Building circles logo
A young man wearing glasses filling a watering can

Building Circles was founded in 2006 with the overarching aim of reducing social isolation and loneliness in adults with learning disabilities and on the autistic spectrum in Gloucestershire. All of its work is developed in collaboration with people with lived experience. 

The pandemic further exacerbated the social detachment of these communities, and the charity’s work is now more in demand than ever before.   

A group of beneficiaries and volunteers doing art together

The project

Building Circles came to Cranfield Trust in April 2023 for assistance with measuring their impact and evaluation of its work.  

The charity wanted to measure the impact of its abuse prevention training packages for adults with learning disabilities, which helps their clients go out in the community safely. It wanted to be able to demonstrate the difference the training makes, understand where change is needed in order to improve the existing training package, and share their learning with other organisations.

A Cranfield Trust volunteer consultant, Tanwen, was identified to work directly with Building Circles CEO Helen Kay to help the charity understand how to evidence longer term impact, what data to collect, how to measure what difference has been made, and how to measure savings downstream with regards to other services in the community.

Journey to Excellence

Journey to Excellence(J2E)©, is Cranfield Trust’s unique evaluation and impact measurement framework and has been specifically designed to help charity clients to focus on their development needs.  Cranfield Trust Regional Manager Marie Langan took Helen through the J2E assessment to give them a starting point.

CEO Helen Kay found the J2E© process particularly helpful: 

“The J2E © review process pre and post project made me pause and think holistically about our organisation. The trustees now have a clearer picture of the areas where we are taking steps to improve, the importance of a robust eligibility criteria and, as a team we are having more useful and focused Senior Leadership meetings.”

The J2E© framework helps charities to identify management strengths and areas for development across four key areas and is used to evaluate the impact of Cranfield Trust’s consultancy support to charity clients.

CEO Helen Kaye showcases the J2E© recognition logo on a laptop
“The initial J2E © assessment with Marie was extremely thought provoking, giving us a much clearer sense of areas requiring attention. 12 months on, it's been tremendous for everyone involved to see how far we have travelled, and progress made as a result of this process. We still have areas to work on, but for the first time have an accessible tool to help us prioritise our efforts. Marie is a supportive, encouraging and compassionate Coach, with a great understanding of the challenges facing small not for profit teams.”

The project had a direct impact on improved J2E © scores for Building Circles on the main project area of performance and improvement, as well as other three J2E© areas.  

The charity was awarded the newly introduced J2E© recognition badge from Cranfield Trust to demonstrate their commitment to improvement.

graph showing the charity's J2E© outcomes


The project helped Building Circles to directly measure the impact of a specific area of delivery, so it can be improved and successfully rolled out more widely to impact the lives of more people living with disabilities. Helen Kay CEO commented on the impact delivered:

“[Building Circles now has] guidance on measuring our impact moving forward, with new skills and tools to hand to facilitate this process, enabling us to provide a better, more focused service to our end users.”

As a direct result of the project, Building Circles is now looking to develop a plan to commercialise the abuse prevention training programme. By commercialising the programme, they can share their knowledge in a way which will also help them to generate unrestricted funds and secure their own future as a charity.

A volunteer and beneficiary plant seeds together
A group of young beneficiaries proudly hold up cabbages they have grown.

On working with Cranfield Trust volunteer Tanwen, Helen said:

“We are so grateful that through Cranfield Trust we had the opportunity to work closely with a Social Researcher to better understand the real and lasting impact of our Training. Tanwen was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Our Abuse Prevention Training for Adults with Learning Disabilities centres around vital life skills, which help to keep individuals free from abuse and able to live well in their community. As an organisation, we recognised that a greater understanding of how to effectively measure and demonstrate our impact would result in a stronger product and better outcomes for learners. With Tanwen's expert guidance, we are now far more confident and considerably further forward with this process.”

For volunteer Tanwen, the reward was the personal satisfaction of giving back and making a difference: 

“It was a real pleasure to work with the team members at Building Circles, who were knowledgeable, skilled and enthusiastic about their work. We had some honest conversations about the challenges they face as an organisation in measuring and demonstrating their impact. I believe they now have a better grasp of the principles of evaluation design, which they can apply to many different aspects of their work and use to support their relationship with their funders.”

Registered Charity No: 800072 | Scottish Charity No: SCO40299 | Company No: 2290789 | Telephone No: 01794 830338
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