Strategic Development Team Evaluation

  • Awarded to: Professor Brahm Norwich
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 4,000
  • Dates: 4 February 2008 - 31 March 2008
  • Sponsor(s): South West Regional Partnership

Evaluation of the South West Regional Partnership’s Strategic Development Teams Executive

Tricia Nash and Brahm Norwich,

University of Exeter April 2008


These pilot strategic development teams were funded through the South West Regional Partnership by monies from the then DfES. They all consisted of an independent facilitator and a team of between 3 and 4 external experts who aimed to support a local authority or a school with an issue they were encountering, mainly through a day of facilitated discussions, but also involving pre and follow up meetings of various kinds. The four strategic development teams all differed in the issue/s they tackled; the expertise they contained; the methods used and the hosts they supported. The impact on practice and policy so far also varied depending on when the SDT initiative took place and what outcomes were achieved to take forward from the events but there have been positive impacts in all cases.

The Evaluation

The participants involved in the evaluations included most of the people involved in the days, either as SDT members or hosts and their staff. Much has been learnt through the evaluation of these pilot events that can be used to inform and improve the whole process for similar teams in the future and for their potential use in other areas of work. There were mainly very positive reactions to the teams themselves depending to some degree on the pilot event, the issue and the person responding. The vast majority of the participants in the evaluation would like these types of teams to continue beyond this pilot stage because of the perceived value of their outcomes and impacts, although these varied considerably across the 4 scenarios. The concept of the SDT was applauded by the respondents and if continued in the future should retain their distinctive nature as piloted in these 4 areas. These pilot teams demonstrated the value of their support in special schools undergoing change and in local authorities where there is an issue to be addressed in either service change or development. These teams had been instrumental in moving the host organisations forward with their strategic planning of change or development of services.

A number of strengths were identified from the pilots for replication in the future.

• The main ones were the independent facilitator and the external experts coming together in a comfortable non-threatening, non-judgmental environment to discuss and problem solve with key people from an organisation who want to move an issue forward using evidence and best practice. • The facilitator brought a tight structure to the events and kept participants focused on the issue to be addressed and intended outcomes.

• The team of experts offered a breadth of experience and knowledge to the issue/s under discussion. • Constructive suggestions for improvements were also given; for instance the need for thorough preparation by the hosts and communication to all concerned in regard to the SDT involved, the issue to be addressed and the intended outcomes.

• It was hoped that all the identified strengths and improvements would lead to the continuation of what was seen as a potentially very useful mechanism for consultation purposes in many spheres of work. • Respondents for instance talked of various uses of SDTs for local authorities and other government initiatives, particularly in relation to strategic issues such as all the developments and changes in the delivery and commissioning of children’s services. Initial pathfinder areas as with the Aiming High programme could also use this model for dissemination of good practice.

• Respondents also spoke enthusiastically in various ways about wider applications of the model to situations in any organisation, public or private sector, voluntary or corporate where there is the need for a problem solving mechanism to bring about collaborative outcomes.

Further information is available in the full report.