How do you Measure Impact
Aongus O'Keefe is heading up the Trusts Inspiring Impact Programme.

How do you Measure Impact

19 May 2014

The sector is coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate the value it adds and the difference it makes to the lives of the individuals, families and communities which it serves. We spoke to Aongus O'Keeffe, Programme Leader, Inspiring Impact NI, to find out what they have planned to support this important area.

Tell us about Inspiring Impact NI?

Inspiring Impact NI is an initiative to try to place impact practice at the heart of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Northern Ireland.

It is a Building Change Trust initiative building on the wider Inspiring Impact UK programme.

This is a collaboration between membership bodies representing the sector, its funders and impact measurement specialists. 

Why is it so important for our VCSE sector to re-evaluate the way they measure impact?

Some organisations are already very good at capturing and demonstrating impact and Inspiring Impact NI is keen to learn from and support these.

On the other hand, over a quarter of organisations do not measure impact at all.

There is a culture of delivering activities and reporting on outputs that is deeply rooted within the sector and across many of its funders.

Planning for impact and using an impact focused cycle leads to improved services, improved ability to demonstrate results, better targeting of services and improved strategies and policies.

This is why it is vital that a culture of impact practice is embedded across the sector. 

What action will be taking place in Northern Ireland to support this?

A range of actions will be taking place across Northern Ireland to support this. These come under three broad strands: support to the VCSE sectors; support to funders; and an impact exchange. 

We will be working closely with a range of organisations across the sector to understand and apply a code of good impact practice, to assess where they are at with impact planning using an online Measuring Up resource and to access the information they need as well as, tools that can help them capture and document the learning from their work. 

We will also be supporting a range of independent and statutory funders to the sector through a similar process of understanding a set of funders’ principles, assessing their current practice around impact planning and developing an impact plan for programmes they are delivering to the sector. 

How has your programme for 2014-2015 been received?

So far so good, but it’s early days! I think the gestation period for this has been extensive, which has resulted in significant momentum and interest around this initiative.

The additional support from DSD has given it an added dimension in that there is a lot of interest from the statutory sector in this.

We had a very good programme launch in March where people from across the sector and funders got a flavour of what’s involved. There is a huge appetite for demonstrating impact at the moment given the funding climate so I think this is coming at a good time.

Have any key events already taken place?

As mentioned above the launch of the Inspiring Impact NI programme was the biggest event so far this year.

The next stage involves commissioning pilot projects with the sector and funders. This will happen over the coming months.

We also held a roundtable event in March with the NEETs forum to look at outcomes for a Journey to Employment framework that was developed by the wider Inspiring Impact UK initiative, with a view to supporting a range of pilot projects to implement a shared approach to impact measurement. 

Do you recommend any standard practice when it comes to measuring the differences these organisations make?

We would recommend that organisations plan for the change they wish to influence in their work. This is the first phase of the plan, do, assess and review impact cycle – each of which must focus on the change that an organisation wishes to bring about.

Take a look at the Code of Good Impact Practice and this will provide some useful, practical guidance. From there, organisations can use an online resource - Measuring Up – to assess where they are at. This will also generate a set of action plans to steer you in the right direction. 

How are the partners, CENI, Building Change Trust and Inspiring Impact UK, working together on Inspiring Impact NI?

We are working very closely together as the programme is evolving and changing very quickly.

It is a very dynamic initiative and the UK programme is very interested in seeing how the Northern Ireland programme operationalises the products that have been developed to help embed impact practice across the sector and its funders.

CENI and BCT speak and meet regularly to discuss the many aspects of the programme in Northern Ireland. Both CENI and BCT also attend quarterly UK board meetings. 

What changes would you like to see come about as a result of Inspiring Impact NI?

The end goal for us is that as many organisation and funders as possible understand the Code of Good Impact Practice/Funders Principles, assess their own level of impact practice using the Measuring Up online resource and have developed an impact plan that will guide how they capture and demonstrate the change they wish to bring about.

Keep up to date with the work of Inspiring Impact NI by following them on Twitter @iimpactni.

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