Building Connections Fund: Evaluation and Learning
Understanding the impact and sharing learning to tackle loneliness
The £11.5m Fund which is a partnership between Government, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Co-op Foundation is providing grants to 126 voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations between 2019 and 2021. To evaluate and share learning from the Fund, we are working with New Philanthropy Capital, Centre for Youth Impact, Brunel University London, Bryson Purdon Social Research, and expert David Pritchard. The work will be carried out with groups of all ages and backgrounds across England.
- Reducing or preventing loneliness, by enabling projects tackling loneliness to be more effective and evaluate their impact.
- Build on our existing knowledge to better understand the most effective approaches to measure, reduce and prevent loneliness. Once complete in 2021, findings from the project will be used to improve the evidence base on loneliness. This will inform longer-term policy and funding decisions.
The resources and findings on this page are created and maintained by our partners New Philanthropy Capital.
If you are a Building Connections Fund grant-holder and have any enquiries, please email: BCFevaluation@thinknpc.org
You can find resources to support your work in the tabs below, including our guidance on measuring loneliness. Building Connections grant-holders will also be able to register for upcoming events, sign up for workshops or webinars and receive the latest learning from the programme.
You can also sign up to the Centre’s weekly evidence alerts below to read the latest wellbeing evidence and insight. It’s not just for Fund grant-holders; anyone can subscribe!
10 tips to help your project reduce loneliness
This paper brings together emerging findings from the existing evidence to offer practical help to Building Connections Fund grant holders and other projects working on reducing loneliness.
These tips focus on how services are delivered, rather than what they deliver. The aim is to help you plan and implement projects so that they work more effectively to reduce loneliness.
As many of your activities are already underway, these tips focus on opportunities to incorporate best practice. The diversity of types of loneliness, types of interventions, target beneficiaries and locations are such that there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to fighting loneliness. Here, we draw out promising factors, mechanisms and approaches that make existing interventions more likely to be effective. As some tips emphasise, approaches should be personalised and localised to tackle loneliness.
Therefore, these tips should be taken as ideas to explore, rather than as a prescriptive checklist.
Guidance on evaluation for grant holders
This guide brings together NPC’s pioneering impact practice resources to offer practical guidance to Building Connections Fund Grant Holders and others working on reducing loneliness. It is designed to complement the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s guidance A Brief Guide to measuring loneliness.
We need to understand more about the factors associated with loneliness, what the effects of loneliness are for different people and how we can prevent or alleviate it. Currently, there is limited evidence on loneliness. We have some data on loneliness in older people, but less for other age groups including children and young people. This guidance is designed to help you evaluate your activities tackling loneliness and improve the sector’s understanding of what works. You do not need to have any prior knowledge of impact measurement or evaluation.
Evaluation is about asking and answering some of the most fundamental questions: Are we making a difference? How can we improve? Are we reaching the right people? How does our programme lead to change? It is about developing an approach to learning about what changes occur, how change happens, and what causes change.
Please note that though this guide will help you collect data for your project, Building Connections Grant Holders who are chosen to take part in our smaller evaluation cohorts will be given extra support by NPC.
This document has been produced for Building Connections Fund grant-holders but can be applied to any activities aimed at reducing loneliness.
This guidance consists of three sections:
Section 1 outlines the national measures of loneliness. All organisations working on tackling loneliness should consider if they can use these to evaluate their work.
Section 2 takes you through five steps for developing and implementing a measurement framework for evaluating your work.
Section 3 offers practical advice for using different approaches and methods for data collection and analysis. It also outlines key evaluation considerations relating to research ethics and data protection.
Guidance on co-design and community spaces
This document offers practical guidance on co-design, evaluation of co-design and evaluation of community spaces. It includes an introduction to co-design and why it matters, top tips and tools for creating and monitoring a co-design process, and advice on how to evaluate it.
We need to understand more about loneliness: the factors associated with it, the effects it has on different people, and how we can prevent or alleviate it. Currently, the evidence base is very limited – we have some data on loneliness in older people, but less for other age groups (including children and young people).
This document offers guidance on co-design, evaluation of co-design and evaluation of community spaces. It includes three main sections:
- A brief introduction to co-design and why it matters
- Top tips and tools for creating and monitoring a co-design process
- Advice on how to evaluate co-design by reflecting on: the benefits of co-design for staff and young people; the quality of the co-design process; and insights into addressing loneliness and social isolation.
This guidance was developed for the Building Connections Fund grant-holders who are working specifically on co-design and community spaces, but can be used by any organisation looking to design or improve its co-design process. It builds on the Guidance on Evaluation for Building Connections Fund Grant-holders, which offers practical guidance for understanding evaluation and evaluating your activities.
Co-design and community spaces – Final Report
NPC has conducted a qualitative evaluation of these projects to better understand the role of co-design and community spaces in reducing loneliness for young people.
Tips to help your remote project tackle loneliness
Continually testing, gathering feedback, and implementing changes is the best way to adapt during extreme circumstances.
The pandemic has taught us that continuous learning is key to adapting services to prevent or reduce loneliness during times of change. It’s likely that charities will continue to offer a hybrid of remote and in-person services for many years to come, so it’s vital that the lessons learnt from Covid-19 are not forgotten.
Our tips to help your remote project tackle loneliness draws upon a developmental evaluation of the Building Connections Fund, the first ever cross government fund dedicated to reducing loneliness in England, delivered in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund and the Co-op Foundation. NPC supported grant holders by sharing emerging good practice for addressing changing needs and rules throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The big lessons learnt by grant holders through the Covid-19 pandemic were to:
- Help service users increase their engagement with online activities and offer choice to meet different service users’ needs.
- Ensure support is consistent and reliable, with healthy relationships between staff and users and regular support to create trust and reassurance.
- Work together with local organisations to avoid duplication.
- Put appropriate safeguarding and privacy measures in place.
- Respond to changing user needs during different lockdowns or social distancing restrictions.
Covid-19 has forced charities to innovate faster than ever before. We hope that by publishing these tips for running a remote project to tackle loneliness we can help the many charities tackling similar challenges to build on these lessons, both now and in the future.
Reflections from the Building Connections Fund developmental evaluation
Launched in December 2018, the Building Connections Fund (BCF) was the first ever cross government fund dedicated to reducing loneliness in England. In partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund and the Co-op Foundation, £11.5m was awarded to 126 voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations working with different groups across England. NPC was commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as the evaluation and learning partner.
The Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted the original BCF evaluation so from April 2020 we adopted a developmental evaluation approach to capture and share learning.
This document draws on a series of interactive workshops with funders, grant holders and NPC
staff to reflect on lessons from this evaluation. We’ve written this for people undertaking or planning evaluations in a crisis. Through sharing our experiences, we hope to contribute to the important, on-going conversation about how to evaluate in fast moving situations.