ERDF Internal Evaluation

Baker, Colin ORCID: 0000-0001-8971-2829 and Thiam, Mouhamed El Bachire ORCID: 0000-0002-3094-8359 (2019) ERDF Internal Evaluation. Technical Report. University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester.

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Introduction This document reports the findings of the internal evaluation of the ERDF projects GRIP, GAINS, S&GE and Core Growth Hub. Consistent with the wider UoG summative assessment, this evaluation sought to undertake the following: • Internal stakeholder review to assess the impact on UoG of delivering multiple projects in respect of the experience of delivering and managing the projects; • External beneficiary review to assess the economic impact on project beneficiaries of engagement with multiple ERDF projects Methodology The evaluators sought to deploy a mixed methods approach to provide a means of collecting qualitative and quantitative data via an overarching data collection framework that mapped out the projects’ outcomes. A qualitative component explored staff experiences of delivering and managing the projects. A quantitative component sought to assess the impact on project beneficiaries of engagement with multiple ERDF projects delivered by UoG through the measurement of the Gross and Net Additional Impact for Employment and GVA. Main Findings Analysis of the qualitative data revealed a number of salient themes which are presented according to three domains: Things that went well • Perceived significant impacts within respective client groups. Achievements included the creation of jobs, delivering workshops and training, establishing of the business laboratory. • Additional achievements included: strong relationships with local businesses (including significant local companies); strong case studies concerning value-added and service delivery; strong internal collaboration and relationships, and collaboration with external partners (including external agencies, deliverers of workshops, and clients themselves). • Strong buy-in from academics and students with respect to understanding and responding to business needs. • Wide-scale pro-active approach to learning and reflective practice in order to refine and enhance the service offer and respond meaningfully to business needs. • Widening and deepening of offer to extend original service to include a broader range of business types and sizes. • Creation of a strong and trusted brand within the county. • Creation of monitoring processes that supported tracking of client progress, understanding and responding to client preferences, and wider project management. • Cultural shift towards a wide-scale adoption of a ‘platinum service’ approach to all aspects of delivery that goes above and beyond in respect of valuing and supporting clients. Things that went less well • Lack of clarity during initial stages concerning the purpose of the projects in a singular and collective sense. This compromised internal and external understanding of the role and purpose of the projects which impeded the mapping out of the client journey and project performance. • Early imperative to deliver services that were underdeveloped perceived to have wasted resources and damaged brand reputation. • Inflexible approach to budgeting perceived as an issue with respect to project effectiveness and efficiency of spend. This led to later problems in terms of delivering services. • Delays to project implementation and establishing teams following securing of the bids meant that opportunities in the market place had been lost to other parties. • Internal competition (particularly during the early stages of delivery) between projects for the same clients impeded cross-project learning and cooperation and led in some instances to a duplication of offer. • Inherent resources pressures and instability within the University environment led to disruptive changes of staff, disruptions to the flow of information, and uncertainty regarding the future of the projects. What have been the challenges? • General issues of engaging wider academic staff and teams as part of the match approach (perceived issues included academic calendar, awareness of the projects, reluctance to work in a ‘commercial’ setting, with exceptions), and development of processes concerning how this was going to work in practice. • Varying leadership approaches with regard to performance management, client targeting and budgeting, and office management. • Excessive pressure to deliver targets that were not based on sound information. • Reconciling University and private sector approaches, particularly concerning the urgency of business needs and decision making. • Developing sufficiently capable monitoring and management systems including CRM and time-sheets. Quantitative findings Establishing quantitative data in order to address the issue of GVA and to provide evidence of beneficiaries’ perceptions of the quality of activities was challenging due to the internal evaluation being initiated only towards the later stages of the projects. This impacted the ability to fully embed this component within the wider evaluation and to ensure that its function was fully understood. As such, the scope of the dataset and the evaluation strategy required to support its development were not fully developed and data were subsequently missed. The lack of data made it impossible to engage in a clear analysis of the value for money each project provided. Recommendations 1. Sustain, evolve and strengthen relationships with the local business community in order to identify opportunities for enhanced service delivery and needs-based approaches. 2. Embed evaluation within project delivery from inception to ensure adequate and timely capture of relevant data. 3. When running multiple projects, establish clear client journeys that map out the relationship between offers, avoid competition between project teams and reduce the risk of duplication. 4. Support reflective practice within delivery teams to ensure continuous learning and development across the University. 5. Create stronger awareness and understanding of Growth Hub projects across the University to foster interest and commitment from academic colleagues. 6. Devise flexible budgetary approaches to provide greater responsiveness within spending plans to maximise effectiveness. 7. Developing sufficiently capable management, monitoring and evaluation systems that maximise the use of resources and minimise burden on project staff.

Item Type: Monograph (Technical Report)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Applied Business & Technology
Depositing User: Colin Baker
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 12:38
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:08

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