Research & Reports

The Impact of Research

Across the past couple of years, members of the Better Connect team have featured in and co-written numerous reports about our transformational programmes, and leadership initiatives.

Data and research are integral to measuring and improving our programmes and partnership approach. We have worked with amazing researchers such as ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health (Dr. Annie Irvine) and University of York’s School for Business and Society (Dr. Jane Suter) to produce invaluable evaluative reports on programmes like Thriving at Work and Action Towards Inclusion.

We want to share the research informing our culture, partnership and programme practices with you, and also provide space for our organisational impact reports which offer a deeper dive into what we do.

Delve deeper into our work by exploring the reports below:

Research & Reports


Better Connect Impact Report 2024

Curious about the impact our programmes make across Yorkshire? This report highlights the impact our programmes have made over the last six years and explores what we do at Better Connect.

Designed by Research Retold 

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Thriving at Work Workplace Support Evaluation

This report provides a qualitative evaluation of Better Connects Thriving at Work: Workplace
Support initiative.

Written by Dr Annie Irvine, ESRC Centre for Mental Health and Society, Kings College London and
Dr Jane Suter, School for Business and Society, University of York

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RISE Impact Report

This report explores the impact of the RISE programme and the different support that was on offer.

Written and designed by Better Connect 

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Thriving at Work Impact Report

This report explores the impact of the Thriving at Work programme and the different support that was on offer.

Written and designed by Better Connect 

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ATI Research Project (Full Report)

In partnership with Better Connect, Dr Annie Irvine from the ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health, part of Kings College London, conducted a research project focusing on our Action Towards Inclusion (ATI) programme

Written by Dr Annie Irvine (Full Report – 109 pages) 

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ATI Research Project (Short Report)

A shortened version of the ATI Research Project report written by Dr Annie Irvine

(Short Report – 18 Pages) 

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ATI Research Project (Executive Summary)

The executive summary from the ATI Research Project report written by Dr Annie Irvine

(Executive Summary – 6 Pages) 

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Institute of Employability Professionals Journal

Joe shares in this journal why partnership working and the way we design programmes at Better Connect has life-changing transformational results

Issue 10 Chapter 16 written by Joe McKenzie, Programme Manager at Better Connect

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What3Words Leadership Location Report

What is certain is that the nature of leadership – how it manifests, how we describe it, what matters – is changing.

Natasha contributed towards the What3Words Leadership Location Report written by Starfish

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Green Jobs Taskforce Recommendations Report - West Yorkshire Combined Authority

The recommendations set out in this report by the Green Jobs Task-force will create a future ready workforce, ready to reap the benefits of
a brighter, more aspirational net zero future

Natasha is a taskforce member and helped contribute towards this report

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Will devolution deliver? A Camargue conversation

This report summarises roundtable discussions that took place with a number of business leaders across Yorkshire about devolution between York and North Yorkshire.

Natasha was part of this roundtable and contributed to the findings in this report 

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‘Working With the Whole Person’: Employability Keyworker Experiences of Supporting People Furthest From the Labour Market

This article explores the experiences of keyworkers within our third-sector employability programme, ATI.  The study investigated keyworker perspectives on effective elements of programme design, and what made the critical difference for those who did move into employment.

Written by Dr Annie Irvine and Better Connect

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'Highlighting Strengths and Uncovering Challenges for Third Sector Employability Programmes, Through Collaborative Research'

This social policy blog explores the impacts and research summaries of the ongoing collaboration between Better Connect and Dr Annie Irvine across our co-authored papers.

Written by Dr Annie Irvine, Joe McKenzie, Alex Kelley, & Christine Brass

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The impacts of short-term funding for third sector employability programmes

This briefing note explores the implications of shorter funding cycles and reduced budgets on third sector employability programmes. It also highlights the need for a more sustainable, longer term funding model going forwards.

Written by Dr Annie Irvine

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“We have been lucky enough to continue the same model [as ATI] on our current local government-funded programme: Reducing Inequalities, Supporting Employment (RISE). This launched just as ATI finished, very much picking up where the last project left off. As we look ahead, we hope to be able to continue this tried and tested successful model. We also hope to build on it and make it even better, by incorporating in-work support, meaning the partners can actually support people all the way through their journeys into work and beyond.”

— Joe Mckenzie, RISE Programme Manager (IEP Journal)

“My biggest development as a leader has been understanding the power of having a growth mindset and encouraging others to do the same. ”

— Natasha Babar-Evans, Better Connect CEO (What 3 Words Leadership Locations Report)

“ATI was seen to have been a unique programme which brought life-changing benefits to its participants. There was agreement that the ending of ATI would be a significant loss to employability support within the region, and a strong message from keyworkers that a way to maintain the model should be sought.”

— Dr Annie Irvine (on ATI)

“Keyworkers described multi-layered packages of support that they had put together for different participants. For example, one case involved support to find appropriate housing, enrolling the participant in education, supporting at family court hearings, and arranging mentoring support for the participant’s non-dependent child. The focus could vary, from the more emotional support and confidence building, to the more practical. ”

— Dr Annie Irvine (on ATI)

“Perspective-taking was a tool used by some keyworkers. Programme participants talked about how their coach would ask them to imagine what they would tell a friend or colleague in their situation, or to take the perspective of another person who was observing their own behaviours or actions, and what that would look or feel like. Some participants mentioned the value of accountability, when done in a non-judgemental and supportive manner. ”

— Dr Annie Irvine and Dr. Jane Suter (on TAW)

“Interviews with keyworkers revealed two distinctive approaches within the Workplace Support programme. We describe these as ‘coaching’ vs. ‘keyworking’. Both approaches are highly person-centred and programme participants experienced both as incredibly valuable. The main differences were that the coaching model was more structured and boundaried whilst the key working approach was more open-ended and holistic.”

— Dr Annie Irvine and Dr Jane Suter (on TAW)

“The sort of referrals I was getting were people struggling with life challenges rather than work challenges. And also with maybe debt, housing, relationships, a bit of substance misuse maybe, mental health, anxiety, depression. But it was affecting their work. So it wasn't that their work was bothering them, but the issues going on in their life were affecting their work and preventing them from developing and having that improved labour status or confidence.”

— TAW Keyworker and Report Participant

“Quite a few of the participants have had a lot of mental health support before … but those challenges don’t go away for them. So it’s how to navigate the office environment, how to navigate social isolation when you’re home working, things like that. How to navigate your anxiety, your depression or even people who are neurodivergent, how that translates to the office for them and their colleagues and their access to work passports, and things like that; how that’s incorporated into their day-to-day work.

— TAW Keyworker and Report Participant