Canal and River Trust – The Waterways and Wellbeing

The Canal & River Trust is a charity set up in 2012 to care for England and Wales’ 200-year-old waterways, holding them in trust for the nation forever. It has responsibility for 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers, together with bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, docks and reservoirs, along with museums and archive collections. The Trust’s ambition is for the waterways to make a difference locally. In order to ensure that a robust measurement of local impact is captured and explained, the Trust developed the Outcomes Measurement Framework (OMF) in partnership with PLACE at the University of Cardiff. The OMF set the guiding principles and research methodology for gathering data, provides a series of indicators, maintains rigour, and enables an evaluation and measurement process.

Sue Potts was commissioned by the Canal and River Trust to lead the development of a suite of research instruments which would enable on-the-ground staff and volunteers to collect data. Alongside this task, Sue advised on the development of an e-Toolkit which would assist in automating part of the data analysis process. In order to develop an evidence base of existing impact, Sue also led a secondary analysis of a number of the Canal and River Trust’s flagship projects including Creative Places and People project The Super Slow Way and the People’s Lottery funded Growing Hedgerows project.

Instruments developed by Sue focused on measuring the impact of participatory arts and heritage attractions located on the waterways. All impact measurements are mapped to current government policy including measuring improvements in wellbeing, the happiness of the UK population and tracking trends that encourage volunteering, social action and the empowerment of communities. Sue is particularly interested in how participation in arts and heritage can increase an individual’s sense of belonging and also support a reduction in social isolation. These elements were built into the toolkit to demonstrate how activity on the waterways enriches lives. Building on the SILO toolkit, Sue also produced a suite of tools which measure an increase in employability and demonstrate a contribution to life-long learning.

Supported by the ICC’s Stephen Crone and Jenny Daniels, and also by Dr Gerwyn Jones, 30 research instruments were created which support the CRT’s ambitions for capturing impact in the following areas: Health, Wellbeing and Happiness; Engaged People and Cohesive Communities; Learning and Enhancing Skills and Cultural and Environmental Assets.

Photo credits
Cruising on the Royal” by Bart Busschots is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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