Chance UK’s use of rapid cycle design and testing

Children’s charity Chance UK is using a pioneering evaluation method to test and adapt the delivery of its mentoring programme for children with behavioural and emotional difficulties.

“Pause points” have allowed the charity to introduce changes and to take stock. Picture: Alexander/Adobe Stock
“Pause points” have allowed the charity to introduce changes and to take stock. Picture: Alexander/Adobe Stock
  • Provides an opportunity for organisations to personalise their service
  • Allows for changes to be made and tested at more frequent intervals
  • Adaptations can be introduced in “real time” to bring about immediate change


The London-based early intervention organisation received a National Lottery Community Fund grant of more than £340,000 enabling it to collaborate with Dartington Service Design Lab.

The research facility is one of the only settings in the UK to use the rapid cycle design and testing method for organisations working with children and young people.

It says the method allows changes to be tested in “short loops” rather than over a longer timeframe.

Furthermore, Dartington believes rapid cycle testing can act as a “bridge” for organisations overwhelmed by implementing too many changes to increase impact or cost at the same time.

The lab’s collaboration with the Family Nurse Partnership using rapid cycle testing has resulted in changes to its home visiting programme to deliver a more personalised service.

Similarly, Chance UK’s chief executive officer Geethika Jayatilaka says rapid cycle testing has provided the opportunity for evidence to be evaluated in the context of the charity’s identity.

“The development side of the rapid cycle testing has allowed us to really put that [evidence] in the context of what it means to be Chance UK and how we deliver what we deliver.

“It’s a very personalised use of the research evidence. We all have access to that but the trick is to figure out how it fits into your model and the way you do things.

“It really forces you to think about your programme as an individual intervention and the children that you work with as well as the ethos and values of the organisation,” she explains.

Jayatilaka says it was also the opportunity to introduce adaptations at more frequent intervals that drew the charity to using rapid cycle testing.

She says its mentoring programmes, which are offered to children from five to 12, are made up of weekly sessions over a 12-month period.

The additional lottery funding will allow the organisation to expand its work to a further 50 children bringing its total reach to around 200 young people.

“Each cycle for us is one a year but actually it’s a year before you get your results back and then if you want to make a change it’s another year before you are able to see any difference,” she explains.

Jayatilaka says not only has rapid cycle testing allowed the charity to make changes in “real time” but it has also overhauled its approach to evaluating its work.

“It’s a different way of looking at evidence and outcomes and I think broadly we’ve all been very much involved in building the case for investment and although this will show impact at the end of the programme, it’s the journey that I think is much more interesting,” she says.

For Chance UK, this “journey” began with the method’s redesign phase which it used to evaluate the intervention around which its programme is based.

“It’s been around for nearly 25 years and has a good body of evidence behind it but actually we took the opportunity to do really in-depth work with our staff team drawing on feedback from mentors, children, trustees and senior staff,” explains Jayatilaka.

She says the process allowed the charity to explore challenges and areas for improvement within the programme. It has since taken advantage of “pause points” every couple of months to introduce changes and then reflect whether they have been successful or not.

Examples of these include developing more of a curriculum base for the mentoring programme as well as group work sessions led by professionals for mentors.

“For a small organisation where you are dealing with relationships, social and emotional skills, it’s really refreshing to have that opportunity to reflect and change in real time,” Jayatilaka says.


Jayatilaka says it is still “very early days” for the charity’s use of rapid cycle testing but initial feedback from its mentors has been positive.

“Our mentors are using the tools that we’ve provided and say they feel confident enough in the training that they’ve had the kind of support they need to engage with a young person and make the difference they hope to,” she says.

The collaboration with Dartington, which is expected to last nearly two years, will see a final evaluation report produced by the research organisation next summer.

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