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In 2014, it was helping 21,000 young people year through one-to-one support via phone, email, SMS and webchat, a further 130,000 through online services and a mobile app. Get Connected is staffed by a group of dedicated volunteers, all of whom were at the time traveling to its offices in central London. Get Connected had been piloting remote volunteers – known as ‘digital connectors’ in order to make it possible for more people to volunteer.

Note: As of early 2016, Get Connected operates as ‘The Mix’ following a merger with YouthNet.

What CSAIF funded: In November 2014, Get Connected was awarded £184,046 (including £10,000 for evaluation) from the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund to recruit, train and deploy digital connectors or remote volunteers, develop a new database to support them and further develop the volunteer area of the existing website. The aim was to support a further 9,000 young people each year and therefore increase scale by 42%. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 1 - they can describe what they do and why it matters, logically, coherently and convincingly. Unfortunately, due to lack of systematic evidence they cannot provide data that shows positive change that would take them to level 2

Aim: The evaluation was in two parts. Part 1 involved a process evaluation of the introduction and deployment of remote volunteers, called digital connectors. Part 2 sought to understand the contribution of Get Connected’s digital and telephone service to a number of outcomes associated with the wellbeing of young people. A further objective of the impact evaluation was to identify any differences in impact between the users of telephone-based support and webchat.

Evaluator: Icarus

Key findings (Impact evaluation):

• 80% of the young people gave a score of 8 out of 10 for how well they had been helped to understand their problem. The same proportion also scored the service 8 out of 10 for the extent to which it gave them ideas on where to go for further help with their problem. There was no difference between webchat users and telephone users in their appraisal of the service.

• 82% of callers and 70% of webchat users reported that their contact with Get Connected had been useful to them

• 40 % of survey respondents said that their contact with Get Connected was the first time they had shared their problems with anyone else

• All but 8% of the young people surveyed reported that the support helped them to know about some organisations that could help them, have some ideas about what to do about their problems, and/or feel better due to talking about their problems with Get Connected.

62% of the surveyed young people said that they had followed up with all or some of the organisations they were told about.

• There were some cases of powerful qualitative evidence of impact, for example ‘… they stopped me from committing suicide.’ Four areas of positive change were consistently highlighted: greater self-compassion; reduced sense of isolation; improved self-efficacy; and improved mental health.

Methodology (Impact evaluation):

• Method: Instant feedback (two questions asked immediately after session), a short-term follow-up online survey (post one week), and a long-term follow-up on-line survey (post one month).

• Participants: 114 completed the immediate feedback, with 103 filling in the short-term survey and 12 filling in the long-term survey.

Why this Level:

This evaluation indicates a positive change over time for the young people that it supports, using generally appropriate tools. The evaluation did not pursue the usual criteria for achieving Level 2 - pre-post data with minimal attrition - due to the service being a phoneline, and the sensitive nature of the service (given the need to build trust with callers to address their problem in the first instance).

The alternative methodology did not reach Level 2, as it was not quite able to mitigate the lack of pre-post data – for example it could potentially have given more detail on the representativeness of the different qualitative themes across the participants, and/or included quantitative questions that did more to identify the counterfactual (i.e. what would have happened in the absence of the Get Connected service).

About the evidence journey

Progress: Despite not progressing to Level 2 on the Standards of Evidence, this evaluation has put in place the tools and processes to generate a good amount of quantitative and qualitative data, that does give an indication of the helpline’s positive impact and could produce even more robust findings with tweaks to some questions and a more systematic analysis of the qualitative data.

Lessons learned:

  • Get Connected is delivering a service that is helping young people to address their difficulties in the short-term. Young people feel better because they have been able to articulate their problems; they feel reassured by the knowledge that help is there if they need it; they gain another perspective on their problem; and they gain more strategies for dealing with their situation.
  • Get connected is delivering a service that has sustained benefits. A large proportion of young people who contacted the service went on to investigate other sources of support as a result of their contact with the service. Many young people refer to feeling less stressed, much calmer, happier with themselves and more optimistic about their future.
  • Positive outcomes are derived regardless of which channel young people used to contact Get Connected.
  • Get Connected has shown that even within the context of a very short term intervention, it is possible to capture evidence of change, both during and after contact with the service.

Next steps:

  • The evaluation has elicited evidence of impact that Get Connected will be able to use in other funding bids/commissions.
  • There is an intention to use the same methods again in subsequent years to continue to build a picture of the organisation’s impact.