Tag: Government

Be Bold. Measuring Impact #NCPIgnites


Yesterday I attended the New Philanthropy Capital Conference “Burning Issues and Being Bold” It was a day focusing on measuring and evaluating projects, demonstrating impact – it was right up our street. Unfortunately I was only able to attend for the morning.

However even though I was only there for half the day and I still woke this morning with my brain whirring from the conversations that took place, so much so I’m not sure I have yet processed it all, but as I sit here mulling it all over, sound bites from the speakers keep turning over in my head.

This is mush in my brain and so I’m starting to dump some of it here to try and make sense of what I am thinking.

Boldness in times of change

The first session was a panel discussion, called Boldness in times of change with Mike Adamson, Chief Exec of the British Red Cross, Anni Rowland Campbell Director of Inerscitcia and David Robinson OBE, Leading thinker in community , early action and social investment, and it was chaired by Iona Berry head of Charities at the NPC

  • Mike talked of being bold, and how being bold wasn’t just one large step, but a series of small steps – and that includes moving away from superficial evidence and towards more impactful reporting – that would give a collective voice to report “truth to power”.
  • Anni about the “unprecedented period of change” we find ourselves, and that we need to embrace technology, but remain human.
  • David Robinson said the Voluntary Sector has to plan for change and it has to think urgently, inventively and boldly and that they need to work to protect 2 key things:
    1. The needs of the Service Users.
    2. Embracing Experience – this means protecting the people with knowledge on the face of cuts.

“We are data heavy and insight light”

David also said something that stuck with me and followed me through the rest of the day;

We are data heavy and insight light” – We measure what the government and funding bodies want us to measure, but we should be reporting on where our value is and what we want to achieve.

This really struck a note as it is something we’ve been encouraging with the user of our Impact Assessment App. It’s not just numbers, it’s also the stories – the insight. Use your relationships with your clients to measure the impact of the work you do, trust the voice of your clients to tell your story – what are you achieving and use those voices and experiences to action change.

Learning from others

The next session was a keynote speech from Tom Loosemore, Director of Digital Service, Co-operative Group – ” Learning from others”

Tom had a lot to say it was really inspiring listening to him, but the take away points for me were:

  • Slow down, take a step back and have a think it’s a slow revolution. Don’t be passive, Get excited and make things happen – We have it within our power to restart the world again.
  • We have an obligation to build a better future, using the tools and capabilities of the (digital) revolution.
  • Don’t just strategise, Do, Build, Work, Observe & Iterate, Listen and Iterate, Observe and iterate again.
  • What are we learning? Understand the need of your service users. Work with them, don’t write a strategy for them.
  • Report on what matters.
  • Use digital to: Get better at what you do & deliver your purpose in different ways.

“Keep your Hippo on a leash, beware the snails and don’t be a boiling frog.”

Tom also used a couple of amusing, but simple descriptions to describe some of  the pit falls that the voluntary sector can come up against and what to be aware of. You can sum it up with “Keep your Hippo on a leash, beware the snails and don’t be a boiling frog.”

  • Hippo – Highest paid person’s opinion – avoid this! You can beat the hippo, if you have a strong voice. Often “paid workers” will try and impose their will on volunteers ad community orgs. This doesn’t have to be the case, speak up, be heard, keep the hippo on a leash.
  • Snails – are the people that hold you back, that fail to innovate, that are negative and don’t try to see the bigger picture. Beware the snails, know when they are likely to raise their heads.
  • Boiling Frog – the org/group that is stuck in a boiling pot getting left behind and slowly dying while not even realizing, the group stuck in their ways, failing to move with the times. Move forwards and embrace change. Take the people around you along for the ride. Don’t be the boiling frog.

A view from Whitehall

Following on from Tom was Lord Bob Kerslake – former head of the Civil Service, He gave a talk that touched on the government’s view of the Voluntary sector.

He said elected members often had a default embedded view of the community / voluntary sector, which differs dependent on their party, he said broadly speaking they are:

Tory: Left leaning & Inefficient
Lab: “Why are they doing our job”

However he also said the gov need us more than we need them – we need to stand up and be strong, government respect that, even if they don’t like it. We can use out collective voice to effect change/

Local government relationships are important to CVS, co production and radical change are needed And he recongnised that there needed to be “Show don’t tell” system to demonstrate innovation and impact.

Looking ahead in measurement and evaluation

After the break we went to the first (and my only) break out session – this was all about looking ahead in measurement. They opened the session be saying that this was for cutting edge practices.  That digital has changed both the pace and quantity of data being collected the we need think about how we are using this data.

But from there I will be honest, I lost the pace of the session very quickly. All the talk and slides looked more at quantitative data than qualitative outcomes, it was all KPI and number driven, The scale the speakers were talk about was beyond where we are currently working. Global enterprises with millions of pounds of funding that needed to collect vast amounts of data – and there was lots of talk of data.

Data collection and data analysis, data tools and extrapolation – mainly for outputs and I was lost, It appears that even on the “cutting edge” we were still looking at number crunching –  all I kept thinking was what about the stories and using people’s voice to evidence outcomes – that’s the impact.

Learning from the morning

Overall the morning got me thinking about how we understand impact measurement and broadly speaking how right I think our approaches are.

You can’t report Impact with numbers alone, you can’t really evidence the real difference you are making in people’s lives with graphs and charts, data means nothing without the background story, You need to make people feel, Or as Chip and Dan Heath would put it – you need to motivate the Elephant:


The over arching themes that I took from the day, and what I feel to be true from our own  work are:

Ongoing monitoring

Don’t just wait to the end of a project to demonstrate impact. Real time monitoring and feedback will allow you follow the progress of your work and the journey your clients are on.

Responsive working

By engaging in ongoing measurement and impact reporting it allows you to know if something is working and if it’s not, and allows to to make changes and respond to clients needs

Define and redefine outputs and outcomes

Know your mission and what your are aiming for, but don’t be afraid to redefine it as your work, and your clients experience shape what you do.

Don’t duplicate measurement

Be brave with this one, If a funder asks for something to be measured, find out if they really need it. What measurement are you already doing, get them to fit into your framework, don’t include another set of reporting unnecessarily.

I’m not a service user!

The final thing I didn’t learn yesterday, but I had reconfirmed. I hate the term “service user” over and over this term was used and I really detest it.  I’m not a service user, I’m more than just a number, and so is my community, we’re, people, clients, human beings, and if were really going to be talking impact we should be talking real people, not just statistics.

Stuff I've seen October 11th through to October 19th

These are my links for October 11th through October 19th:

Stuff I've seen October 1st through to October 5th

These are my links for October 1st through October 5th:

  • An open letter to David Cameron, part one of three « Francesca Elston – I have worked in a large Government department, and I believe the following: firstly, that it would have been possible to take 25% of the costs out without harming the service delivery in the long term (that caveat’s important); secondly, that it might have been possible to improve the service in doing so, and thirdly that there were people within that organisation who knew exactly where the 25% lay.
  • Government data will be machine readable, Maude pledges | Politics | guardian.co.uk – Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told the Conservative party conference in Birmingham that the Freedom of Information Act will be amended so that all data released through FoI must be in a reusable and machine readable format.
  • BBC News – The ‘night riders’ who help the NHS – The volunteer service, which is available in the south-east of England, offers a free out-of-hours service to a number of NHS hospitals and can be asked to carry anything urgently needed from baby milk to blood products and X-ray results.
  • MaPit – MaPit is our database and web service that maps postcodes and points to current or past administrative area information and polygons for all the United Kingdom.
    Another notable benefit is that this new version has been filled with only totally open data, so you can be secure that you can reuse the data from this site under the minimal terms of the licences given below.
  • BBC – dot.Rory – A 16-year-old who turned up at a hacking event a couple of months ago may just have achieved two great things. If Isabell Long’s idea works, it could make a major contribution to getting Whitehall to cut its energy use.

Stuff I've seen June 10th through to June 19th

These are my links for June 10th through June 19th:

  • Neighbourhoods Learning Together — BVSC – Course available for community activists in North Birmingham and Sandwell: “30 places are available and we want to the group to reflect the diversity of the area. If there are barriers or support needs which are making you hesitate, then let us know and we’ll see what we can do. The venues for the sessions will be wheel chair accessible.”
  • Telford & Wrekin CVS-news from the Development Team » Blog Archive » Telford & Wrekin CVS BASIS Project – “The whole purpose of which is to recruit, support and train 50 local voluntary and community organisations, in the art of social media, so that they can implement it, to ultimately support group sustainability”
  • Swimming pool data scraping: comparing opening times | Where can we swim? – “Birmingham City Council’s leisure centre website isn’t an easy place to look for information, harder still to try to take data, but that’s just what I’ve spent some considerable time trying to do….” Our own Andrew Brightwell continues his one man campaign to scrutinise availability of swimming pools.
  • The power of conversations « Francesca Elston – “…conversations make people happier and more useful.”
  • Pentagon hunts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in bid to gag website | Media | The Guardian – The Daily Beast, a US news reporting and opinion website, reported that Pentagon investigators are trying to track down Julian Assange – an Australian citizen who moves frequently between countries – after the arrest of a US soldier last week who is alleged to have given the whistleblower website a classified video of American troops killing civilians in Baghdad.
  • Cutswatch | Society | guardian.co.uk – Public services face the harshest cuts in decades. We want to know what’s happening in your area
  • Futurebuilders — loan business scrapped, new direction will be grants for neighbourhood organisations « The BSSEC blog – “Civil Society Media website reports that Nick Hurd, the civil society minister, has confirmed that Futurebuilders — New Labour’s flagship loans-plus-support model for investing in third sector development, managed by the Social Investment Business — is “effectively closed for business”. In future the £200m fund will be dedicated to providing grants to stimulate the formation of neighbourhood-based organisations, a clear change of direction under the coalition’s new ‘big society’ policies.
    The Office for Civil Society (the replacement for the Office of the Third Sector) has also confirmed that Capacitybuilders and the youth volunteering organisation v — both major New Labour initiatives — are “under review”.”