NPC has worked with the MS Society several times in recent years, holding many conversations with the charity about understanding and increasing its impact.
The first time we worked with the organisation was when the current chief executive joined, and the MS Society wanted to take stock of its internal capabilities. NPC were appointed to provide an independent assessment of the charity’s effectiveness to feed into a future strategy process. Following this initial review, the MS Society commissioned NPC to support their strategy process further by developing theories of change for some of the Society’s main areas of work.
Most recently we worked with them on a collaborative project to develop a theory of change for information provision across the entire MS sector. This involved stakeholders outside the MS Society.
In order to assess the MS Society’s effectiveness, we conducted analysis according to the methodology set out in our Little blue book, tailored to address the key concerns at that time. We interviewed 30 stakeholders, including senior managers and other members of staff, trustees, and directors based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The external stakeholders interviewed included people with MS, carers, academics, the CEOs of other MS charities, and statutory funders.
After the review was completed, the MS Society embarked on a process to set new strategic goals. This involved people affected by MS, volunteers and staff—including a survey to which almost 3,000 people affected by MS responded. Once these goals were established, NPC supported the charity to develop theories of change for four areas of work. To build the theories of change, NPC delivered two full-day workshops with staff members, trustees and people with MS. At the workshops, participants agreed on the wording for their goals, discussed the barriers to change, and developed initial theory of change maps for the four areas.
The Society subsequently wanted to involve external stakeholders in developing a fuller theory of change for information provision and measurement framework across the entire MS Society sector. NPC acted as facilitator, and we enabled input from multiple stakeholders, including the MS Trust.
We presented a report from our initial analysis to the MS Society’s senior management team and board of trustees. The analysis covered the charity’s activities, results, leadership, finances, people and resources, and recommendations for each area. The team found it useful in shaping thinking about the new strategy. The theories of change subsequently developed fed directly into the MS Society’s new strategy.
The theory of change and measurement framework for information, developed with external stakeholders, offers a vision for the sector on how information can help people with MS—a blueprint to improve the sector’s information services and support for beneficiaries. The report contains transferable insights for non-MS focused organisations on information support for people with life-altering medical conditions. The work stands as an example of what can be achieved when organisations with similar aims combine their knowledge and work together.