An Update on Inspiring Impact NI

An Update on Inspiring Impact NI

22 December 2016

Inspiring Impact NI is now approaching 3 years of age – a turbulent time in any child’s life – but is very grateful for the insightful, caring and thoughtful parents it has in the form of the Building Change Trust and Community Evaluation NI who have brought it this far.

While reflecting on achievements can be lots of fun, as with all 3 year olds the future is where it’s at!

So as the Trust goes about winding down its operation, the umbilical cord of funding it has provided to establish and support Inspiring Impact NI will be cut. However, with one year of funding still to run this is a good time to look at what lies ahead.

The focus of this final year is very much on demonstrating the benefits of adopting good impact practice – for voluntary & community organisations, for social enterprises, for funders, for commissioners and for investors. Good impact practice is distinct from impact measurement because it encompasses all the elements an organisation needs to consider and that need to be in place before and after actual measurement takes place. The why, the what and the how is critical so that our measurement is good and so that the information is used to learn and to improve how we address and resolve social problems.

In this vein we will be continuing our support to key Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise organisations to embed impact practice into their way of working. We will be broadening awareness of the freely available supportive resources that VCSEs can access to help them apply impact practice and fulfil their public benefit reporting requirements to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. We will develop and publish good practice guides, learning, tips and challenges for organisations who want to improve how they work and become more impact-focused. We are planning a series of practice learning sessions for our Impact Network that will commence in early 2017.

This all ties in with the latest Programme for Government, which advocates an ‘outcomes-based approach’ to delivering public services. Through applying impact practice and being clear about what they do and what outcomes and impact  they deliver, we are supporting organisations to be in a strong position for whatever reality the new PfG throws at them as it commences implementation in 2017.

Ongoing support from the Department for Communities to work with Government to plan and prepare for outcomes focused-funding is a critical piece of this overall jigsaw. While on the one hand having an overarching outcomes framework to get all players building the same picture is very useful, on the other hand if you only hold a vague, isolated piece of that jigsaw and have no guidance that helps you to see how or where it fits then it’s very hard to complete the picture. The reality in this case is even starker in that many of the jigsaw parts have not yet been designed or produced!

Our Department for Communities partnership enables us to provide ongoing support to key Government programmes funding the VCSE sector to ensure they have clarity of purpose, know what they wish to achieve and can determine how to go effectively about this. This is about working with all the relevant people and organisations to agree their desired outcomes, the steps required to get there and how to define and measure progress towards those outcomes that align with the overarching PfG framework.

So, as we enter our fourth year (our pre-school year!), we are delighted with the progress so far but are also very cognisant of the need for nuanced learning that can highlight how VCSE organisations and their funders can become better at what they do and become better at addressing some of the most acute social problems of our time. We plan to share our learning and insights in 2017.

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