Public legal education evaluation framework
Evaluation is particularly crucial for Public Legal Education projects as the benefits of such projects can be hard to measure. This makes it all the more important to identify outcomes quite precisely in order to be able to assess whether they have been achieved. It is only through evaluation of PLE projects, and by sharing the results, that we can show the effectiveness of a preventive approach and begin to make the business case for our work.
Law for Life has published an evaluation framework for Public Legal Education. It was commissioned from the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol, and funded by the Ministry of Justice.
The evauation framework provides the resources needed to evaluate public legal education projects, setting out the evaluation goals, measures and research methods needed to assess the impact of PLE.
More fundamentally it provides a conceptual framework that sets out what we seek to achieve with PLE.
'The project demonstrated that the PLE evaluation framework provides a valuable framework for planning and delivering PLE and for evaluating the achievements and impacts of PLE initiatives'.
Quote from The Gilfillan Partnership who used the framework to evaluate 'Legal capability for everyday life'. January 2013
The Framework and accompanying Guidance deal with the issues to be faced when undertaking the evaluation of a PLE project. They identify what a project could seek to achieve and give examples of the questions and techniques needed find out whether those outcomes have been realised.
The evaluation framework takes the notion of legal capability as its starting point and begins by describing what we mean by legal capability, in other words ‘what we should know and be able to do when faced with law-related issues in everyday life.’
The evaluation framework divides the capabilities people need into four areas or domains.
- Recognising and framing the legal dimensions of issues and situations
- Finding out more about the legal dimensions of issues and situations
- Dealing with law-related issues and situations
- Engaging and influencing by understanding the relationships between the law in our everyday lives, the democratic process and wider social issues.
The first domain focuses on the ability to recognise the legal dimensions of a situation or issue; this depends on having awareness of the concept of rights and obligations and being able to apply those rights to a situation. It also means being able to distinguish between civil and criminal issues and to have awareness of basic legal concepts such as contract.
Research into young people’s legal capability revealed that many young people lack fundamental awareness of the role of civil law, and often do not have the practical skills and confidence needed to deal with law-related problems.
The next domain deals with finding out more. A capable person will be able to find out what legal rights and obligations are relevant in a particular situation, and what processes apply, including courts or tribunals that might deal with any disputes. Crucially they need to be able to assess different sources of information and when they should get expert help, as well as choosing an appropriate source of advice. .
Research by the Legal Services Research Centre shows that at the time of a law-related problem 65% of people do not know their rights and 70% are not aware of the formal processes that could help them.
These two areas of capability both relate to the early stages of dealing with an issue, highlighting that legal capability isn’t just about dealing with problems. It’s also about weighing up opportunities, being able to take informed decisions to anticipate and manage situations and maintaining well being.
Dealing with law related issues is the most substantial and probably the most familiar of the four domains. It covers the important area of knowledge of the law but goes beyond this to emphasise the practical skills that people require to deal effectively with law-related issues. These skills include communicating effectively in a dispute situation, being organised, planning ahead, as well as personal attributes such as confidence and perseverance.
Legal capability is not just about individuals and the issues that they face. Engaging and influencing deals with a broader perspective by looking at the wider impact of the law on communities. It also includes an awareness of the role of law in a democratic society and aims to encourage individuals to challenge dysfunction and malpractice in institutions and to get engaged in improving the law and legal processes.
These four domains and their constituent parts provide a powerful conceptual framework that sets out what PLE is trying to achieve in its audience. The approach is firmly focused on individuals and communities and sets out the full range of capabilities, including practical skills, needed to deal with the issues that they are likely to face in the course of their lives.
The Framework will help organisations set clear outcomes for their PLE work based on these legal capabilities and bring increased rigour and precision to the evaluation this work.