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“Learning from replication is key”

3 May 2013

In March this year, BIG held the third in its seminar series; ‘Getting to Grips with Replication’. Alongside Caroline Mason of Big Society Capital and Charlotte Ravenscroft of NCVO, Kerstin Junge spoke to the group about her experiences at The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, where she is part of a team evaluating BIG’s Realising Ambition programme. Her guest blog reflects on some key themes from the discussion…

So you’re delivering an intervention you know works, and you’re ready to replicate it. How do you go about doing it?

Kerstin Junge

Kerstin Junge, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

It’s important to acknowledge that replication means dealing with a lot of issues that you cannot know in advance or completely plan for.  What are relevant local services, and how will you work with them?

How much will you need to change your intervention to meet new or different needs, and how much can you without affecting its effectiveness?  How will replication affect your organisational processes and ways of working?

However much you think, plan and make use of the support available to you, definite answers to questions like these will only emerge through ‘doing’. Learning from experience is therefore a key aspect of successful replication.

Thinking of replication as a process of continuous improvement can help you achieve your replication objectives

A good way to think about replication is in terms of continuous improvement: progressing iteratively, collecting data as you go along and using this to review successes (or difficulties) in order to adjust replication strategies.

Projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Realising Ambition programme replicate in ‘waves’. They may start to replicate in a geographic area they know or have relationships in.  This helps projects learn how to run the intervention elsewhere and also whether organisational ways of working need to be adjusted before replicating in less familiar territory.

They also have to really engage with the evidence base on their intervention to construct tight logic models.  This has helped some develop a much deeper understanding of their intervention, how to best deliver it and of the importance of maintaining fidelity. Beneficiaries reached and outcomes achieved are continuously monitored, and this data is available to projects to learn from and act upon.

Discussions with other projects and participation in webinars or programme events triggers insights that are fed back into the replication venture.

How can you implement your replication project in a continuous improvement spirit?

Even if you’re not part of a programme like Realising Ambition, thinking of your replication project in continuous improvement terms can help you increase your chance of success.  It gives you a practical framework to guide your replication activities, hence reducing the ‘unknowns’ you will be facing in this process.

But thinking of replication as continuous improvement means committing yourself to systematic collection of monitoring and evaluation data from the very beginning. It also means the team, project manager and senior executive involved in replication making the conscious decision – and having the ‘freedom’ – to use this data constructively, in a spirit of reflection and learning.

This means learning is not about being fearful of possible ‘bad’ results, but being open to understanding the reasons behind them and addressing these factors as part of the ongoing replication process.  This is not easy.  But in learning to work this way you are likely to be rewarded with better replication results.

Replication diagram

Combining a replication approach with the monitoring and evaluation (Plan/Do/Study/Act) cycle

Kerstin Junge is a Principal Researcher and Consultant at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

What do you think of Kerstin’s guest blog? Join the discussion on Twitter using #BIGreplication or leave your comment below.

The ‘Getting to Grips with Replication’ seminar series has now finished. All the presentations and other material can be found on our website. If you have any questions please email peter.bailey@biglotteryfund.org.uk

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