About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.


Citizen Literacy CIC, an independent social enterprise spinout from the City of Glasgow College, worked with its partners: ccConsultancy Ltd; ReachWill Ltd; Micro-phonics Ltd; Scottish TUC Union Learn; That Reading Thing.

Evaluation findings and lessons learned

The evaluation identified a range of positive outcomes for learners, who reported that a phonics-based solution that is adult-centric increased their engagement with the tool and motivation to learn. Engagement with the app also supported learners to widen their physical movements and interactions. Learners who previously felt their daily lives and activities were restricted by their literacy skills reported catching the bus, going into a shop and engaging in text-based tasks at work.

The evaluation has enabled Citizen Literacy to understand the factors that influence learner outcomes. This knowledge will continue to inform and shape product development and contribute to generating knowledge and learning in the sector. It has also served to spotlight the needs of adult literacy learners and the need to explore what works for this cohort further. The team intends to disseminate their evaluation findings more widely in the sector via blogs and articles.

The experience has shown the Citizen Literacy team the value of taking a collaborative approach to evaluation. Bringing the design, literacy and evaluation team together on a regular basis provided opportunities for both teams to feed into learning iteratively, which shaped the development of the project overall. They intend to continue this practice going forward.

Citizen Literacy will continue to embed a range of aspects of the evaluation process into their work. For example, the Theory of Change process supported them to improve their understanding of the aims of their project and to map the relationship between the activities and the outcomes that they hope to see as a result.

An illustration of an older woman reading to a child

Stephanie's learner journey

Before engaging with the app, Stephanie felt restricted within her everyday activities because of her limited literacy skills. For example, navigating public transport timetables and dealing with complaints at work. Stephanie said not being able to read and write made her feel trapped:

‘When you can’t read and write you feel always small in a box and you put yourself in the box forevermore...it’s very difficult to come out and climb out and say ‘ok I’m gonna do this’’

Stephanie was keen to improve her literacy skills and talked about the many benefits it could bring – namely being able to interact with her grandchildren:

‘I want to sit down... with a book reading to my grandkids, that would be beautiful that would’

However, she had tried many times to improve her literacy skills and given up because of challenges faced such as the amount of paperwork involved in a college course. Therefore, she was keen to try the Citizen Literacy app as it offered a fresh approach to literacy learning.

As she previously hadn’t found any phonics resources tailored to her age group, Stephanie really appreciated the adult-centric nature of the app - from its grown-up content to the choice of voices and activities.

‘I went on YouTube and I saw a video cos it was like for kids… there’s nothing for adults…so it sang the words out…but this app it’s like for grownups so it’s much more better…it’s refreshing’

She also enjoyed the use of voice within the app that clearly provided instructions as it meant there was less written text to engage with. She found that being able to access the app at any time in bite-sized chunks and revisit content and re-attempt activities supported her motivation to engage and persist with the app, as well as improving her literacy knowledge:

‘I feel more knowledgeable, I feel that, because I’m learning every week, I can turn the app on and I can start doing it...it helps you cos we only go to college once a week so the app when you got into it you’ve got it there every day. I’ve got a lot better on that app by using it. I can make mistakes on it’

Stephanie also feels that her confidence around literacy learning has grown since using the app, she attributes this to the positive feedback that the app provides:

‘I think my confidence has increased and I know if I need to ask for help I can ask for help in work’

Another important outcome is Stephanie’s new-found independence – she feels good about not having to rely on people to support her with literacy-based tasks and feels confident enough to engage in tasks by herself:

‘[I’m] not having to rely on people as much…not having to rely on colleagues as much…reading I will give it a go’

Citizen Literacy: User-centred evaluation

Download the full evaluation case study

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