‘Impact’ might be a small word but for most third sector organisations in the UK it has a very powerful meaning. Impact is, in fact, at the heart of everything we do. It is the smile of an older person who is supported to do the shopping; the sight of a child happily playing with others in the community; knowing that our work helps those we support to live better lives. We all know the difference we make… But do we really?
How do we know we are truly making a difference? Do we measure our impact enough? Why should we even bother? Whose responsibility is it? Is it just for voluntary organisations to demonstrate the difference we make or is it also for funders, investors and commissioners to do so? And if we all do measure our impact, how can we ensure we do it in a ‘shared’ and ‘comparable’ way?
Inspiring Impact is a programme that aims to make high quality impact measurement the norm in the UK. Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS), a charity that works with voluntary organisations and funders to demonstrate the difference they make and improve systems through self-evaluation, leads Inspiring Impact in Scotland. We do this by promoting Inspiring Impact materials but also by injecting our learning about what works.
At ESS we believe people are more likely to learn from peers so we have created a network of Inspiring Impact champions; voluntary organisations and funders in Scotland, who measure their own impact and encourage others to do so. In Scotland, like in the rest of the UK, there are already lots of organisations and funders that embed (self-) evaluation in their practice. They do this in various ways and to different extents. However, we think that more could be done and Inspiring Impact Scotland aims to support this.
On the 6 June ESS joined forces with our partner, NPC, which leads on the Inspiring Impact programme as a whole, to pre-launch The Code of Good Impact Practice in Edinburgh.
The Code was produced by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in consultation with the sector. It provides broad, agreed guidelines for focusing on impact. It sets out a cycle of impact and a series of high-level principles to follow. Each principle includes a brief description of how impact practice would look if applying the principle, an explanation of why it is important and some ideas about how to implement it.
The two hour event was attended by 36 delegates from the third sector, the public sector, academia and the private sector, including representatives from government, funders and impact practitioners. The event started with Tris Lumley (NPC) introducing Inspiring Impact; followed by our plans to take the programme forward in Scotland and an overview of the Code and its principles.
Kevin Geddes (The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland), guest speaker and Inspiring Impact champion, eloquently spoke about how The ALLIANCE measures its own impact and support funded projects to do self-evaluation. He also described how the organisation uses impact learning to share with others and influence policy and practice.
A number of roundtable discussions provided the mechanism for sharing views and experiences, creating a buzzing atmosphere and a feeling of shared vision. Organisers were left with ideas for ways in which Inspiring Impact can further support the sector to get better at measuring impact.
Attendees said the event provided them with an opportunity to
- “Get an overview of the work.”
- “Continue dialogue and networking around good practice to measuring impact.”
- “Realise we are already doing a lot relating to the principles.”
- “Find out what is happening in the world of evaluation.”, and
- “Share concerns about drivers for evaluation and complex landscape of politics and economics.”
Delegates told us they were left wanting more of these events (but with more time for discussion!) and look forward to getting a copy of the Code and the Funders’ Principles once launched on 17 June.
To summarise Scotland’s response to the Code and Inspiring Impact in general: Bring it on!
Cheerio for now …