Today I went to NEF Consulting (part of the New Economics Foundation) to talk to Rosie and Sarah, and Jane from Narativ, about how we’re going to measure the impact of KidsConnect over the coming year. This is something we thought a lot about during the Knee High Design Challenge competition but it’s great to work with some external professionals to validate and extend our thinking.  As I have a professional social science background I find this sort of discussion really fun – which I realise might make me just a little bit weird!

NEF are based in some kind of converted workshop in the backstreets of Vauxhall, although are shortly to move to some spanking new offices in a tower block nearby on the Albert Embankment.  I’m sure the fixtures and fittings will be better but the wildlife spotting opportunities are bound to be inferior – during a 2 hour meeting we observed a fox foraging, a very cross squirrel defending his territory and a variety of birdlife from the windows of NEF’s first floor ‘library’.

Jane kicked off the meeting by asking us all to ‘clear our listening’ by articulating all the different things which were affecting our approach to the meeting.  When I first encountered this technique I was a bit sceptical about its added value but having done it a couple of times I’ve found it really helpful to have an opportunity to be honest about what’s affecting me and my ‘presence’ at a meeting.  Doing this makes it much easier to focus on the meeting and not on those other concerns and feelings which always float around my mind.  Today for example I listed my lack of papers (having looked through the papers on my phone last weekend) and my poor opinion of NEF’s coffee as among the things in my head (I am a coffee snob…).

Rosie asked for feedback on the work which NEF had done on our Theory of Change – which sets out our hypothesis about what change KidsConnect could deliver in the lives of parents and caregivers, children and service providers in the short, medium and long term.

My main observation was that Rosie and Sarah had really developed our thinking about what change might look like for children – building on their knowledge of research about early years development and learning.  As parents ourselves, and because KidsConnect is a tool which will mostly be used by parents, we’ve naturally tended to focus on the change which KidsConnect can make for parents.  Today was no exception – in the course of exploring potential outcomes for parents, children and service providers I found myself sharing anecdotes about my kids attendance at gym classes, tooth cleaning and parental bonding over toilet training in an effort to explain my thinking.

So where did we get to?  We focused our efforts on clarifying the outcomes we hope to see (eg. parents spend more quality time with their children) and thrashed out the research questions we could ask to find out if they had happened (eg. do parents feel they are spending more or different quality time with their children) .  We also discussed on the challenges in collecting this sort of information (eg. people will all define ‘quality time’ differently and there is a danger in using that phrase because it implies there is some ‘official definition’ to which everyone should aspire).  We also started to frame some of the open questions which might enable us to collect stories which would give us evidence to answer our research questions (eg. can you tell me about what you enjoy doing with your children?) and to think about creating circumstances in which parents and caregivers would find it easy to help us by sharing their experiences.

All in all a very productive session which certainly helped move my thinking along.  I look forward to the next session – I’ll be bringing the coffee!

Author: Hannah White, Co-Founder, KidsConnect