Key Learning

The recommendations in this section are based on the knowledge and best practice that Brightlife has developed about what works to improve the lives of older people in Cheshire West and Chester.

In order to accommodate the significant overlap that exists within the process of commissioning, delivery and evaluation, whilst also addressing the broader themes of volunteering, marketing and partnership working, the recommendations are broadly divided into five stages:

Meeting needs   Making connections  Supporting success  Future-proofing  Capturing impact

Each of these stages represents a vital part of the ongoing cycle of planning, action and reflection that is required to create meaningful, enduring change for older people and their communities.

Summary of recommendations

1 – Meeting needs

These recommendations are based on what Brightlife has learned when it comes to identifying needs, and about designing/planning interventions that meet those needs effectively. 

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  • 1.1 Position the voices of older people at the heart of all projects and services.
  • 1.2 Involve potential delivery partners from the earliest stages of design.
  • 1.3 Target people based on their shared interests, not their age.

2 – Making connections

These recommendations are based on what Brightlife has learned about how to best reach older people who are in need of support. 

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  • 2.1 Invest in strategic marketing and communications from the start – including developing appropriate messaging for both participants and volunteers.
  • 2.2 Prioritise coordination with existing agencies and community networks.
  • 2.3 Do not underestimate the importance of trust in building relationships with vulnerable groups.

3 – Supporting success

These recommendations are based on what Brightlife has learned about how to manage, support and deliver successful projects and services. 

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  • 3.1 Continually adapt delivery according to what works (and what doesn’t).
  • 3.2 Create opportunities for delivery partners to work together and to access support.
  • 3.3 Build participants’ confidence before gradually withdrawing support.

4 – Future-proofing

These recommendations are based on what Brightlife has learned about best practice for making projects and services sustainable. 

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  • 4.1 Develop an appropriate model for sustainability from the outset.
  • 4.2 Invest in communications to facilitate sustainability.
  • 4.3 Create a support network to develop the necessary skills for sustainability.

5 – Capturing impact

These recommendations are based on what Brightlife has learned from both the formal and informal evaluation process, and how this can be applied to future interventions. 

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  • 5.1 Involve providers and service users in the design of any formal evaluation.
  • 5.2 Consider quantitative data alongside qualitative evidence.
  • 5.3 Gather and use personal stories (with due care and sensitivity).



Every project or service commissioned by Brightlife was required to participate in the formal evaluation; providing evidence that could inform existing provision and achieve long-term improvement of delivery within the sector by influencing future commissioning decisions.


The Ageing Better programme was evaluated at a national level by Ecorys UK. Participants and volunteers from all projects and services commissioned or delivered by regional Ageing Better Partners – including Brightlife – were asked to complete a questionnaire called a CMF (Common Measurement Framework).


The responses provided were entered into a national database and analysed to capture the journey of participants and volunteers from when they enter a project or service to when they leave.



For further information about the national learning from Ageing Better please visit The National Lottery Community Fund Website.

Ageing Better Resources

Brightlife was evaluated at a local level by the University of Chester, through its Centre for Ageing and Mental Health. In addition to analysing the data from the CMF questionnaires, the university team carried out interviews with participants, volunteers, commissioned providers and project staff.


They also conducted a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study to understand the wider impact of Brightlife on the local health and social care sector. The findings of this study, which will be made available online, will inform the development of a sustainable community engagement plan for older people living in Cheshire West and Chester.


Commissioned providers were supported throughout the formal evaluation process, with various levels of training and advice available according to the needs of each provider.

University of Chester Reports