GEM of a project comes to an end

Accompanied by CCRI Director Matt Reed, Pro-Vice Chancellor Sarah Jones and Head of Client Relations Leonie Burton (above right), Paul Courtney (above centre) and Fahimeh Malekinezhad (above left) attended The GEM Journey celebration event at Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester on November 17th, marking the end – and huge success – of the six-year Going the Extra Mile (GEM) programme. Funded through the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF), GEM is one of a number of local Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programmes that have aimed to tackle poverty and promote social inclusion across the nation.

Getting underway in 2016, the Gloucestershire GEM project has sought to move those people who are dealing with various circumstances causing barriers to work, closer to employment, training and education. This has been delivered through a relational model whereby GEM participants have been closely supported by their own Navigator Developer, and involving a partnership between over 40 Voluntary and Community Social Enterprises (VCSE) and other organisations across the county.

The GEM Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) has been running since the programme begun, and has been successful not only in gathering data from the majority of GEM’s 2,000 + participants, but in helping the GEM partnership secure two funding extensions – doubling the length, size and impact of this hugely successful employment inclusivity programme. And the figures speak for themselves, with over 800 participants having gone on to find employment or self-employment, and over 300 moving into education or training.

Utilising a number of approaches from digital storytelling through to multivariate statistical analysis, this developmental theory-based, mixed-methods evaluation has not only proven the success of the GEM programme in changing people’s lives for the better, but has helped to tell the story of how this has occurred, and of the many Individual GEM journeys along the way.

The GEM evaluation was led by Paul Courtney and Leonie Burton, with other members of the research team including the CCRI’s Fahimeh Malekinezhad and Chris Jones; Colin Baker from the School of Natural, Social and Sports Sciences; and Abigail Gardner from the School of Creative Industries.

Following the event, the CCRI’s Professor of Social Economy, Paul Courtney said:

“As we document in our Insights report – launched at the celebration event – GEM succeeded because it fostered agency in individuals to move their lives forward where change has been done with the participants, not to the participants. And for policy makers the success of the GEM model represents a shift from employment support to supported employment, and from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to a person-centred approach. I’m confident that the spirit of GEM will live on in the county, and hope that further opportunities to evaluate GEM’s successor will arise in the not-too-distant future”.

The final summary and monitoring report can be downloaded from the University of Gloucestershire research repository.