Looking ahead to 2017: A new year and a new milestone

With the holidays behind us we find ourselves in 2017. Despite many hoping for a quieter year than the last one, chances are that events at home and abroad will keep coming at us thick and fast. So the charity sector will need to keep on its feet—agile, alert, and ambitious.

At NPC we will continue to strive to help the whole sector achieve as much as it possibly can. Good intentions we love—actually achieving towards those good intentions we love even more.

2017 also marks our 15th anniversary and there are a number of things we’re planning that I am excited about because I think they can really make a difference.

Here’s a taster of what you can expect from us in 2017, our 15th year:

  1. Our ongoing State of the Sector programme will use survey work, interviews and numerous roundtables to identify where the sector should be headed over the next few years. We already gave a feel for our vision for the future of the voluntary sector in our recent report Boldness in times of change, which steers clear of a ‘business as usual’ approach.
  2. Exciting things are happening across the world in the measurement and evaluation space, not least as technological advancements allow us to do new things. Our upcoming work supported by a number of partners including Save the Children, Oxfam, NSPCC and Bates Wells Braithwaite will identify the most exciting as well as the most replicable trends. The aim is to help all of us—funders and charities—be aware of what is possible to drive forward our own impact practice, however small-scale it may be.
  3. We’ll continue to work on user voice and user journeys, following our recent publication User voice: Putting people at the heart of impact practice. This approach has the potential to transform the way we think about what the sector is doing and how it assesses this work, turn upside down our rather top-down approach to life, and allow us to fully embrace the power of digital—another area we will be moving forward on in 2017.
  4. The philanthropy world is evolving. We plan to carry on working with individuals, as well as looking at how the sector as a whole can increase and improve its giving (which we explored last year through Giving more and better). This includes plans to explore what makes a good partnership between a charity and a corporate.
  5. We’ll keep working hard so that the great success of the Justice Data Lab will be joined by Data Labs in the Education, Health, and Employment sectors. This is transformational stuff: allowing charities to use administrative data that the government already holds to properly assess their impact—without the need for vast and expensive studies. Here’s an update on our progress so far.
  6. We will be putting our shoulder into seeing how the charity sector and its funders can complement and support public services as they continue to creak under the cumulative weight of years of austerity. We are working with an innovative health charity on some of this, following the fascinating work we did with the Richmond Group; we’ll have a new report on the voluntary sector and criminal justice out in the spring; and we have many ideas to continue our work on education.
  7. Helping organisations put impact at the heart of their strategy—a practice increasingly being called ‘impact management’—will be another key focus. The NPC-led Inspiring Impact programme hits an important phase this year with sub-sector work pushing areas forward—like shared metrics and supporting small charities with their impact practice. Meanwhile, we’ll also continue our work on the Impact Management Programme, which aims to help charities and social enterprises increase their social impact and diversify their income.

And of course we’ll continue to argue for the sector, without ever wanting to let it become too complacent. We’ll keep challenging charity governance to deliver impact and avoid either treading water or unnecessary failure. We’ll call for things like more funders to sign up to the transparency that 360 Giving allows; for sensible fundraising practices that pass our ‘gran’ test; for Charity Commission data to be used to help nudge the sector towards greater effectiveness; and for social investment and social impact bonds to be used intelligently and not be seen as a panacea.

Lots to do. Exciting times. Stay tuned!

Do get in touch if you’d like to know more about or be involved in any of this work. You can email us at or reach out via twitter @NPCthinks.