Over three years ago Impetus-PEF took the decision to support charities to get much better at the services they deliver – to master impact management. We did this because we knew that charities had incredible ambitions and amazing passion for the people that they were helping, but that the actual impact they achieved for them didn’t always match up.
Since then, we have helped 20 charities to analyse and understand their impact and more importantly to improve it by acting on data, in real time. We know that this is crucial to ensuring that as many beneficiaries as possible stay on programmes, make progress and get the outcomes they need. We also know that these skills are helping charities to successfully deliver social impact bonds and contracts.
We are delighted that, as partners in the Impact Management Programme, funded by the Access Foundation and Power to Change and led by NPC, we are taking these skills to the wider sector. The ‘Growth’ strand of the programme kicks off with training that we’ll deliver to providers and ventures and which we hope will provide a solid grounding for some great capacity-building projects.
The reason we’re delivering training ahead of the grant process is simple: Access recognises that impact management is crucial, but they’re ahead of the sector on this. People won’t be coming to the programme with many preconceptions about what it is. We want to get all ventures on the same page and using the same language so they can be thinking about their impact management needs. Then they can hit the ground running and build strong bids with providers who’ve also received the same training.
The training will cover the two vital skills of impact management – data tracking and service adaptation. The latter is often the missing piece, with many organisations tracking data for funders or for marketing but without the feedback loops that mean the data drives improvements in services.
Being able to track the right data and adapt services relies on three key capacities within organisations. Our training will introduce participants to all of them:
- An impact strategy – a series of consistent and detailed decisions about who you will (and won’t) serve, the outcomes which you will achieve with them and the services you will deliver which you believe will get them to these outcomes.
- Data know-how – service adaptation relies on knowing which metrics tell you what you need to know: whether a beneficiary is more or less likely to get to an outcome; which parts of your programme contribute most to outcomes; are there groups you do a less good job for? Identifying the right metrics can take time to get right and so can using IT to make data collection and analysis a pain-free, value-adding part of all staff’s work.
- A performance culture – active impact management happens at two levels: the frontline using data to understand how individuals are progressing and course-correcting to improve (we call this tactical performance management); and the senior team reviewing aggregated data and seeing patterns where cohorts are not faring well, or parts of the programme are failing and making changes (strategic performance management). Both of these levels can be challenging to embed – so it’s crucial that the CEO leads the process, ensuring that all staff know that learning and continuous improvement is a key part of their job
We know that impact management can sound a bit dry. But the reality is anything but, as can be seen in our recently released Driving Impact paper. It is truly exciting to see charities take the time to focus on what they know about the people they’re there to help and make choices that are based around this knowledge. Sometimes these decisions make the job more difficult in the short term – but it’s in the service of getting more impact for those who need it most. And these challenges pay off when charities are meeting the new, higher bar they’ve set for themselves.
The implications of more organisations building their impact management capacities are positive for commissioners, investors and funders – more clarity on what they’re ‘buying’, on the track record of the organisation and a greater ability to see how they’re performing. It all adds up to better value for money. But this isn’t the only reason Access have invested in impact management – meaningful and lasting change for the people in our communities who need it the most is a positive step for us all.
Visit the Impact Management Programme website to register your interest in this programme and be the first to hear about workshop and training dates: http://accessimpact.org/