Running a ruler over a Men’s Shed?

Is there a standard way of ‘running a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed?

Barry Golding

(Comments are Welcome)

Governments and other funding bodies would really like to be able to have a standard ‘Quality Assurance’ or ‘Outcome Framework’, in effect to ‘run a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed and check whether it is ‘up to scratch’. This brief article provides a possible, reasonably simple response about what such a framework might look like, and have ‘at its core’. I also urges some caution.

As all shedders know there is no one right way to run a ruler over anything. Whichever direction or dimension you measure, it will come up with a different answer. So too it is with a Men’s Shed.

So which basic dimensions of Men’s Sheds are most valuable?

I suggest two simple ways of ‘running a ruler’ over a Men’s Shed to ensure it provides quality outcomes for men and the community. Both can be asked as simple questions, and apply no matter where and what the main purpose or activity happens in the Shed.

  1. “To what extent is the Men’s Shed inclusive and welcoming of all men?”

The main reason this question is important is that social isolation is the most important factor affecting health and wellbeing, at any age and in any situation. If a Men’s Shed and its shedders are not able to reach out to men from diverse background and needs, it is not fulfilling its full potential.

  1. “To what extent does the Men’s Shed work with the local community?”

This question is important because no Men’s Shed is sustainable without understanding and supporting the community, and vice versa. Grassroots community organisations reap what they sow.


  • There is no simple ‘number’ that tells you how a particular Men’s Shed measures up against either of these questions (or against other Men’s Sheds). Since all Men’s Sheds are different, ‘a one-size-fits-all’ survey or evaluation method is neither desirable not possible.
  • The two questions above might be not only asked of shedders, but also of people (men and women) in the community. The questions would be best framed as an ongoing conversation.
  • Surveys and evaluations, using these two questions as a starting point, will be most valuable if shedders are consulted from start to finish of the process.
  • It is possible to ask (and answer) other useful and informative questions about the Men’s Shed, that the Shed, the community, governments and funding organisations want answered. This is possible and desirable because Men’s Sheds, like a table or chair, have multiple dimensions. The more dimensions and outcomes you value and therefore factor in, the more you will come to understand its form and function.

Author: barrygoanna

Honorary Professor, Federation University Australia: researcher in men's learning through community contexts, author of 'Men learning through life' 2014) book (NIACE, UK), 'The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men' (2015) & 'Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men's Shed Movement' (2021) books, both published Common Ground Publishing, US.

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