It’s always been an aim of the Impact Management Programme to provide opportunities for those involved in both strands to collaborate and learn from their peers. This has been highlighted in the sector as an effective approach to learning and we have previous experience at NPC including the Inspiring Impact subsector partnership and our support for the Young Academy cohorts and Accelerating Ideas grantees. Creating peer groups of ventures was also a recommendation in the recent review of the Impact Readiness Fund so there is consensus that it is a ‘good thing’.
So our aims for the peer network in the Impact for Growth strand are to enable grantees to connect, learn from and with each other, share experiences and challenges—and to encourage collaboration and partnerships. We also want to draw wider learning from the projects to understand better what works in impact management support.
Hopes for the network
We brought together our first grantees and providers to work through how the peer network could be structured. We started with what they wanted to get out of it and they told us they hope to be able to identify common issues and support each other, share ideas and experiences on topics of interest, and understand what each other are measuring and how. They all had appetite for taking advantage of the wider learning opportunities in the programme and getting insights on specific challenges like engaging and motivating staff with data and cutting through ‘impact jargon’ to get clarity on what they are there for.
Making it work for grantees
It was great to hear that everyone was on board with the aims of the peer network, but some challenges did come up when we discussed the ‘how’. The time and resource required for travel and attendance at events when grantees are located around the country was a concern, as well as the general issue of how to keep up to date with what everyone else is doing when you’re busy with your own project (and the day job!). We also had questions about how the learning and reflection would fit with formal grant monitoring processes, with a preference for them to be separate.
Formal and informal methods
Using this feedback we have designed the peer network to have a combination of both regular, structured tools and informal sharing. At any time, peer network members can log learnings, ‘aha’ moments or updates via a Google Form or by email. Grantees will also be asked to share a quarterly Learning and Reflection report which will be a chance to review their progress in more detail—particularly what’s gone well and not gone so well. The timing will be in line with grant monitoring for efficiency, but it will be in a separate report to support honest reflections. NPC will draw themes and learning from these updates and proactively share these with the peer network and the sector more widely. We will be blogging and will encourage peer network members to do so too.
Events to share knowledge and learning
While too many events would feel like a burden for grantees, face-to-face is useful for relationship building and deeper dives into the learning. So we are planning some in-person events, but this will be supported by more regular webinars. These will be organised, introduced and facilitated by NPC—but led by peer network members who can suggest and vote for the topics to be discussed.
Connecting grantees and providers
The peer network is primarily for grantees, but providers will be involved as appropriate and we welcome reflections and blogs from them too as the projects progress. The peer network is for all organisations that receive grants through the programme, which means as we make further grants the group will grow and those new to the programme will be able to benefit from the experience of those that are further ahead on their journey.
Watch this space!
We are excited to get the Impact for Growth peer network up and running and look forward to the contributions from members. The next peer network event is a topical webinar in November so we will report back after that. And needless to say we will be learning ourselves what kind of support our network of grantees needs and will adapt our approach as required.