The IRF, which operated over 2015-16, pioneered the significantly new practice of funding social ventures to buy in impact consultancy, and as the Impact for Growth strand now carries this concept forward, it is essential that lessons are drawn.
The event was attended by a mix of 30 ventures, consultants, investors and funders. Ventures talked about the importance of values, and how engaging in the impact process is about asking the deep questions about who you are, what you do, why you exist, and how well your operations align with this. However in a tough operating context, it can be a challenge for ventures to keep values and impact front and centre, as these do not always match up with business incentives.
There was much discussion of how ventures and commissioners ‘pass like ships in the night’; and with commissioners showing hesitancy around impact, and social investors inevitably following revenues back to commissioners, the question arises as to where the essential driver for impact management can be found. This is critical as impact involves not only a deep process throughout a funding intervention, but an ongoing one.
Recognising the value of impact work may fall ultimately to the ventures, and it follows that their commitment and capacity regarding impact is likely to be the single most significant factor determining the success of projects (more so than variability among consultants, though it was agreed that that exists too). This suggests ventures should be placed at the centre of such projects, and support offered for them to take on more of the work themselves, as the Impact Management Programme currently does.
Ways to take venture-centredness further still may include encouraging a greater role for ventures in leading projects, disseminating learning, and developing programme strategy. It may be possible thereby to start building beyond a consultancy-based model of impact support.
- A brief report detailing further findings can be downloaded from the Access website here. Thanks to all those who came and contributed their thoughts.
If you have further feedback or learning you would like to share please email us at Access@thinkNPC.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.