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North Edinburgh Arts community café – evaluating the volunteer journey

Caroline and Angela from North Edinburgh Arts Café took part in a small group of community cafés looking at self-evaluation with CFHS. They wanted to know what café volunteers gained from their experience there, from achievements to community connectedness. 


North Edinburgh Arts garden

North Edinburgh Arts building and garden. Photo (c) Robin Mair

Between August 2017 and March 2018 we worked with a small group of community cafes to look at self-evaluation, including North Edinburgh Arts community café.

North Edinburgh Arts (NEA) is based in Muirhouse, North Edinburgh and opened in 2000. The community café is integral to the centre and is seen as a key way of encouraging local people (and others) into the centre and into taking part in its other activities. It is open 6 days a week, providing healthy meals, snacks and drinks to the centre’s customers, users and staff, as well as local people and workers. It employs two members of staff and also provides volunteering opportunities for 5 local people.

Recognising that NEA was not accurately documenting the journey of each café volunteer (both in terms of skills development and personal development), Caroline (NEA’s Manager) and Angela Austin (NEA’s Volunteer Co-ordinator) worked together to improve the system and processes used to track the volunteer while in the cafe. This is seen as a first step and it will be used across the other centre volunteers going forward.

Which outcomes did they focus on?

These were about the volunteers achieving and learning skills and the volunteers’ community connectedness and social skills.

What evaluation activities did they use?

Caroline and Angela reviewed the centre’s volunteer application, induction and tracking process to make it accurately reflect the volunteer journey. NEA’s volunteer application process has been overhauled as they recognised that this wasn’t asking the ‘right’ questions. Now, the initial application and more information is gathered about the volunteers at the start of the process, including identifying the reasons they have for volunteering, why they selected to undertake a voluntary placement with the organisation, about their current skills, self-confidence, interpersonal skills, as well as their aspirations and personal goals. This baseline information is used as a point of reference to check progress at future support and supervision sessions.

NEA now has an electronic journey tracker for each volunteer. This document records attendance, training undertaken and achievements, staff observations and any other third party feedback. NEA staff are encouraged to record comments and positive feedback including when and how the information gathered is used (for example, if it’s shared with anyone else, including the volunteer).

The system works because it provides a single place for recording each volunteer’s personal journey while with NEA.

What other evaluation do they have planned?

Next, the centre is going to focus on the café’s customers and whether it is providing healthy food options for local people (the original outcome for the café). Volunteers will work with customers to complete a questionnaire: this will also be used to demonstrate how the cafe has developed since it opened.

What was key for North Edinburgh Arts?

Piloting their journey tracker to ensure it would work as they wanted it to and amending the volunteer application process to act as a baseline survey which will help with future support and supervision conversations and for helping to set volunteer goals.



Published: April 24, 2018