TimeBank case study


In early 2014, Hilary was commissioned by TimeBank, the national volunteering charity, to evaluate TimeBank’s innovative volunteer-led 18 month English Language training project, Talking Together, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The programme was designed to tackle the problem of residents who cannot speak English, particularly in Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali communities.  The programme was to recruit and train volunteers to offer informal functional English language training and mentoring.  Talking Together worked in partnership with local community organisations, predominantly rooted in minority communities, enabling it to reach ‘hard to reach’ groups.

The evaluation task was to establish the success, challenges and social return on investment of the programme. 


The evaluation involved both formative evaluation to support a vibrant learning process, and summative evaluation to capture the achievements of the programme.  A theory of change was developed in conjunction with the programme.  The formative evaluation informed design and development in the programme including changing numbers of participants, and enable access, including crèche provision, changes in patterns of delivery, developing the mentoring offer to learners, re-evaluating learning materials, investing in additional training for volunteer tutors, and application of social franchising model, including sharpen criteria for choosing delivery partners.

The programme exceeded its targets and by the end of the project, had recruited 144 volunteers and supported 1,575 local residents, and came in under budget.  The summative evaluation assessed outputs and outcomes, including competence, confidence and aspirations, and the benefits for volunteer tutors, including as a pathway to training and employment. The summative evaluation included a Social Return on Investment (SROI) exercise that showed a return of £9.31 for every £1 invested.  The summative evaluation also included developing case studies for learners and volunteer tutors.  The report commended the Talking Together model as efficient and cost effective approach to supporting pre ESOL learners and aiding their integration into British society.

Full copies of the evaluation report can be accessed at http://timebank.org.uk/talking-together/external-evaluation.


“The key areas that we benefitted from by appointing Hilary at the outset were on-going learning and an ability to make changes as we moved through the project. Having an external voice with us throughout the project enabled that key learning to be incorporated in delivery rather than simply be in the report at the end.

"My own direct involvement came at the launch of the evaluation in the House of Commons. We had brought together a guest list of key TimeBank stakeholders, funders, politicians, delivery partners and volunteers and a presentation that gave a succinct clear overview of the outcomes of the project was vital in order to hold their attention and ensure they left understanding the extensive achievements of the project. Hilary fulfilled this admirably, happily working with me to ensure our messages complemented one another, flowed seamlessly and weren’t repetitious. I would certainly recommend Hilary following his comprehensive, impartial and systematic evaluation of our Talking Together project.”

Helen Walker, Chief Executive, TimeBank