One-to-one support for impact management: Three things we’ve learnt so far

Part of the support were providing to organisations on the Pathway strand of the Impact Management Programme is a few hours of free one-to-one consultancy with NCVO CES to support them further in getting started with impact management. The aim is to build on the content and momentum from the co-design sessions and also explore which types of support work best.

After a few months of offering this support, here’s what we’ve learnt so far:

1.    It’s a jungle out there!

As we know already, for organisations starting out on their impact management journey navigating their way through all the component parts can feel like an insurmountable challenge. The one-to-one support has helped organisations clear a path through the jungle of jargon, terminology and advice to focus on just a few things to get right from the beginning. Participants have appreciated us helping them break it down into a number of small steps that don’t take away too much from the day job. Interestingly people often haven’t needed that long with us to start with. Just ten or fifteen minutes setting priorities and signposting to key content can be enough. They can then choose to have a more in-depth session further down the line.

2.    It often starts with planning

While a number of organisations have asked us for support with data collection and designing tools, when we sit down and work with them, there is usually a deeper need for support with planning. As we start to unpick their questions about surveys or databases it becomes clear that the organisation first needs to refine aims, definitions and outcomes before thinking about what data to collect. Good planning underpins everything else. It means that you only collect the type of data you need, and do so in the way that makes most sense for your organisation.

3.    If you build it, they don’t necessarily come

You’d think free consultancy would be a pretty easy sell - but take up has been lower than we expected. We think that this is for two reasons. Firstly, we were offering face-to-face in London only, with Skype or phone sessions for those based elsewhere. But there seems to be a preference for face-to-face, so we are now trialling some regional sessions linked to our peer events and we’ll see how this works. Secondly, people aren’t always sure what they need and so are reluctant to take up time when they’re not sure how useful it’s going to be. We’ve been sharing examples of the kinds of interactions that have been useful so far to see if that helps other organisations understand what they need and take up the support if they want it.

I’ve also been wondering if it’s an impact thing - maybe people aren’t taking up the support because although impact is important it’s not high priority right now - or whether it’s about the consultancy offer more generally. I remember not taking up coaching when it was offered to me as a new teacher, partly because I couldn’t fit anything else in my overstretched brain, and partly out of fear of being judged. The researcher in me wonders whether these might be common factors in people choosing not to take up this type of support when it’s offered and I’m now on the hunt for reading material to find out more. Exciting times! I’ll be sure to report back…