CEO BLOG: Our first year

Preeti - Upshot CEO

CEO Blog series

Welcome to Upshot Systems CIC first CEO Blog! We will be publishing these quarterly, with our CEO Preeti Shetty giving her insights into challenges and opportunities in the third sector, deep diving into areas such as impact, digital & tech, sport & non-sport sectors and MEL trends. 

In the first of these, she celebrates and reflects on the first year as CEO of Upshot Systems CIC. 

It’s 12 months on from Upshot becoming an independent social enterprise; I thought it was time to reflect and try and put the experience into words - which I am finding difficult. So much has happened but in some sense it still feels very new. As a team we have learned so much - it has been challenging at times, but equally the support we have felt from our clients, our partners and the sector has been amazing. We’ve learned that we often took operational infrastructure for granted - The Football Foundation, the charity where we were founded, gave us a lot of support in terms of finance, HR and admin - in the last 12 months, we have had to learn how to do this ourselves, alongside our other roles. Who knew VAT was so complicated!?

We’ve learned that we are extremely resilient - starting a new business during a pandemic when we couldn’t all be in the same room was difficult but we all stepped up and made it work. We’ve leaned on each other, professionally and personally and made it through the other side. We’ve learned (well we thought this anyway but it was certainly validated this year!) that measuring impact has never been more important to the third sector and there is definitely a place for a social enterprise like Upshot. On a personal level, as a first time CEO, I learned that it can be very isolating and stressful, but there are so many other people out there that are willing to give you their time, to share their experiences and tell you the mistakes they made, so you can maybe avoid them or at least know they are normal!

"We've learned that we are extremely resilient... We've leaned on each other, professionally and personally and made it through the other side."

We chose to become a 'Community Interest Company' (CIC) because we want our social purpose embedded into our constitution. We wanted to make sure the asset was locked and no individual could ever benefit from any profits, but instead they would always be reinvested back into our business and our community. We wanted to ensure that Upshot would always be available to the third sector at a fair price, encouraging more organisations to be data-driven and evidence-led. As most charitable entities, we report back on this social purpose and it has been incredibly gratifying to see that our clients feel we are achieving our own outcomes around supporting the sector to measure their impact better. 

One of the benefits of being a CIC is that we are now eligible for grants. We don’t rely on these but one highlight of this year was getting our first ever grant from The Rank Foundation. This has enabled us to have another person to support our growing business and invest further in our team and infrastructure. In fact we have added two new faces to our team and they have already added so much value in the short time they have been with us.

We spun out of the Football Foundation because we wanted to reach more organisations, in more sectors and help them manage, monitor and evidence their impact in different ways. I’m pleased to say in the last 12 months, we have seen 7561 users working on Upshot, we’ve added 574 new organisations to our community, delivered 824 training hours and supported 1400 users.

As the pandemic wanes (hopefully), we are starting to look forward and think about where we can add even more value to our community. We now have a base at the House of Sport where we can work together in person, although we will continue to be a predominantly remote working team. We have elevated our cyber security measures achieving Cyber Essentials this year and working towards Cyber Essentials Plus. And we are expanding our offering to include more capacity building around MEL for the sector. We have always seen ourselves as more than a system - we are a team of problem solvers trying to support our clients in what can be seen as a complex area. The focus for the future is to keep delivering the service and support we are known for, but also look for other ways to add value to the impact measurement space, while we all navigate a slightly different world together. A lot has changed but the need to evidence your impact and tell your story will always be important. As a social enterprise ourselves, we know this now more than ever before.