Aim high but be realistic about what you can achieve
Before thinking about any evaluation, you need to be clear about your campaign’s goals. These can be separated into aims and objectives.
At the start of your project your committee should have agreed its aims. You will need to make a list of the changes that you want to achieve – these could range from reducing the number of crashes in your community to getting more people to walk and cycle.
You will probably find it helpful to break this list down into more specific aims, and describe how they will be achieved. For example, the aim of reducing crashes could be separated into raising awareness of the dangers of speeding and reducing speed limits on a busy local road.
Your objectives will give more detail about the activities you plan to run to achieve your aims, such as holding demonstrations, writing to local authorities or raising awareness of road safety problems on social media. The objectives you set need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
You will also need to decide on your target audience, or the specific groups in your community that you want to reach with your project. All your campaigning should be tailored toward engaging with these people.
If you are going to evaluate your campaign properly, you’ll need to make sure you have agreed clear objectives against which you’ll measure your success.
An easy way to set these is to remember they must be SMART.
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Relevant
T - Time-based
- We will measure the average speed of local drivers along King’s Road in Harrogate, between 8am and 9pm, during the month of February.
- We will display 100 posters raising awareness of the benefits of walking and cycling in local community premises, including shops, library, community groups and health centres, during the first 3 months of the year.
- We will post 15 campaign updates every month on social media.
- We will increase the number of Twitter followers by 10% every month over a six-month period.
Specific goals are well-defined and should be clear to everyone on your committee.
If you are campaigning for lower speed limits in your community, one of your objectives might be to measure the average speed of local drivers on a particular road during a particular time period.
If you are campaigning to get more people using sustainable transport in your community, one of your objectives might be to display posters that raise people’s awareness about the benefits of walking and cycling.
Next, you need to think about how you’ll measure whether your goals are achievable. All of the examples given above can be easily measured.
To measure average speeds, you could get in touch with your local police community support officers and arrange access to a speed gun.
To measure the success of awareness-raising activities, you could run before-and-after questionnaires, where you ask questions to measure people’s knowledge and repeat afterwards to see whether your intervention helped.
Ensuring your objectives are achievable means planning and agreeing with your committee exactly how you are going to work towards them. You’ll need to set milestones for each objective and agree who is going to be responsible for each area.
It’s important to remember to keep your goals focused on what your campaign is trying to achieve.
If you are running a campaign to reduce traffic speed in your community, don’t run activities that aim to reduce air pollution from vehicle emissions.
Ensuring your objectives are all relevant to your campaign aims will make it easier to monitor your progress and you will be more likely to succeed.
Keeping your objectives time-based is vital to prevent you from losing focus but it can be a difficult balancing act. You need enough time to carry out your activities, but if it takes too long people (including your own committee) may start to lose focus, and this will reduce the effectiveness of your campaign.
Set a realistic timescale for each of your objectives, and record whether this was met.
Why is M&E important?
Monitoring and evaluation might seem like dull tasks, but they can make a real difference to a campaign. Being able to show where and how you have made a difference to local road safety can motivate your supporters to keep helping out with any future campaigns. M&E will also help you identify areas that need to be improved and will give you findings you can share with other Youth for Brake committees that are working on similar projects around the country.
The terms monitoring and evaluation are often thrown together. However, they mean different things and are both important stages of any campaign.
Monitoring is the process of routinely checking on the progress of your aims and objectives while your campaign is ongoing. As part of this, you’ll need to collect information relating to your project at regular intervals (weekly or monthly perhaps) so you can see how you are doing. By monitoring this data you will be able to see whether you need to make any changes to your campaign.
Example information you could collect may include:
- The number of new followers to your campaign’s social media pages.
- How many people agree to support your campaign (e.g. turning up to demonstrations or signing your petition).
- The number of posters you hand out.
When your campaign has finished, it will be time to compare the progress you have made against the aims and SMART objectives you set at the beginning. This process is known as evaluation.
You will also have the data you gathered during the monitoring process. Using this information, you should be able to answer whether your aims and objectives were achieved.
Running small-scale ‘before-and-after’ questionnaires can be an effective way of evaluating a specific activity. To do this, you will need to compile a set of questions to ask participants before and after each activity.
These questions should relate to your campaign’s area of focus and to the specific activity. For example, as part of a campaign for more segregated cycle paths in a community, you may display posters that give facts about the benefits and dangers of cycling on roads. Your questionnaire could test people’s knowledge about facts you have given on your posters, such as how many cyclists are killed and seriously injured on the roads each year, or the minimum safe distance drivers should leave when overtaking a cyclist.
Once you’ve collected the questionnaire responses, you can use them to find out how much people have learned thanks to your campaign. The feedback should also help you inform any future campaigns you decide to run.
If you want to get really serious about M&E, read this report from the RAC Foundation.