Fishermead Citizens Alliance Evaluation Report

Roberts, Pauline and Reynolds, Martin (2023). Fishermead Citizens Alliance Evaluation Report. The Open University, Milton Keynes.


In 2020, the Citizens:mk alliance of diverse community organisations was awarded a grant from Milton Keynes Community Foundation for a project to build ‘Fishermead Citizens Alliance’ over a three-year period from September 2020 to August 2023. Their mission was to create a new broad-based alliance of faith, education and other community organisations, to tackle together the social issues faced by residents in Fishermead, an estate close to Milton Keynes city centre. This would be done using a Community Organising approach, with a Community Organiser supporting the project for the three-year period. The purpose of the project was to, ‘Develop local people as leaders, strengthen their institutions and create systemic change’ (Citizens:mk, 2021).

The steering group for the project enlisted the support of the Open University to evaluate the project over the three-year period. The evaluation work was orchestrated through the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) group at The Open University and is intended for dissemination amongst stakeholders in Milton Keynes and across Citizens UK. Evaluation is conventionally seen as a predominantly summative exercise, assessing performance through an external audit. However, this evaluation builds on two complementary traditions: developmental evaluation and contemporary systems thinking in practice. Both traditions are premised on interventions (e.g., an evaluation) being participatory, iterative, and reflexive on the part of the practitioners. This proactive process develops value in an intervention, rather than simply assessing or ‘capturing value’ in an intervention (Reynolds et al., 2017). The evaluator is embedded with the evaluand as an integral member of the project. As much as feasible, the project team have attempted to enable this integration despite constraints on distance of travel, availability of time and other limited project resources. This report puts forward the learning and value generated over the course of the three year project and sets out recommendations or considerations for moving forward.

Plain Language Summary

An evaluation of 3-year attempt towards developing a Citizens alliance, drawing on principles of developmental evaluation and systems thinking in practice - orchestrated through the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) Group at the Open University, UK in alignment with the Fishermead Citizens Alliance.

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