Impact round-up: February 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly impact round-up. Each month at NCVO charities evaluation services we summarise the latest news in impact and evaluation.  We also share useful guides, resources and data collection tools.

Spotlight on funders

NCVO is often asked to work with trusts and foundations on understanding their impact and learning from their grant-making. Over the next three months we’ll be showcasing some of the work funders are doing to improve their own impact practice. As well as making the process easier for grantees.

Our introductory blog for this theme outlines some case studies of emerging good practice. This includes foundations developing their own theories of change. They then use this to make better decisions about awarding grants as well as supporting grantees with their impact practice.

Over the next couple of months we’ll be sharing some of our learning on:

  • the benefits of approaching a ‘funder plus’ approach to impact practice
  • how to encourage better impact practice from grantees, leading to better data for funders
  • how organisations have used their evaluation findings to increase their effectiveness and influence.

Stronger foundations: impact

The Association of Charitable Foundations has been working on a project to help grant-making foundations identify and promote excellent practice. Their working group on impact has completed their final report. The report identified seven pillars of good impact practice for funders. Funders with good impact practice:

  1. understand their mission and what they are seeking to achieve
  2. base their decisions on evidence including meaningful feedback and lived experience
  3. believe everyone in the organisation has a role in the pursuit of impact and enable a culture of learning
  4. consider the whole toolbox in the pursuit of impact
  5. proactively seek to understand how their operations affect others and seek to avoid and redress harm
  6. learn from failure
  7. think collaboratively to pursue their impact and advance learning.

New CES reports published

You wait ages for organisations to agree to publish evaluation reports, and then two do so at once!

We’ve recently conducted a brief process evaluation for Just For Kids Law. In it we explored how We Belong transitioned from a project within Just for Kids Law to an independent charity. It was a real privilege to work on this and learn more about what’s needed for a user-led charity to thrive. Just for Kids Law published the report so more organisations, trusts and foundations can learn from their experience.

YGAM commissioned us to conduct an external evaluation on their work on practitioners and young people. They’ve also published the report. Radmila Evanics from NCVO CES, who worked on the evaluation, said:

‘It has been a privilege to work with YGAM on evaluating this innovative programme. Speaking to practitioners and young people has shown us the timeliness of this work and the positive impact the programme is already having. We are pleased that YGAM will use our evaluation findings to inform future development of the education programme and drive continuous improvement. We look forward to seeing the programme continue to grow.’

In the news and on the blogs

  • Sarah Menzies and Milla Gregor from NCVO CES have been reviewing software for developing theories of change. Their review has been posted on the Inspiring Impact website.
  • We found a brilliant example of qualitative evaluation posted on Mad in America. It’s about how training in Open Dialogue (a therapeutic method) transforms psychiatrists’ identities. Fascinating in itself but also a brilliant illustration of the power of qualitative data analysis to provide insight that numbers can’t.
  • Eleanor Chelimsky, U.S. Assistant Comptroller General for Program Evaluation, spoke at the American Evaluation Association. She talked about the dangers of a single narrative in evaluation and called for evaluation to ‘re-complexify’ issues rather than suppressing counter-narratives. You can download the speech as a word document.

Training and events

NCVO provides training and events covering a range of topics, from impact to governance, volunteer management and data protection reform – with discounts for NCVO members (Not a member? Find out more).

Here’s what’s coming up:

  • How to collect outcome and impact data – 26 February
  • Outcome and impact measurement (one day) – 4 March
  • Strategic planning: Creating the right process for your organisation – 16 March
  • Creating a theory of change for your charity – 18 March
  • Outcomes and impact assessment for funders, grant makers and commissioners – 26 March

We can also come to you! Our courses can be delivered at your venue, providing an affordable way to train groups of staff, trustees or volunteers. Contact us for more information.

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Amira Tharani Amira is a senior consultant at NCVO Charities Evaluation Services working across projects including delivering open and in-house training, supporting clients to build their evaluation capacity, conducting external evaluations, and supporting clients with strategy development.

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