A data-driven approach with Croydon Voluntary Action

Community image

“Community” – it’s a word used so much, especially in the non-profit sector and it denotes a concept that is hugely sought-after by us all. The word inspires fundamental emotions and often feels like something we as individuals are constantly searching for evidence of – but can seem somehow out of reach? 

For us at Upshot, community groups have become a large part of our very own Upshot user ‘community’. Across the UK, staff and many volunteers are recording data and evidence about a vast range of activities that form the lifeblood of a town or area. These include signposting services, individual mentoring support for young people, refugees (older people - any people!) referrals, food banks, family support, lunch clubs, support hubs, opportunities to volunteer, sometimes it’s just as simple (but essential) as providing a space for a chat. These sessions can act as catalysts for working towards key outcomes such as reducing social isolation, building community cohesion and strengthening partnerships. 

By bringing to life the concept of community with evidence of what happened, who said what and what changed, the popular idea of a place-based approach (defining delivery by the needs of a specific location and the people who live there), finds a welcome home in the community group sector.   

In the London Borough of Croydon over the last year, Upshot has worked with Croydon Voluntary Action – who build stronger communities for social change - to:

  • Establish clear and effective reporting for a young people-focused programme, funded by the Borough’s Violence Reduction Unit, My Ends. 
  • Co-design and deliver a way of collecting data about the great work of the Local Community Partnership (LCP) programme.
  • Empower a more digital approach to recording the data for 4 key local community hubs, where residents are supported, guided and signposted to services or given space to share their situation, as part of the One Croydon Health Care Partnership.

Programme manager for My Ends, Shalina Alabaksh, explains how for the final year of the My Ends programme, CVA have been able to empower delivery organisations to provide data more consistently and easily, in order to deliver more insightful reporting to the VRU.

"This project focuses on diverting young people away from serious youth violence with our Partners offering a variety of interventions. The scale of intervention varies from health and wellbeing Sports Programmes to supporting 1:1 high risk cases. All of this work needs to be recorded accurately, to show our funders the whole landscape of a young person’s journey as they make positive progression. 

Implementing Upshot has been a step change in how we record, track and story tell with our young people at the heart of it. It’s thrilling to see the body of work our Partners upload but what’s even more powerful is when they can show a young person just how much their confidence has grown, by seeing their personal progression – that’s the real joy and impact Upshot makes.”

Learning from the implementation of Upshot for My Ends, an initial workshop inspired all LCP partners to shout about the often unrecognised but essential support for residents they provide across the Borough.

CVA’s Director of Communities, Sarah Burns shares her thoughts:

“Our local community partners do amazing work in the Borough, providing wrap around support and services for residents. A lot of this has been reported based on anecdotal evidence – now with Upshot in place we are starting to see the benefits of knowing in real-time where sessions and services take place (and importantly where they don’t!) so we can make informed, evidence-based decisions. Each area working in partnership was able to develop their own Theory of Change with CVA to reflect the specific activities they deliver – AND share common outcomes and categories to help build a Borough-wide picture”



And for the local community hubs, part of The King’s Fund’s Healthy Communities Together programme, Sarah added: 

“The local community hubs provide safe spaces for residents to have strength-based conversations or thoughts and learn about the services and support available to them. Our friendly teams are able to now record the types of interaction they have, including next steps to better health chats and providing sign-posting and referrals to supportive organisations. With Upshot we developed, carefully and from the ground up, the data collection process in order to enhance the effectiveness of the hubs and also give visibility of anonymous but insightful reporting across all hubs, in order to understand trends and learnings from real evidence.” 

Another interesting aspect to these last two programmes is the on-the-ground support given by partner organisation Clear Community Web (CCW), a local charity themselves, they have played an important role in the implementation phase for both programmes, sitting alongside users in person and helping to feedback and again co-design how the Upshot system is used in day-to-day contact with the residents.

Caspar Kennerdale, Managing Director at CCW, added: 

“A successful implementation of any system is always dependent on understanding and translating the culture and technological changes faced by the resource-challenged VCS (Voluntary and Community Sector). A three-pronged, supportive approach with Upshot (Provider), Croydon Voluntary Action (Infrastructure) and Clear Community Web (VCS Delivery) has proven to yield insightful results already and empower the sector to be in control over their own project data.”  

It takes time to build authentically from the ground up; taking into account all voices and perspectives in a community. It also takes a change of mindset to work openly and share evidence in order to make informed decisions or simply share learnings. Given time and support this approach can give a real-time insight and help to recognise the key role played by organisations and individuals who work to build healthier and stronger communities.    

We are working with community groups around the UK – if you would like to know more about how Upshot can tell the story of your work – contact info@upshot.org.uk 

Shared resources:  

For more on CVA – click HERE

For more on the My Ends Programme – click HERE

For more on Local Community Partnerships – click HERE

To explore Voluntary and Community Organisations in your area – click HERE