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How to evidence women’s desistance

New toolkit for Clinks explores a shared evidence base as a way of measuring desistance with women offenders.

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New toolkit from Clinks

A new (August 2016) report from Clinks, the London Women’s Shared Evidence Toolkit, presents the findings from the London Women’s Shared Evidence Project which ran between September 2015 and August 2016, with funding from the Trust for London and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). It followed the same model as the Southwark Shared Evidence Project, a small feasibility study led by Clinks and NPC.

The project had four main aims:

  1. To test whether common outcomes frameworks and evidence tools could be produced for the women’s sector.
  2. To test the applicability of the Southwark study to a distinctive approach to working with women.
  3. To incorporate the involvement of service users and experts by experience in the process and development of the outputs.
  4. To test the appetite among stakeholders in the women’s sector for a shared approach to evidence.

The author of the report, Jilly Vickers, is honest that the funding ran out before a full shared evidence system could be developed; the toolkit has not been piloted nor has an online data collection tool been designed — vital to the compilation of a shared evidence base.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of useful information here for organisations who work with women offenders.

The shared evidence approach

Shared evidence is both the process and the product of taking a shared approach to impact measurement.

The process of shared evidence is one of engagement and collaboration among a group of organisations. It entails understanding a group of service providers’ common outcomes, often producing a theory of change for the whole group. The process continues from identifying outcomes and how they are achieved, to developing a product – a methodology or tool, such as questionnaire – that can be used by the whole group of organisations to measure impact against their shared outcomes.

Successful shared evidence systems have the potential to build common understanding, identify gaps in provision, increase transparency, accountability and alignment among organisations working towards common outcomes.

Woman measuring tile before cutting

The toolkit

The Toolkit comprises two outcomes frameworks and a set of five tools for gathering evidence to measure the outcomes in each framework.

The first framework, Outcomes for the Women’s Sector Approach to Reducing (Re)offending, is an attempt to capture the essential aspects of the women’s sector approach to working with vulnerable women. It would form part of the ‘inputs’ section of a shared theory of change for the women’s sector.

The second framework, Women’s Sector Intermediate Outcomes towards Reducing (Re)offending, contains ten outcome areas, derived from the resettlement pathways but radically re-worked to reflect the outcomes that are important to women. The ten areas are:

  1. Accommodation;
  2. Relationships;
  3. Self-awareness and change;
  4. Health, recovery and wellbeing;
  5. Substance use;
  6. Sexual violence and domestic abuse;
  7. Finance, Debt and Benefits;
  8. Involvement in sex work;
  9. Legal information, advice, advocacy and representation and
  10. Education, Training, Volunteering and Employment.

The five Shared Evidence Collection Tools cover hard and soft quantitative measures; they do not cover qualitative and other types of information. Both quantitative and qualitative information is required to produce a rounded picture of a service or intervention, so these tools are not designed to be a complete answer to an organisation’s evidence of impact.

Hard quantitative measures are factual outputs and outcomes that can be objectively judged as having been achieved or not. The five tools are:

  1. Service user satisfaction tool;
  2. Engagement of service user tool;
  3. Hard quantitative measures for intermediate outcomes tool (which include specific measures for the different outcome domains);
  4. Soft quantitative measures of intermediate outcomes tools (a set of 40 measures enabling self-report of progress within the different domains); and
  5. Office for National Statistics standard wellbeing tools.


This is not a finished piece of work by any means. However, there is considerable value in the toolkit and the fact that it provides strong starting points in many areas of impact measurement will make it an excellent starting point for organisations working with women offenders who want to investigate the effectiveness of their work.


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