In recent years, performance management in government and across the wider public sector has tended to adopt an outcomes, or results-based, focus over the more traditional language of inputs/outputs and process evaluation. In Scotland, outcomes approaches to national and local government are being led by the Scottish Government through the adoption of the National Performance Framework.
Driven by a philosophy that government should be accountable to the society it serves, and that decisions about policy, action and public spend should be transparent and should contribute to positive change for society, outcomes based approaches to performance management assume: that change is possible; that policy, action and spend can contribute to the generation of change; that this change can be experienced and that it can be measured; and that through experience, and through the analysis of change, better decisions can be taken in the future.
Within the present economic circumstance, government and the public sector face ever more stringent limitations on budgets, whilst demands for services increase. Government, the public sector, and its third and independent partners, are faced with the challenge of managing to ‘do more for less’. With a changing demographic and the prospect of continued economic challenges for Scotland, it is essential that public services create real value in society by effecting real and lasting change for communities. An outcomes approach to the development of policy and the delivery of services makes achieving change the objective of all activity and outcomes performance management approaches mean that the performance of policy, spend and activity is accounted for to society in terms of the positive change created.
The National Performance Framework provides the impetus and the direction, and the commissioning and procurement of public services, whether contract or grant, one key mechanism via which the public sector and its partners can deliver change which has a real social value.
Whilst one methodology for social impact measurement won’t answer all of the challenges faced by public sector agencies and their third and independent sector suppliers in delivering results within the national performance framework, there are strong correlations between the principles that underpin social impact measurement philosophies and the outcomes focused performance management approach of the Scottish Government. Outcomes performance management systems are about identifying positive outcomes, proving they happen and understanding how policy, action or spend contributes to the outcomes created. Social impact measurement, regardless of the methodology applied, is at heart about understanding the same thing, and the principles which underpin the key approaches can guide those charged with delivering and evidencing change in the development of strategy and practice to do just that. Very particularly, social impact measurement methods share some very important underlying principles, which are directly relavent to some of the current agendas within the National Performance Framework and related strategy.
This section takes a closer look at social impact measurement its relevance to single outcome agreements; outcomes performance managment for public sector organisations; and the Change Fund agendas. The section focuses on issues such as engaging stakeholders when developing SOAs, understanding and communicating the relationship between high level outcomes and public sector activities, outcomes performance management and monitoring and reporting on contribution to the national outcomes, and more.
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