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Connecting for Change: how did we do and what next?


Connecting for Change

In April 2019 we published our three-year strategy “Connecting for Change” developed in consultation with members. In our strategy we made a commitment to appoint the CJA’s first independent evaluator to provide interim feedback and a final report at the end of the strategic period.

As we come to the end of this strategic period, we are proud to share this report with you, highlighting some of our key successes and learning and outlining how we intend to take forward the recommendations.

Thank you to our evaluator Kathleen Christie and to everyone who contributed to the evaluation through responding to the member survey and taking part in in-depth interviews. We are very grateful for your feedback and ideas and look forward to continuing our work together to build a fair and effective criminal justice system (CJS).

How did we do?

The evaluation found we had:

  • amplified the voices of over 30 small organisations in our policy work.
  • built an active model of member engagement, with good evidence that we had co-produced resources with members.
  • notable communication strengths which helped members feel part of a bigger change network and understand the broader criminal justice system.
  • performed robustly in influencing national policy through publishing and disseminating an impressive range of reports and consultation responses.
  • started to build good practice and expertise across the three cross-cutting work streams (workforce diversity, scrutiny and accountability and a restorative CJS) with evidence of learning being actively shared and starting to be taken on board by various stakeholders.
  • found windows of opportunity to promote recommendations such as submitting a super-complaint on section 60 stop and search powers; joining the advisory board of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Restorative Justice; and working collaboratively with stakeholders such as the Independent Custody Visitors Association (ICVA), the College of Policing and the Victims’ Commissioner.
  • made emerging efforts to reframe the public narrative through our annual Media Awards and our briefing on how journalists can report on criminal justice in a more sensitive, constructive and nuanced way, with over two-thirds of members stating this work was very important.
  • made good progress in building the capacity of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system to influence change which a member said was ‘distinctive and new to the CJA’.
  • started to take a bolder stand on policy issues such as racial inequality, which included leading a cross-sector response raising awareness of the disproportionate impact the policing and sentencing bill will have on Black, Asian and minority ethic people.
  • successfully pivoted to urgently respond to the pandemic, with four in five members agreeing this work, including the publication of the Routes to Recovery and Responding Restoratively to COVID-19 reports, was valuable and with HMPPS stating ‘you are a mirror for us, and you give us a fresh perspective.’
  • a high performing staff team who a member described as ‘personal and responsive’

 What could we learn for the next strategic period?

  • members want to have a more active role in initiating and leading pieces of influencing work and a more transparent process for members to get involved.
  • more opportunities for members to engage in active learning experiences including shadowing and sharing best practice.
  • we focused on improved member engagement rather than member growth and would benefit from a strategic growth plan going forward.
  • there was a bias towards national over regional member networking, although remote events had helped make events less London-centric.
  • regional influencing work centred around the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections was delayed by the pandemic, yet nearly 80 percent of members identify PCCs as a priority regional influencing target.
  • the CJA’s most ambitious work area of systemic change was necessarily slower and incremental and some work, such as on racial diversity in the criminal justice workforce, was delayed due to responding to the pandemic and staff changes.
  • members would like to see the CJA continue to build on its role commenting on criminal justice issues on behalf of the sector through more proactive media work.
  • there is a need to develop the work on lived experience to take it to the next level, with 80 percent of members saying the CJA’s new leadership programme will be ‘very useful’.
  • there were missed opportunities to comment on real-time news stories such as the Black Lives Matter protests and Marcus Rashford’s war on hunger. Focusing on such stories could help ‘make waves’ in the public narrative.
  • limited staff resources for the period of the strategy may have led the CJA to spreading itself too thin. However, new staff were being recruited towards the end of the strategic period.
  • it was recommended that the CJA implement a more comprehensive approach to impact measurement (alongside external evaluation) such as developing a bespoke barometer of influence tool.

What next?

In April 2022, we will be launching our new five-year strategy with a focus on driving long-term, systemic change in the criminal justice system.

We will build on the foundations set over the last three years, drawing on what we have learned and implementing many of the recommendations and ideas suggested in the evaluation.

We have developed new real-time evaluation tools to measure our impact and we will commission independent external evaluations of different aspects of the new strategy, including the ELEVATE CJS lived experience leadership programme and our race equality work.

We are excited to be introducing new roles and welcoming new staff to the CJA team in the coming months. Most importantly, we look forward to working together with our members, trustees, funders and other stakeholders to help us achieve our ambition of a fair and effective criminal justice system – one that is safe, smart, person-centred, restorative and trusted.

Nina Champion, Director

Kevin Wong, Chair


Read the full evaluation report for Connecting for Change