Measuring Impact and Quality
Demonstrating impact is linked to creating a baseline and setting targets during ‘Service Development’. From this point you can begin monitoring, measuring and communicating impact to demonstrate the difference you are making in your community and progress you are making towards your aims and objectives.
Community services, perhaps now more than ever before, must demonstrate their contribution to local outcomes. This means clearly linking the organisation’s activities to a range of social, economic, environmental and health outcomes, measuring what matters, providing the evidence and using this to make the case for investment. But measurement of impact is also an important internal tool as well as a means of attracting finance.
Many community groups have intangible impacts that are difficult to quantify, such as improving people’s confidence or making them feel happier or more in control of their lives. Depending on the size of your project and the type of stakeholders you are working with you may need a robust evaluation of your work. This could be important in terms of validation of your approach and management. An external independent study often carries more weight, but think carefully before getting an external organisation involved. It may meet immediate needs but it is unlikely to develop internal capacity to continue monitoring impact in the future unless that capacity development is provided as part of the support.
The New Economics Foundation has identified at least 20 potential methods that can help organisations measure their impact and prove the value of their activities. Some of the most commonly used methods that are concerned with impact measurements are:
- Change Check.
- Tell Your Story – Community Impact Mapping.
- Social Accounting and Audit.
- Social Return on Investment.
Proponents of all the approaches do not consider them to be useful as comparative tools between organisations. As such if you are interested in Benchmarking your performance you should consider joining a purpose designed benchmarking group, or simply take an informal internal approach by undertaking study visits.
An alternative approach is to use a framework that has been specially designed for the culture and sport sector, such as the Culture and Sport Outcomes Framework. The Culture and Sport Outcomes Framework has been produced to help anyone working in the culture and sport sector who needs to demonstrate the contribution of culture and sport to local outcomes. This includes local authorities and other individuals and organisations in the public, private and community and voluntary sectors.
The MLA have furthered this work in developing an Outcomes Framework for Museums Libraries and Archives and exploring the use of various performance indicators.