Spice Evaluation Launch – write-up!

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Becky Booth, Spice CEO, addresses the audience at the launch of the evaluation report.

Becky Booth, Spice CEO, addresses the audience at the launch of the evaluation report.

CCIA partner Spice released a landmark study last night, in collaboration with independent evaluators Apteligen. You can read more about the incredible impacts Spice Time Credits are having on individuals, communities and organisations and download the full report here.

To mark the occasion, Spice invited Time Credit members, national and local government representatives, practitioners and community organisation representatives to a launch event last night, hosted by partners NESTA.

Giving the first keynote address, Spice CEO Becky Booth outlined the rationale behind commissioning the study. With almost 500,000 Time Credits having been used by 17,500 people and 300 partners over the last three years, Spice knew that organisations, communities and individuals were all seeing developments. In order to move forward, however, it was essential “to evaluate which parts of the models were doing what” and build a more precise understanding of how Time Credits effect meaningful change.

The nature of measuring social impact dictates that a study employ qualitative depth as well as quantitative breadth. Thus, in addition to interviewing over 1,000 users and nearly 300 organisations, the Apteligel report also drew on 33 in-depth workshops with Time Credit members. This participatory research model provided rich individual stories alongside a wealth of broader data.

“Spice Time Credits get bums off seats” – Time Credit User

We heard some of these stories in the panel following Becky’s address, in which four Time Credit users shared their experiences. Nazmin Akther, who runs a girls’ Group on London’s Mansell Street Estate, said that as well as motivating people to do more for their communities, Time Credits had given her more self-confidence and improved her health by allowing her to go to the gym regularly.

Steve from Avondale Estate said that Time Credits “get bums off of seats”, telling us how he had used them to organise a Christmas party and meal for 180 local children. The extra incentive Time Credits provide to volunteer was also highlighted by Jack Lawrence from Look Ahead. David Conlon, a mental health patient for forty years, spoke of the difference Time Credits had made to his community: rather than being stuck in their rooms alone, people were now able to socialise, attending football matches at Millwall and going on boat trips together.

With Time Credits, “people beyond the normal crowd feel they have a right and a reason to access the arts” – Gini Simpson, the Barbican Centre

John Newman from Apteligen then spoke of some of the challenges in putting together research of this kind, which needed to take account of social complexity and connections between changes in individuals, organisations and communities. Having interviewed hundreds of people between fourteen and eighty years old, John told us that the stories we had just heard were very typical in his experience, and cut across all demographics.

Such stories, he emphasised, gave meaningful substance to statistics – essential when evaluating as complex a phenomenon as social change, in which effects and causation are often hard to measure and determine. Nonetheless, thanks to the combination of a large sample size and these in-depth stories, Apteligen feel “highly confident” in the statistics contained in the report.

The next speaker, Sarah Hurcombe – head of the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Team – stressed the importance of rigorous evaluation for government decision makers. This point was echoed on the following panel discussion by Ian Burbridge from the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, who stated that local government “needs stories and studies to make our case” for funding. However, the need for such research to measure social value rather than simply cost as well as the dangers of imposing a standardised and simplistic, “one-size-fits-all” model was mentioned by multiple speakers on the panel.

The report and stories from users provide powerful evidence of how Spice Time Credits are bringing positive, meaningful change to individuals, communities and organisations by opening up opportunities at a time when conventional services and funding are being drastically cut.

To learn more about how community currencies build strong, resilient and socially-oriented local economies and get involved, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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