Pathway update: What we've learnt and what we're doing next

Firstly, a recap: the Pathway strand of the Impact Management Programme is for charities and social enterprises new to impact management and social investment. Our aim is to support these organisations to get started with using their impact data to improve what they do - increasing their capacity to grow and diversify their income. We know that many of these organisations find impact reporting confusing and lack confidence and skills in using data and developing systems - so that’s the key challenge we’re tackling. We don’t want to create new methods, but build on what already exists, streamlining processes and helping charities and social enterprises navigate the options better.

To ensure the resources and ‘self-service pathway’ we develop are user friendly and fit for purpose, we are taking a co-design approach - working with our target audience to understand in more detail their needs and the issues they face. This is part of our open, iterative development process for the programme which should result in something useful and practical that we can build on over time.

Over the last few months we have held a number of workshops to kick-off this co-design process. With charities and social enterprises around the country we’ve discussed everything from the broad challenges of collecting and analysing data and measuring soft outcomes, to specific learning styles and preferred content formats. We’ve used headline writing and design studio sketches to generate ideas, and even got the Lego out! And we’ve used numerous post-it notes to map users, goals and features.

So what have we learnt? 

Well the feedback from our 30 participants was very consistent, which is helpful - and reassuring! They confirmed there is a lack of resource for and understanding about using data and told us it is easy to become overwhelmed. Across the sessions around 40 different tools or resources were mentioned which shows how complex the environment is – something that our friends at Good Finance are also trying to tackle. The people we spoke to were keen to see more examples of best practice and get simple advice to help get them started. And they wanted to get their whole organisation involved – from the board to frontline staff.

For any sample size sceptics, this from Coop Digital on the value of qualitative research with small numbers should reassure you that we have validated our hypotheses and can feel confident continuing to the next stage of development. We have categorised the feedback into three broad areas where organisations need support to embed their use of impact data: Culture, Planning and Data. These are not ground-breaking new areas to focus on, but it was clear in our sessions that the current ‘impact world’ feels daunting and jargon-filled to many - so our focus will be as much on the how of communicating and enabling change as the what of our content.

We are currently developing prototype materials, which will test with both regional and thematic groups of organisations to check understanding and usability. We’ll also be facilitating learning and collaboration through online and face to face peer networks. So thank you to those of you who have shared your experience so far! We look forward to involving more charities and social enterprises over the next few months, keep an eye out for our next events which will be going live soon.