After recently winning Project Oracle's Evidence Competition, Sarah explains how she developed an award-winning impact measurement tool and why measuring soft skills isn't as hard as you think.
"How do you measure soft skills?"
It's a question that has been floating around educational circles for a while now, and has had much more attention in the last couple of years with the increased focus on 'character' education.
And quite rightly so. It's evident that those young people who come out of education with a well-rounded set of both academic and 'soft' skills are more likely to be able to find employment, contribute positively to society and lead fulfilling adult lives.
But why do we need to measure them? For me, two key reasons spring to mind: (1) crucially, for the sake of optimising young people’s potential, and (2) politically, for us to justify placing more resource in this critical area.
I left secondary teaching and started Yes Futures because I wanted there to be more on offer to support young people's development in these non-academic, but vital, areas.
As a start-up charity entering a competitive marketplace I was concerned with ensuring our impact measurement was spot on. After three intense years of pilots and a wealth of research into the merits and shortfalls of other measures of soft skills, we officially launched the Yes Futures Programme in January 2015, and with it our very own innovative measurement tool: The Talent Toolbox.
And despite all the blood, sweat and tears (aka. researching, piloting and editing!), it's really not that complex. The Talent Toolbox provides an effective and rigorous way to measure participants’ development in four main skill areas: confidence; resilience; communication and working with others; and self-reflection and motivation. Each skill is broken down into three subcategories and five further target statements.
Each participant is matched with a Coach who guides them to reach the next stage within each focus area through personalised, focused encouragement and support. All progress is based on real-life examples, providing an evidence-based approach to self-evaluation.
As a working document, participants are invested in using the tool, rather than as an ‘add-on’ to the programme, as questionnaires and other tools can often be. The Talent Toolbox enables them to clearly plan, reflect on, and evidence their progress and it is used in every Coaching session. It has the added benefit of supporting young people to develop the language and examples necessary to be successful in future university and job applications.
The Talent Toolbox has received high praise and significant interest from leading educational organisations, as well as recently winning Project Oracle’s Evidence Competition, who called it “a rare example of a genuinely innovative approach to measurement”.
I’m passionate about effective measurement in this area. I believe our approach could be used sector-wide for measuring soft-skills, for which there is currently little consistency and huge variations in the quality and accuracy of measurement tools.
Since winning the award, we have received substantial interest from educationalists and other impact-focused organisations, and will be hosting a discussion day around the topic of soft-skills measurement next month. We're pleased to announce this will be chaired by Bethia McNeil, Director of the Centre for Youth Impact. Please come along!
We are looking for organisations who are keen to help us develop the Talent Toolbox further and explore its use in new contexts. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Sarah on firstname.lastname@example.org.