Assessing the impact of the Debate Mate programmes on social mobility

5 Jun 2019
Analysis suggests that education charity Debate Mate’s programmes are largely well-aligned with their ultimate objective of improving social mobility.
 
Debate Mate works to address problems of social mobility through programmes focussed around skills teaching and debating competitions. This to help close the gap in non-cognitive skills between less privileged students and their more privileged peers. 
 
Pro Bono Economics was commissioned by Debate Mate to help them assess whether their debating programmes successfully facilitate improved social mobility for participants.
 
The report focuses on the following questions:
  1. Does Debate Mate’s current Theory of Change (TOC) identify all key outcomes and what revisions are required to ensure it does?
  2. What additional information should be gathered as part of Debate Mate’s monitoring and evaluation framework, to ensure they build a robust basis to better understand and quantify improvements in social mobility derived from its programmes?
  3. How feasible is a data collection and statistical study to quantify the impact of Debate Mate?
Debate Mate’s current TOC tracks progress against social mobility primarily by focusing on a set of performance indicators that monitor improvements in non-cognitive skills, with reporting of indicators largely reliant on self-assessment surveys. It was found that this is largely an appropriate framework for Debate Mate’s goals.
 
Second, it was found that while Debate Mate has an established monitoring and evaluation framework, it could be significantly improved to become a more worthwhile assessment. This could be done first by monitoring a broader set of social mobility indicators; second by collecting information on past, current and expected academic performance from both current and previous Debate Mate participants, and finally by tracking the retention and progress of participants over several years on the programme.
 
While thorough data analysis would be a beneficial addition to Debate Mate’s monitoring and evaluation framework, there are difficulties associated with attempting a quantitative data study. It is challenging both economically and practically to measure the charity’s impact over a number of years while there is no clear and observable metric for social mobility. 
 
It was recommended that the most realistic successful data study would be one focusing on impacts that are measurable and can be assessed at an earlier stage. Evidence suggests that even small improvements in either academic or non-cognitive outcomes would translate to a meaningful impact on lifetime productivity of participants.
 
Margaret McCabe, CEO & Founder of Debate Mate reflected upon the importance of measuring impact in a charity:

"It's been a real pleasure working with Pro Bono Economics. The team understood what we were hoping to achieve, and devised a simple and effective means to do so. As a social business, impact is everything, and so we are extremely grateful to Pro Bono Economics for being so innovative and professional in helping us measure and communicate our impact."

Thank you to David Seaward from the Bank of England, Yashvant Nandha from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Zareef Anam from EY for their work on this report.
 
Pro Bono Economics was supported by City Bridge Trust, the funding arm of The City of London Corporation’s charity, Bridge House Estates (1035628), to carry out this project.

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