A great deal has been happening in the world recently so I will forgive you if you don’t know much—yet—about the new Impact Management Programme we are leading at NPC. It is a two year capacity building programme, funded by the Access Foundation and Power to Change, intended to help charities and social enterprises increase their social impact and diversify their income. ‘Investment readiness’ is one of the few corners of our sector where there is still money around for capacity building, and given the paucity of funding elsewhere, the announcement of a new programme may produce a collective groan. The Impact Management Programme is not the answer to the general under investment in the social sector, but we believe it is a good thing. Here are three reasons why:
- It is a sincere attempt to help charities and social enterprises get investment and win contracts. The social investment market is still benefitting too small a proportion of the sector, and Access’s mission to broaden its reach is a worthy one.
- It aims to make it easier for charities and social enterprises to manage their impact. Too many organisations are ploughing a lonely furrow—there are not easy mechanisms for learning from others and most cannot afford the professional advice available. Some guidance is available in the public domain (including for example NPC’s own four pillar approach to effective measurement) but it is fragmented and still hard for organisations to know where to start.
- There is a disconnect between measuring impact, and actually using the insight gained to manage performance and make decisions. This is a diagnosis Access has made and one we at NPC share. While impact measurement is often initially driven by the needs of funders and commissioners, there is a real missed opportunity if there is no connection between this and how the organisation is managed and how it improves. Access has coined the term impact management (as opposed to measurement) to try to capture this.
NPC are running this programme with a consortium of partners (Impetus-PEF, NCVO Charities Evaluation Services, Social Enterprise UK, Social Investment Business, Social Value UK, The Young Foundation, and design studio Hactar) and we all share this analysis of the issues and are committed to the same objectives. Indeed some of us have already been working together on initiatives such as Inspiring Impact, which we set up in 2012 to better coordinate the impact field. So why the necessity for a new programme when this already exists? Put simply, because we have the opportunity to build on what we know and do things that Inspiring Impact can’t—although we will coordinate the two programmes closely.
Through the Pathway strand we have the potential to make an investment in a high quality digital platform that will link together the wide variety of guidance and tools that exist already to help the sector. Previous attempts to do this have been somewhat on a shoestring, and there is an additional focus through this programme of being user-led and developing a truly low-cost, self-service option. This will be developed with a cohort of charities and social enterprises to make absolutely sure it will work for users, and this commitment to co-design is a fundamental value that Access have brought to the table.
Through the Growth strand we also have £1.8m of grant money available to support organisations within sight of an investment or contract to do the work on their impact management that will help get them over the line. This does build on previous investment readiness funds, but the focus here is different. It is about helping organisations understand and crucially act on evidence about the impact of what they are doing. That will allow them to improve, achieve more, and get themselves into a stronger position to close a deal.
Our consultation process has started and the first grants will be made in the new year, so now is a good time to engage with the programme and give us your views on what you need. There is precious little capacity building money going into the sector these days so please help us make the most of this exciting opportunity!
- For more information visit AccessImpact.org—register your interest for either the Pathway or Growth strand and you will be first to hear about our upcoming workshops and training sessions.
- Drop us a line via Access@thinkNPC.org if you have any comments or questions.
- Follow on Twitter @Access_Impact for all the latest news.