This week we come to the final part to our impact series hosted by Social Value UK (SVUK). This series has covered what impact management is, why it’s important, how to apply it to your charity, and much more. Here’s Part 6:

Working practices and organisational impact culture

Throughout this series we have (hopefully) developed a shared agreement that the social impact, and social value, of our activities matter and that this is something we should be measuring, tracking and managing in the decision making of our organisations.

Organisational Culture Is Key

As Peter Drucker once said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. In the context of impact management this means that no matter how well we are committing and planning to make impact a core part of our organisational decision making, if we do not have an organisational culture that supports this aim we will come up against blockers. Blockers that come from our very own teams and organisational communities who do not agree, or do not have the time, skills or resources to be able to implement this commitment.

Culture Challenges:

Some of the challenges we may be facing include:

  • A lack of coordination and consistency in the approach across an organisation
  • A lack of leadership on impact management
  • Capacity constraints – time, expertise and funding
  • A need to shift from monitoring to embedding impact
  • Impact data actually informing decision-making, not just as a review exercise

Culture types to help remedy these challenges:

‘Impact Thinking’: To prioritise social impact we are aiming for ‘impact thinking’, outlined in the ‘Maximise your impact guide’ as ‘focusing on creating as much net positive impact as we can with the resources we have.’ To embed impact thinking into your organisational culture this will mean:

  • A culture of reflection and of willingness to change.
  • A culture that seeks change in response to feedback – continuous improvement
  • Welcoming being forced out of your comfort zone by what you are learning from your stakeholders
  • Embedding from setting strategy to every day operations

‘A Learning Culture’: Inspiring Impact also promote a ‘Learning Culture’, which focuses on key knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that your whole organisation should focus on to be able to learn, and continuously improve.  Here are a couple of key points on developing a ‘learning culture’:

  • Attitude to Accept failure without blame – having a culture that allows failure or mistakes will encourage people across the team to share negatives or learning points, not just positives, knowing that this will be welcomed as the best way to improve.
  • Behaviour to Change what you do as a result of learning – when identifying areas to improve your team will know that the organisation is expecting to continuously adapt and change improve the services, impact and value for your beneficiaries and everyone who is affected. 

The Inspiring Impact worksheet ‘Understand your impact culture’ can help you to look at your organisations knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours and where to improve. And the ‘How to create and impact culture’ tips and steps list gives clear actions you can take.

‘A reflective approach’: Evaluation Support Scotland highlight the importance of a ‘reflective approach’ especially looking at the role of the board, and of trustees. A reflective approach will give space for staff to give a narrative overview of why something has happened, not just what has happened, and the team will incorporate learning into all aspects of work.  The board should play the role of reinforcing this culture of continuous learning, embedding the expectation that improvements will continuously be made.   

‘Stronger Foundations and Funding Practice’: Funders have a key role to play.  Even if an organisation has an impact focused culture this needs to be valued by the funder too.  An interesting development recently is the launch of the Association of Charitable Foundations report on Funding Practices: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice.  Practice number 5 states foundations should ‘Regularly review its funding practices as part of a culture of learning and think collaboratively to enhance its impact’.  It is excellent to see that foundations are also aiming towards learning, continuous improvement, and ultimately increased positive impact.   

Support for your culture and practice development:

Certification: External verification can both certify that good impact practice is taking place, and offer assistance in learning what to do and how to improve.  A supportive certification pathway is the Social Value Management Certificate, which guides organisations through commitment, implementation and management of social value management practice. 

Peer learning: Learning from others experience can be a really useful part of the process, and there is a directory of awardees with interviews at each level of certification. Inspiring Impact have a section dedicated to organisational impact stories with practical examples of organisations experience.  Evaluation Support Scotland have launched a series of mini case studies focused on learning from evaluation during the current Covid crisis, short, easy to digest and with great tips!

Self-Assessment: Finally, assessing your own practice is a great way to start, and there are 2 self- assessment tools that are really good for assisting:

  • The Social Value Self-Assessment Tool: A quick test to assess your application of the Social Value Principles in practice and some practical tips on how to embed these Principles and improve.
  • Inspiring Impact ‘Measuring Up: a free impact practice self-assessment that enables you to understand your current impact practice better and identify where improvements can be made.

We hope that you have found this series useful and that you have found some good tips to help in improving your impact practice, and ultimately the impact that you have. For more guidance, support, training, workshops, webinars and blogs, do reach out to the Inspiring Impact, and Social Value UK teams.  We are here to help!

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