What do we aim to do and how do we know we're achieving it?
Reflection before action
Thinking about what difference we can help people make in their lives is one of the first steps we take in planning a new service.
This may be a practical difference such as being able to furnish a home without getting into debt. It may be more intangible and subjective such as feeling more in control of your money management or feeling better about yourself.
Evidence and understanding
Whatever the outcome we set out to achieve it's essential we understand what actually happens.
Without capturing evidence of how people really experience our services we can't make any improvements. Without seeing evidence that our action effects a positive change in people's lives we cannot know whether we're meeting our mission.
And without knowing how our work makes a difference we can't ask anyone else to invest in it.
How do know what we're achieving?
Our impact measurement system gives us the information we need to plan, improve, develop and report on what we do.
We use 'outcome frameworks' to set out what we want to achieve and how we're going to collect evidence of progress. We create simple tools to find evidence of whether people are seeing these differences in their lives. Tailor made databases record relevant information (e.g how much money people are able to access to pay off funeral debt).
Impact, however, is so much more than numbers and percentages. Regular interviews and surveys reveal the human story behind our data.
More reflection drives further action
Every three months we analyse and reflect on all this information. We consider changing needs and the effect of the current political and economic climate. Paying close attention to the performance of our services and scanning the horizon enables us to pick up on issues quickly and set up strategies to address them. New developments are inspired by what people we work with tell us about their experiences.
Further evidence and understanding is gained by inviting experts to scrutinise what we do. The first project we were able to get evaluated externally was Made of Money in 2008. This informed our sharing of Made of Money through training for organisations across the UK. Since then we have commissioned and participated in external evaluation the Made of Money partnership training, Moneytalk Islington, Moneytalk Bournemouth and This Way Up.
Down to Earth and the Fair Funerals campaign are currently being evaluated externally and we will publish these when finished. Our newest project Move On Up will be evaluated by the Learning and Work Institute on behalf of our partner Commonweal Housing.
This gives us the confidence to make the right decisions about what we do, and how we do it.