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Self-Help Alliance Project

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Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
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About this work


The Self-Help Alliance(SHA) Project was one of the DHSS "Helping the Community to Care" initiatives announced in 1984. The Self-Help Alliance were tasked with dispensing funds to a number of local development agencies to establish self-help support projects and to oversee the programme as a whole. Local projects had to agree to take part in an evaluation element in order to secure funding from the SHA. The funding was primarily used in the training of Development Officers appointed in each local project.

In 1985, a project team from the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was selected to undertake the research and evaluation element of the project and worked on this from January 1986 to November 1989. The TIHR team adopted a developmental approach to evaluation and encouraged self-evaluation among the local projects as well as also retaining a more conventional role through the design, distribution and analysis of surveys and reports. A series of research groups was formed to explore specific themes and issues that came out of the progress and evaluation of the local projects. The themes explored included effective self-help support work in different contexts, the distinctive aspects of self-help work with ethnic communities, and particular problems of self-help work in rural contexts and how these differed to self-help in urban contexts.

The Tavistock Institute team conducted several rounds of visits to a pilot group of local self-help projects in varying areas. The first round of familiarisation visits were conducted to collect initial data regarding the background, history and intentions of the individual projects, as well as on the characteristics of the local area. The second round of visits aimed to explore what self-evaluation would mean in practice, with discussions focused on strategies and frameworks, as well as the record-keeping practices required to facilitate effective evaluation. The third round of visits were to test out the record-keeping practices and strategies developed. The Tavistock Institute team also undertook further rounds of visits, as well as exit interviews with Development Officers and Project Managers when they left projects, or when projects came to an end.

The Self-Help Alliance Project was an important project in the develpment of the evaluative function of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. Their developmental approach to evaluation, especially their encouragement of self-evaluation, can be seen in other projects such as the Enterprise in Higher Education Initiative (see SA/TIH/B/2/90).



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