Too much thinking about impact happens towards the end of projects or services. There is a tendency to look back and hope that some positive change has occurred. There is not enough time and attention given to what is happening along the way.
This means focusing on implementation and monitoring. It includes quality, but stretches far beyond that. Implementation and monitoring are important not just for maximising impact, but also for sustainability.
If you have thoughtfully designed your project or service (being clear about what it is intended to achieve, for whom, and how), you will want to know that it is being delivered as you hoped, and that young people's direction of travel is positive. If you gather some information that suggests there has been a positive change for young people, this will help you to connect it to what happened in your project or service.
What actually happens within a project or service can change the relationship between the way you planned or designed it, and the difference it makes to young people. This might seem obvious, but it means that it is all the more important to understand what actually happens. You will also want to build a strong business model for the project or service, so you know the resources required for effective delivery, and can begin thinking about how this relates to the intended benefits.
Many different aspects of projects and services are already monitored and captured – the important thing is to consider this from the perspective of impact. Knowing how many sessions you provided last year, or how many young people engaged with your organisation for example, doesn’t tell you anything about impact - even though it is valuable information in other ways. You need to connect this up with the difference young people experienced in their lives, and more detailed information about how they interact with the project or service.
- What does it cost to deliver the project or service?
- What is the optimum staffing level?
- How will others understand what your project or service does?
- Can you define the journey of a young person through the project or service?
- Are there defined stages or phases?
- Are there any referral criteria for your project or service?
- What does good quality look like in your project or service?
- How do you know whether this is being achieved?
- How will you know whether young people’s outcomes are moving in the direction anticipated?
Check out our Help Guide on the right side of this page for tailored information on maximising the impact of your projects or services, matched to your particular interests.
We also have resources for:
If you want to learn more about measuring for impact, here is a selection of interesting reading:
- Nesta have produced The Development, Impact and You Toolkit, which will help in defining young peoples journeys through projects and services, alongside developing a viable business model.
- Christopher Carroll and his colleagues have written an engaging article, 'A Conceptual Framework For Implementation Fidelity' which explores how programmes and services deliver their outputs as initially intended.