There are several organisations in Scotland which seek to improve skills and confidence to use evidence through training and development activities (such as the Social Research Association, AQMeN and the Social Services Research Group). Training is an important element of improving skills and confidence; however at IRISS we seek to go beyond this, by building on the collective skills, knowledge and experience across the social service workforce. One way in which we have done this is through working in partnership with Evaluation Support Scotland to establish a peer support group of people with an interest in self-evaluation, and we think crucially, with a specific piece of evaluation to undertake. A group of ten individuals has been established, bringing with them a range of relevant experience to share with other members of the group.
The initial meetings of the peer support group have been coordinated and designed by IRISS and Evaluation Support Scotland. However, we have designed the meetings to increasingly transfer control over to the group and we are hoping that the group will continue beyond our direct involvement. One simple way in which this is encouraged is through sharing the hosting of meetings; an approach which also utilises the resources of the group and thus contributes to the cost-effectiveness of the project. Again, this approach involves recognising that the knowledge and capacity needed to improve skills and confidence around evidence use exists across the sector, and not exclusively in intermediary organisations like IRISS. Building evidence-related skills and confidence in this way is relatively new to the social services, thus innovative by our definition. Again, by sharing the resources and skills across the peer group members, this project represents good value for money for all partners.