Front cover of Blue Cabin's impact framework

Developing a new impact framework for Blue Cabin

Over the last year, Blue Cabin has been working with tialt (there is an alternative), a social enterprise which designs creative research tools for positive social impact.

Over the last year, Blue Cabin has been working with tialt (there is an alternative), a social enterprise which designs creative research tools for positive social impact. Jenny Young, Blue Cabin Director, explains how the partnership has led to a strengthened understanding of the impact of Blue Cabin’s work and exciting plans to develop new ways for Blue Cabin’s to measure the impact of our work.

Blue Cabin already had processes in place to gather participant feedback and evaluate the impact of its work. So what prompted you to want to develop a new evaluation framework?

We wanted to consider our organisational impact more holistically. Up until 2022 we had often reported on a project-by-project basis to a range of funders. While this helped us to produce some useful data gathering and analysis techniques, there was a need to review these and develop some approaches to impact evaluation that were more closely matched to our organisational values and the creative practice on which our impact is based.

Alongside this there was a need to create tools that enabled us to tell the stories that are emerging from our work in a way that is accessible and engaging, while also considering issues of ethics and ownership of data collection processes and the capturing and sharing of stories.

We were in the early stages of establishing a relationship with a brilliant organisation called tialt, and through some in depth conversations we identified them to be the organisation who would support us with this important and exciting piece of work. Funding was secured from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation as part of their Funding Plus for existing grantees.

What were some of the considerations when developing an impact framework for a charity like Blue Cabin?

There’s a lot: due to the range and scale of Blue Cabin’s work, there will be lots of different outcomes for different people, far more than most arts organisations.

Capturing the outcomes: with such a variety of outcomes anticipated from our projects, capturing the outcomes effectively is complex, takes a lot of time and needs different methods for each project.

Telling the whole story: due to the number and variety of anticipated outcomes, it is complex for Blue Cabin to share a comprehensive but easy to understand story of the organisation and its work.

Indicators and evidence: the current indicators and evidence Blue Cabin use may not be capturing the depth of outcomes across projects.

What did the work with tialt result in?

Over a six-month period tialt reviewed our existing evaluation methods and explored the work of Blue Cabin through interviews, reflective learning sessions, a literature review and relational objects and relational songs.

This has led to:

  • Conversations about the development of new creative methods to capture stories and impact
  • The creation of an adaptable, useful, and useable impact framework (you can see the impact framework here)
  • The development of two case studies across two of Blue Cabin’s core projects, which can be used as frameworks for future case studies
  • The creation of an evaluation report

Extensive groundwork was laid through this research and exploration, so Blue Cabin will be able to tell the whole story of the organisation with greater ease and transparency to stakeholders, partners, participants, funders and more. Whilst the impact framework is still being tested, the ability to better capture the complex and nuanced story of Blue Cabin’s work has begun in earnest.

Blue Cabin have been able to start telling the story of our work through new lenses. Previously, Blue Cabin projects all had huge and varied impacts, making telling the complete story of our work complex.

tialt have reconceptualised our work into two key outcomes areas: developing relationships and strengthening relationships. These two outcomes lead to many impacts.

What were some of the challenges you overcame?

Whilst tialt and Blue Cabin share similar values and approaches to working, tialt initially undertook developing new creative evaluation methods for Blue Cabin that were not necessarily ‘trauma informed’.

As an organisation working to become trauma informed, Blue Cabin brings the knowledge and skills of working in trauma informed ways into all of our work. As a result, initial concepts of evaluation methods suggested by tialt, needed to be re-worked and re-considered to align with Blue Cabin’s trauma informed approach to working.

Blue Cabin and tialt developed a different approach to project management as a result, with more opportunities to “sense check” the work tialt was undertaking.

And what have been the highlights from your point of view?

This process helped to tell the story of how Blue Cabin’s work contributes to systems change – enhancing and promoting best practice across sectors.