What we do

Action research: Collaborative, practical and problem-solving.

The role we play varies according to the project, partner and need – evaluator, learning partner, critical friend, researcher, facilitator – but we are always guided by our action research principles.




Our work starts with a practical problem, challenge or opportunity. We work with you to help pin down what really needs to be addressed.



We are not the experts – we believe that those with direct experience of an issue are key to resolving challenges and opening up opportunities. We work with you to help draw out useful solutions.



We work hard to generate practical learning. We ask questions, and encourage reflection and debate to help produce outcomes that are meaningful and long-lasting.

Useful for all

Useful for all

No project is standalone – our work provides learning and evidence to help strengthen the voluntary sector.

Methods we use

We tailor our approach, selecting the best methods for the needs of people we work with.


All of our evaluation work is about helping people to reflect and learn. Whether developmental, real-time or summative, we focus on generating understanding about what works, why and how.


Social research is our bread and butter – we seek to identify the right questions and gather data to help inform strategy and practice. We do this through interviews, surveys, focus groups and more.

Learning partnerships

Sounding board, critical friend, evaluator, facilitator – all of these roles are part of being a learning partner. We help organisations, people and programmes to learn, reflect, and adapt in realtime – as well as understand impact.

Evidence review

We use evidence reviews to help contextualise what an organisation is experiencing (or an issue they are interested in) and ensure we build on what is already known.

Strategic support

We provide focused support to help individual organisations reflect, adapt and move forward. This includes governance, strategy, mission review, learning and evaluation practices, and impact.

Our commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

We have done a lot of work to embed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) into our project selection and design processes and extending our network of partners to create opportunities for more diverse groups to participate in projects, as well as find and use IVAR resources.

We have adapted research design and delivery processes, which means:

  • Paying attention to access, inclusion and power dynamics at every stage of a project. We ask questions (of ourselves and others) about who is in the ‘room’ and whose voice – or voices – need to be heard.
  • Continuing to live true to our action research roots – we are not ‘the experts’; we provide processes to help people define, understand and respond to issues/problems; and some form of participation is built into all of our work.
  • Cultivating a culture of reflection that allows us to challenge assumptions and be open about the limits of our knowledge and understanding.
  • Operating with reciprocity and respect – recognising that individual and charity participants bring knowledge and expertise that we don’t have and finding ways to recognise this. We take a range of approaches to this, including financial compensation.
  • Building time and resource into our projects – including budgets – to enable us to embed EDI meaningfully.
  • Developing new partnerships and projects with and for individuals, groups and communities with whom we may previously not have engaged.

Examples of our work

See all live projects Decorative Arrow
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