Stronger together

By Eibhlin Ni Ogain 12 March 2013

Working in partnership and sharing is often better than going it alone. Partnerships pervade the natural world—whether through lifelong unions (swans, humans, beavers, dik diks…), communities living as a group or bees working away in a hive. This symbiosis reflects the fact that when we work together and share, we tend to be better off. My mother used to tell me a story about the farm she grew up on in 1950s Ireland. Every year they would slaughter a pig. If you are familiar with pig slaughtering, you will know that there are certain parts that you cannot keep and store beyond a number of days. Her family would take most of the pig and divide it up among families in the community and then eat and preserve what they could. They would then receive similar gifts in return from their neighbours throughout the year. Mutual cooperation at work.

Shared measurement is all about acknowledging that we are greater than the sum of our parts. Most complex social issues, such as homelessness or anti-social behaviour, cannot be solved by one initiative working in isolation. These issues require systemic, collaborative responses. Shared measurement can promote a systemic approach to understanding the issues we aim to tackle and help us learn what works best to solve social problems. Simply defined, shared measurement is all about charities and social enterprises working on similar issues, and towards similar goals, coming together to develop a common understanding of their shared outcomes, and developing the tools to measure those outcomes.

However, developing and maintaining a shared measurement approach across a number of charities, no matter how closely aligned their aims, is not an easy task. Our research published today looks at the key steps in developing a successful shared measurement approach. The Blueprint for shared measurement is the first research of its kind to look at these issues in a UK context. Through analysis of 20 different shared measurement examples, we identify factors that are key to initiating, developing, designing, scaling and sustaining shared measurement. Interestingly the process of developing shared measurement cuts across a number of complex issues affecting the charity sector. Many of the themes we see in developing shared measurement are broader issues—for example, good collaboration, good leadership and high-quality impact measurement. Our findings look at how developers of shared measurement have addressed these issues in each approach.

We believe successful shared measurement can bring great benefits to the charity sector. Our report illustrates that when done well it can reduce the cost and burden of developing bespoke measurement tools. Shared measurement also helps charities develop a  greater understanding of their sector’s impact network and understand how their work links to that of similar organisations. Most importantly, it lets charities compare results with similar organisations, and begin to understand what is normal for their work, and what they should aim for. This is crucial to understand what leads to the best outcomes for the people charities work with. As CAADA found when developing its shared measurement tool for the domestic violence sector, ‘this kind of information can help us make decisions about where teams should be located and map what interventions lead to change.’

We  hope that people use this Blueprint, and the lessons within it, to promote shared measurement across the charity sector, and we are keen to hear people’s feedback on their experiences of using the report.

Download the Blueprint for shared measurement here >