Here at Reach we understand the role digital solutions have to play in enabling civil society to expand its reach and respond to the needs of communities and individuals.
For this reason, Reach was delighted to contribute to the Review of Civil Society in London, commissioned by London Funders, working closely with Greater London Volunteering and the London Voluntary into Service Council.
Our own digital journey and its impact features as a case study in the final report from the Review, The Way Ahead: Civil Society at the Heart of London and is reproduced below. Our digital journey continues iteratively, we have not so much as arrived at an end destination, but charted a course that allows us to respond to the needs of charities and volunteers alike in the future.
Reach Volunteering has used digital and online approaches to increase the scale of skills based volunteering and the impact of such volunteering on civil society organisations. For example, the launch of its online platform has enabled Reach Volunteering to support a 50% increase in activity since its launch in Summer 2015 without needing to grow its service team.
Another example is its partnership with LinkedIn. Prior to the launch of LinkedIn’s new volunteering service, Reach Volunteering worked with them to trial an approach to finding skilled volunteers by adapting the existing jobs function on LinkedIn to bring volunteering opportunities to the attention of those who had not previously come forward.
The partnership continued after LinkedIn launched its volunteering service, and is enabling Reach Volunteering to make the most of LinkedIn’s several million members in the UK to extend its volunteering offer. The initiative has attracted the attention of potential volunteers whom Reach previously had been unable to target.
For example Oxfam were recently looking to recruit Health and Safety Auditors in Aberdeen, an initiative for which Reach Volunteering would have previously struggled to find suitable volunteers. Via LinkedIn it was able to identify scores of potential volunteers. Currently 150 skilled volunteers a month join Reach through LinkedIn. When Reach’s own digital platform came online in summer 2015, this was synched with LinkedIn to streamline operations.
Reach Volunteering’s Chief Executive Janet Thorne said: “This has been an invaluable initiative that has enabled us to scale up our work in a way which was not previously possible. We have been able to achieve so much more and reach so much further.”
Diana Parkinson, charity consultant at M&E Consulting outlines a ten-step plan for monitoring and evaluation.
‘The Big Society’ is the new coalition government’s programme for the third sector, which it is now referring to as ‘civil society’. It involves supporting the creation and expansion of charities, social enterprises and community groups and facilitating a much bigger role for them in the running of public services. This is likely to be accompanied by a greater emphasis on payment by results and means the voluntary sector will increasingly need to demonstrate that its programmes and initiatives are effective and value for money.
Effective monitoring and evaluation plays a vitally important role in fundraising for charities and community groups. It helps you to identify how your work matches funders’ priorities and therefore equips you to write stronger funding applications. It also enables you to report back to funders about what you have achieved and the difference your work has made.
In addition, monitoring and evaluation helps the growth and development of your organisation. It provides a way of reviewing and developing existing services as well as identifying gaps in your work and helping to plan new services. It helps you to know whether you have achieved what you set out to achieve, and to find out in some detail how your service users have benefited from your work.
So, how should you go about monitoring and evaluating your work? The process involves three main stages, each of which has a number of steps.
STEP 1: Plan your monitoring and evaluation
Think about when you will need to carry out your monitoring and evaluation, who needs to be involved and what resources will be needed. You will need to decide whether to involve external evaluators (see below) or to do this work yourself and whether you need to seek any specific funding to support the work.
STEP 2: Understand your work
Focus on the needs of your service-users and describe in broad terms the difference that you hope to make for them (your aims) and how you plan to bring this about (your objectives). Make sure that you can link your aims and objectives as otherwise you will find that you are planning work that will not help to achieve any of your aims, or that you have not planned how you will achieve certain aims.
STEP 3: Identify your outputs and outcomes
Specify the services that you will provide (outputs) and the changes or benefits that you hope to bring about as a result (outcomes). Make sure that the outcomes you identify are ones that you expect to occur as a direct result of your activities and that are relevant to your stakeholders.
STEP 4: Set indicators
Identify what information you will need to collect to show your progress in delivering your outputs and achieving your outcomes (your indicators). You can do this by:
STEP 5: Plan your data collection
Think about how and when you can collect information and what resources this will need. For example, you could:
You need to select the methods that would be the most appropriate for collecting the information you need.
STEP 6: Develop tools to collect the information you need
Having worked out how you plan to collect your information, you then need to develop tools to do this (i.e. your forms or interview questions) by using/adapting existing tools or by finding off-the-shelf tools that meet your needs. Make sure you think through when and how your tools will be used and pilot the tools.
STEP 7: Collect your information
Once you have piloted your tools, you can then use them to collect information. Keep an eye on the information you collect to make sure it is useful and appropriate.
STEP 8: Analyse the information
Examine and assess the information you have collected to find out what it is showing you.
STEP 9: Write up your findings
Organise your findings so that you can report on your progress in delivering your objectives and achieving your aims. Try to step back from the detail and look for the overall meaning in the information you have collected and use quotes and comments to bring your findings to life.
STEP 10: Make good use of your findings
Write up your findings, share them with others and use them to inform future work and to report to stakeholders. Above all else, use your evaluation findings to help review and develop your work.
Most organisations choose to carry out their own monitoring and evaluation (self-evaluation). However, some organisations decide to commission an external evaluation to give them a more in-depth and independent perspective. You may find that sometimes funders will require an external evaluation of your work as a condition of their funding.
Diana Parkinson works for M&E Consulting – a small consultancy which supports charities and community groups to develop their own monitoring and evaluation. For more information, visit: www.monitoringandevaluation.org.uk