My Irish mother would be very pleased with me: I think I’m falling in love with Northern Ireland. Not only does it have beautiful landscape, friendly people and an excellent Titanic exhibition, but it’s seriously thinking about what it can do to help young people find and keep a good job.
Over the past year we have worked with Inspiring Impact in Northern Ireland to adapt and pilot our Journey to Employment (JET) shared measurement framework for a Northern Irish context. Issues of sectarianism and other community challenges are experienced differently in Northern Ireland, and so the NEET Forum and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) wanted a measurement framework to reflect this.
So we now have our standard JET Framework, and a JET Framework for Northern Ireland. But for me, the real difference between the two frameworks has less to do with the outcomes and scales it contains, and more to do with the strength of ambition behind it.
It’s a truism that making things happen is easier in small countries: you know who all the important people are and you can get them in a room. Northern Ireland has a NEETs Forum made up of a good proportion of all the charities working with young people to get them into employment. This forum is able to lead, challenge and inspire the sector. We first presented to them about JET back in December 2013; they expected it to provide support with impact measurement, but they also thought further ahead to consider how it could help the sector work better together to really tackle unemployment.
The new Northern Irish version of the shared measurement framework has been piloted with a range of organisations—from large ones like Barnardo’s to very local ones like Sandy Row Community Centre. Those who used it feel it offers a great way to become more strategic and rigorous about impact measurement. The NEETs Forum are now thinking about how they can create a more systemic approach to impact. Part of this is about encouraging organisations to use a shared measurement framework. But it could also include a great deal more than this—reflecting on where there are gaps in provision, how to encourage more collaboration and talk about the value of the sector.
NPC is hoping to continue our work with Inspiring Impact NI and the NEETs Forum as they enter this phase. We would like to bring in philanthropic funders and businesses so that the approach is joined up across the sector—because there is the potential here to make this about much more than just measuring impact.