At the beginning of the year, NPC was fortunate enough to work with half a dozen inspiring organisations and networks as part of the Cabinet Office’s £1.5 million pilot Impact Readiness Fund. The fund aims to help social enterprises as well as charities understand, measure, and increase their social impact, and has proved so successful that a second round of funding was announced this week.
Any social venture applying to the fund is required to work with an approved support provider. As one of these approved providers, NPC applies jointly with ventures for Impact Readiness funding and, once funding is secured, works with the successful ventures to understand and improve their impact. From the number of organisations that approached us during the last round of funding, it was clear that there is a great need for capacity building in this area—so we are thrilled that another fund has just been announced. But what does it mean to be involved in a project like this?
During the first round of funding, NPC partnered with four individual social ventures and two cohorts of organisations to understand and improve their social impact. We also helped them to demonstrate improvements in impact to investors and commissioners.
Our work with each project was based on a similar approach we have taken with a wide range of organisations in our consultancy work—using a theory of change approach to develop an impact measurement framework. However, our support for each individual venture was tailored to their specific needs.
Our work with the cohorts of ventures was slightly different. The cohorts consisted of existing networks of organisations undertaking similar activities (within, for example, domestic violence victim support) who were keen to collaborate on impact measurement. For one cohort, this involved implementing a shared impact measurement system. We trained the other cohort in analysing, reporting, and, using data from their outcomes framework and case management system.
The organisations we helped develop a measurement framework for were charities and social enterprises working across a wide range of sectors—including housing, social care, and employment—and ranged from an income of £2 to £8m. We found the theory of change approach to creating a measurement framework added value in a number of ways. For some ventures, it enabled them to find common elements across their different programmes that had developed haphazardly over time in order to measure them coherently. For others, it provided a structure for drilling down into programme performance management to ensure optimum delivery and results.
The benefits of providing funds specifically for measuring and improving a social organisation’s impact are clear: it allows the organisations receiving the funding the time, space, and resources to focus on impact; it helps develop a shared commitment to the projects, creating a realistic chance of delivering them within the short time scale; it builds capacity for continued impact-focussed work within these organisations and, in some cases leads, to co-development, collaboration, and shared learning. We look forward to developing our application plans with a new set of organisations and ventures.