A Local Authority perspective
Here at Upshot we work closely with a range of organisations who are delivering impactful and effective programmes and we enjoy playing a small role in supporting these great organisations to measure change.
In this piece we want to take a step back from Upshot (the System) and look at the bigger picture around effective impact measurement.
Lady Zahra Niazi is the Programme Lead for Bradford Council, based within the Stronger Communities Team. The Council have over three decades of working on equality, diversity and inclusion and it is this work that the Bradford for Everyone; the integration and cohesion programme funded through the MHCLG, builds on.
Together we want to create ‘a place where everyone feels safe, that they belong, are understood and are able to fully participate in the opportunities the district offers.’ Our work advocates for social justice, diversity and inclusion for all. In this role, having worked in the council for over 3 years, has developed a range of grant-making models, but ensuring infrastructure support is put in place to upskill organisations, evidence impact and capture stories within a rapid reflective learning environment and culture. Zahra is also the Director of Impact Hub and has been previously been a Public Governor for the Care Trust.
We work towards achieving our vision by being innovative, thinking deeply for sustainable change and working in partnership with over 38,000 residents and organisations through the delivery of 70+ projects, configured across our four pillars of Getting On, Getting Along, Getting Involved and Feeling Safe. To date we have engaged over 30,000 people across the district, including urban and rural areas. Our approach is to positively promote all that we have in common - showcasing our amazing people, places and potential. To date the programme has awarded over £3m to a diverse range of organisations across the district.
Q1. How can effective reporting, MEL of charitable projects/programmes lead to tangible changes in policy/attitudes/behaviour within local authorities or the wider government?
Good monitoring, evaluation and data collection can be transformational. It is about how we use a variety of information to tell a compelling story of what works and what doesn’t – for decision makers and politicians, this is key. It can inform, guide or make a clear argument for further investment, scale projects and programmes, shape services so they engage and reach the people we need to, it helps to identify gaps and importantly we can evidence what difference it has made to people. By working in a collaborative way we can co-design solutions together; where decision makers, partners and local people are sharing the table. In practice, this has led to the decommissioning of projects, extensions or variations in project design. There is a greater expectation of quality and depth and this ensures that everyone ‘up’s their game’.
Q2. How do you integrate your MEL into grant applications and programme design?
As commissioners, we take a position of equal power, with a shared vision, building open, honest and trusting relationships. This is the same approach we apply in our relationship with delivery partners, because we’re not only interested in what worked but also what didn’t. We use a range of methods such as participatory budgeting; where we can involve hundreds of local people in decision making and where local people can get involved in projects and project design; we run open traditional grant making processes and provide support to small grass root organisations via our Project Officers who talk through our application process. We keep things as simple as possible and up skill our partners especially in evidencing the difference they have made. After a successful application, we take this one step further by working with partners to refine their idea and to ensure what we do is evidence based and data led and groups and organisations feel confident using our measures and indicators. We think it’s important that organisations understand what we mean by cohesion and integration and we try and do as much work as possible to provide a range of outcomes they can evidence as well as indicators and measures to ensure they capture the things we’re interested in.
Q3. When designing a reporting framework, should it be top to bottom or bottom to top?
A reporting framework needs to work both ways; for commissioners and partners. We therefore design different reporting frameworks depending on the award amount, the size of the project, the type of organisation and how much capacity, skill and experience they have already to collect good quality data, qualitative information such as soft intelligence, case studies, carry quality assurance and the culture of reviewing and improving what is being delivered through reflection and rapid evaluation. Where training is required, or working more closely with our partners or system training we will make sure we put in appropriate measures in place without over burdening organisations.
For more local authority perspectives, take a look at our interview with Blackpool council by clicking the button below!