Evaluation is a key element in the proper management of programmes and projects. In reporting to funding bodies it is important for funded programmes and projects to be able to demonstrate proven results – What have we achieved? What will we achieve with this project or programme? What changes have we brought about? What changes can we make to ensure a greater likelihood that our goals will be met? Through evaluations we can obtain, for projects already underway or completed, a comprehensive assessment of results achieved, or, for projects in planning, an assessment of the probability of successful delivery of objectives.
Evaluation ensures that programme and project leaders learn and gain insights from activities to date, can be used to set or revise future objectives and can be used to ensure that funding organisations can demonstrate that their funds have been effectively and properly applied. Evaluation should focus on delivery against objectives and on the delivery of outcomes including social good.
AP Benson has considerable experience in undertaking programme and project review for a range of public sector organisations. Projects are individual actions with defined start and end points and specific objectives. Programmes usually comprise a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain collective benefits from the overall activity.
Projects and programmes may be evaluated at (i) the planning (“ex-ante”) stage, to ensure that plans are feasible, financially viable and are likely to deliver on objective; (ii) in interim evaluations required during the programme/project to ensure it is on track to deliver objectives and to ensure corrective actions are, if necessary, taken; and (iii) at the end of the project or programme (“ex-post”) to evaluate if the programme delivered successfully on its objectives and to ensure that future projects and programmes benefit from the learnings and insights gained.
Our broad methodology for programme and project evaluation is described [here].
When working with the public sector, AP Benson's evaluations and reviews follow and comply with the Treasury's Green Book on Appraisal and Evaluation, Guidance on Impact Evaluation Frameworks for Regional Development Agencies and also use a variety of technical approaches including statistical sampling and econometric tools.
Individual assignments may follow this general methodology or may use elements of it to meet the goals of specific assignments. Other experience and skills may be applied to assignments including:
- Analysis of financial statements and accounts; Development of financial models to “prove,” i.e. validate and verify the financial statements or projections provided by projects and programmes under review, determine if the project/programme is financially sustainable and is performing against expected spending profiles;
- Business Model Benchmarking – comparing programmes and projects with those in other similar organisations to identify insights that can be applied to the programme/project under review;
- Review of Business Plans, Project Plans and other non-financial documents in relation to feasibility, promotion of the project, organisation and governance and other qualitative factors;
- Review of performance against KPIs, ensuring the programme/project is gathering data and is able to show that it is performing against its own pre-defined criteria;
- Review of processes, systems and reporting regime;
- Application of consulting skills and industry/domain knowledge including options analysis, change management and organisational coaching skills together with risk and issue identification, management and review;
- Reporting on other matters that arise or come to light in the course of the review.
AP Benson consultants bring sectoral/domain experience from evaluations in a number of sectors including work with public sector project funders including Arts Council England, WRAP, Welsh Government, WEFO and EHRC. Private sector evaluations have been undertaken for clients including Texturing Technology, TATA Steel and HR Wallingford.
Below we set out, to illustrate recent evaluation work, a set of case studies from recent evaluation work undertaken by AP Benson consultants for Arts Council England:
Case Study: Arts Council England
AP Benson is appointed as a service provider under the framework of financial advisors for arts/cultural organisations by Arts Council England (“Arts Council”) to support Arts Council’s assessment, monitoring and decision-making across its grant programmes.
Arts Council require the assistance of specialist service providers able to assist them in assessment, monitoring and decision-making across its grant programmes. Expertise is specifically required in (i) financial analysis and business plan appraisal of arts/cultural organisations and (ii) organisational change and development of arts/cultural organisations (iii) applying knowledge and experience of various governance models and structures used in the arts/cultural sector in both large and small organisations.
AP Benson proposed a team led by Dr. Tom Girn a skilled and experienced Chartered Accountant and turnaround consultant, used to working with organisations requiring turnaround and recovery advice. He had previously worked with the D’Oyly Carte at the New Alexander Theatre Birmingham, with Reading Community Radio, Only in Wales and with Animotion which all required a rapid assessment of their current financial performance and their business plans and development of business and funding strategies to support turnaround, refocusing or refunding of their activities. Tom also leads our business insolvency and turnaround practice Gore and Company. We also proposed Dr. Craig Livingstone, an experienced management consultant with third sector, social enterprise and charity experience and a record of working with arts and cultural organisations and public sector funded bodies. Craig’s work also includes projects in the museums sector. The team also includes: Peter Bellingham, former Director and Managing Director of Welsh National Opera, who has consulting experience with National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and in the refurbishment of arts and cultural spaces; Chris Moore, a specialist in theatre capital and revenue projects and strategic planning; and Paul Smith, who works in planning theatre and performance spaces with a particular expertise in development of catering facilities. (AP Benson has similar sector-specialist teams for other sectors).
Since our appointment we have undertaken a number of assignments for Arts Council including:
- Business and Financial Plan Reviews.
- Options Analysis of Music Education Hubs.
- Supporting Business Plan Development.
- Health Check of Current Financial Position, Financial Management and Governance.