Realising Ambition Programme Insights: Issue 6

Published: January 2017 Publication Type: Publication

The trials and tribulations of Realising Ambition: Doing randomised controlled trials in the real world

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

Realising Ambition is delighted to announce the launch of its sixth Programme Insight, one of a series of short briefings sharing key learning from the programme.

This briefing builds on previous Insights which explore topics ranging from the value of replication to organisational readiness to replicate.

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.


About Realising Ambition and our Programme Insights series:

Realising Ambition is a £25m Big Lottery Fund programme supporting 22 organisations across the UK to replicate services aimed at preventing youth offending. Our Insights are designed to support anyone undertaking or commissioning services with a focus on replication and evidence.

Join the conversation

Do you agree with the need to take a broader, more nuanced view of evidence? Share your views. Tweet us using #RealisingAmbition or email us to share your thoughts. @BigLotteryFund would also like you to tweet your thoughts on the programme, diverting young people from pathways into offending and funding socially responsible services.

For further information please visit our Realising Ambition project page.

Realising Ambition

Young people (image credit: Catch 22)


The Young Foundation was proud to have been a member of the consortium appointed to manage Realising Ambition, a £25 mi ... Find out more