publication of key legacy resources.
  • Develop and recruit a small number of more focused and skills based volunteering roles and student research projects that respond to specific gaps in the Wales for Peace story.
  • Develop a clear vision for the Project Legacy beyond 2019.

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