Visionary sub-sector partnership: Early challenges

Shared measurement 

Visionary—membership organisation for local sight loss charities—is working with NCVO Charities Evaluation Services and NPC to develop shared outcomes in measurement in the sight loss sector. This Inspiring Impact sub-sector partnership is still in its early stages—starting in January 2017. As we find out what sight loss charities need, we’re discovering some key challenges that we feel would be useful to share. Meeting these challenges will enable us to develop the best possible measurement for the sight loss sector.

Balancing the needs of charities and commissioners

A key challenge for any shared measurement system is balancing the competing needs of the charities themselves and of those who commission them. Many charities will be familiar with the need to manage the requirements of multiple funders. Often, these drive organisations’ impact practice, rather than the organisation defining outcomes that are relevant to its service users, mission and values. The work of sight loss charities often spans the gap between the NHS and social care, meaning they manage the competing priorities and requirements of local authorities and, clinical commissioning groups. Shared measurement was welcomed as a way for the sector to define its own outcomes, taking into account the requirements of commissioners but not dominated by them. People that we spoke to in the sector were very excited about the prospect of shared measurement being able to provide evidence of the need for services and making the case for those services to continue to be funded.

Measuring difference, not just delivery

Many of the organisations that have engaged with us so far in this project collect good data on their outputs but struggle to measure their outcomes. This is beginning to change, partly as a result of previous work done by Visionary and partly as a result of changes in the funding landscape. More organisations are collecting data on their outcomes. However, there are ongoing difficulties with measuring outcomes, especially as interventions may be one-off with little opportunity for follow-up. This is one area where shared measurement framework and tools might be particularly helpful.

The needs of smaller organisations

Similar with other sectors, we have found that in general those organisations that have engaged with us have been larger and better resourced, and are already reviewing and improving their impact practice. Smaller organisations with fewer paid staff (less than 5), who are at earlier stages in their impact practice, are, not surprisingly, harder to reach, yet these stand to benefit most from shared measurement. Larger organisations can therefore drive the development of frameworks and tools, but these have to be designed sensitively to be usable by the very smallest and least well-resourced charities.

What next?

Over the next few months we will be working with five Visionary member organisations to develop a shared measurement framework. We’ll be starting by doing ‘Measuring Up!’ jointly with them and building the framework from there. It’s going to be an exciting journey with the potential to transform impact practice across the sector. We hope to create a greater sense of unity and collaboration amongst organisations who are all working towards the same goal of improving the lives of people with sight loss.

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