Evaluation of the Rural Growth Network Pilot Initiative

Client: Defra

The Rural Growth Network (RGN) Pilot Initiative was set up in 2012 with £12.5m from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and £1.6m from Government Equalities Office (GEO). The RGN Pilot Initiative was designed to help rural communities overcome barriers to business growth, including lack of suitable premises and poor provision of infrastructure, and hence help stimulate sustainable economic growth.

After a bidding process, five successful local partnerships ("Pilots") developed local RGN programmes to effect rural economic growth. The five Pilots were in Cumbria; Heart of the South West (HotSW); North East; Swindon and Wiltshire; and Warwickshire.

Defra commissioned SQW, with ADAS and QA Research, to develop and implement a longitudinal monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework to assess the growth impacts of the different measures implemented in the RGN Pilot areas. The M&E Framework was developed by SQW in discussion with both Defra and the successful Pilots. Designed for the RGN Pilot Initiative as a whole, its underlying approach was theory-based and grounded in the use of logic models to understand how and why RGN inputs and interventions led to outcomes and impacts. In essence, the evaluation tested the original "theory of change", which explored links between activities, outcomes, and context of a policy intervention.

The Final Evaluation of the Rural Growth Network Pilot Initiative Report drew on evidence gathered over three years of monitoring and evaluating the RGN Pilot Initiative. It explored the process and impacts of the RGN Pilot Initiative at every level in the programme hierarchy – from the national picture, through the five Pilots, to the 60+ projects that the Pilots sponsored and the 9,000 unique beneficiaries that the programme supported.