Welcome back to what feels like the show that never ends. Let’s all hope that 2022 is year we enjoy and that we are able to get through the current Omicron surge. We know it is not going to be easy for many charities and for those they seek to serve.
A big year for NPC
For us at NPC, 2022 is our 20th year of existence. 20 years working with, and as part of, this terrific charity and philanthropy sector to help it maximise its social impact. I hope you will forgive a bit of reminiscing from us during the coming year but mostly we will be striking forward, setting out our agenda for the next period. Through our think tank and consultancy work, we will continue to provide a challenging and independent voice that inspires bold initiatives and much needed innovation in the social sector.
What to look out for
Already this year I am excited by lots of things we have upcoming. Early this year we will be publishing material looking at green philanthropy, working with our friends at the Environmental Funders Network. This is part of our increasingly busy portfolio of work on net zero, the climate crisis and the just transition. Our work on this will continue throughout the year. We will also be doing more in the criminal justice space, following the publication of our systems map, trying to help funders and charities identify key leverage points in the system and so ensure they use their resources most effectively.
Another area we care deeply about is impact investing. With new staff on and coming on board, through our work with the major US foundation MacArthur on catalytic capital, and with the forthcoming publication of our test of our Impact Risk Classification framework, we are making an important contribution on trying to ensure impact investing (and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) more generally) is more than a slogan and really does deliver positive, additional social impact.
One of the things we have done even more of since covid hit is to push for more use of data in our sector. We are optimistic of making progress here, working with the Department for Work and Pensions on an Employment Data Lab, to follow the success of the Justice Data Lab, and so help charities and others understand their impact better in the employment space. We also want data to be used more by the sector to better identify unmet need—and we will be revamping our popular local needs databank to help that become even easier.
A lot of our work will be directed toward trying to improve philanthropy and grant-making. Our Open Philanthropy programme is just getting going and will look at how greater openness in philanthropy can ensure that resources are deployed well, and with maximum impact. Meanwhile, we have several strands of our ongoing Rethink, Rebuild programme looking at aspects of funder behaviour, including collaboration—for example how to make collaboration work between big and small organisations; trust-based philanthropy and how to ensure this way of working involves appropriate impact evaluation; and how to better embed system change and user voice into strategic thinking.
We will also be working on making sure the sector uses digital technology to improve its impact. Our My Best Life project, co-produced with young people, has got to the stage of having an app for us to test and potentially scale. It’s very exciting indeed.
And of course, we will keep improving our work in the areas of evaluation and theory of change, two key tools to help charities and funders create more social impact. Last year our new Theories of change for campaigning report was a smash hit. This year we are looking to add to our very popular suite of theory of change products with a paper on how to do it when you are a complex organisation and with work on digital ways to embed your theory of change. We’re also excited to start work as the learning partner Comic Relief’s Change Maker stream of funding.
A major stream of work will be on equitable evaluation, ensuring that evaluation and research avoid reinforcing inequalities and harmful structures. We will also continue to bring a sharp diversity lens into all our work, including to the way that we advise funders on how to pick charities to fund.
At NPC, we try to create positive change through innovation, improvement and of course our influence on the sector and on policymakers. On the latter, this year we will be publishing more work on ‘levelling up’, trying to convince the government—and local areas—of the importance of civil society in tackling entrenched inequalities and securing sustained and inclusive change in communities. In February we will also look into the relations between government and the sector—which seem to have not been quite right over the last year or two—at a panel event with former Number 10 adviser Samuel Kasumu.
20 years of maximising social impact
It is set to be some year ahead then. As we celebrate and take forward our 20 years of work on improving impact in our sector, we hope you will join with us to enjoy it all. We look forward to another year working with and in this excellent sector, and to us shaping NPC’s next chapter together. Of course, there has never been a more important time to support NPC. As we forge forward in our 20th year, I hope you will consider donating to enable our work to build a brighter future for the charity sector.