Erica Bertolotto, Consultant at NPC and previous programme manager for Inspiring Impact, reflects on the last six years of Inspiring Impact and looks ahead at what’s to come…
Inspiring Impact has been running for almost six years now—a programme run by the charity sector for the charity sector, to help the voluntary sector improve its impact practice.
We support charities, social enterprises and funders to measure, understand and act upon their impact. We offer free tools and resources on our Resource Hub, and during the first three years of the programme we developed some of our most popular resources.
With this strong foundation in place, in the following three years we shifted our focus to increasing awareness of Inspiring Impact and providing support to use our resources. We developed networks of support, such as the Impact Champions—charities and funders dedicated to improving impact practice—and Sub-Sector. Partnerships: network organisations that are keen to implement good impact practice in their sector, such as sport or sight loss.
Looking back, have we been successful? Has impact practice improved since Inspiring Impact was launched in 2012? What can we do to make an even greater contribution to the sector in the coming years?
What have we achieved?
As a programme aiming to improve impact practice, we are very interested in our own impact. However, as a campaign focused on raising awareness and changing behaviours, understanding our impact is challenging. We focused on measuring:
• Awareness of Inspiring Impact and of good impact practice;
• Motivation to engage with our resources and to improve impact practice;
• Capability around impact practice.
Interviewing network members we learnt that awareness of Inspiring Impact resources and good impact practice broadly has increased, called a ‘shift in mindset’ by one person. There is now a widespread acceptance of impact practice as a concept: beyond impact measurement to include the entire impact cycle (plan, do, assess, review).
The reach of Inspiring Impact continues to increase: we have had almost 100,000 unique website visitors since the website was launched and an average monthly traffic of 2,000 unique users. There is also an ever growing number of people signed up to the network, Twitter followers and LinkedIn group members. The Impact Champion network is growing and we are working on sub-sector partnerships in the mental health, infrastructure and sight-loss sectors.
A survey we ran in 2017 showed that motivation and engagement with our resources and around impact practice is high, for example 82% of respondents were very or somewhat likely to visit the website again in the next 6 months, indicating they found it useful. A quarter of respondents had started the Measuring Up! self-assessment and a quarter had used the Resource Hub.
The survey also told us that capability has increased: more than three quarters of respondents said that in the last year their organisation’s impact practice improved significantly or a bit; 65% stated their organisational knowledge of impact practice improved a great deal or a fair amount, and half had accessed support around their impact practice.
What have we learnt?
Awareness and motivation around impact practice have increased significantly in the last six years. Other initiatives, such as the Impact Management Project and the Pathway strand of the Impact Management Programme, have been set up in the last couple of years to support the sector to think beyond impact measurement and instead focus on impact management, another word for the cycle of impact practice.
Capability has also improved, but this is the area on which we need to focus in the years ahead, as it will lead to better implementation. When organisations access Inspiring Impact resources they find them helpful and are likely to go back to them, but we want to expand our reach to an even wider audience and provide more implementation support. We plan to do this by focusing on networks: both our existing networks and exploring different models to better understand what works.
To make networks such as the Impact Champions as effective as possible, we have learnt that it’s important that members are committed to improving their practice and sharing their learning. We have seen they have lots expertise, and there is an appetite to draw on this in peer learning events. There is also potential for us to support them directly, for example by attending their events or reviewing their measurement work. This would deepen the relationship whilst spreading the word about good impact practice and Inspiring Impact.
It has been more difficult to recruit Champions who are funders. We have collected feedback from funders and are thinking of a tailored offer that would be more attractive to them.
We have also learnt that finding the time and resources required for Sub-Sector Partnerships takes a long time and sometimes is not possible, even with a committed partner. Given these challenges, we have begun to promote subsector partnerships more widely, and we have seen an increase in uptake.
Overall, we feel we can be proud of what we have achieved, but there is still a long way to go to achieve consistent, high quality impact practice across the sector.
If you’d like to become part of Inspiring Impact, visit our website or get in touch with Kathryn Dingle at firstname.lastname@example.org.