Blog: Impact practice in a world of competing priorities

By Aongus O’Keeffe is Programme Leader at Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland 

We all know it yet we all struggle to do it. Making an impact and improving the lives of people is the ultimate reason all charities, social enterprises and the funders who support them, exist. Yet our day to day energy gets sucked into other arguably less significant tasks. So why do we spend so little time focused on impact and  much of it submerged in tasks which will not help us determine what difference we are making?

I don’t think there’s a simple answer and like all the social problems that our sector is trying to address the reality is very complex. But ultimately, the complex layers of culture within our organisations are what determine where our time and energy is invested. This culture is not something that is easily shifted or changed – it requires significant leadership at a variety of levels as well as: time, resources, skills, understanding and a good sprinkle of confidence. In a nutshell it requires leadership for impact.

Leadership for impact, in the first instance is about seeing the value and importance of putting impact at the core of everything an organisation does. It is about helping to develop a culture that values learning and improving over everything else. It is about acknowledging the important role that funders have to play while not being distracted from your purpose by the pressures of their funding requirements. It’s about never losing sight of the bigger picture and making sure all your work  is feeding that purpose.

Inspiring Impact came into being for this very purpose and developed a programme of freely available supportive resources to help organisations and funders build a culture of impact. It  supports the sector and its funders to ensure impact isn’t just an add-on or an afterthought – rather it becomes built into their DNA from the outset. This is called Good Impact Practice and comes in the context of a proliferation of impact measurement tools in all shapes and guises and a world where ‘solution peddlers’ have evolved sophisticated strategies of convincing unsuspecting charities and influencers to invest in their “silver bullet”.

The reality is there are no such “silver bullets” and it’s not all about ‘measurement’ or the latest, in vogue, all dancing methodology – it’s about good leadership laying solid foundations, and applying core principles and practice that inform all of your work. Only then will you have a solid footing and basis for identifying the measurement methodology that will best meet your needs.

The importance of good governance has been reinforced through charity sector scandals in recent years but good impact practice must be given equal weighting if the sector is to re-establish its reputation and public trust.

So, in summary, don’t fall into the impact measurement marketing trap, become a leader for impact and make impact practice your priority.  Get started on your Impact Journey today.

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