Helping social leaders take back control

What kind of training is worth a day of a charity leader’s time? This is the question we at Impetus-PEF asked ourselves when developing the training for the Impact for Growth strand of the Impact Management Programme.

We knew it was unusual, to say the least, to require senior leaders of charities and social enterprises to attend training before they could apply for a grant. We did it because we believe a day of learning and reflecting on impact management will lead to better applications, and eventually better funded projects. But we also felt strongly that the training should stand alone as a valuable way to spend a day.

So we built the training around the conversations that we, and the partners on the Impact Management Programme, have with the organisations we work with day-to-day. We cover the essential ‘building block’ decisions that impact management requires - who you serve, to what end, and how – and we look at the culture and tools you need to put impact management into action. But crucially we support senior leaders to ‘take back control’ of their organisation from funders and commissioners. We provide the safe space (and challenge) to talk about the areas where they suspect they’re failing. And, after that, to think through what it would look like to serve only a particular group, to ditch old programmes, or to raise the bar on the outcomes they work for.

When delivering this training we’ve been out of our Impetus-PEF comfort zone of education and employment organisations. We’ve been working with inspirational leaders addressing issues such as homelessness, addiction, mental health, community development and conservation. We’ve reflected together on what meaningful impact would look like if money wasn’t a consideration, and how to make a realistic plan to get there. We’ve considered how to tell a funder that the activity they like funding isn’t really making a difference – but that something else could. And we’ve discussed how to cope with a star colleague who does everything right; except take seriously the need to input, and act on, data in the name of learning and improvement

Of course we want organisations to use the training to submit great applications – it’s why we required all the approved providers to attend the training too. But first and foremost the training is to give senior leaders a whole day not thinking about fundraising, managing the board, retaining staff, or even ‘proving’ their impact. Instead it’s a day to think about how they can improve the impact they make – the whole reason they’re in the job, but the thing is can be hardest to make space for.

We’ve had mainly positive comments – participants have described the day as ‘quality time’, ‘thought-provoking’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘energising’. And we’ve acted on the feedback that participants want more time to work through problems with peers and more examples of impact management in practice across a range of different sectors.

We’re running the last session for the pilot this week and are excited to see the grant applications that come in. We’ll be running more Impact for Growth training sessions in the Autumn ahead of the main grant round opening so keep following @Access_Impact for the latest on dates and locations.