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Community spirit

Evaluating the power of community events

Amy Finch, from Spirit of 2012, explains how our latest guide can help you build evaluation into your event – and share the value of bringing communities together.

We’re hoping 2022 will bring opportunities to be safely together again at events in our communities – from local markets to garden parties, coffee mornings, fun runs and fairs.

Most of us have an instinctive feeling that these events are a good thing, both for the individuals who attend and for our neighbourhoods in general. But can we be more specific about what community events are setting out to achieve, and how successful they are in doing so?

Making your own evaluation plan

Our guide to evaluating community events, commissioned by Local Trust and Spirit of 2012, was developed in response to what we were hearing from community event organisers across the country.

Many small or volunteer-led organisations were committed to understanding their work through evaluation, and while there are some great resources out there to help them do this, community events organisers have faced particular challenges – and opportunities – when it comes to evaluation.

The guide brings together existing work on what community events can achieve, alongside practical steps for people to develop their own evaluation plans for events.

Using the guidance, organisers can:

  • set clear intentions for what they want to achieve
  • produce a practical plan for collecting and analysing data
  • decide who to share their evaluation with.

In everything we’ve done, we’ve been mindful of the many demands of event organising, aiming – above all – for the guide to be useful, rather than another thing on the to-do list.

Understanding the power of community events

The guide was developed by researchers at the Centre for Culture, Sport and Events, who worked alongside six community event organisers to think through their own plans.

The researchers found that community event organisers already had a strong understanding of their event and their community, but needed to feel more confident that their events are important:

While outcomes can sometimes seem on the surface to be a bit ‘soft’ / ‘fluffy’, these outcomes (e.g. positive social interaction, opportunities to test out physical activities, to learn a simple skill, to visit a facility not normally visited) are exactly the kind of changes that cumulatively create enhanced quality of life, increase civic pride and participation.

One of the most challenging things for event organisers to unpick is what they can realistically expect to achieve with their event, without overselling it (and consequently over-complicating the evaluation) or confining it purely to people enjoying themselves on the day, and so missing some of its power.

With this in mind, the research team identified six common areas of impact to inspire your thinking as you develop your evaluation, which you can discover in the guide.

And as you get organising, I’d also recommend checking out Moment to Movement, a research and training module perfect for anyone who wants to think more about how their events can have a lasting legacy in their community. It comes with a ready-made theory of change that you can apply to your own events.

Download the guide

Let us know how it goes!

If you have any feedback on the guide, or how you use it in your own event planning, we’d love to hear from you. Just email to share your thoughts.

About the author
Amy Finch

Amy Finch is the Head of Policy and Impact at Spirit of 2012, the London 2012 Games legacy fund.