In the summer of 2011, a group of people started planning to work together to help the UK social sector make progress on impact measurement. We were concerned about fragmentation in our approaches, and believed we would achieve more if we coordinated our efforts.
We envisaged a world in which charities and social enterprises would have a clear idea what good impact measurement practice looked like. In this world, organisations would be able to assess themselves against good practice, and identify the tools and resources they needed to make progress. And finally they’d compare their practice with others in their field to learn, and accelerate their progress.
NPC and Substance came together to organise and facilitate an impact ‘summit’ in September 2011, to see if we could establish a collective vision. Out of this summit came a report—thanks to the support of Joe Ludlow at Nesta. It identified five priority areas in which work was needed—on leadership and culture; shared measurement; data, tools and systems; funders, commissioners and investors; and impact measurement support. It also introduced the idea of a cycle of impact practice—how organisations plan, manage, measure, and review their social impact. Out of this report grew the Inspiring Impact programme.
Fast forward nearly three years, and I’m delighted that Inspiring Impact is today launching two important new elements of that original vision.
Measuring Up! is an online tool designed by the Charities Evaluation Services and developed by Substance. It helps organisations to work out how they’re doing against good impact practice. It’s built around the structure of the Code of Good Impact Practice, developed by NCVO through extensive consultation with the sector last year.
The tool is practical, accessible, and makes it easy for organisations to get to grips with the key elements of their impact practice. It’s had rave reviews in testing, and we can’t wait to see how it’s received now it’s available to all—for free.
The Inspiring Impact Resource Library is an online resource centre for everything you might need to improve your impact practice. If you need guidance on what a theory of change is, you’ll find it there. If you’re looking for software that can help you capture data in your everyday work, you’ll find it in the Hub. And if you’re looking for ways to measure a specific outcome, say well-being, you’ll find it there. Again, it’s all free for everyone to use, and free for tool and resource providers to feature their materials.
The Hub launches with over 200 tools, systems and resources catalogued and accessible to all. But that’s just the start—we want evaluators, tool providers, and others who have developed resources or are aware of other resources to upload them to the Hub. And users can review the tools they’ve used, so everyone gets the benefit of their experience.
Of course there are limits to what online resources on their own can do. We need the concerted efforts of a group of committed partners, and the enthusiasm of others, to embrace them and to help spread the word.
If grant-makers, social investors and commissioners who want social sector organisations to provide good impact data embed these resources in their practice, we’ll build critical mass as people start to explore, use and add to Inspiring Impact. And if those funders also supply their grantees and investees with the financial support needed to build capacity, the dial may really start to shift.
Through the coordination of the Association of Charitable Foundations, a group of funders has already started to get to grips with putting these resources into practice. Inspiring Impact programmes in Scotland (through Evaluation Support Scotland) and Northern Ireland (through Building Change Trust and CENI) are getting the message out far and wide. And NCVO and ACEVO are working with their members to help advance their impact practice.
Join us in building on these foundations—upload tools, share these resources, build them into your work. Together, we can raise the bar on impact practice in the social sector.