What we mean when we say Impact
Impact is a key issue for the sector going forward, and as a handy tool, we asked our Communications Officer Robbie Best to break down our work in this area into more day to day language.
At the Trust, we’ve been working for a number of years on Inspiring Impact NI which is part of the UK wide Inspiring Impact initiative to help embed good impact practice at the heart of what they do.
The sector is more conscious than ever before to plan for and measure the difference it makes to people and communities and in a climate of reduced funding and increased scrutiny there is an awareness of the need to focus on impact.
We believe this will help not only Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector organisations in showing their impact to potential funders and donors, but, crucially, it will help them design better services and programmes for their clients and service users.
Our work focusses on the way we measure and communicate impact to various audiences but what is impact and how does it differ from that other terms we hear a lot in this discussion – outputs and outcomes.
The Big Lottery Fund put together a handy guide to this which looks to attach a definition to these terms:
Outputs are the products, services or facilities that result from an organisation’s or project’s activities.
For example in a programme to improve well-being amongst older people, outputs might include the different types of interventions being offered by projects, or the numbers of people overall participating in activities under the programme.
Outcomes are the changes, benefits, learning or other effects that result from what the project or organisation makes, offers or provides.
For example, for the same well-being programme, outcomes might be improvements in clients' physical or emotional health, or projects' improved ability to extend their reach to different client groups.
Impact is the broader or longer-term effects of a project’s or organisation’s outputs, outcomes and activities.
For example, in addition to an understanding of the extent to which projects funded by the well-being programme have achieved their outcomes, there might be a longer-term change in the way some projects work with their clients, new partnerships may have developed, or policy may have been influenced at a local or wider level.
For us at the Trust, this idea of impact – of the longer term effects of a project or organisation – is what interests us the most.
We were set up to try and affect change at a strategic level in the NI VCSE so it makes sense we would want to help groups and organisations measure this change.
The way in which we can support groups and organisations to do this is through Inspiring Impact NI, which has already been really successful in starting to embed this impact practice in the VCSE Sector.
We commenced Phase 2 of Inspiring Impact NI at the start of 2016, working with CO3, NICVA, Volunteer Now, Sported, Playboard, Community Development & Health Network and Youthnet, who will all receive support from our delivery partner, Community Evaluation Northern Ireland.
This support will help these organisations embed impact practice within their own organisation and with some client and member groups.
We are also resourcing a collaboration of Arts organisations through grant aid to Voluntary Arts Ireland to consider and develop impact practice in the arts sector.
With support from the Department for Social Development - the review of the existing Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland website and also the practical tools such as the Measuring Up diagnostic tool are being further refined and developed for smaller organisations.
At the Trust we know this is just the beginning for impact practice in the sector but hopefully it can grow and become a day to day tool to help us reach who need it most.