Train wheels

How to use data to drive change

Buttle UK’s experience and perspective

By Amelia Smith 20 September 2019 4 minute read

Amelia will be speaking at NPC Ignites, for the opportunity to talk to her about data, impact and change – get your ticket here. 

At Buttle UK we’ve been using data to drive our strategic direction since 2003. That was the year we received funding from BBC Children in Need to provide emergency essentials (up to £300 of household items) for children and young people in crisis, a program we ran for 15 years.

As the years went on and the value of the funding increased, we found ourselves supporting and collecting data on a large number of young people across the UK. We realised we were in the position to use this data to drive our understanding of the difference we want to make and how we should go about this.

The next milestone in our data journey was 2013; the year of our first funded programme with a requirement to conduct an evaluation to assess the efficacy of this project. This Barclays-funded ‘Access to the Future’ programme drew on existing support we had provided, developing into a programme that provided individually tailored grants of up to £3000 to young people in further education.

Findings from the evaluation highlighted the importance of providing individually targeted support of a greater value than small grants or single items, and drove the development of future projects, ‘Connect and Support‘ and the ‘Anchor Project‘, which ran between 2014 and 2017.

The success and insight provided by the ‘Access to the Future’ evaluation demonstrated the importance of impact assessment within the organisation, which resulted in Buttle UK employing a full time monitoring and evaluation staff member in 2014. This has since developed into the role of Impact and Evaluation Manager, the position that I have held since May 2019, following my predecessor, NPC’s current Data Lead, Rosario Piazza.

My role is to conduct or manage commissioned evaluation projects, maintain the database to ensure that the highest quality data is being captured, inform staff members and wider audiences of current relevant research and policies, and engage in wider research around the needs of children in poverty.

Since the creation of the post in 2014, there has been a great increase in our impact research and resulting developments in practice, including:

  • Our Theory of Change has been developed to shape our grant-giving and impact measurement.
  • Evaluations and wider research reports have increased in number and quality.
  • Findings from our evaluations have driven changes in the way that we give grants; they have indicated that providing larger, targeted grants has a greater impact for children and young people than providing one item. This led to the decision not to re-tender for the BBC Children in Need emergency essentials programme, focus on providing larger grants, and launching our Chances for Children programme in 2018.

Looking forward, our 2020-2025 strategy aims to widen the support we provide children and young people in poverty, increase collaborating with other organisations to maximise impact and systemic change, and have greater involvement from beneficiaries. My next challenge as Impact and Evaluation Manager is to utilise and further develop our data collection and evaluation methods to help reach these goals.

Uniting all of these efforts, from 2003 till 2025 is the knowledge that we can use our data to ensure that we continuously improve our Chances for Children offer to provide what is most needed based on evidence as opposed to assumptions.

Take the opportunity to talk to Amelia about the data behind these decisions by getting your ticket for NPC Ignites Con the 10th of October here.