ACE SEF review

Self-evaluation leading to resilience

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First of all can I say what a great group of people and lively discussion we had in Manchester last week – thanks too, to the Whitworth for hosting us, what a beautiful new space. We were not all evaluation geeks but there was certainly an enthusiasm for reflection and learning. A few of us who have been involved with Making Culture Work before felt like we were beginning to build a Community of Practice around evaluation.

A couple of things struck me as interesting through the day. Firstly the high numbers of Learning and Participation people (including in senior roles) that are coming to these events. Perhaps they do hold a special place in organisations as champions of learning generally?

Secondly the ‘story of change’ that is emerging (I can’t help myself!). There is an important development that goes:

Self-evaluation > Self-knowledge > Self-confidence > Resilience

Self-confidence is especially important in times of austerity when it’s easy to be blown this way and that. It gives organisations and individuals the strength to resist both the national storms and the local breezes that could take us off course from our unique purpose, whatever that may be.

It was also interesting to hear the wide range of ways people are thinking of organisational learning. We focused in some detail on three different approaches.

  • Strategic whole staff reflection – where days were booked in throughout the year for smaller groups and the whole staff to come together to reflect on how the museum was doing. I’m willing to bet many don’t feel they have the time for this, so it was good to hear. The key learning though, is that it needs to be written down and actions planned as a result.

This interests me, because in my years working on large scale change programmes for Government this was always the real challenge; it’s not coming up with the ideas or even strategic direction, it’s the rolling out and embedding that is hard.

  • A second group talked about a similar approach, but including external stakeholders, in this case from Public Health. We talk about self-evaluation being holding a mirror to yourself. This approach holds up a really honest mirror! It hints at the 360 degree review approach that is probably just as an important part of self-evaluation. We see this in the new Quality Metrics that have been developed in Manchester, including peer, partner and self review.
  • Finally a group looked at one person’s experience of using Learning Outside the Classroom as a Quality Mark that was guiding self-improvement. This was a whole package experience, the benefits of which were that it was nationally recognised, but more importantly that it had been driven by a genuine desire to learn internally. It sounded like a very effective tool, much of the success of which was down to the fact it was well developed. It would be interesting to hear from others who might use this approach? Email us at

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