Inspiring Impact recently completed its first ever sub-sector partnership, which involved Sported—an umbrella organisation which works with community sports groups in transforming the lives of disadvantaged young people, NPC, and Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS). Sub-sector partnerships are delivered by Inspiring Impact in partnership with voluntary organisations that have reach in particular sub-sectors (in this case, community sport). The aim is to enhance impact practice throughout these sub-sectors.
In the first sub-sector partnership, Inspiring Impact supported Sported to run a pilot in England and Scotland to strengthen impact practice by creating a skilled group of impact champions who can:
- share knowledge;
- build the capacity of groups they work with;
- and make use of Inspiring Impact and other resources.
Sported members were supported by a coach and had access to a peer support network through this ‘Fit for Impact’ programme of work.
The review at the end of the project caused us to reflect on the way impact measurement is often thought of as a technical activity. And in contrast the thing that struck us about the reflections of people engaged in this project, was that the two elements were most valued were the social—the interaction with a coach and the access to a network of peers. Nothing to do with tools, scales, glossaries or jargon, but the time spent with other people talking about measurement. In particular, participants valued the time a coach spent with others in their organisation, helping others to understand its importance and value.
This brought home to us that impact measurement is in part, a social activity, not the purely technical activity that it’s positioned as. It’s not about a number cruncher who sits alone wading through data and providing figures. It is a method of enquiry, and enquiry requires interaction. You have to talk to people to gather the data. You have to talk about what you want to know before you analyse the data. You need to discuss the data and interpret it. And then there’s the process of deciding what to do with it, and changes that are made as a result.
For impact practice to be meaningful, every member of staff from across a charity needs to be engaged in it. They need to be asking the right questions and want to engage with what the data tells them, and crucially they need to be willing to act on the back of their learning. Peer organisations can provide a great network of support and advice to each other, challenging practice where appropriate and sharing insights about ‘what works’ in impact measurement. And where these gather around a common issue, user group or need—as in the case of Sported—is much the better and more valuable.