Shared measurement: the way forward?

The launch of a new report by New Philanthropy Capital has spelled out some of the advantages to shared measurement. The report, Shared measurement: Greater than the sum of its parts examins how shared measurement approaches are shaping services and improving impact.

Shared measurement involves charities and social enterprises that work in similar fields having a common understanding of what to measure in terms of the outcomes and impact of their work. They also need to develop the systems to do so.

On hand to share their experiences at the launch were Diana Barran from the domestic violence charity Safe Lives and Tamsin Shuker, impact manager at Citizens Advice. Safe Lives asked seven domestic abuse services to log data about their practices – around 50,000 cases. Barran was left in no doubt about the importance of shared impact measurement.

She shared that, previously, any policy introduced by the home secretary on domestic violence was not informed by the data collected by people working with beneficiaries. This is not the case now. “The voice and experience of those thousands of people from whom we have captured data feeds through and informs the decisions of everybody right along the chain right up to the most senior people in central government,” she explained.

The simple equation for Barran was that data gathered from beneficiaries and the practical application of the insights gained meant that the whole sector benefited through funding, policy and capacity building.

MPs – this is like catnip to them, they love it. It tells them things that nobody else is really telling them about their area.

Not only was seeing the number of great outcomes nourishing to staff, she said, but it has been much easier to convince central government to give grants. “The department for communities and local government announced in the Autumn Statement they were increasing their funding for domestic abuse services from £10m to £40m and they sweetly rang us after and said they could not have convinced the treasury to do that without the data to back it up,” said Barran.

Tamsin Shuker of Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) was also vocal about the information produced from impact measurement being useful for keeping politicians on side. “MPs ­– this is like catnip to them, they love it. It tells them things that nobody else is really telling them about their area,” she said.

All the bureaux use a customer relationship management platform to log the problems and resolutions, but also data such as gender, age and occupation. CAB is therefore able to report on a whole range of issues including poverty, housing problems (including risk of homelessness) and health issues. 7,500 people visit a bureau daily and the service saw 6.2 million problems from 2.5 million last year.

The structure of CAB meant that it was included at the launch of this report. Each of the 316 bureaux are independent charities and they have to find their own funding annually. The average number of funders is 12 but some have as many as 47. The impact measurement data is important as “bureaus have to find that funding every year so it’s important for them to be able to give a consistent message” Shuker said.

Both Barran and Shuker mentioned that staff were initially resistant to adopting the practice of capturing information at the beginning and end of interventions. When they realised the importance of it and got used to documenting practices however, resistance dwindled.

Another advantage to shared measurement was cost of system to hold the data. Of those present, only Barran was able to share the expense – £1m over seven years, including developing the system and giving subsidies to early adopters so they didn’t pay the full cost.


Photo credit: Jamie (Flickr)