The scorecard is a tool the Young Foundation has used in many different programmes, and has been specifically adapted for Better by Design, where we have been facilitating sessions using it with the organisations on the programme.
First and foremost the scorecard is a tool for self reflection and to prompt discussion within teams around their organisation – its leadership, social impact, financial sustainability and delivery. That’s why we introduced it during the “insight” phase of Better by Design. The self scoring is a by-product – a yardstick by which each organisation can track their own progress as time goes on. But is also enables us to look at themes across the piece; and some interesting ones are emerging.
Firstly, strengths. There were two stand-out areas. Firstly, partnerships. Generally all the organisations have solid partnerships and networks in place, ranging from delivery focused to influencing policy. It’s often what gets squeezed, particularly in smaller organisations, so it’s been good to see the importance that’s still being placed on achieving greater impact through working with others, although private sector partnerships still remained sparse.
Second was delivering a good and holistic range of services that empower those they work with. We’ ve been impressed both by the breadth and depth of services the Better by Design organisations deliver. This does present the opposite challenge, however, of focusing and not over-stretching, as well as shifting to be pro-actively developing programmes rather than being reactive to grants and tenders. Knowledge of competitors and collaborators was good. Having a better understanding of needs and demand was a point many wanted to take forward.
Now for the areas that people most thought needed improving. The area that consistently came out as weakest was research, which was defined as having an evidence base of the need, demand and context for all work, as well as understanding the policy environment and future trends. Generally the awareness of policy was solid. However, there was a clear need, and appetite, for more detailed research to support the organisations and their planning and work.
We know from the bespoke research we have been doing with each organisation that research is a gap many want to fill, but often don’t have the capacity or time to be able to. We did a webinar on social research last year, and the feedback was similar – good start, but we want more detail.
As part of Better by Design we are therefore going to be developing a tool that will help organisations, and partnerships, think of the types of questions they want to answer, the best research methods available to do this, what the different outputs from these could look like, and how to go about commissioning it, all within a design context. Any thoughts on this very welcome!
The other area that came out as a priority for improvement was outcomes focus – so an ability to articulate and evidence the difference made to individuals and communities. It can feel inevitable to fall into just telling funders about the outcomes they’re interested in. As a result it is easy for organisations to become a patchwork, rather than a coherent whole focused on the specific outcomes it believes in and wants to achieve. Behind this was also a desire to do more around measuring, demonstrating and communicating impact through robust qualitative and quantitative evidence. This will be picked up throughout all of Better by Design, including the work Taylor Haig is currently doing with the teams around theories of change, and the work The Young Foundation will be doing later in the programme on impact and evaluation.
The organisation health scorecard tools are available for you to use yourself here.
We’re looking forward to round two of our sessions with Better by Designers next year, to see how things have moved on.