Posts tagged ‘Outcomes’

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.

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.

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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!

September 14, 2011

Can you help us – MARAC data (plus lunch)?

We are looking for volunteer MARACs to do a short analysis of outcomes from MARAC.  As you know, we collect the data from over 200 MARACs nationally and each collects the figure for their local repeat rates.  We know however, that owing to pressures on capacity, some MARACs are not recording as ‘repeats’ those cases where there have been further incidents, but where they are no longer deemed to meet the MARAC threshold.  We have written extensively on why we do not recommend this, and I won’t rehearse the arguments here – suffice to say that we need to get a more accurate picture of repeat victimisation and also harm reduction as a result of MARAC.  To do this we would like to track a dip sample of about 20 MARAC cases in 10 different areas, (making 200 cases in all for those who like totals), a record the number of police call outs for the 12 months pre MARAC and the 12 months post MARAC.  We have had one very noble ‘volunteer’ who has done this for one MARAC and the results are really encouraging.  It allows us to see for one agency only, how often they were called to a household, for what type of offence and how much it cost them before the MARAC, and then after.

I think that this will give us a clearer picture about impact and is something that we can then trace across multiple other agencies so that we get the full picture of safety.  But first things first – if you have time to come to our office either in London or Bristol, meet with other coordinators and Chairs, for a briefing, and then spend half a day doing the research in your office, please let me know on

This is really important so if you can help, please be in touch.  Thank you.

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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.