I am pondering the YM generic outcome ‘To embed learning and effective practice in host and partner organisations’ -what does that mean and what will it look like when it’s done?
Partner organisations come in all shapes and sizes-anything from an NPO to a local charity working with young people. It may be a local authority or a commissioned service, or a group of volunteers. So how do you know if you have embedded said learning and practice? more to the point how can you evidence this?
The key to any measurement is, of-course, to know what you started with. We are used to the idea of good baseline assessment with young people but the principle also stands when you are working with partners.
Asking partners directly about their experience of informal music education can be revealing but I realise that I also have markers that indicate to me whether they are really engaged, for example:
• Do they take my calls?
• Do they ask questions?
• Do they want to go see other projects?
• Are they just looking for money?
Some questions will lead you towards the next step in the process. For example- Is it just one person in the organisation that ‘gets it’ or is the enthusiasm shared at all levels?
Whilst it is great to have that one person- lack of engagement from the rest of their colleagues might indicate that your next step to embedding effective practice could be to support that person to spread the word in their own organisation.
Recently I have been talking to lots of organisations about issues around quality- one of the trickiest subjects as it turns out. For a start no one wants to admit that they don’t know what quality provision looks like but it seems that even experienced providers sometimes have confidence issues around talking about it!
The answer I often get is ‘Dave looks after quality and we’ve known Dave for ages and he is a good bloke’ (yes it is normally a bloke).
Supplementary questions are really helpful-for example-do they know if he had any teaching experience when they took him on? Do they know what his CPD needs are? A subsequent chat with ‘Dave’ may fill in blank spaces-often non-musical managers do delegate anything to do with music delivery to the music leaders and quite often Dave will have a very good grasp of quality issues in his provision. So it may not be that the quality is lacking-it may simply be about highlighting and making obvious effective practice and helping everyone in the organisation to feel that they have something to contribute to the quality debate.
If you are supporting host and partner organisations to talk about quality-then you are almost certainly embedding learning and effective practice.
I reminded myself of this after a challenging conversation with a delivery partner recently during which I had to explain a change to our music sessions. The partner did not like the changes but once I explained that we had made them in order to increase the quality of service to the young people she said ‘thanks for explaining that-I can see why you are doing this and its fine’. I made a quick note of the conversation under evidence against outcomes and thanked my lucky stars that this partner cares enough to ask questions.