The Realising Ambition consortium, of which The Young Foundation was a part, produced a series of 12 Programme Insights rather than writing a long evaluation report at the end of the five-year programme.

In our sixth Programme Insight, we take a frank look at the process of conducting real-world randomised controlled trials (RCTs), how they are delivered and how their results can be used.

We draw on our own reflections on the three Realising Ambition RCTs and those of Chance UK, Malachi and Ariel, the delivery organisations whose respective interventions are being evaluated. We highlight the challenges encountered and how we and the respective organisations sought to address them. In doing so, we highlight lessons for funders, researchers and intervention developers and providers.

Key learning points include:

The benefits of doing an RCT may lie as much in the refinements made to the intervention as in the end results.
All involved in an RCT need to think on their feet. It is necessary to consider unexpected problems, work out solutions collaboratively and update the trial protocol accordingly.
Securing organisational buy-in to a trial requires understanding an organisation’s culture, processes and structure.
The method of evaluation needs to be aligned to the stage of intervention development. Failure to achieve a suitable alignment can mean a lot of wasted time and also risk setting up fledgling interventions to fail.
In a trial, the services received by the control group affect the results as much as the intervention being tested.

Posted on: 17 January 2017

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