At NPC, we see ourselves as one of the key organisations concerned with the effectiveness and impact of funders, non-profits, and especially the charity sector. Based on our work with hundreds of charities and funders, as well as from our think tank work, we have learned a lot since we were founded and our thinking has evolved.
Off the back of appointing a new Chair, Vaughan Lindsay, we feel the time is right to bring in a new strategy. The new strategy is partly about making our purpose clearer and partly about the issues we will bring an extra focus to.
Why a new strategy and narrative?
If you know us at all, you know we’re about impact—and that’s not going to change—but we recognise that the way we’ve talked about effectiveness and impact has often been quite abstract and has made us seem distant from many in the social sector.
We are not a front-line delivery charity. We aim to improve the impact of charities and funders because that helps improve people’s lives and makes communities stronger. But while there is that distance, the heart of our mission is about people. Especially people, and communities, who are experiencing difficult circumstances.
We have perhaps not said it clearly enough in the past, but these people are what our work has always been about, and with our new strategy we want to bring that fact to the fore.
Helping people by helping non-profits do better
Our new strategy is about moving the centre of gravity of our work towards helping create a better world for people whose experience of life is negatively affected by systems or circumstances.
Our contribution to this goal is to support those in the social sector (and intersecting with the sector) who are creating social change and helping people lead better, happier lives.
This is more important than ever because the need for charities and social organisations of all kinds is increasing while the kinds of interventions they provide and the contexts in which they work are changing.
So, we will work on new approaches, mindsets and ideas to help the social sector have an impact on the constantly evolving challenges that they and their beneficiaries face. This work will involve the traditional civil society work we have always done but also, where relevant, new players in the public sector and in business.
And we aim to build on people’s strengths, not just focus on their needs, even when they are experiencing huge challenges in their lives. Our work harnesses evidence, relationships and resources to help enable organisations, groups and individuals to benefit people and the environment they live in.
The social sector works on a huge range of issues, in different geographies and in all kinds of different ways. But there are ways of thinking and working which, if they were more widespread, could improve impact across the sector.
With the new strategy, we are going to focus especially on four of these approaches that we believe can make a real difference, especially to those individuals, families and communities most in need of support: Digital; Place; User Involvement; and Systems Change.
Each of these approaches can be applied to virtually any cause or issue and help those working on it boost their impact. We will be building these into our consultancy work but will also continue to pursue, explore, advocate and disseminate good practice on them through research and funded projects. They are all complimentary and we will be advocating that they be used in combination.
While we will pursue these approaches across all of our work, we have also identified social issues where we can have an important impact at present and which we will put an extra focus on. These topics are: Health; Homelessness; Criminal Justice (especially prisons); and Children and Young people.
Often our approaches and topics will overlap. For instance, we will look at how digital and user journeys can help teenagers navigate difficult lives, and at how place-based approaches can provide better health for citizens.
We are aware that these sectors have established organisations doing great work. Our role is to add value by using our unique position and perspective to highlight how the sector can have more impact and convene those parties who would otherwise would not work together.
Continuing doing what we do well
These approaches and topics will give us a clear direction, without excluding other areas of work, in both our consultancy and think tank endeavours. But while there will be very real changes, we will be keeping tight to what has worked so far.
We will continue to do work with a variety of organisations; from local charities to national and global ones; from big established funders to new philanthropists; major projects with governments and the public sector.
We will also continue with our sector leading work on social investment and impact investing—creating the resources that enable this vital and growing area to understand and increase its impact.
Innovation, governance, theories of change, measurement and evaluation are all still hugely important to us. The Inspiring Impact programme, recently given three years funding by BLF, shows our massive commitment to this kind of agenda.
But we are also looking for funding for many new projects, as well as core funding to help us do our research and maintain NPCs high standards of rigour.
In all our work we will continue to leverage the unique attributes we bring to the sector. We will continue to be analytical and rigorous. We will still work in many areas and spread what we have learnt and keep well connected with international developments and debates. We’ll maintain our unique place linking the funding and the doing sides of the sector – and discuss the tensions between them. Our independence, broad thinking and rootedness in the work of charities and funders will all stay the same.
This is an exciting time. We are going to be better equipped than ever to carry out our mission and I look forward to working with the sector and our partners, to take it forward.