Evaluating Enterprise in ‘Deprived’ Communities

One of the most comprehensive pieces of evaluation work done on a wide range of projects designed to stimulate enterprise in deprived communities was the Evaluation of the Phoenix Development Fund – a piece of work that was completed by Peter Ramsden in July 2005.

The Phoenix Fund was a flagship £189 million fund administered by the Small Business Service running from 2000 to 2008 developed in response to Policy Action Team 3 paper on ‘Enterprise and Social Exclusion’. 

The terms of reference for the evaluation set out five key questions that the evaluation would address:

  1. Did the PDF encourage fresh thinking?
  2. How effective have specific project type approaches been?
  3. To what extent have projects to help particular sections of the community been successful?
  4. To what extent has the Fund helped to engage mainstream providers?
  5. Has funding helped to build capacity?

Overall the conclusion of the evaluation was that the fund had been a success. Using a reflective action-oriented approach the PDF contributed greatly to the growth of knowledge and experience of business support to encourage inclusive enterprise. There is now a considerable body of documented knowledge of inclusive approaches to business support. This compares to the situation in 2000 when it was reported by SBS that there was ‘too little knowledge in this field’.

If you are involved in an enterprise project aimed at working in disadvantaged areas I would commend the evaluation and the lessons learned reports highly!

Just to whet your appetite:

Models of delivery – critical success factors:

  • Regardless of type of programme envisaged, the needs of individuals must be central; be prepared to flex from the original programme specification if needs be.
  • An inclusive and holistic approach to developing the skills and confidence required for individuals to move ‘forward’ really works, as does the use of coaching, specialist sector advisers, peer or other supportive networks etc.
  • The above takes ‘longer than usual’ amounts of time and investment in relationship and trust building; be realistic about what can be achieved in a very limited life programme.
  • This can also be more costly but needs to be weighed against the longer-term benefits of clients/users coming off benefits (for instance).
  • Investing time in building positive relationships with mainstream business support agencies is crucial and can lead to a change in mainstream culture and provision, leading to potentially more productive partnerships and win-wins.
  • Well-designed and holistic enterprise support can also add significant value by providing optional routes into employment and further learning for individuals who feel enterprise is not for them at the present time.

You can find more here.

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