Street League’s real-time impact dashboard not only looks impressive but feeds crucial information into the youth charity’s strategic planning, explains director of strategy and impact, Lindsey MacDonald.
Q: How does having a clear understanding of your social impact help your strategic planning?
Understanding your social impact, and being able to measure, evaluate and communicate it, should be core to any charity’s strategy. Our vision and mission inform our strategic planning, and social impact measurement then helps us to understand how we can best achieve our objectives.
This year, Street League has been undertaking a strategic review and one of the first steps was to look at our data and interrogate our strengths and weaknesses. In addition to the quantitative data, we examined the qualitative feedback from young people, frontline staff and external evaluators, which gave us insight to how we achieve our social impact and how we might increase this going forward.
Q: Do you involve your beneficiaries – the young people – in your strategic planning process?
Young people are at the centre of everything we do. We engage them in a variety of ways and throughout our strategic planning process.
They help us at the very start understand the challenges they face and the opportunities they would value. We gather this information in monthly forums in our Academies. We find this to be the best approach as it is built into our programmes, minimises cost and ensures broad representation. We bring together that feedback to help us understand the national picture and where differences might exist.
Because we track the unique journey of every young person who joins a programme we can also look at their data to understand the variety of starting points, the support they receive, the opportunities they access and how that helps them move into a job, education or training.
We also involve young people in shaping how we articulate and communicate our strategy and plans. This ensures that it feels relevant and real to them and that our assumptions and planning have addressed their needs and expectations.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a social sector CEO embarking upon a strategic plan right now?
Make sure you look at what you didn’t get right as much as what you did. Street League has found the greatest amount of learning has come from putting the number of young people who disengage from our programmes at the forefront of our reporting. This drives different conversations in the organisation and often highlights where your real focus needs to be.
This article originally appeared in Strategy 101, the October 2018 launch edition of our new EP Insights management briefing for social sector leaders. Our aim is to offer a regular, thought-provoking selection of senior-level knowledge and practical advice that CEOs, managers and trustees can make use of to perform their roles more effectively. You can access and sign up for EP Insights at https://www.ep-insights.org/