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Measuring Success

Projects have to be accountable to funders and supporters and very often this will have to be in terms of quantifiable measures.

However, within the organisation, they are also likely to have criteria that go beyond targets and outputs. Very often their concern is with the quality of relationships or the less tangible elements of health and well-being. This is illustrated in a number of ways:

· They avoid cherry picking clients and spend considerable time with them. They focus on those with multiple/entrenched needs who may have further to go on a journey towards quantifiable outputs.

· It is not just one-way process: many projects enable or have scope for ‘recipients’ to become givers, so it is also shown in the mutuality of the relationships that develop.

This is not to say that it is impossible or always wrong for projects to couch their achievements in terms understood by funders. The survey conducted in the North West[1] which looked at the civic role of faith organisations was useful not only for demonstrating the contribution of faith communities to public sector agencies. It also came as a revelation to faith communities themselves because it put what they were doing in the context of wider social and economic developments. It revealed that though they very often thought they were just ‘doing what comes naturally’, in fact they were also contributing to regeneration or social inclusion or sustainable development. As well as giving a new vocabulary for engaging in dialogue with public agencies, it gave faith groups themselves new confidence to do so because it showed that if you cut through the jargon on both sides, there are shared goals and faith communities are already out there pursuing these goals whether or not they have previously articulated it in quite this way.

A few examples of the types of outcomes indicated by projects in this study are:

· The range of groups using the church building.
· The church playing a greater role in the community, shown for example by running a flourishing post office.
· More confident and less isolated clients who have “got their lives back”.
· Clients going on to support others.
· The engagement of young people and their achievements: on courses; staying in education, training or employment; going on to higher education.
· The number of asylum seekers helped out of destitution; some housed; some given leave to remain.
· The number of homeless off the street and homelessness averted by early intervention.
· Improved relationships between migrant workers and employers.
· The number of people trained: clients, staff and volunteers.
· The number of people going into employment.

A number of projects could cite external recognition of their effectiveness shown in awards or Ofsted inspections.

In addition, there were indications of the community action having indirect benefits:

· A strengthened local church.
· Deeper friendships and trust across denominational divides.
· Greater inter-faith understanding.
· Strengthened community relations between faith or ethnic groups through working together.
· Evidence of changed attitudes: raised awareness and sympathetic understanding of the needs of groups such as the homeless, those in poverty and asylum seekers.

Voluntary organisations, including faith groups, are increasingly being asked to evidence their impact. There are ways of doing this that go beyond ‘counting outputs’ and capture the wider benefits:

Social return on investment (SROI)

is a way of measuring and accounting for the value created in projects and services. The methodology is attracting considerable interest from government and from organisations that might fund or commission specific pieces of work. Third sector organisations are starting to adopt it because it can help them give an account of their achievements and attract funding but also because it is a useful tool for understanding how to maximise social impact, improve performance and achieve their goals. (see Template) In addition to providing data on the numbers of clients and types of interventions, a health projects in this study providing aftercare for people on discharge from hospital was able to point to reduced readmission rates. low re-referral rates and cost savings to health partners

Social auditing

is another way of measuring the extent to which an organisation lives up to its shared values and objectives. Basic initial questions are: What are you meant to be doing? What are you actually doing? What do you think you are doing? What do other people think you are doing? It is a process of assessing and demonstrating its social, economic and environmental benefits and limitations through systematic and regular monitoring of performance and getting the views of its stakeholders. Stakeholders are those persons or organisations who have an interest in or have invested resources in the organisation and may include employees, clients, volunteers, funders, contractors and local residents.

[1] Faith in England’s Northwest: the contribution made by faith communities to civil society in the region, NWDA, 2003 http://www.faithnorthwest.org.uk/assets/_files/documents/dec_07/faith__1196766921_contributiontofaithcommunities.pdf