A loan company we shall call ‘Fast Cash’ was causing problems in a community I was working with. People in debt were taking loans from them without understanding what they signed up to. The advertising of the company spoke like the good samaritans rather than a loan shark. It told their customers not to worry, “you are not alone”.

We asked Fast Cash to meet and discuss their advertising; they refused. We then told a local journalist who asked to meet us the next day for an interview. We decided this was a ripe opportunity for action.

How do you get people to show at 7.30 am in the winter with less than a days notice? If you’re part of an organised network, you pick up the phone. By late evening our team had a Reverend, a heavy weight lawyer from the local Synagogue, a Head Teacher and a bunch of local residents. When something matters we show up.

It was pouring with rain that morning. We stood with “we are not alone” placards outside Fast Cash, taking interviews and photographs for the press. The next day we were front page news. The leader of the council contacted us to give support. The growing pressure forced Fast Cash to change their advertising across the UK; costing them thousands of pounds.

So why do I regret it? I regret one thing; I never did an evaluation. It was successful, it was cold and people were wet, so I skipped it. No-one learnt how we won, people were not recognised and we didn’t learn how to do better. Our team did not get the gifts that evaluation brings. I have never missed an evaluation since.

Open public evaluations may make you worry: “what will people say?” Well I haven’t a foggy idea about that. People are unpredictable and can say the strangest things. Nine times out of ten, they give you the gift of how to do better next time.

How to get people to stick around to evaluate

After action people want to go home. They are tired, babies are crying and want dinner. To deal with this challenge, build a reputation of evaluation. By disciplining the team to evaluate after action, people learn this is part of action and they make time.

Who leads the evaluation?

The evaluation should be led by someone from the team. They should ask the questions and pull on the people for greater clarity. We are also looking for responses that offer an opportunity for teaching.

For example: someone says “a highlight for me was how so many people turned up on such short notice.” Your response could be, “this is because we are an organised network built on real, face-to-face relationships. It means when we need to, we can call on each other to act in any moment.”

7 step evaluation

At the end of action, ask people to join the twenty minute evaluation. Tell them this is a part of the action and how we learn from each other. Ensure you get a range of answers from a diverse number of people. Be careful on time. Tell people to answer in a word/sentence or a minute to ensure you don’t go over.

1. Feelings

In one word describe how you’re feeling right now. To get clarity on vague answers or a stand out emotion, pull on that person: “what do you mean by that?”. “What you are hopeful for?”

How we feel after an action is what we remember two weeks, months, years into the future. It reveals how well we did working together.

For example: you can lose an action and people can still feel amazing, courageous, pumped. You have built strong solidarity and an understanding what it takes to win; losing is a part of that process. Most importantly, you will fight another day.

You can also win action at the cost of the people. They tell you they’re tired, or ok, or not-so-ok. The work has been delegated unsustainably and people burnt out. You may have won, but the team will not be there to defend that win in the future.

2. One highlight and one lowlight

Get a range of answers. The highlights as well as the lowlights are all important and it takes courage to hear it.

3. Logistics

What were the logistics like? Was it accessible? Did people feel comfortable? Was any one freezing their knick-knacks off?

4. What was our turn-out like?

Numbers and diversity. Did we reach our target?

5. Business

What did we come here to do and did we do it? How so? What is next for us to do?

6. Recognition

Who do we want to recognise/who did well? Did anyone in the room do something for the first time? What was it? What did they learn?

7. Out of 10 what would you score this action; 1 being terrible, 10 being perfect

Scores help you find patterns of good and bad actions. Did this action get a high score for participation, people in the room, media, fill-in-the-blank. What do we include/remove/develop for next time.