Over the coming weeks whatCharity will be sharing all things impact related through a series of blogs hosted by Social Value UK (SVUK). The series will cover what impact management is, why it’s important, and how to apply it to your charity, with tips and tricks along the way. SVUK will also be hosting two live webinars; to stay tuned on all things impact related and more sign up to our newsletter here. Here’s Part 2:
In part 1, we looked at the why of impact management, what the purpose is behind measuring and managing your impact, as well as why people and organisations gaining interest in this area. This blog will discuss more practically how to do this. If you’re unsure about the step by step questions your organisation should be asking with regards to impact, scroll down to ‘The Impact Questions’ in this article!
What Does Impact management Mean In Practice?
The Impact Management Project states: Impact management is the ongoing practice of measuring and improving our impacts, so that we can reduce the negative and increase the positive. The key is here ‘management’. Like any type of management, this involves putting some systems and processes, or management practice, in place in your organisation, service or activity. There are lots of representations of an impact management cycle out there. One useful version can be found in the ‘Maximise your Impact’ guide (and in the picture below). Another is the Inspiring Impact ‘cycle of good impact practice’.
The Impact Management Cycle
These broadly cover similar stages ‘Plan’ ‘Do’ ‘Assess’ ‘Revise (or review)’. Each stage fits with the planning, delivery and improvement cycles you will likely already have in place for delivering your activities. There are particular steps, actions, resources and tools that can be used and set up in each of the stages. For example:
Planning stage: In the planning stage you will be identifying ‘what the problem is you are trying to address’ and your proposed solution. You will also be identifying who is affected, and talking to them – this will help you immensely in designing activities that are based on people’s actual needs, and in defining what you are going to measure to check that you are actually meeting their needs.
Doing stage: This stage overlaps with you delivering your services, activities or interventions with your beneficiaries. During your delivery, you will also be doing your impact measurement collecting data through surveys, feedback forms, or through informal or anecdotal conversations with your users, beneficiaries, volunteers or teams. You will also be gathering this information together ready to assess and revise.
Assessing stage: Here you will be looking at the data or information that you have, seeing if there are any trends, anything significant (good or bad), and seeing if there is anything unusual or unexpected, i.e. is there anything here you didn’t think was going to happen in your planning stage?
Revising stage: Using the insights from assessing your information you will be able to decide on what needs to be changed to improve your service delivery, and crucially to improve your service users experience and ultimately to improve their lives.
The Inspiring Impact website has resources, guidance, tools and templates free to use for each of these stages, all available through the ‘Learn to Measure’ section on the website.
The Impact Questions:
Another way of structuring what you are going to do at each stage of your impact management cycle is to work through the key impact questions:
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What is our proposed solution to the problem?
- Who experiences changes in their lives as a result of what we do?
- What outcomes are (or are likely to be) experienced?
- How can we measure these outcomes?
- How much change in each outcome has happened (or is likely to happen)?
- How long do we need to measure the outcomes for?
- What is the relative importance of the different changes in outcomes?
- How much of the change in each outcome is caused by our activities?
- Which changes matter and are important enough for us to manage?
The key to asking and answering these questions is involving your stakeholders (Social Value Principle number 1), and focusing on the decisions that we are trying to make. As you continue to make decisions in uncertain times with needs that are changing at speed it is important to keep in mind that this is a continuous improvement cycle. The cycle can be fast or slow, and detailed or simple, as needs are based on our changing circumstances and the gravity of the decisions we are trying to make. The information we have to support our decision-making has to be fit-for-purpose, providing the intended audience with enough precision for the decision!
In Part 3 we will look at different types of data, how to gather it – qualitative or quantitative (or both!) – and introduce some different methods.