Measuring impact: Does it matter?

small-fazilet-hadiFazilet Hadi is a trustee of NCVO and a managing director of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) with responsibility for marketing and communications, campaigning, membership, information and research. She recently took a step back from targets to take a fresh look at what clients of the organisation really need.

Making a difference

It is easy to be super busy, fill your diary, count the times you have answered the phone, or how many people you have supported. (Well, possibly it is not that easy, but you know what I mean.) It is much harder and more challenging to ask if you have made a difference to people’s lives.

At a recent meeting, senior leaders at RNIB and Action for Blind People sat round a table to discuss our progress in delivering welfare benefits services.

On the face of it we were doing just fine. We had reached double the number of people we had set out to support. We had come close to meeting our target for raising benefits for people. So what was bothering us?

Targets and reaching people in need

We had doubts about whether we had picked the right targets. We had a concern that targets might be driving us in the wrong direction. We decided to go back to basics and to check that what we were doing was making a difference to people’s lives. We wanted to be sure we were reaching those most in need and that we were using our limited resources wisely.

We brought a mixed group of strategic and operational colleagues together and encouraged them to step back to question how things were being done. Going back to the ‘so what’ question was very powerful. We concluded that we wanted to show the difference that benefits make to lives. Rather than simply counting the money raised, we agreed to ask customers if our services have made a difference, and if so how.

This was welcomed by campaigns colleagues because benefits are under threat. If we can present a picture of the impact, we are better able to argue against further proposed cuts.

Reconnecting to change

We also questioned if we could achieve greater reach and impact if we helped to develop the skills of other organisations, worked through different networks, and developed better online tools. Perhaps our traditional advice service model was restricting reach and limiting our impact.

Like all good meetings it ended with a list of action points. I am sure we have more work to do. But it does feel as if, rather than simply counting outputs, we have made a good start at reconnecting with the change we want to achieve.

Workshop on measuring impact at NCVO’s annual conference Evolve

Fazilet Hadi is on the panel of Measuring impact is a waste of time, one of the workshops at the NCVO annual conference, Evolve, the leadership event for the voluntary sector, in London on 15 June.

 

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