Staff and volunteers at the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre (RDLAC) used the ‘Measuring Up!’ self-assessment tool to find out how they’re doing on their impact practice. The process was supported by NCVO Charities Evaluation Services (NCVO CES) through a facilitated workshop.
Sarah (NCVO CES Consultant) and Joy-Caron Canter (Director of RDLAC) share their process, experience and tips for any other organisation thinking of running a similar session.
Measuring Up! is a free, step-by-step self-assessment tool that allows you to review and improve your organisation’s impact practice – that is, the way you plan, evidence, communicate and learn from the difference that your work makes.
The tool takes you through each of the stages of impact practice – plan, do, assess, review – and requires you to rate your organisation against statements of what should be in place, according to best-practice guidance. This allows you to work out whether you’re doing everything you could, or the same things as other organisations of roughly your size. It offers guidance on how to address any areas where improvement is needed and the option to produce a report that highlights areas of strength and weakness.
There are three versions of Measuring Up!:
1. For medium to large organisations
2. For funders wishing to assess their own impact practice
3. For small organisations or those newer to impact practice
What we did
We planned a workshop in which to complete the Measuring Up! version for small organisations together and Joy invited a range of staff and volunteers from RDLAC. It was important to us that a range of people were involved so that they could have their say on how things are and take ownership of improving the organisation’s impact practice.
Seven participants attended and were split into two groups, with a mixture of staff and volunteers in each. Sarah read aloud the statements from Measuring Up! for small organisations and each group discussed whether they felt RDLAC was meeting that best-practice statement or not, took notes and scored accordingly.
We used a visual diagram on the flipchart to record the scores in each of the stages of impact practice with a red, amber or green scoring system. Each group had their own flipchart to score on. We paused after each of the four stages and compared the groups’ responses and tried to come to a consensus view.
We discussed what actions the organisation could take to improve impact practice as we went along.
Following the session, Sarah took the scoring circles back to the office and uploaded the responses, notes and actions into the online version of the Measuring Up! tool. We did this so that RDLAC have a record of the session that they can easily access and review in the future.
Joy found the process to be very useful and liked that it brought the RDLAC team together to reflect on the organisation’s impact practice. She particularly valued how it promoted dialogue across the team and stated that
“The conversations we had were the most useful part of the process.”
Staff who attended the session were positive about it in their feedback to Joy and most valued reflecting on practice and sharing views:
“Sometimes there can be some resistance to new training but they found this useful and reported that it made them more aware of their own practice. It was interesting to discuss how we are doing across projects and to hear each other’s point of view in what is working well and where improvements could be made.”
Joy found it interesting to realise through the workshop that some of the organisation’s projects are doing very well in terms of monitoring and evaluating and others less well:
“We noted that some projects have evaluation frameworks in place, with set outcomes, indicators and tried and tested tools, where others don’t. It tends to be the funded projects that have more things in place.”
Joy also found it useful to compare RDLAC’s monitoring and evaluation practice against best-practice for organisations of roughly their size, through the tool. Measuring Up! has been designed to reflect proportionate evaluation practice for small, medium and large organisations.
Overall, Joy reflected that the session didn’t bring up things they weren’t aware of but it gave them the boost needed to plan to make changes where they know they’re needed:
“There were no big surprises. We knew most of our weak points and where our strengths are but to have a session that allows us to focus on this has motivated us to take action on some of the issues. It was helpful to have Sarah there to guide us through the tool and to facilitate the discussion.”
What next for RDLAC?
Joy and the team at RDLAC have planned a staff team meeting in early September to agree which of the actions around impact practice are the most important for them.
More immediately, the need for a new database was highlighted as an issue. Joy took the idea to the board and they have agreed to release funds to implement a new system.
The staff will also meet with Sarah at the end of the year as a six-month follow-up to assess how far they have come on their impact practice. By completing Measuring Up! again, any change in score will highlight any improvement in practice.
Tips on using Measuring Up!
If you’re thinking of giving Measuring Up! a go yourself then Joy has the following advice:
- Run Measuring Up! as a session with your team rather than filling it in online as an individual. The conversations you have with your team will be insightful.
- Allow at least two hours for a session. This was enough for us to carry out the assessment, but we have needed more time since then for discussion of the actions.
- Involve several members of your team with different jobs titles and levels of experience to get different views on what’s really happening with impact practice. We had different scores for individual projects. Although that made it hard to arrive at an overall score for the organisation, it also gave us an honest view of practice.
- Have a follow up plan! It’s too easy to do a self-assessment and then forget about it. You need to write down your actions (in the Measuring Up! template) and put a time frame on when you plan to achieve these changes by.
- Tell your funders that you are doing this self-assessment of your impact practice. It will show that you are committed to being a learning organisation.