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Building an impact story

A post from Nat Defriend 

This blog features the very fruitful work Better By Design has done in partnership with Women onto Work. WOW is a fantastic organisation of over 25 years standing working in the heart of Edinburgh to improve the well-being and employment prospects of women who, by virtue of their mental or emotional vulnerabilities, are furthest from the world of work.

During the course of this work, and in the face of the considerable challenges WOW faces in the rapidly changing environment in which it operates, real and substantial progress has been made in clarifying the organisation’s core mission and designing processes which can enable WOW to tell a robust story about how it achieves this mission.

It all started with an impact and evaluation session in July 2014 where we focused on their theory of change and identified that while clearly an employment agency, WOW achieves its impact by working on women’s well-being as a precursor and prerequisite to women being able to access employment and training opportunities. WOW does this best when it targets its efforts at the right women (who can most benefit from its range of services), and in the tailoring of its approaches to these women and these specific aims.

This felt like a break-through for all concerned at the impact session, and it led to the interesting realisation that while they measure many things, they do not have any way of measuring their impact in relation to well-being.

Armed with this insight we conducted research into the range of potential well-being measures available and appropriate for WOW’s purposes. These were collated and used as the basis for a very fruitful session in September 2014 where we selected from these the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS) as being robust, as measuring the right things, and, in comprising only 14 questions, as very simple to implement.

So far so easy…the next stage was to design the tool into WOW in a way that means WOW will get the intended benefit from the new information it will be gathering about women’s well-bring as it changes through their time with WOW. This design process has a number of strands; firstly we have worked together to produce a paper for WOW’s technical support team for required functional and non-functional changes necessary for their management information systems; secondly we will be delivering, jointly with WOW senior managers, a series of briefing events for WOW staff, introducing them to the rationale and key features of the tool; and finally handing over to Lynne from Taylor Haig who will be prototyping the process and system changes through which the new tool will be introduced into the service.

This work will be completed in the first months of 2015 and it is anticipated that the first women will be using the tool by February. By the time Better By Design and WOW part company next April WOW should be in possession of some highly valuable evidence of women’s progress in relation to well-being as they journey through the service. This will be of incalculable, or possibly highly calcuable value as WOW seeks to make the case to future commissioners for investment in its services.

All in all a very successful collaboration, and one which will leave a lasting impact within WOW when Better By Design finishes.

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