Charity Support, Advice, Impact Measurement, Philanthropy Impact – NPC

Learning to share, sharing to learn

By Dawn Plimmer 16 May 2013

Learning to share is one of the first things we’re taught as children. And not just our toys. Whether it’s sharing food, jobs, cars, houses, or information via social media, sharing can offer more choice, more knowledge, and promote more efficient use of resources.

But when it comes to impact measurement, charities often struggle in isolation. While lots of organisations may be working towards similar goals—helping  the same people and tackling the same social issues—they often measure their impact differently, if at all. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to turn to; sometimes charities see impact measurement as a way to promote their uniqueness and individual value so are protective of their data; sometimes funders all seem to want organisations to report against different outcomes in different ways.

Whatever the reason, developing different systems that gather different forms of data in different ways not only involves a great deal of duplication and wasted resources, but limits our ability to realise the true potential of impact measurement—allowing organisations to learn from each other, build the evidence base, and understand how to best work together to tackle complex social problems.

At NPC we’ve been exploring the potential of shared approaches to measurement—building a common understanding of what to measure across similar organisations and settings, and how to measure using common tools and approaches. Based on the key success factors identified in the Blueprint for Shared Measurement, we’ve worked in collaboration  with an advisory group of charities, funders and researchers, to develop a shared approach for youth employability.

The Journey to EmploymenT (JET) framework sets out seven key groups of factors that contribute to successful job outcomes, from emotional capabilities and attitudes, to qualifications and career management skills. The accompanying resource book presents evidence of each factor’s link to employment, suggests tools for measuring these, and provides advice on the practicalities of conducting an evaluation.

We hope that this provides a useful starting point to help charities and funders think about impact, map the outcomes they aim to achieve, and decide how to structure an evaluation. But more importantly, we hope that this encourages the sector to work and measure together. Not least because shared measurement can offer the sector the collective strength to make the case for what matters to it and its beneficiaries—demonstrating the importance of soft outcomes, for example, by measuring attributes like self-esteem and attitudes in robust and standardised ways, and crucially, sharing and learning from the results.

The JET framework is an initial step towards establishing a shared measurement approach for youth employability, but it’s by no means a finished product. There’s a long way to go before the full benefits can be realised. To take shared measurement forward, charities can consider if and how they can use more standardised, robust tools, and share and compare results with others. Funders have an important role too— they are uniquely placed to support charities to measure, aggregate data, identify trends in what works, and disseminate this knowledge in order to build the evidence base, including with other funders.

By learning to measure, share and compare together, the sector can improve standards of measurement and our understanding of what works, collaboratively and on its own terms, to improve outcomes for young people.