Understanding the impact of a policy, service strategy, service or project means understanding the difference it makes to the people and communities that are affected by it.
In the case of third sector organisations, it is now more important than ever that these impacts are understood, and where possible, the difference that third sector organisations and their activities make is evidence, measured and reported clearly. Ever reducing funding and increasingly tight public sector budgets means that third sector organisations need to be able to demonstrate that they provide a competitive option for investment of funding and public money, because the projects and services that they provide can be proven to support real, effective and lasting changes for people and communities. The public sector is under increasing pressure to demonstrate that any investment in services contributes towards the production of positive outcomes for local communities, and funders are more and more interested to know what outcomes a funded project is going to generate. In an ever more competitive environment, the organisation or project that understands the difference it makes, and can evidence this difference, is in a stronger position to continue to find the support required to continue making positive changes for its stakeholders.
Impact measurement is about articulating, evidencing and measuring outcomes, and about being able to relate the outcomes of a particular service or project to the higher level outcomes of commissioners, funders or internal stakeholders. It is also about enabling an organisation to better understand what key stakeholders want from a service or project, and how best these outcomes might be achieved through service improvement or redesign. Approaches to impact measurement can help you to better understand the type of monitoring practice that should be employed within a particular service or project to evidence the outcomes it produces, and it can also support co-production of services and with the personalisation of care within services by enabling ongoing input from service users and other key stakeholders such as volunteers and carers.