Participatory Evaluation using Voice Technology

Participatory Evaluation using Voice Technology

Most charities get a lot of their funding from grant-making bodies, having to spend a lot of work in writing proposals to get that money. After getting the money and running the program, most of the time they will have to write an evaluation of their project. What worked? What didn't work? How could it be done differently in the future? Yet a huge problem in these evaluations is that they are often missing the voice of the people who have been on the project itself.

It's not always the case: some charities and social enterprises spend a lot of their time trying to ensure the people they provide services for have a voice in evaluating and running their charity. Particularly as funders ask for ever more quantitative data and focus on hard outcomes and visual outputs, it can be hard to justify spending so much effort on finding out what people with lived experience thought of your program. That doesn't make it any less important.

In this project, I experimented with using a novel voice technology, Gabber, (developed by Jay Rainey) as a way to literally make sure that the voice of young people was included in the evaluation of a youth work program for care-experienced young people. For a year-long residential program, we used Gabber to record reflections at the end of each residential, and these recordings were used in place of the regular survey data that would have been a part of the evaluation.

We found that by using a voice technology such as Gabber and using flexible, open-ended questions, we were able to create a dialogic space which isn't possible through the use of tick-box questions or paper surveys. The charity noted that the benefit of Gabber was:

"in its ability to capture the flow of spoken conversations... Both experts and workers fed back that the voice recordings helped them say what they wanted, to speak openly and have interactive conversations, whereas the paper forms felt more laborious. The paper forms required a certain level of literacy and concentration which the voice recordings did not, and this was an added benefit to getting a more natural, fluid response to questions... Respondents noted that capturing feedback allowed them to communicate their emotions, which would have been lost on paper forms."

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