Evaluating our systems change accelerator programme
This article originally appeared on IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. An adapted version of the article can be read below.
Earlier this year, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship engaged the international research and consultancy firm, ECORYS, to do an external evaluation of our global accelerator programme, Dela.
With an emphasis on systems change, the participating Ashoka fellows further explore solutions to target the underlying causes of a range of social challenges.
An opportunity for reflection and learning
To date, Dela has supported 35 social entrepreneurs over the three yearlong accelerator programmes, Dela I, II and III. During the third accelerator, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship felt the programme was ready for external evaluation. IKEA Social Entrepreneurship wanted to build on the internal monitoring and learning that allowed us to shape and refine the programme and to test its assumptions, performance and contribution [to outcomes]. IKEA Social Entrepreneurship also wanted to use the evaluation as input to the discussion with Ashoka on extending our partnership.
We undertook the evaluation the same way we developed Dela – with the spirit of collaboration. IKEA Social Entrepreneurship worked closely with Ashoka throughout the process to ensure that the evaluation was perceived as it was intended – an opportunity for learning rather than an audit.
“It’s been fantastic to work on the evaluation with Ashoka and we are excited to the continuing development of the Dela programme,” says Jens Andersson, the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Lead at IKEA Social Entrepreneurship.
As their first external evaluation of a programme, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship took this as an opportunity to learn about how best to perform one as well. Here are some insight into the evaluation process and some of the key takeaways from the report.
Setting the aim and the evaluation framework
The report tracks the evolution of the programme in its first three years, summarises and analyses the findings of the evaluation, formulates learnings from the programme and partnership between IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and Ashoka, and provides recommendations for future Dela programmes and partnerships.
The OECD DAC evaluation criteria of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and impact was applied to the evaluation. It is a widely used evaluation framework that facilitates conceptual clarity and comparability. Together with Ashoka and ECORYS, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship formulated specific evaluation questions under each criterion and designed methods to collect evidence to answer these questions. On this basis, ECORYS conducted the evaluation independently and produced the final report.
A robust approach to understand the effects of the programme
The overall approach of the evaluation was inspired by two main methods: outcome harvesting and most-significant change stories. To get a wide range of deep insights, ECORYS conducted scoping interviews with the seven Dela team members, one-on-one interviews with 14 Dela participants and FDGs (Focus-Group Discussions) and interviews with selected IKEA co-workers who participated in the programme as mentors for the social enterprises.
Central to the report are eight case studies of a selection of social entrepreneurs participating in Dela I and II. Case studies allow for a deep understanding of how the systems change strategy and implementation of the social entrepreneurs’ initiatives have developed and in what way, if any, the programme contributed to a positive change. This allows for a better understanding of the overall outcomes of the programme, which is difficult to measure as it requires obtaining and analysing personal accounts of change, and often social impact needs time to emerge and take effect.
Dela has been successful in selecting social entrepreneurs capable of promoting systems change. Participants are all Ashoka Fellows - change makers focusing on solving complex social challenges with innovative ideas and by transforming society’s systems.
Most of the interviewed social entrepreneurs found the support provided by the programme highly relevant, contributing to increased clarity on their systems thinking and focus. However, expectation management and clarity on goals have not been sufficient and some aspects of the programme design are overly complex.
IKEA co-workers who participated as mentors in the programme have demonstrated high degrees of commitment, professionalism and know-how and have been well-matched with social entrepreneurs to provide relevant support.
Overall, the programme has made a significant contribution to the systems change strategies of the participating social entrepreneurs, but the programme's contribution to the implementation of strategies is difficult to trace for half of the case studies. This is due to the inherent characteristics of systems change, which is complex and may take time, but also to gaps in the monitoring and learning framework of the programme.
An important contribution of the report is that it has helped us to clarify what we mean by systems change and how social entrepreneurs can contribute. This is especially relevant as we recently announced that we have extended our partnership with Ashoka for further impact.
Importantly, as we move forward together, the report also contains detailed recommendations on how to strengthen the programme and its design, implementation, and monitoring for future programmes.
“During the evaluation process I have been very impressed by the commitment of Ashoka to not only the programme itself but also to continuous learning as well as their willingness to adapt, which bodes well for our partnership going forward,” commented Andersson.
“The evaluation process has been an interesting, thought-provoking journey. In the truly co-creative spirit of our partnership IKEA Social Entrepreneurship invited us to play an active role in the evaluation; we took part as one team. We look forward to using insights from the process to further develop Dela,” added Stella Printezi, Lead Partnership and Program Manager at Ashoka.