Between 2002 and 2005 a steering group of people from funders and third sector organisations undertook research and consultation with the wider sector to find out if there was a need for an evaluation support service. The research and consultation showed that many third sector organisations and funders found it difficult to develop the understanding, skills and resources to undertake evaluation and to learn from it.
The focus of monitoring and evaluation was on accountability and, while that was important, it made it difficult for groups and funders to focus on evaluation for learning. However, voluntary organisations and funders felt that an increasing emphasis on evidence based policy-making and outcome based funding mean that evaluation is more important than ever. If ‘what works’ or ‘why’ is not clear then it is extremely difficult to deliver the best services for those who need them and to meet Scotland's priorities.
The research and consultation studies concluded that only a new, independent organisation would have the focus on evaluation necessary to deliver the aims and objectives and at the same time develop equally credible relationships with the voluntary sector and with funders. And this is how Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) came to exist!