“Without plans no measurement with meaning”

We are pleased to introduce Tris Lumley from New Philanthropy Capital (UK) as  a speaker at Social Innovation Summit in Malmö, 24-25th november. ”A key thing is to see to that the evidence and the data that is collected, is used to make decisions and make changes,” according to Lumley.

Tris Lumley is Director of Development at NPC (New Philanthropy Capital) in London, a charity that is part think-tank and part consultancy. He is also a member of the EU GECES Social Impact Measurement Sub-group and within the G7 Social Impact Investment Task Force (initiated by Sir Ronald Cohen) Tris co-chaired the group focusing on impact measurement. He is also co-charing the international network Social Value International.

Why shall we put time and effort to work with impact measurement?
– It’s important because social impact is the core purpose and the core currency of the social sector, in both the non-profit and the public sector. If we are not able to measure, manage and learn from the data on social impact, how can we then know that we are doing the best job for the people that we are here to serve?

Don´t we kill creativity if we focus too much on measurement?
– Not at all, both creativity and innovation are absolutely required. If we innovate without understanding the results, then we can’t do anything with that innovation.

How do we produce prognoses with substance?
– It’s important to be clear that measurement is not the first step. Before we manage we need to plan, then manage and after that measure. A good understanding of the aims of what we are doing is the foundation of measurement. Without plans no measurement with meaning. If we do not know what questions to answer, we do not create measurement that is in use to anyone.

Do you have any concrete advices for beginners?
– First: work out what is already known, before you launch into measurement activity. Look at the research and see what is known about the area. And also: talk to other people! Find out who else is operating in the same space, get them together around a table and find out what they know, what they are doing and build on their approach. Work together if possible! Don’t work in isolation.

– If you are an entrepreneur and an investor: get the two of you together! Measurement should always be driven by those delivering services, products or programmes. And if you are two or more investors in the same field: work together and try to build common approaches over time. We need more cooperation, shared approaches and shared frameworks.

How can we match the interests of the entrepreneur with the interests of the investor?
– In theory their interests are very aligned. The investor wants the enterprise to deliver the greatest social impact, with the financial and social results/impact to be linked and interact. And if the investor is smart he or she says: “That’s my interest too”, instead of imposing a measurement framework on the entrepreneur.

– Often neither side know how to start these meetings and conversations. The investor has the money and is often in the drivers seat. In the best of worlds the investor says: “Let’s work together, let’s understand the situation together. We support you to measure what is most useful to you as an organisation and then we use that data.”

Any other reminders before getting started?
– A key thing is to see to that the evidence and the data that is collected, is used to make decisions and make changes. That is the engine of continuous improvement. If we do not do that, we are just carrying out an exercise just because we should, without any value to anyone. So use the data you collect! As I see it the most important question to ask any organisation is: “Tell me what you have changed because of the data that you have collected.” Sadly very few know the answer to this.

– And finally we have to remember that money is power in this equation. Both charity and social entrepreneurs need funders. But if we let that money define what we measure and report, we are just playing a game to access that money and we will never get closer to reality and understanding the world and our interaction with it.

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