Big Lottery Fund today (12th Feb) announced the 12 areas that will receive a share of the £112 million Fulfilling lives: supporting people with multiple needs fund. Congratulations to all those projects that have worked so hard to get here.

Although the projects are only being announced today, CFE has been involved for almost a year now and as Jon Adamson said in his blog of last September, it’s great to have been involved so early in an evaluation. So what has this early involvement enabled us to achieve? One of the main things we’ve been working on over recent months is developing a common data framework which is designed to ensure that all of the 12 project areas are gathering comparable and consistent data. This will enable us to combine it to understand what’s been achieved at across the initiative as a whole, as well as for each type of activity projects are implementing. We’ve also been working to make connections with national agencies that hold administrative data on prior service use. We would like to use this data to evidence changes in service use over time, and therefore potentially identify long-term savings for the public purse, resulting from people participating in the initiative. We’ve also been developing our thinking and plans for measuring the counterfactual or what might have happened without the initiative; this will help us to attribute any outcomes we see to the work of the funded projects.

Now the hard work really begins. A key strength of this initiative is that it is set to last eight years, giving us a longer than usual timeframe over which to measure change. How will the world have changed in eight years? We will certainly have had at least one general election, and we’ll all be that bit older, but we don’t know for sure what is in store. Looking back over the past eight years gives an indication of just how much can change in eight years. Since 2006 we have been through a credit crunch and a double-dip recession, witnessed the Arab Spring, the worst riots in a generation,  three prime ministers, two Olympic Games, the discovery of the Higgs Boson and British actress Kate Winslet finally won an Oscar (for The Reader).  But has support for people with multiple and complex needs changed? Certainly the policy context is different. Although the need for an initiative such as Fulfilling lives would suggest that the issues highlighted in the Making Every Adult Matter coalition’s report from their first conference in 2008 have yet to be effectively tackled, and are unlikely to be easily or quickly resolved.

Whatever changes over the coming years, it is our job as evaluators to assess (as far as possible) the extent to which changes impact on, or perhaps are the result of, the initiative. We will be paying close attention to the changing context in which projects are operating, locally and nationally, and identifying how this affects plans and progress.