Archive for ‘Outcome driven funding’

September 9, 2013

APPG – All Pretty Pessimistic (and) Gloomy

I attended the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) this afternoon which focused on commissioning and the impact of localism on the VAWG sector.  Chaired by Bridget Phillipson, MP, we had three excellent presentations from Polly Neate, CEO of Women’s Aid, Mary Mason, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid and Anthony Wills, CEO of Standing Together.  Polly reminded us of the Government’s commitment to strengthening the commissioning framework and improving support for women and girls locally.  The picture that all three painted of what is happening in practice seemed a far cry from this.

The themes that emerged included the fact that many parts of the sector didn’t have the capacity to respond to the new commissioning requirements with often inconsistent standards and outcome frameworks, small specialist organisations and the need for them to have pretty sophisticated business development teams which simply don’t exist widely.  Concerns were expressed about too much focus on high risk at the expense of early intervention and long term support.  [It will amaze you to know, that we don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive – see previous blogs on Themis].  Other points included a lack of input from service users, the loss of self help and activism and the loss of former service users ending up working in, and often leading, specialist services as generic providers win contracts. All the speakers rightly stressed the importance of specialist services and were worried that commissioning processes often ended up with the wrong provider winning the contract with too much focus on cost versus quality.  There was a call for a commissioning framework for the sector, and for longer term contracts as well as clear and simple indicators and outcome measures.  The tone of the meeting was indeed APPG, All Pretty Pessimistic and Gloomy.

Probably the most positive part of the meeting was the call for our sector to speak with one voice on these issues.  We certainly would like to see this happen.

Within CAADA we are trying to address some of these points as they relate to IDVA provision in particular, but also more widely to build the evidence base for other services to demonstrate their impact.   Our Shared Insights – Shared Outcomes programme aims to link specialist providers with their local commissioner(s) to ensure that these specialisms are not lost, their value is quantified and the experience of service users drives decisions by commissioners, service managers and practitioners.  We can provide output and outcome data for all the key community based services that are delivered by specialist providers.  If you think that this might be useful to your service, please see

Similarly, we are starting to develop materials for commissioners so that they can commission to the standards that we would all hope to see.  You can help us by making sure that your local commissioner is aware of these and please contact us if you think we can support you in this area.  There is more information about this at

Finally, we believe our Leading Lights accreditation provides IDVA services with independent verification of the quality of their provision and demonstrates this objectively to commissioners.

We share the deep concerns expressed by all attending the meeting about what is happening with commissioning in some areas and certainly would love to see the whole sector advocate for a model of support that includes both immediate practical help and longer term therapeutic support for victims and their children.  We really don’t feel that it is an either/or debate between high risk and other services, but rather that we should all be pulling in one direction to create a model that delivers safety and well being outcomes as well genuine value for money with a relentless focus on earlier intervention.  So would that be a different sort of APPG? A Possible Path to Growth?  Maybe that is stretching things too far….

November 17, 2012

Measurement – what, why and for whom?

The latest NPC newsletter highlighted comments from Francis Maude about the importance of impact measurement (you can read the original here: Minister urges embedding of impact at NPC conference ) by charities hoping to compete for local authority contracts.  The article goes on to point out that about half of charities have increased their measurement in order to meet the needs of their funders, and only 5% with the aim of improving their services – although 25% said it did improve their services.

At CAADA we care a lot about information, evidence and measurement – indeed our Insights service works with about 100 practitioners across 20 service providers to collect information directly from service users.  Of course we see a value in ‘meeting the needs of funders’ but we see a MUCH bigger value in understanding how the profile of different service users differs, what interventions are effective, how this learning can be shared across multiple small service providers, and how it can be used to shape commissioning and policy.  It is in the ALIGNMENT of all these actors that we achieve real change for beneficiaries – ensuring that all use exactly the same data to inform their decisions and ensuring that the service user’s experience drives the whole process and encourages the improvements in practice and innovation that we all wish to see.  For more about Insights, see the Commissioners page on our website. (CAADA: domestic abuse service commissioners – domestic violence service commissioning – outcomes measurement )

So the WHAT we measure, is information that is useful to practitioners or it won’t be collected consistently.  The WHY we measure is to help us understand better what works, how to shape our response and what good commissioning looks like.  The FOR WHOM we measure is for beneficiaries – to be sure that we spend our resources in the way that achieves the best outcomes for them.  And if we do all these things we will have aligned the interests of practitioners, service managers, funders, commissioners and policy makers to focus on what is good for the beneficiary.  End of lecture.

October 3, 2012

Missing Voices: How Can We Get More ‘Doers’ to the Social Innovation Table? : Center for Social Innovation CSI

I thought that this was a thought provoking post from the blog of Kriss Deiglmeier, Executive Director of the Centre for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  She writes:

“A number of reports have crossed my desk recently about how to accelerate and advance social innovation. There are reports on collective impact, convenings on impact investing, and conferences about measuring outcomes to name just a few.  

These gatherings and reports come from credible sources, and so their recommendations influence the agendas of leaders, funders, and investors. Their data and findings help to define what people think is important. They drive strategies, dollars and operations, and in doing so shape the direction of social innovation.  

In many of these reports I notice a big imbalance in representation between those I’ll call the “doers” and those who consult, advise and fund the action. For example, on a back of the envelope analysis of four reports by leading social impact experts and consulting firms, just 24% of those surveyed/convened were doers who directly provide programs, services and interventions. The remaining 76% were assorted funders, consultants, intermediaries, advisors, and donors.  In one report the doers accounted for a mere 3%. These percentages resonate with my observations at a variety of gatherings over recent years, and they raise concern.   

There will be consequences if our dialogue about social impact becomes insular and too far removed from the front lines. We need to hear from the doers who intimately understand the demanding reality of working to create positive change, and are closer to the people and causes we care about. Doing so will only lead to better outcomes.   

We will get better solutions. 

The doers are more connected to the clients and customers that are critical to understand, and whose needs must be met. They generally have a more nuanced understanding of the cultural context, behavioral patterns, and peer networks that impact the effectiveness of a proposed solution. So, by including more doers in the conversation, our findings, strategies, and plans will be better anchored in reality and empathetic to the end user/customer, which will likely increase the success of proposed solutions.  

Plans will have more traction with the people responsible for implementing them.

When doers are not at the table they can’t help to define hot topics and set priorities. The proposals and plans developed are then several layers removed from the people most crucial to their implementation. I hear a lot of talk about the need for more intermediaries and consultants, and in a cycle without input from the doers we can end up with funders, intermediaries, and academics talking to each other in circles. It risks becoming a self-aggrandizing loop that doesn’t resonate with the front-line action.

The reasons why doer voices are missing from the conversation are varied and complex. It’s possible that they are less networked to the conveners and report authors than their intermediary colleagues. It’s also possible, unfortunately, that their perspectives are undervalued or overshadowed by the power dynamic that exists between funders and doers. However, one reason seems clear: The field of social impact is underinvesting in doer organizational capacity and professional development. This underinvestment limits their ability to both be at the table when new solutions are proposed and also implement changes.  

I was recently talking with a colleague who shared the following illustration. A Stanford graduate who elected to work for a nonprofit organization wanted to attend a two-day professional conference. The woman asked her manager if she could go, she offered to pay her conference fee and travel out of her own pocket, and just needed approval for paid time away from the office. The answer was no; the organization couldn’t spare her for even two days. Unfortunately, this reality of lack of resources and bandwidth is all too common.  

To solve the world’s complex problems we need to continue to innovate. Asking tough questions and pushing the boundaries of what is possible is a must. To get the best answers the field also needs to better engage the voices of front-line actors in high-level discussions about social innovation, and in defining priorities and developing plans. The doers need enough bandwidth to occasionally step out of their day-to-day leadership, management, and program delivery obligations to contribute meaningfully to this dialogue.  

Equally important to getting doers to the social innovation table is equipping them to share their topical expertise more effectively across sectors, supporting them to grow professionally, and engaging them as co-creators of social innovation’s future sweet spots. Isn’t it as important, if not more so, to invest in their organizational capacities, leadership skills, and knowledge than to pour money into intermediaries, backbone organizations, and consultants? I appreciate the role of those who offer a broad perspective, facilitate connections, and oversee complex multi-stakeholder processes, but we need to remember not to cannibalize the individuals and projects directly working with communities as we follow new trends in the field.

For each dollar invested in an intermediary, we should carefully consider the trade-off and make sure that it wouldn’t be better spent to build the organizational capacity of a key NGO, fund leadership training for a promising leader, or pay to document and disseminate lessons learned from the doers who directly drive results in the field.

Everyone – the doers in their diverse areas of expertise as well as those that fund, inform and guide the field more broadly – have insights that can shape our sense of what’s possible. From the ivory tower to foundation board rooms to where the rubber meets the road, all contingents deserve support to build the skills they need to create positive change in the 21st century.

Missing Voices: How Can We Get More ‘Doers’ to the Social Innovation Table? : Center for Social Innovation CSI.

March 30, 2012

The Public Services – Social Value Act – Will it make any difference?

The post below is ‘honestly stolen from’ the CAF Giving Thought Blog (  Like the author, I have been meaning to write about this for a while….but I would never have been as clear, nor would I have found such a good photo!  All I would add, is that our work with our Insights service ( )and trying to measure outcomes that matter to victims, practitioners, funders and commissioners should all contribute to doing this kind of analysis better in future.  We talk at CAADA about the silver thread of data that links victims to commissioners.  So with that, I will hand over now to the CAF blogger…

“I have been thinking for a little while about doing a blog post on the new Public Services (Social Value) Act, and when I came across an article on the topic by former NAVCA CEO Kevin Curley it finally spurred me to action. Curley discusses some of the potential issues with the Bill and the way it will be implemented, and many of his thoughts echo ones I have been mulling over myself.

The Act sets out a new requirement that “public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes.” This has been well received by many in the civil society sector, who have been arguing for a long time that charities and social enterprises have been at a disadvantage when competing for public service contracts because they are unable to make the most of all the benefits they can offer. It is hoped that this bill could improve the situation.

read more »

November 30, 2011

How to scale up social enterprise – A Synergistic Model of Scale — Social Edge

I thought that the article below from Social Edge, was really interesting and worth thinking about for all of us involved in delivering solutions to social problems.  We can see around us examples of quick, government funded responses and also many small social entreprises which struggle to scale up.  In our world, how do we help grow the best of the local work from domestic abuse services?  How do we build the best feedback loop into our MARAC work?  I will try and answer some of these questions but would love your thoughts!

A Synergistic Model of Scale

Hosted by Eric Glustrom (November 2011)

incorporating solutions

As the social change agents of our time, we keep our eyes peeled for any opportunity to grasp that idolized holy grail of social entrepreneurship: a sustainable, market-based approach to scale. However, especially for many Social Edge readers, it’s easy to let advocacy – the process of scaling a solution through policy change or partnership with larger institutions – slip into the distance.

Consider the following diagram:
The social enterprise is the wedge, driving forward its solution. It has a few paths to scale:

read more »

October 12, 2011

Are you a metric head or a story hugger?

If only I had read the post from Social Edge BEFORE I gave my speech at the Third Sector conference on Impact Measurement…I did talk a bit about which is more effective in communicating with funders and stakeholders – impact measurement or the emotional pull of a strong story.  But I didn’t use the funkier language of ‘metric head’ or ‘story hugger’, and most annoyingly I didn’t say the obvious thing which is…..that it isn’t either/or but it should be both.

I was asked to talk about using impact analysis to inform one’s strategic planning.  Colleagues who watched me make writing a simple document last year into the planning equivalent of walking up Mt Everest backwards without oxygen, might be forgiven for rolling their eyes, and asking ‘why her’?  I did find preparing this speech genuinely hard, and thought provoking.  However hard I tried to answer the question, I kept coming back to the idea that it was the wrong question – or rather that one needed to answer another question first.

The other question, is how are you going to use your understanding of the impact of your work based on your ‘theory of change’ every day for every colleague?  Impact analysis is not primarily about presenting great results to outside stakeholders, funders, commissioners etc.  It is about achieving real change for one’s beneficiaries, understanding how we achieve that change and capturing it in some ‘metric head’ sort of way.  But if we really believe our own results, then our primary focus must be on implementing them in our organisations.  I really believe that all those external stakeholders will spot pretty quickly if we are doing that and continuing to achieve real change.  The challenge is to make it real, keep it simple and implement it every day.  One of my wisest friends said that every organisation should be able to look at just three things to know whether they were on track and achieving their goals.  Three things…not thirty three.  For us they are engagement (are people engaging with our programmes), implementation (are they doing what we believe works) and learning (are we capturing best practice and sharing it around the country).  It focuses the mind.

And now I will get off my soap box!

May 3, 2011

Some pointers for commissioners? Or the Big Society?

I am a great admirer of the work done by Bridgespan ( who write and debate about some thought provoking issues for the not for profit sector.  This recent piece looks at the new legislation passed in Connecticut addressing how the state contracts with charities – something that we are really interested in – especially how one can link the commissioning process with good outcomes for beneficiaries.  According to Bridgespan, Connecticut doesn’t have all the answers, but there are some useful pointers, and any readers who are responsible for commissioning might take note of the recommendations too…see link below for the detail.

The Guiding Principles are set out here, with some UK/CAADA interpretation added in brackets!

  • That the work of the Commission strengthen the public/private partnerships in the delivery of health and human services; (for us that would be about strengthening MARACs)
  • That quality and effectiveness of services are predicated upon a viable and sustainable nonprofit sector; (makes sense to us…)
  • That program and/or funding changes result in maintained or overall improved client outcomes;(yes)
  • That the pursuit of efficiency and streamlining processes is a mutual goal of both purchasers and service providers; (fair enough- but might need capital to invest in order to get efficiency gains)
  • That commission recommendations and future program design be supported by reliable data and analysis; (Yes, our Insights service perhaps?) and
  • That services need to be client and community focused, and based on current best practice models.” (See Leading Lights for an example of this)

Conversation Starter – Connecticut Maps Path to Nonprofit Sustainability – With a Few, Deep Potholes – Government Funding.

February 14, 2011

Big Society Bank

I have just come back from a fascinating ‘Social Investment Summit’ hosted in the City, and with a wide range of government and private sector speakers.  You will have seen the launch of the Big Society Bank which aims to provide loan capital to charities and social entreprises to allow them to expand their work, access local authority contracts and deliver better services.  The bank will be funded in part by the large high street banks and in part from so-called ‘dormant’ bank accounts – i.e. accounts that have been forgotten!  The first source is expected to provide £200m in loan capital and the second, anything from £60m up to £400m.  The bank is due to start its operations in the third quarter of this year.

The transition from grant funding to generating fees is not necessarily an easy one – but we should be encouraged at the effort that is being put into this area not just by government, but by a wide range of different organisations.  Historically one of the reasons why the voluntary sector has been held back is the lack of capital to build organisations.  Let’s hope that this goes some way to addressing this problem.  Certainly it links in with the thinking in our strategy that we should focus on outcome driven funding, or payment by results.  The skill is in ensuring that the results are good for the people we are trying to help, and not just for the provider.