Independent evaluation of early project development

Throughout the summer of 2020, a team of independent evaluators have undertaken a review of the Summit to Sea project. This review was established to undertake an interim review of the project with a focus on the management, governance and partnership working, from its inception until its re-establishment in June 2020. This review was funded independently from the projects grant funding. The organisations who funded this review were WWF, Woodland Trust and Rewilding Britain. The evaluation team consisted of a consortium of Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, Netherwood Sustainable Futures and Well-being Planner.

The full report of this evaluation has now been completed and the project has decided to share this and the learnings.

You can read the report in full here.

As a project, we’d like to provide a response to each of the ten recommendations made by the evaluation team.

1. Clarity of Purpose

Ensuring a clarity of purpose is more important than ever to the project, particularly as it is now in a co-design phase. We’re working on making sure our communication of the projects current purpose of co-designing with the community and stakeholders is clear, working with a local communications contractor to ensure the message and language we use is locally appropriate. As the co-design process continues, we will make sure that the strategic vision is clear to encourage a wide range of people to contribute to the process.

2. That a Project Partnership Board is established to ensure that the project partners can engage with and be guided by local expertise.

We completely agree with this recommendation and this is something the current partnership is committed to delivering. Since June 2020 the project has spoken to nearly 100 locally based stakeholders and over 50 people came to the first online workshop which was supported by a number of locally based facilitators. The project is holding a Liaison Group meeting on 30th November as a step towards ensuring key stakeholders remain informed of the progress and have the opportunity to input into the development strategically.

3. That a Management Group is established to provide oversight, scrutiny, direction to project delivery during 2020-22, and to establish appropriate management for the project post 2022.

Since June 2020 a management group has met monthly. This group consists of key RSPB Cymru staff, project staff and key contractors delivering the co-design process. These meetings provide an opportunity to review progress and delivery, communications and financial reporting.

4. That a Delivery Group is established which consists of the project team, and staff from organisations working at a community level in the area.

The current project team meets regularly, at least once a month but often more regularly. This group has established a weekly reporting structure to highlight any delays, challenges or areas where greater support is needed. As the co-design process develops this group is also looking at broadening the ‘design team’ to involve ‘community designers’ who can hold workshops and conversations with their friends, community or organisations to increase those involved in the design process. As this develops this will increase those involved in this ‘Delivery Group’ who are working at a community level in the area.

5. Responsibilities and Resources. We recommend that Summit to Sea, in its next phases, encourages partners (and stakeholders) to be specific about what their role and responsibilities are and what resources and expertise can be brought to the project and that this is reviewed regularly.

The current partners have signed a Memoranda of Understanding, which outlines the key role of partners, with the expectation that new partners will join the partnership over the coming months/year. As the project develops a clear vision, strategy and specific interventions to deliver these (based on the outcomes of the co-design process) the project will ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined for all involved, at all levels.

6. We recommend that S2S establishes a risk management system that covers both strategic risks to the project, and management risks to project delivery.

The project itself has its own risk management system, which is reviewed by the Management Group, with any major risks escalated to the Partnership Board when necessary and with a risks standing item on the agenda for both the Management Group and Partnership Board.

7. Skills Analysis – the Project Planning Phase should explore the skills required and those available locally to establish the next phase of project.

The project is very supportive of this recommendation and is focused on using the skills available locally to deliver this, and future phases. The project is currently working with a communications consultant based in the area, uses the translation services of several locally based organisations and individuals and will prioritise using locally available organisations to deliver any future work. The Project Development Officer also lives in the area.

8. Given that one of the key goals of the project is to support the local economy, we suggest that S2S, as part of the Planning Phase assesses how its activity can support the areas monetary and non-monetary economies, both in the community, for local people with land holdings and land managers.

The third objective of the current funding the project is receiving at the moment is focused on understanding how to strengthen existing enterprises,  reviewing the mechanisms to support locally owned / driven infrastructure, to provide greater connectivity, supply chain resilience and benefit to local people, economy and ecology. The project hopes to work with a number of local stakeholders already engaged in supporting the local economy to assess how ideas developed from the co-design process support the areas monetary and non-monetary economies.

9. Co-design and Co-production– It is suggested that S2S staff receive training in Co-design and Co-production to apply to the Project Planning Phase and, in turn to use this in their work with stakeholders, Programme Board, Management and Delivery Groups.

We are now working with two contractors who have experience in co-design and co-production who are supporting the Project Development Officer. RSPB Cymru are including other staff with experience in this area to support the projects development.

Reflecting on this recommendation further, the Summit to Sea will build on the skills of the key staff involved in delivering the project at this stage by providing training in co-design and co-production. The partnership would also like to explore inviting other local stakeholders to partake in this training and it is hoped that by welcoming a wider ‘design team’ to partake in hosting workshops, training and skills sharing can occur in this field.

10. Reflexive Governance as the Project Planning phase continues 2020-22, that the Project Partnership Board regularly reflects on the way partners are working together, whether current approaches are causing any problems (or opportunities), and to identify ways to improve partners’ support to the project as a whole.

The project is interested to learn about this recommendation and introduce Reflexive Governance theories in practise. It will be introduced as a standing item across the governance structures.

As a project, we are grateful to all those who gave their time to contribute to this evaluation and support this sharing and learning opportunity. As the above summaries explain, the project has made some significant changes over the last year and since June 2020 has established thorough mechanisms to ensure the project continues to develop positively whilst including the wide range of voices in the community. Through the iterative co-design process and providing opportunities for people to take part in shaping its development we’re hopeful creating a locally appropriate, ambitious and inspiring vision which will support nature, people and a thriving rural economy.

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