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Charities and funders must communicate about impact measurement

I spent yesterday at Koç University Social Impact Forum’s (KUSIF) Social Impact Conference in Istanbul. There, I spoke to a range of stakeholders from the non-profit world in Turkey about how they can measure their social impact. It was a fascinating day, and I gleaned several insights which I thought I’d share.

There are some interesting differences between the UK and Turkey. Like NPC, KUSIF has researched the motivations and practice of non-profits with regards to impact measurement. Their research shows a lot more positivity towards impact measurement than NPC’s equivalent UK survey. Most non-profits in Turkey said that they engage with impact measurement because they want to improve their practice.

But there are also a lot of similarities in the challenges faced by funders and charities.  It was clear to me that, of the non-profits that attended the conference, many feel pressured to measure things because their funders demand it. As the EU is one of the main funders of non-profits in Turkey, accountability—rather than learning or improving—seems to be the one of the main themes of pursuing good impact practice there.

During my sessions, we spent quite of bit of time in talking about this issue. We focused on possible ways to persuade funders to listen to the views of non-profits when approaching impact measurement. One key suggestion was to bring together the funder’s monitoring and evaluation staff with the non-profit’s grant-management team. If the people that really understand the work are also the people helping put the measures in place, that should help create a better standard.

Co-design processes between charities and funders—such as the ones NPC worked on with Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland—can be a great way to ensure that impact measurement works for both parties. Co-design can also help both parties understand what the other side is looking to get from impact measurement. Sometimes it is as simple non-profits as having an honest conversation with their funders about what they think about their impact measurement demands. There will normally be something that funders can change if asked to.

A good dialogue between funders and grantees is crucial to ensuring that there is honesty and the right incentives in reporting impact. It should not be the case that grantees feel as though they cannot talk about their failures because it might jeopardise their funding. Some of the ways that funders can encourage this honesty is as simple as being very careful about the language they use when talking to charities. The wrong language may give the impression that a funder is only interested in good results—regardless of any learning and improvement that could occur.

The KUSIF conference showed a willingness from all sorts of stakeholders to improve impact practice in Turkey so better decisions can be made about creating social value. All sides were interested in how they can improve their practice, and thinking about what is needed to improve the whole sector. I’m interested to see how they take it forward.

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