jigsaw puzzle pieces

Strength in numbers: The power of shared measurement

By Andrew Weston 15 February 2016

One of the best things about working at NPC is seeing a charity progress in a way that means it can better help its beneficiaries. Seeing progress across the sector is even better, which is why I was privileged to be able to attend the launch of Inspiring Impact’s new report Shared measurement: greater than the sum of its parts.

Shared measurement is when charities and social enterprises dedicated to tackling similar issues work together to measure outcomes, thus enabling them to improve their work. Tris Lumley, the co-founder of Inspiring Impact, and NPC’s Director of Development, opened the event by explaining why this is so important: because the sector ‘can’t make an impact on anything by just working in individual silos’. This stress on the importance of collaboration and communication of new ideas is key to effective shared measurement because that’s exactly what the approach is about: sharing.

At the heart of Inspiring Impact’s work on shared measurement there have always been examples of best practice, so it was great to hear from organisations that have used successfully data from shared measurement initiatives. First we heard from Diana Barran, CEO of Safe Lives, about their Insights programme. Insights is the largest database of domestic abuse cases in the country, with information fed into it by numerous charities working in this area (there are currently 50 organisations using it). Insights measures outcomes for service users, including their safety before and after intervention.

Diana talked about just how many of Insights’ users, who were first ambivalent about measurement, now find it essential to their work. She also explained how shared measurement can benefit a whole sector: following the announcement in the 2015 Spending Review of an extra £3.5m for the domestic violence sector, SafeLives were informed that it had only been possible to get the Treasury on board by using Insights’ data.

This demonstrates precisely what is meant by shared measurement being ‘greater than the sum of its parts’: that individually the data has some clout, but, when brought together, its power and potential is multiplied greatly.

It also shows, especially in the current funding climate, how invaluable good shared measurement can be. NPC’s Sarah Handley, one of the authors of the report, explained that shared measurement can give smaller charities the capacity to demonstrate much more robust impact practice then would usually be possible.

One example of this was shown by the views of Sue Wallis from North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA), which were reported to the event by NPC’s Anne Kazimirski (also report co-author). Sue found that, as a result of using Insights, it was much easier to work with local commissioners because she could present them with ‘ready-made’ measurable outcomes that met their needs and spending requirements.

The final speaker was Tamsin Shuker from Citizens Advice. She talked about how the charity has supported its network of 338 independent local bureaux, in England and Wales, towards better shared measurement. All of the bureaux use the same CRM case management system. The result? The local bureaux gain good quality break-downs of their own work and outcomes, in an accessible format, which is useful both for internal evaluation, and for talking to key stakeholders and funders. And because the information is centralised, Citizens Advice gains access to all of this data, giving it a better overview of what is happening nationally, and strengthening its capacity to speak with authority to external audiences about issues and trends.

SafeLives, NDADA and Citizens Advice are just some of the organisations featured in the report who have prospered from this approachWe hope that, as the word spreads, we will begin to see more examples like these; organisations benefiting from shared measurement.

To find out more about the benefits shared measurement can bring to charities and social enterprises, download the full report for free.

If you are looking for tools to help your own shared measurement journey you can also look at the Impact Hub, which has a new shared measurement category.