Blog: One year on: What are we learning from the Growth peer network?

Published:20th December 2018

The Impact for Growth Peer Network of the Impact Management Programme was set up last July and has grown from 11 to 40 members. Here Charlotte Lamb, Senior Consultant at NPC shares some of the grantees’ learnings to help the sector learn from the impact management programme.

Improving impact management is an iterative process

This can make planning difficult. Estimating how long something will take when you’ve not done before is hard. That’s the position many grantees are in when developing theories of change or new impact management systems. Being flexible in project planning, being prepared to change tack, and leaving room for the unexpected can help.

Both charities and funders should not go into this expecting a quick solution. Many grantees have vocalized how the programme has made them realise that this is just the start of a much longer journey to increase impact.

Grantees have also found there are many ‘unknown unknowns’ that you can’t plan for until you get going. For example, designing a system is tricky when you don’t know what your outcomes are, and you might not know them until you start collecting data. Most have found its best to accept this—and just start small and pilot something.

‘One of the most useful pieces of learning…is the application of an agile, iterative growth plan…meaning our Board can maintain absolute oversight and control but also that we can manage the work and learn and refine quickly.’

Systems don’t have to be sophisticated

As nice as sophisticated systems and dashboards are, many found that you don’t need them to manage impact well. Grantees are using Excel and free versions of Power Bi to record, manage and learn from their data. It’s crucial to remember that one size does not fit all.

And importantly—systems are a lot more than IT! How you organize, manage and store data and the collection process that you need to get right too.

Setting up new systems is one thing; changing staff behaviors to fit around it is another.

For many grantees, their staff have been engaged from the start. However, impact management has meant change for busy staff and trustees and often requires a culture change. This is a major undertaking and has been a challenge for most grantees—and often the thing they didn’t anticipate.

‘The greatest challenge will be embedding the changes in our day to day delivery systems and getting the whole team on board’

Doing this well will look different in every organisation, but grantees have shared some top tips:

  • Bring everyone along for the ride. Staff consultations on the design of systems and processes, and where any concerns about data capture are taken seriously, will engage staff and encourage better data capture.
    ‘We tried to involve everyone in the process, right from the outset…if this project was going to work, we had to take all these people with us.’
  • Make impact management accessible for everyone and communicate why it is important. Talking about impact management at the annual conference, making it a strategic goal, and tying it in with individual objectives, have all helped engage staff.
  • Show the positive difference that impact management is having on services. Presenting impact information in an attractive way is vital for engagement and buy-in from stakeholders. What you present to who will depend on information needed and levels of engagement.
    ‘It is really easy to slip into worrying about everything that doesn’t work, and not recognise the stuff that does.’

These highlights just skim the surface of what grantees are learning. Look out for future blogs that share more.

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