James Kirwan and Julie Ingram, together with Mike Clark and James Taylor, conducted an evaluation of the Fresh Start Initiative for Cornwall Enterprise. The evaluation commenced in January 2005, with the final report submitted in September 2008.

The Fresh Start Initiative (FS) in Cornwall had three main objectives: to encourage and help newcomers to the agricultural industry to ensure its long-term health and vitality; to encourage those within the industry to plan ahead and explore new opportunities and options; and to provide an opportunity for those wishing to leave the industry to do so with dignity. In terms of its evaluation, the CCRI’s role was: to assess the scheme’s effectiveness against its stated aims and objectives; and to identify any lessons learnt and to make recommendations to improve its delivery and effectiveness as well as informing any similar future schemes. Measuring the effectiveness of FS and assessing its additionality was not straightforward, in that a simplistic cost-benefit assessment against financial inputs would be misleading. As such, a qualitative appraisal became important in order to try and capture the wider, ‘softer’ outcomes of the initiative.

If judged on hard outputs alone FS has not achieved its stated objectives. However the soft outcomes have been emphasised by a number of those spoken to and arguably collectively these have made a positive contribution to both the situation of new entrants, and more widely to the vibrancy of the land based industries in Cornwall. Although FS has not met its main objectives, many of those involved felt it had been ‘worth a go’; particularly as it was always conceived, in part, as a pilot initiative. Nevertheless, the evaluation concluded that any subsequent scheme will need to have more definitive output/outcome targets, against which it can be more definitively judged.