Research Centre for Learning and Teaching


Evaluation of Thinking Differently – Young People and Alcohol

We're evaluating innovative, preventative interventions designed to reduce alcohol-related harm in young people within Scotland.


In June 2012 the ‘Thinking Differently – Young People and Alcohol’ partnership was launched in order to trial innovative, preventative interventions designed to reduce alcohol related harm in Scotland.

These recognise the role of parents, peers, mentors and the community in young people’s decision-making about alcohol consumption.

The evaluation of the three ‘Thinking Differently’ funded interventions that we propose, involves a collaborative, mixed methods, theory of change approach over three years. 

Aims and objectives

The 2 primary outcomes (PO) of the projects are to:

PO1: Reduce alcohol related harm and associated risky behaviour by young people.
PO2: Build practical sustainable skills and knowledge to empower young people, parents/carers and the community to take action to address local alcohol concerns.

This evaluation will adopt theory of change (TOC) methodology, an engagement strategy (involving providers, young people, families and the community) and a cost effectiveness analysis. The evaluation will have 4-stages: scoping; planning; data collection/ analysis; and reporting/ discussion.

Research design and methodology

We will use TOC to focus on: exploring the outcomes anticipated from the interventions, the actions taken to generate outcomes, and the sequential changes through which those outcomes are, in time, produced. It involves working collaboratively with actors to explicate the latter’s underpinning theory or theories.

TOC takes into account the complexity of environment and relationships which a simple input-output model of evaluation would overlook. TOC, in common with action research, is responsive to intervention providers and to emerging data, but enables more effective comparison across and within projects.

TOC enables the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data on intermediate changes produced by actions and on any longer-term outcomes generated in the evaluation period. It encourages the exploration of the interaction of interventions with all relevant factors (young people’s involvement, peers, family, the community etc). There is full consideration of barriers and facilitators to outcomes.

Data will be collected both by project providers and the evaluation team according to the plans drawn up. Further interviews will be carried out with project staff and participants to explore what is working and what is not. In order to capture change over time, we will conduct intensive periods of fieldwork in each year of the project.

Projects will be benchmarked by comparison with area and national statistics. Qualitative data from a range of tools will capture the range and depth of perspectives of young people, families and the community about the impact of intervention.

We will work to ensure the involvement of service participants throughout the evaluation. Engagement strategies will be devised in negotiation with project providers, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Setting up ‘user groups’ of participants to meet regularly in each project to inform the evaluation (to consult on data methods) and facilitate an ethos of partnership. 
  2. The use of appropriate visual methods and tools (photos, diamond ranking etc) to collect data.


For further information contact:
Liz Todd, Principal Investigator.
Telephone: 0191 222 6572