Futures Forward Academy Evaluation
The Futures Foward Academy is an initiative of the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainable Development and Future Generations and is supported by Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar (HMGOG) and the Kusuma Trust. The FFA seeks to support Gibraltar’s emerging leaders between 20-30 years who are seeking to make a difference in the local community but may have never engaged deeply with sustainability. Further information about the programme, participants and expert contributors can be found here
The independent evaluator and international expert in sustainability education and leadership, Dr Ingrid Mula, collated evidence and reviewed feedback from stakeholders to compile an evaluation report for the Futures Forward Academy initiaitive. The evaluation was funded by the Kusuma Trust Fund.
Below is a summary of her findings:
Evaluation purpose and objectives
This report presents the findings of an evaluation conducted from mid-May to mid-July 2021 to assess the effectiveness and contributions of the Future Forward Academy (FFA) programme. The evaluation aimed to identify the relevance and contributions of the FFA and to propose recommendations to enhance the quality and maximise the impact of future offerings.
The FFA programme took months of preparation but was formally launched on 11 March 2021 and the first edition included a total of 10 selected participants. During approximately 4 months, participants were engaged in an intense learning programme that sought to unlock their potential in fostering their active role in key sustainability issues.
Evaluation methods and limitations
To collect data, different qualitative and quantitative methods were used. The external evaluator:
- reviewed documentation, including the FFA website, application forms, internal documentation regarding the selection process, learning programme, participants’ Gibraltar 2030 visions, press releases, social media, public interviews and photos;
- analysed the results of two evaluation forms completed by participants and addressing questions related to the quality of the training and programme offerings;
- analysed the answers provided by participants during a focus group; and,
- considered key points from 3 conversations held with programme leaders.
Findings were derived using a triangulation approach of the data emerging from all these techniques.
Findings and recommendations
The key findings of this evaluation are stated below:
- Programme management: the design and delivery of the FFA were exceptionally well managed and this was mostly due to the professionalism and expertise of the programme leaders. The extended experience and connections of the Commissioner were instrumental to attract key change makers and leading thinkers to contribute to the programme. Her ability to steer future makers was captured throughout the Academy process. Equally important was the role played by the programme lead who planned, managed and anticipated issues very efficiently. Her social skills proved important to engage participants in the Academy process. The programme benefitted from a critical friend component that supported the programme leaders to examine issues through a different lens. The evaluation process in place is one of the strengths of the programme, but consideration should be given to a higher level of funding for this component.
- Application and recruitment process: The data analysed attests that the selection of the 10 participants was done after a transparent and thorough process. The future makers selected came from a wide diversity of backgrounds and experience, which ultimately contributed to enrich the learning process. Taking into account the number of applications and interest received from young Gibraltarians living in the UK, the Office of the Commissioner should consider the possibility of hosting a FFA edition in London.
- Communication, networking and dissemination: The data captured shows that the communication efforts played an important role in the success of the programme. The chat to communicate with future makers was very effective and participants valued the networking opportunities provided throughout the process. Personal connections were identified as key to developing participants’ capacities; thus, it is recommended to incorporate more informal learning opportunities for future maker to build personal relationships in future editions. In addition, different opportunities were offered to participants to talk to the media and present their work to the local community. Those who had taken them valued the experience very much. Finally, the evaluation captured high activity in disseminating the process and results of the Academy. This is considered important regarding the impact of the programme.
- Capacity building: the biggest strength of the programme was its training/learning component. The Academy not only offered a programme of talks with outstanding speakers sharing their inspiring change stories, but also a programme of sessions with tangible learning goals and exercises to challenge participants thinking and mindsets. Participants rated the venue very highly; acknowledged the usefulness of online talks and workshops; and were satisfied regarding the schedule. The content of the workshops and talks and the quality of the speakers invited were highly rated.
- FF practice: One of the key outcomes of the FFA was the development and presentation of participants’ FF practice. The programme leaders supported participants in different ways throughout the Academy to develop their change projects. This programme component was one of the most challenging for participants and, thus, it is recommended to provide more time to develop participants’ practice, develop guidelines on how to develop the future practice, and provide some more sessions specifically focused on this. Participants agreed that having a mentor to meet 1-1 from time to time would support them substantially in the process of designing and delivering a more impactful change project.
Three main contributions of the programme are highlighted:
- The need for the FFA is significant to shift the mindsets of young people and support them to apply what they already know in real contexts, allowing them to make a positive difference in their local community.
- The FFA has a unique focus on sustainability youth leadership. It is ambitious and innovative in the way it has been conceptualized and implemented, being one of the few initiatives in Europe and worldwide tackling the SDGs through such an empowering active learning approach.
- The FFA is empowering and building a pool of young leaders in Gibraltar. It has helped young leaders connect with like-minded and like-hearted people, and expand their networks of contacts.
Finally, based on the evaluation’s findings, the following recommendations are proposed:
- Recommendation 1: Introduce the international trip and the reverse mentoring in next year’s edition if the pandemic situation has improved and funding is available.
- Recommendation 2: Co-develop an evaluation framework and/or theory of change with FFA key stakeholders that can help assess the programme over time and determine its long-term impacts.
- Recommendation 3: Consider the possibility of organising a FFA edition in London.
- Recommendation 4: Adding a more explicit informal learning component to the FFA that allows future makers to socialize, connect with each other at a more personal level and build important relationships that can proof fruitful in the future.
- Recommendation 5: Consider creating a FFA alumni network to nurture the relationships developed, expand future makers’ network of contacts and contribute to the Academy programme sharing stories of change and learning experiences.
- Recommendation 6: Include more local inspirators in the learning programme in face-to-face sessions.
- Recommendation 7: Include a workshop solely focused on the FF practice, so that participants can build a better understanding of the type of change projects that need to be developed.
- Recommendation 8: Develop a document that identifies the key milestones that FF makers need to achieve throughout the Academy process.
- Recommendation 9: Extend the FFA programme length, from February to December to allow participants to have more time and space to engage in the learning process of the Academy, and design and implement their FF practice.