As we enter a new decade with a new majority government, we are presented with both opportunities and challenges in influencing the policy agenda. At NPC, we are very cognisant of wanting to take advantage of this, campaigning and advocating for change, as we call on the government to do what it can to help us improve the impact of our sector. Particularly in the areas where we believe it needs it most, as set out in our manifesto to the new government. We will continue to bring attention to the geographical distribution of our sector, and seek to address the challenges to setting up a Civil Society Improvement Agency.
Our new strategy emphasises putting people at the heart of our work; here are some of the ways we plan to do better for the sector and the people they serve in 2020.
The state of the social sector
The next phase of State of the Sector is happening in 2020. This major research was last conducted with sector leaders back in 2017—the fieldwork is currently underway for the quantitative element of the research, which should reveal how far the sector has come in the last three years, as well as how it is reacting to challenges new and old.
Digital transformation for the sector
As a sector we know charities have sometimes struggled to embrace digital transformation, at NPC we are looking at new ways to embrace this with the launch of NPC Labs. This platform was designed for working in the open and we invite you to contribute. This is a more agile way of thinking through issues which will, we believe, lead to even more exciting innovative projects and plans. Elsewhere in our digital programme, we will build on the achievements of the My Best Life project with a new phase of research, investigating the use of technology in the youth sector to improve access to services.
Philanthropy and investment landscape
The impact investment landscape is growing rapidly, and NPC is involved both at a client and field level. As an impact partner of a number of funds, we will continue to push the industry towards greater transparency on impact and evidence of returns, both financial and social, integral requirements for a thriving sector.
Following our successful event series and blogs on the power dynamics in grant-making, we plan to publish a report to help funders understand their own power and what that means for how they work with grantees. We see this as a crucial step to help funders to become more impactful.
In our 2018 report, Tackling the homelessness crisis, we made four recommendations for funding: scaling effective approaches; improving service navigation; addressing root causes; and improving data and evidence. These recommendations will be put into practice by building a collaborative initiative with homelessness charities and funders. Excitingly, we’ll also be working on the Evening Standard’s two-year homelessness campaign to help them understand the impact of the work they fund, and of the wider campaign.
Systems mapping and place-based approaches
Working with the criminal justice system, we will map how people flow into the system and what charities can do to slow this down. In the health space, we’ll focus on social prescribing, and on the inequalities people face due to the impact of the social determinants of health. The forthcoming report by Michael Marmot should wake up the nation to take action.
In 2019, we found ourselves increasingly working for philanthropists as thought leaders, to see how charities and their funders can play a central role in place-based system change. The surprise geography of the election results means this will continue to be at the top of the agenda. For each of these topics, we are in the early stages and are eager to work collaboratively with different sectors to have the greatest impact.
Shared measurement programmes
Finally, we will continue to work on three long-term shared measurement initiatives. The Inspiring Impact programme is on a mission to make good impact practice a day-to-day activity that is valued across organisations. The Youth Investment Fund aims to develop and expand open access youth provision, and we are currently working to design a shared evaluation approach that captures the value of their work and supports their learning and improvement. We are also leading the learning and evaluation partnership of DCMS’s Building Connections Fund, to understand the impact of loneliness.
It’s a full programme. No doubt we won’t end up achieving all of it and other topics will turn out to be important ones in 2020 (not least the increasing amount of work we are doing on the environment and climate change, in different guises). But I hope this gives a picture of what we will be prioritising and how we will push the sector to be more effective.
Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org if these topics interest you. We would love to hear from you.