Impact story: Taking our own advice

The Robertson Trust is the largest independent grant-making trust in Scotland. They aim to improve the quality of life and realise the potential of people and communities in Scotland. They share their learning on following your own advice and improving you impact practice as a funder.

Context and Drivers

We recognise the importance of evidence-informed decision making and have focused on this through some of our partnership funding programmes. Despite this we know that we’ve not always made the best use of the monitoring reports that we receive through our Open Grants programme.

As part of our recent strategic review, our Trustees felt that we needed a more consistent approach to evaluation and impact measurement across the whole organisation. This will not only enable us to see what difference we are making through our funding but will also be used to inform internal decisions, including future grant-making and strategic priorities for The Trust.

The difference we made

In order to strengthen our impact practice The Trust created a new Evidence and Learning Officer post to develop and implement new approaches for impact measurement across the organisation. We all recognised that this can’t be done by one person alone though. If impact measurement is going to be truly embedded it needs to involve a range of people at different levels across the organisation. As a result, different teams and individuals have been involved in the planning process and will continue to play a key role in the implementation of any new approaches we adopt.

We also knew that learning from others outside of The Trust would be essential in helping us to develop a useful measurement framework. To enable this in 2015/16 we took part in the Inspiring Impact Embedding Impact Practice Group which was facilitated by Evaluation Support Scotland. Through this group we were supported to use the Measuring Up! self-assessment tool, which helped us to identify where the strengths and gaps were in our impact practice. This informed our action plan for developing an evaluation framework for the organisation.

The challenge

One of the main challenges we’ve faced is separating The Trust’s outcomes from the outcomes of our grant-holders and identifying ways of measuring our impact through the activities of others. We soon realised that other funders and intermediaries on the Inspiring Impact group were experiencing similar issues so talking through our ideas with them and exploring potential solutions was invaluable.

Impact practice today

We haven’t finalised our evaluation framework as it is being developed in tandem with our new Strategy and that won’t be fully implemented until August 2016. Despite this we have already seen improvements in how The Trust approaches evaluation and uses learning internally and externally. For example, we have employed staff with a specific remit for evaluation and learning, and evaluation is being discussed at meetings where it wasn’t mentioned previously.

We’re also in the process of developing an Innovation and Learning Strategy. This will set out the approaches we will take and priorities we will have to develop our knowledge and evidence as a result of our grant-making. It will also cover how we will use this evidence to support capacity within the third sector and to inform policy and practice.

Future plans

We aim to only collect information which we will use for ours and others’ learning. To ensure that our evaluation framework – including methods for gathering data, indicators, and how we use the information – remains useful and proportionate we have identified opportunities to review our processes. We will then adapt our approaches as appropriate.

We also plan to revisit the Measuring Up! tool so that we can continue to monitor and improve our impact practice; making sure it is embedded across all areas of The Robertson Trust.

Sign up to our newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest news from Inspiring Impact