Using the example of South Australia’s homelessness sector, this article argues that developing a shared measurement framework for social ventures can lead to better outcomes for clients.
Outcomes-based measurement – if you say it fast it doesn’t sound so bad. So why does it feel so hard to introduce, and where do you start?
The need for outcomes-based measurement is often imposed from the outside. It can be driven by external changes, typically a significant reduction in funding, a change in funding requirements and/or structural reform to the sector that is not of the organisation’s own making. Having to adapt and respond to these changes can feel hard.
This challenge can be made easier if there is interest and support sector-wide for a shared measurement system: a system that enables organisations to understand and measure their impact, not just as individual players, but in collaboration with a number of organisations with a shared mission.
Like our colleagues at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) in the UK, at SVA Consulting we believe that ‘until we can get more shared measurement into social policy – and especially the charity sector – our efforts to measure what works will be fragmented and we may miss valuable lessons and insights from our peers’.
But how can you start the process in a manageable way that allows you to learn as you go?
One way to approach it is from the bottom up: understanding what is happening from the client’s perspective. By understanding outcomes for individual clients and showing how these changes link back to the services affected by funding changes or reforms, you can provide tangible results that reflect real changes people have experienced in their lives. This initial evidence can help to build momentum and learning around shared measurement, and both drive the conversation forward and provide information that can be refined as you learn from experience. This process also lays the foundation for greater collaboration in service delivery.
This is what is happening in South Australia’s homelessness sector. An initial project by a few organisations to understand the impact of recent sector reforms has been the first step in the whole sector coming to understand the need for, and starting to work its way towards, a shared outcomes-based measurement system.
The process and the conditions for success of this approach are detailed in this article.