A final blog on behalf of the Fulfilling Lives evaluation team from Rachel Moreton, Associate Director at CFE Research.

As I said at the final Fulfilling Lives conference earlier this year, when we first started working on the programme evaluation back in 2013, it was difficult to imagine what it would feel like to reach the end of this huge undertaking.

Well, we’ve finally reached that point. And what an experience it has been.

We always knew the context for the programme would change and influence outcomes. At the very start of the programme our then Managing Director illustrated in an early blog how things can change over nine years – the previous eight years (2005-2013) had seen the credit crunch and double-dip recession, the Arab Spring, riots across England, three UK prime ministers, two Olympic Games and the discovery of the Higgs boson. But still we could never have imagined back then just how world-changing and significant some of the changes we would see over the course of the next nine years would be: another three UK prime ministers (and a further two since the end of the programme), Brexit, a global pandemic and war in Ukraine. There’s also been lots of changes to policies, programmes and services that affect people experiencing multiple disadvantage, from the Homelessness Reduction Act, Integrated Care Systems and the privatisation and then subsequent re-nationalisation of the probation service.

We’ve tried to provide a snapshot of just some of the seismic changes of the past decade in our final summary report on Fulfilling Lives. This report sets out the main achievements of the programme, key learning and provides links to just a small selection of the wealth of reports, briefings, case studies, toolkits, blogs, podcasts, guides and videos that have been produced by Fulfilling Lives partners over the years. Gathered together like this, it’s an impressive collection, and we hope it will continue to be of use for years to come.

The report also summarises progress on the journey of systems change. One of the most important achievements of the programme, and one that we are proud to have been a part of, is providing evidence to support the launch of a central government pilot programme with similar aims in the form of Changing Futures. Changing Futures offers the best opportunity to embed the learning from Fulfilling Lives and to keep up the momentum for change. Here at CFE, we’re also pleased to be part of the consortium evaluating Changing Futures – so though our work on Fulfilling Lives is done, we’ll continue to be closely involved in the ongoing journey of change.

And on that journey, we’re taking with us the rich learning gained from the past nine years evaluating Fulfilling Lives. We’ve captured some of that learning in this report on our experiences of undertaking this ambitious, complex and long-term programme evaluation.

Although we’re moving on to other things, we hope we’re leaving a lasting legacy. This website will remain live for at least another 12 months. Many of the resources housed here will also be available direct from The National Lottery Community Fund. Anonymised data gathered from over 4,000 Fulfilling Lives beneficiaries, a unique and rich dataset, is being deposited with the UK Data Service and should be available to other researchers to use shortly. And a special edition of the journal Housing Care and Support has just been published, containing peer reviewed articles contributed by operational staff, researchers and people with lived experience from across the programme. You can also find author-approved versions of the articles in our publications database on this website.

It only remains for me then to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been part of this very special journey: programme staff, volunteers and beneficiaries, particularly the Systems Change Action Network and Evaluation and Learning Community of Practice; the National Expert Citizens’ Group and Revolving Doors; colleagues at Making Every Adult Matter; members of the Evaluation Steering Group; and current and former members of the team at The National Lottery Community Fund. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of such an important and unique programme.