Vicki and Tessa

The time has come, the walrus said

By Vicki Prout 24 January 2014

‘And then, when we looked at all the information we’d collected, for impact measurement purposes, we realised there were trends, and that we could use this. For example, it showed that if support service for victims of abuse were situated in hospitals, they made contact with people sooner rather than later, so we know to focus services there.’

I sat in on this conversation over a year ago so you’ll forgive me for paraphrasing, but it was at this point that the penny really dropped about the difference impact measurement could really make to the folk being supported by charities. A domestic abuse charity had worked out how to improve the service they deliver, and how to access victims at an earlier stage. And, from the evidence the charity had gathered, this change would save lives.

Fast forward 14 months and this is my last week working at NPC and, during my daily cycles to and from the office, I’ve been pondering what I have learnt in my time here. One of the great things about my line of work is that you get to poke your nose into all different projects across the organisation, and I’ve been responsible for generating media coverage for huge pieces of work which have major mainstream interest like Money for Good UK through to more niche—but no less significant—projects like the Journey to Employment shared measurement framework.

When I joined, I understood the basics of why impact measurement is A Good Thing, and something charities should be focussing more on. But I hadn’t thought a great deal about exactly why, or about all the related issues such as access to data. Gradually though, as I worked on different projects, and sat in on discussions such as the one above, I started to understand why everyone at NPC is so madly passionate about what they do. By asking seemingly quite simple questions—like what it is you really want to achieve, why your organisation does the things that it does, and how you know if it’s working—you can gather information which can then be used to improve how you work and do a better job of supporting those you exist to help.

I say ‘seemingly’ simple questions as in fact they can be hard for charities and funders to answer, and certainly knowing what to do with the answer can be a further puzzle for many. But every day I see my colleagues supporting, cajoling and nudging people through this process, and the case studies on our website speak volumes about what we help them to achieve. I know I’m biased, but it’s pretty impressive stuff. Add to this the fascinating think tank pieces NPC has produced during my stint here, and I realise how lucky I am to have worked in such an interesting environment.

I’ll be sad to say goodbye to all my wonderful colleagues at NPC who have helped to enlighten me on all of these important issues. But I’m not going far. I’m joining the news team at Citizens Advice, and will still move in similar ‘social issue’ circles (and they even have an impact team there!). And I plan to stay in touch, including on Twitter where I masquerade as @vickipper.