An evaluation showing the economic impact of older volunteering sits on a shelf gathering dust alongside an annual report aggregating a charity’s impact on the wellbeing of individuals in its local community and a piece of academic research showing the links between child abuse and adult mental health.
The growing movement towards charities measuring their results will fail to realize its potential unless it also builds the infrastructure which allows reliable information about impact to flow and so enables funders, charities and beneficiaries to learn from each other. Two UK organizations, FunderFinder and New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), have come up with ideas for tackling the problem.
FunderFinder’s So What Projects
FunderFinder envisages a free website, which they are calling So What Projects because it has two elements. First, what projects have been done? Second, so what? Did the work make a difference? What can be learned from what happened?
Most grantmakers already ask grantees to write a final project report. The idea is for all these reports to be sent to So What Projects, where they are added to a database and classified by subject, beneficiaries and geography and other features. Users visit the website, search for what they want, and retrieve a list of matching project reports. These might be ranked according to user comments. Some might be starred by funders (‘The Goodguys Foundation has marked this report as particularly interesting’).
Two elements would be vital. First, a good percentage of all project reports would need to be on the site to make it useful. Second, the classification and search would need to be of good quality. Assuming these, this might improve the quality of project reports (now exposed to public view rather than filed away and forgotten), provide raw data for researchers, and help both funders and charities learn from their peers.
NPC’s Results Library
NPC’s initiative – currently known as the Results Library – will form a skeleton for future information flows. It will hold information about charities’ activities and results – existing reports, evaluations, academic research, etc – posted by charities themselves, alongside information about the connections between the social problems being tackled.
Like So What Projects, the Results Library will be searchable, but it aims to go a level deeper. While the FunderFinder initiative will bring grant reports into one place and categorize them to allow users to find reports on specific subjects, the Results Library will allow the data contained within project reports, evaluations, research papers, annual reports and many other sources to be presented, searched and used.
There will also be elements of validation built into the Results Library – while charities can post their results to it, these results will be validated against evidence. Finally, it will aim to create metadata about these results – links between different interventions and social problems. It will be online and open source – to be developed, populated, extended and accessed as widely as possible. It will be incubated by NPC, but over time it should become self-sustaining and independent.
Both initiatives are currently at the concept stage. FunderFinder has applied for funding, but so far without success, while NPC is actively seeking funding.
For more information
For more on So What Projects, contact Jo Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the Results Library, contact Tris Lumley at email@example.com