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Supported by the Building Change Trust

VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

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VIEW: A question of social impact


e hope you enjoy our in-depth look at the issue of social impact in the latest edition of VIEW.. Most organisations in the voluntary/community sector will argue that they are making a difference. But proving it is another thing all together. The involvement of Brendan McDonnell, director of Community Evaluation NI (CENI) made my task a bit easier. His role as guest editor of this issue was to gently point me in the direction of areas of interest around social impact. I was also grateful to secure the support of the Building Change Trust. Both organisations, along with the Inspiring Impact Programme, are carrying out valuable work as they assist community/voluntary groups in the measurement of social impact and how to show that they are making a difference. The largest part of this issue is centred around a discussion about the pros and cons of Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA™) On page eight of the draft Programme for Government, OBA™ champion Mark Friedman gets a special

By Brian Pelan co-founder,VIEWdigital

mention. It reads: “The approach taken in this Framework draws on the techniques set out by Mark Friedman in his book ‘Trying Hard is Not Good Enough’, which describes a range of practical techniques supporting an increased outcome focus in public policy.” Our Big Interview subject

on pages four and five is with Celine McStravick, the Director of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB NI) in Northern Ireland. Ms McStravick confessed that she is positively evangelical about the strengths of the Outcomes-Based Accountability (OBA™) model in social policy. She is delighted that it is embedded in the Draft Programme for Government. A starkly different view is taken by acadamic Toby Lowe on pages six and seven. He is not convinced by OBA™ and he questioned the decision by the Stormont Executive to include the model in its framework document. From my limited research into OBA™ as a social impact model, I found that many organisations are not fully aware of what it is about and some of them have expressed concerns about the model. It is incumbent on wider civic society to have a frank and informative discussion about the implementation of the OBA™ model into government policy. VIEW welcomes the chance for people or groups to contact us if they want a platform to air there views.

VIEWdigital hosts ‘open’ public courses and tailored in-house media training by industry experts. Our experienced training associates have worked for major newspapers and broadcasting organisations. This year we have worked with 3rd sector & Public sector organisations including: • Law Centre NI • Housing Executive • Equality Commission • VOYPIC We can help improve your skills to get you to tell your story. Contact Una Murphy e: for more details and sign up on the VIEWdigital website for our training ezines.

Mike Boorman: SEO copy writer, blog poster, transcriber and general man of communication. Contact for a quote for your project

Editorial VIEW, Issue 38, 2016


rom an early age I have been interested in building and fixing things – anyone remember air-fix kits, or mecanno sets? Or simply taking things apart to see how they work and trying to put them back together again. I suppose that’s what evaluators do; they have this need to find out what organisations do, understand how they work, and how they could work better. It’s what I’ve done for most of my career – from community development worker to social researcher, ending up as an evaluator – inevitable I suppose. For the last 20 years as Director of Community Evaluation NI (CENI), I’ve helped Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs) and their funders understand and demonstrate the difference they make. CENI is the evaluation champion and infrastructure body for the VCSE sector. It provides contextualised expertise and support. We have helped hundreds of VCSEs plan, measure and communicate their impact. As a result, they can deliver better services that make positive differences to their communities. We have also helped funders to evidence the impact of their funding programmes and so inform more strategic investment in the VCSE sector to stimulate social change. Two decades of inter-sector working in Northern Ireland, means CENI has a unique understanding of the contexts, drivers and challenges experienced by statutory bodies, funders and the VCSE sector. We also have wide networks that give early warning of emerging issues and technical developments. CENI has drawn on this knowledge to create tailored methodologies, such as ‘Measuring Change’ which enables different stakeholders to co-design programme outcomes and capture the change delivered. Our expertise was one of the reasons the Building Change Trust appointed CENI to manage the ‘Inspiring Impact’ programme to promote better impact practice in Northern Ireland. Therefore, we can say that CENI has developed the cultural understanding and the technical expertise to help our constituency respond to challenges of the emerging policy and funding environment. The draft Programme for

VIEW, an independent social affairs magazine in Northern Ireland


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By guest editor Brendan McDonnell Director Community Evaluation NI (CENI)

An outcomesbased approach is challenging. It demands that government Ministers, officials and those they fund, consider not only what they are doing but, crucially, what difference they intend to make and the extent to which people are better off as a result

Government (PfG) sets out how the Northern Ireland Executive will deliver their priorities. In a change from previous programmes, this one is underpinned by an outcomes-based approach. An outcomes-based approach is challenging. It demands that government ministers, officials and those they fund, consider not only what they are doing but, crucially, what difference they intend to make and the extent to which people are better off as a result. I welcome the challenge of an outcomes-based PfG. I am not alone in thinking it is long overdue, that said, it is vital that public funders and their VCSE sector recipients are made ready for the challenge of an outcomes-based approach to funding. Some departments are training staff in the techniques of Outcomes-Based Accountability or OBA™ methodology and identifying indicators. However, research commissioned by the Inspiring Impact programme found there was a need for further clarity around what an outcomes focus would mean in practice, in particular, how current programme design, appraisal and monitoring systems would adapt to an outcomes-focused approach given the prevailing emphasis on financial regulation and compliance. Outcomes are delivered by people. And those people need to be prepared. This means more than a training session in technicalities; that is vital, but first there must be exploration and conversation about how the foundations of public funding will need to shift to fit the new, outcomes-based approach. Through the Inspiring Impact programme, CENI is seeking to support public funders and the VCSE sector to help bridge this gap between the vision for an outcomes-based approach and the potential for operational delivery. This includes consultancy support and bespoke tools, such as Measuring Up (which helps funders and VCSEs to assess the impact readiness of their organisation) and dedicated demonstration projects to help organisations embed their impact practice. This work is ongoing so look out for our exchange events throughout the year where we will be putting the pieces together and sharing the learning.

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the BIG interview O


Celine McStravick, left, tells VIEW editor Brian Pelan that she is delighted that Stormont’s draft Programme for Goverment will be using Mark Friedman’s model of Outcomes-Based Accountability (OBA™). For the first time ever, she said, we are very clear about what outcomes we want for the population and how we are going to measure them

n page eight of the draft Programme for Government in Northern Ireland, credit is given to Mark Friedman, the Director of the Fiscal Policy Studies Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The quote reads:“The approach taken in this Framework draws on the techniques set out by Mark Friedman in his book ‘Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough’, which describes a range of practical techniques supporting an increased outcome focus in public policy.” The Director of the National Children’s Bureau (NCB NI) in Northern Ireland, Celine McStravick, is an ardent supporter of Mr Friedman’s OutcomesBased Accountability (OBA™) model and is delighted that it is embedded in the draft Programme for Government. “I am positively evangelical about OBA™. In fact, I’m usually evangelical about most things,” she said. Orignally from Portadown, Ms McStravick has spent most of her career working in local government. “My passion now is making a difference. I was completely inspired by the chance to work in the UK charity, the National Childrens' Bureau (NCB). “I started working in the organisation six years ago and I am based in Belfast. When I was appointed as director of NCB in Northern Ireland, I had two staff. We were a pure research organisation. My job as director was to make us much more relevant in Northern Ireland and to respond to the need that we could see. We could see at that time that we were not using evidence enough to see what works for children and families. We were not really developing our leadership skills and setting out our own incomes. “We were very much being led by what Westminster was giving us. “I needed to start manipulating and guiding discussions with politicians, civil servants and the community/voluntary sector on what could and should be

When there was lots of money, we could just throw it out and hope for the best different for children and young people. I asked Celine how have things changed since she took up her position. “Things are now 100 per cent different. We now employ about 11 people in Northern Ireland. It’s a mixed bag of researchers and people with a community development/policy background. “We work with babies, children and young people up to the age of 21. “Our work in this team could be commissioned work from government departments. For example, we were commissioned by the NI Executive to write the first ever E-Safety strategy for children and young people. It was about how to keep them safe when they are online. “We do not deliver services to children and young people. We are here to support and change policy and services for them. We are not a Barnardo's. “In a way that sets the NCB in a unique place. We can actually comment from a very robust-based evidence perspective.

“We are very proud of the Programme for Government and our role in it. For the first time ever we are very clear about what outcomes we want for the population and how we are going to measure them. She said that previous Programmes were just a list of actions. “This Programme doesn't list actions yet. What is important is the process they are using and that's back to Mark Friedman. “Mark Friedman’s book, ‘Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough’ was developed from his frustration as a finance guy. Money was being constantly spent and the only measurement of impact was the money spent in a year. “His book starts from asking what is the outcome of what you are trying to do, how do you know you are going to get that outcome. That is your indicator and how are you going to measure it. “You can't move onto the next stage until you get an agreement over those outcomes and indicators. “As the process moves on, you need bravery, you need people to stand by what they have signed up for, because there are going to be really tough decisions to be made down the line.” I asked Ms McStravick how an outcomes-based approach would work in light of the Fresh Start Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan, agreed by the Stormont Executive last year, which signalled a series of funding cuts to be made across all government departments. On page 19, it reads: ‘The Executive is undertaking a programme of Public Sector Reform, designed to maximise available resources and deliver enhanced services to citizens. Current reform activities are building upon cumulative savings of £3.7 billion achieved in the seven years from 2008-15.” Ms McStravick replied: “I always say as money gets short, ideas need to get better. When there was lots of money, we could

VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

just throw it out and hope for the best. As I always say in my workshops, it was like holy water, cross your fingers and hope that it does something. “When you have a Programme for Government like this you embed the value of the impact.You are interested in making a difference with the money. That means you come to a point in your decision making where you should be able to say is that making a difference and if the answer is No, then we need to stop doing it. “The outcomes-based approach means that no one person or group can do it alone.You need engagement with other stake-holders. I asked the NCB NI director does the OBA™ model have the power to change outcomes in economically disadvantaged working-class areas? “I think at the heart of this model will be data and information. I think traditionally we have used data when we wanted to and avoided it when we didn't. Because we were much more comfortable in the green and orange arguments. “My hope would be that the OBA™ model will provide a neutral space for discussion, irrespective of religion. Ms McStravick uses an area of work which NCB NI was involved in to underline her argument. “Groups in the Colin area of west Belfast were saying that despite the millions of pounds being spent in their area they could not see an improvement for children and young people in this area. They had well below average in GCSE results, had high teenage pregnancies and domestic violence issues. So money wasn't the answer. When you say to me that the money is going to be less, I say good. I think people have used the money to divert attention away from the real issues. “Part of the OBA™ model, when you are in discussions with stake-holders, is for them to think of one thing that is low cost or no cost which could make a difference.


It takes a long time to do it. And you need to keep people with you along the way “In a population of over 20,000 in the Colin area, we found there were more than 90 different services for families and young people. When we asked the question, what impact are you having, that's were the problem was. There were lots of doing activity. But how do you know you were making a difference? That's what we couldn't find out. “We started using an outcomes-based approach in the Colin area. They wanted their children to feel safe and secure; to be healthy and achieve educationally. They then agreed to focus on six outcomes. “As with the Programme for Government, we are going to measure impact along the way. There are three questions. • What are we doing? • How are we doing it? • Is anyone better off? I asked Celine had there a change in educational attainment in the Colin area since the OBA™ approach was introduced? “We can see a slight improvement.You can now see the individual level of each

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Celine McStravick of the National Children’s Bureau, left, with Mark Friedman; Kieran Drayne, former Colin Early Intervention Project Manager and Annie Armstrong, Manager of Colin Neighbourhood Partnership child and the impact. It means that midwives and others, when they come together, can see the data. “Some of the programmes invested in were not having an impact. That's when it’s time for a critical conversation to be held.” As our interview drew to a close, I asked Ms McStravick that if one was to visit these areas of high social deprivation in 15 years, would they see a substantial change because of the OBA™ model? “I think you should,” she replied. “But you are asking me to look into the future and I’m much more of an evidence-based person. I’ve worked with a health trust who don't have the same funding problems as the community/voluntary sector and who were asked by the Department of Health to cut five per cent of their budget. How do they decide what five per cent to cut if they don't have a clear outcomes-based approach and how do they measure it? I also was curious to know should the community/voluntary sector be concerned about the OBA™ approach by Government. “My response is that the community/voluntary sector is there to make a change. They are not there to keep themselves in jobs. They are there to change people's lives and communities. This framework helps them demonstrate that. In a way it can absolutely build their organisation, because they can demonstrate that in a more accessible way.” She believes that Mark's approach is hard to implement. “And it should be hard. People who start to use will come to a point where their brain hurts because you have to make a decision. It is much easier to surround yourself with paper and have strategy upon strategy. OBA™ has a really neutral space for conversations to implement change. “But it takes a long time to do it. And you need to keep people with you along the way.”

VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

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A dissenting voice


Academic Dr Toby Lowe pulls no punches as he delivers a powerful critique of an outcomes- based approach to public policy in an interview with VIEW editor Brian Pelan


n page eight of the draft Programme for Government in Northern Ireland it says: “The approach taken in this Framework draws on the techniques set out by Mark Friedman in his book ‘Trying Hard is Not Good Enough’, which describes a range of practical techniques supporting an increased outcome focus in public policy.” US author Friedman is the Director of the Fiscal Policy Studies Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico I asked academic Dr Toby Lowe, who is carrying out research work at Newcastle University in the north of England, what did he think of the decision of the Stormont Executive to use Mark Friedman’s Outcomes-Based Accountability model (OBA™) in its Framework document. “There have been numerous studies into the implementation of OutcomesBased Performance Management (OBPM) and they all say essentially the same thing – it’s good to talk about outcomes as part of generating a common vision, but as soon as you try and use them for performance management, they end up undermining effective practice. It is shocking that the Northern Ireland Government is choosing to adopt a version of OBPM in the face of this evidence. “Because from the evidence that I’ve seen, it strongly suggests that OBPM does not work and even the small number of papers that find positive aspects about it are equivocal about its long term impact. The most supportive evidence says it’s good to talk about outcomes, so it’s a useful exercise to bring partners together, to talk about what they’re trying to achieve, but there isn’t an evidence at all as far as I can see that says that it improves outcomes for people and there’s lots and lots of evidence that says OBPM undermines effective practice and therefore makes outcomes

I’m shocked that Stormont has decided to adopt a version of OBPM

worse for people, particularly the most disadvantaged.” I asked Dr Toby Lowe could he provide me with examples of were OBPM hasn’t worked. “The clearest example of this is I think is from a study (1) done in Australia of Results Based Accountability (RBA) by Dr Lynne Keevers. It’s the only study to my knowledge that is a before and after study of the implementation of OBPM. And basically, what it said was that during the process of trying to formulate simple outcome metrics, the complexity of the goals and ambitions of real people on the ground got lost, so it meant that the diversity of real people’s ambitions all got mashed up into simple goals that then prevented the workers from pursuing the diversity of those ambitions. “In the end, all of this stuff becomes about trying to make people behave in prescribed ways. If you set an outcome, say that someone should have a job by the end of the intervention process, if that person doesn’t have a job by the end of it then the organisation that’s supposed to be delivering the work is a failure, and then more importantly they view the person that hasn’t achieved that work as a failure.” I asked Dr Lowe why are some

governments so attracted to using OBPM methods. “Because it sounds like a brilliant idea. On the surface, the idea that you can make people accountable for producing outcomes is like a politician’s dream. It plays into their sense that the world is controllable and if only they pull the right levers then they can make wonderful things happen. “And so imagine someone comes to you and says, if you’re a kind of senior government person: ‘I’ve got a programme that will guarantee you to produce the outcomes you want’… who wouldn’t be attracted by that? It’s absolutely what senior folks want to hear because it plays into their desire to control, and in the more positive aspects, to make the changes that they want to see. But the trouble is, it’s just not true, the world doesn’t and cannot work like that. “Again, it’s part of the promise that says you can achieve savings by focusing activity on outcomes. It sounds like a really good idea. So if we concentrate on only the things that we most care about, that must be a good way to prioritise our resources. So it plays in to a version of the world that the politicians and senior civil servants want to believe in. Again, it’s just not true. All the evidence say that if you focus on a few targets then other things get worse, and because all the things are in one big interrelated system it means that overall things get worse.” Does the use of OBPM methods inevitably lead to governments implementing privatisation policies, I asked. Dr Lowe replied: “There’s a kind of spectrum of OBPM of hard and soft. The hard end is payment by results, so we set an objective, we turn that in to a performance indicator and if you don’t meet that performance indicator, you don’t get paid. That’s the hard one. “Whereas Outcome-Based Accountability (OBA™) is at the soft end. It says we will monitor your performance against those indicators but there are also

VIEW, Issue 38, 2016


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Dr Toby Lowe, Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise at Newcastle University other aspects to the outcome-based performance scorecard, so you can tell the story around what’s happening as well. And it’s unlikely that just because you failed to hit the first set of indicators that we wouldn’t recommission you, but essentially in the end it has the same effect because people who aren’t achieving against the outcome-based accountabilities are unlikely to have their contracts renewed. “So yes, it absolutely opens the door to the further privatisation of services. The reason is that as soon as you turn the complexity of public service into simple metrics to be delivered, you turn the complexity of public service delivery into the business of data production. Because in the end all of this OBPM isn’t about producing good outcomes – it’s about producing good-looking data. That’s what’s being paid for. “You know the whole ‘turning the curve’? (the theory of turing the curve is a key feature of the OBA™ model). Think about what that means? Actually, what they’re looking for is for the data to look different. They want the graphs to have a different shape. So in the end, what people are being paid for is to make the data look different – that’s what’s happening in all OBPM. And who are the best people at producing good-looking data? It’s the Sercos, it’s the G4Ss because this is their business model; working to indicators and ensuring that those indicators are hit. “So how can a values-based small

It opens the door to the further privatisation of services voluntary organisation or a values-based public sector thing work more effectively at producing indicators than a model at Serco or G4S? “There is a quote in a paper written in 2011 by Erika Wimbush (Implementing an outcomes approach to public management and accountability in the UK), when she says: “The overall conclusion from international experience of implementing an outcomes approach is that the journey is long and the results are disappointing.” “That’s so important because I was reading the Northern Ireland Executive framework and it says “these outcomes approaches have international currency”. It’s basing its decision on the fact that a bunch of other organisations around the

world are doing it. What it should be looking at is the experience of those organisations, and overwhelming, the 100 per cent clear story of those organisations is that this doesn’t work. Particularly in Australia. “The tragedy of the OBPM stuff is that they will spend a fortune on the consultants to try and make it work and it will waste so much time. In times of austerity when people are being cut back, they’re going to waste money on a programme that will at best have no positive result, and almost worst is that they will waste a huge amount of everybody’s time when everyone should be focused on getting the job done because that’s the most efficient thing that they can be doing. “ References

• 1, Keevers, L., et al. (2012), Made to measure: taming practices with Results-Based Accountability, Organization Studies, 33, 1: 97–120.

• 2, 'Implementing an outcomes approach to public management and accountability in the UK – are we learning the lessons? Erika Wimbush, published in the journal


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Dilemma of proving worth



Joanne Morgan, Director of the Community Development Health Network (CDHN), asks is the new focus on outcomes and social impact all that it’s cracked up to be?

quick Google of the term “social impact” yielded 657,000,000 results in 0.50 seconds, which tells you something about the popularity of the term. But what does it really mean to those of us who work with local communities. Some see it as an opportunity to demonstrate the financial value of their work, some prefer to focus on telling their story of change, and for others it’s a combination of both. The language of impact has certainly infiltrated everyday life for the community worker, commissioner, civil servant and politician. Everyone is talking about outcomes, impact, theory of change and logic models. Mark Friedman (author of ‘Trying Hard is not Good Enough’ and designer of “Outcomes-Based Accountability™”) has even been name checked in the new, outcomes focused, draft Programme for Government. Having a clear focus on the difference we make at policy and delivery point is to be wholeheartedly supported. Without it we risk making investments in projects or interventions simply because they are well attended or “people liked it”. Asking the “so what” question is crucial to understanding what changes for people and why. But is this focus on outcomes and impact all it’s cracked up to be? Mahatma Ghandi’s words are food for thought: “It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important.You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing.You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”  The ongoing challenge for our sector is not just to “do the right thing” but to have robust evidence that by doing so it is leading to tangible change for people and communities. However, the important, yet

Let’s play the long game and not get too hung up on what tool we use

often overlooked fact is that the work of the community and voluntary sector is, by its very nature, long term, and slow to yield results. Here in CDHN we know that only too well. Our work focuses on tackling health inequalities using community development and the “fruits” of our labour can and will take years to become evident. This leaves us and many others with a dilemma – how do we prove our worth in circumstances where proof is required in the short term, as many funding and commissioning cycles operate in one year cycles (three if you are really lucky)? These same funders are often only interested in the results for their piece, not the overall impact that a collective or organisation can bring. In this scenario, the tool you use, be it Outcomes-Based Accountability™, Social Return on Investment or any other of the many available, isn’t really relevant. What seems to me to be more pertinent is the extent to which impact is at the heart of what we all do – can we clearly and concisely say what difference we can collectively make for our people and communities? And are funders, commissioners and decision makers on the same page? Inspiring Impact is one initiative that is trying to tie all of these strands together whilst ensuring that our sector has the skills and knowledge to put impact practice at its heart. CDHN is one of a number of network organisations that have become champions of the approach and are committed to bringing about change, albeit at a snail’s pace! And in the meantime, let’s play the long game and not get too hung up on what tool we use. In this case, I’m with Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”


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VIEW talks to Sir John Elvidge, Fellow of the UK Carnegie Trust, about his views on the Outcomes-Based Accountability model and is he glad to see it being adopted in the Northern Ireland draft Programme for Government TM


uestion: Are you pleased that Stormont has adopted Mark Friedman’s Outcomes-Based Accountability (OBA™) model?

Answer: “We need to get as close to the natural language of the citizen as possible. It’s about government trying to work in the language of the citizen rather than expecting the citizen to work in the language of the government. It’s really important that if you are going to try to have a successful relationship between the citizen and government that you establish a shared language. The Friedman approach seems to rest very clearly on that way of looking at things.

Q: What are the challenges of using this particular model?

A: “There are challenges in the implementation of the OBA™ model.You have to make sure that your measurements are hard-edged. This is an area were the hard work has to be done. You have to be sure that even though you are using the language of the citizen in the changes that they would like to see in their lives that you are still getting really solid evidence to show that you really are making a difference.”

Q: You once said that governments need to stop doing things for people that they could organise and do themselves. How does that perspective fit in with an outcomes-based approach?

A: “I think it fits well. If you are agreed about what outcome you want to get it leaves open the question of the best way of getting there. The old language of programmes for governments confined itself largely to statements about what government could do. The outcomesbased approach is much more about a shared agreement about were you want to get. This leaves much more space for discussion about what the best way is for getting there.” Q: Do you think the OBA™ model should be the only tool used by Stormont or should it be one of many tools?

A: “I think it makes sense to have only one over-arching framework. If you have competing models about what you are trying to do then you run the risk of creating confusion in quite a complex set of relationships both within government and between government and citizens. I think it does make sense to nail your colours to one framework.”

Q: Can you have an effective outcomes-based approach in light of the Fresh Start Agreement at Stormont last year which set out the need for cuts in government departments' budgets coupled with the potential loss of 20,000 jobs under a voluntary redundancy scheme and the further implementation of welfare reform

changes in Northern Ireland?

A: I think we would acknowledge that it makes the task harder as change is easier to make in more favourable circumstances. But the OBA™ approach is a much more powerful stimulis to innovation than the old way of doing things. I think it’s now easier to have creative conversations. It brings more value to what the community/voluntary sector can bring to the mix. The difficult circumstances open the door to a richer conversation.

Q: Have any projects in Northern Ireland being selected for financial awards under Carnegie’s Enabling State Challenge process. The Enabling State Challenge process was to find best practice across the British isles. Although we had some good submissions from Northern Ireland, none of them made it to the very last stage of receiving one of the financial awards. Overall, our key message is our optimism about the approach being adopted in Northern Ireland – both within government and across civic society. We can guarantee our strong continuing commitment to supporting the round table process as one contribution to assisting the dialogue about focus on outcomes, fostering greater recognition of the community and voluntary sector contributions and exploring the capacity for innovation.


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John McAnulty, former teacher and ex-chairman of the Northern Committee of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), is not impressed by the outcome after reading Mark Friedman’s book, ‘Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough’


ery few people will have heard of Mark Friedman. However it is very likely that they will be hearing about him shortly, He is quoted in the current draft Programme for Government produced by the Stormont executive; The approach taken in this framework (the Programme for Government) draws on the techniques set out by Mark Friedman in his book ‘Trying Hard is Not Good Enough’, which describes a range of practical techniques supporting an increased outcome focus in public policy. . In addition to this influential role in the Programme for Government he will shortly be addressing a conference, the Outcomes-Based Accountability approach (OBA™), in Belfast. The conference, which advises us how to improve the lives of the citizens, has a £300 entry tab. However you will be rewarded with a a copy of Friedman’s new book: Turning Curves: An Accountability Companion Reader. Yet to open ‘Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough’ is to instantly identify it. It is part of the long history of US self-help books. All the elements are there: A self-published book, A few simple precepts, inspiring stories of the formula in operation, generalising of the model to explain all of society, an extremely narrow reference list consisting mostly of the author referencing himself, with the rest made up of think tanks and policy institutes. Nowhere is there a reference to the vast body of academic literature that, although it may not present clever fixes, has the virtue of objectivity. The new twist is that the self-help system is to address not the individual but society. The Friedman system is outcome

based. He argues that current difficulties in delivering good services are due to confusion between the overall population and the customer. Outcomes for the population are open ended and best understood through results, indicators and strategies. Performance for the immediate customer is a narrow focus based on strategies and performance measures. There is much to worry about. The process is seen as apolitical, arguing that most political movements at heart support improving people’s lives. Partnership is king, with issues of power and sectional interest set to one side. The assumption is that if programme goals are met then the lives of the overall population will improve. The assumption of a virtuous circle could easily become a vicious one. There is no outside to this tent. The role of academic work is restricted to finding positive exemplars. There is no examination of the clash between the model and the real world. The book is peppered with case studies. They do not always illustrate the advantages claimed. For example, a campaign against teen pregnancy in Tillamook county, Oregon, saw a dramatic fall. This is ascribed to unity of all the social forces. We can accept that, but in the context of the US there must have been a major political shift to allow sex education in the local schools and expansion of health department services. These prerequisites are beyond the event horizon of the theory. In any case, after four years, teen pregnancy levels increased again, dismissed as the rebound effect. There is no consideration of unintended consequences. A Boston case

study of a major campaign against juvenile homicides boasts of reducing deaths to zero.Yet part of the mechanism was a draconian change in law enforcement, Federal laws were used to convict gang members and export them to Texas to serve sentences at enormous distance from their communities. There is no reflection on the long-term consequences of such extreme action by the state. Oh, and Boston also had a “rebound” in killings. So why then is Friedman model so popular here? We are to have a discussion about a Programme for Government. This Programme promises instant results. Friedman cuts out all the usual checks and balances that ensure the provision of public good. A strong element is low cost and no-cost provision – round up volunteers and point them at the problem, thus escaping a great deal of government responsibility and resource claims. Above all everyone is to be invited in for the consultation, meaning everyone will be signed up to the government programme. There is a certain level of fantasy here. We are all to discuss aspirations about health and well being. In the real world the Fresh Start programme that cuts 20,000 jobs and slashes welfare benefits will roll out without any further discussion. In the Friedman world we all come together in partnership with a “can do” attitude. In the real world there are questions of power, accountability and class that need to be addressed. • Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman, PARSE Publishing, 2015


VIEW, Issue 38, 2016


A struggle to achieve desired outcomes

Emma Tomkinson, above, is a social impact analyst living and working in Perth, Australia. She is interested in the role of impact measurement in evidence-based policy, including policy related to social investment. She created the Social Impact Bond Knowledge Box for the Centre for Social Impact Bonds at the UK Cabinet Office and also developed the social impact bond concept for application in New South Wales, Australia


By Emma Tomkinson

y review, Outcome-based contracting for human services, examines the evidence of the effect of government-funded outcome-based contracts in public human services. Outcome-based contracts in public human services are defined as those where some proportion of payment is triggered by some measure of change in the lives of clients. There is a lack of evidence comparing outcome-based contracts for public human services with other means of funding. There is also little evidence comparing the effect of payment on the basis of one measure of outcome to another, comparing outcome-based contracts to grants or block-funding models. And there is no evidence of the effect

on outcomes of changing outcome-based payment structures as contracts progress. The evidence that does exist suggests that, given sufficient flexibility to do so, providers of services will deliver on the outcome metrics their contracts pay for. Outcome-based contracts developed so far have, however, struggled to create incentives to achieve the desired outcomes. The findings indicate that while outcome-based contracts deliver the measures of outcome for which they pay, these measures do not always reflect the intention of the contract designers, or desirable outcomes for the end-client. Measures of outcome that were not related to payment did not improve and sometimes worsened. Some outcome payments created incentives for service

providers contrary to the achievement of desired outcomes. For example, employment services contracts that were meant to increase tailoring and flexibility had the opposite effect. Some contract conditions or environments constrained providers’ ability to affect outcomes. The challenge for government is to define payment metrics that represent the outcomes they seek and that encourage behaviour from service-delivery organisations consistent with these outcomes. • To read Emma Tomkinson’s full review. go to


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Responding to people’s needs


Joanne McDowell, Northern Ireland Director of the Big Lottery Fund, says its grant-making is now focused on what works with communities in order to create more effective social impact

e recently joined the debate about how we could best support social impact by commissioning the ‘Future of Doing Good in the UK’. We want to use this to spark a debate across society – among communities, charities, social enterprises, businesses and the state – about how doing good should develop in the future. An important strand of this debate is how funders can support work that creates real social impact. So what does social impact mean for Big Lottery Fund? There is a danger that social impact and social innovation can become another piece of jargon in the complex world of funding. But to us, it means using our funding most effectively to make a difference to people’s lives. This is at the heart of our strategic framework – People in the Lead – and has shaped our grant making now and into the future. In a nutshell we have changed our funding approach from focusing on what’s broken or wrong to concentrating more on what works with communities – we believe this approach is the most effective in creating social impact. This shift has allowed us to fund projects that respond to needs of people within communities instead of the priorities of organisations. This may sound like a subtle shift, but I believe that moving towards people-led grant-making can truly create good social impact within communities. It also helps us improve what we do and reflect on how we measure the social value of the work we fund. Our priority now is to use our funding to build on the strengths of people and the connections of existing support networks around them. Collaboration is at the heart of our grant-making. Our thinking on social impact is also underpinned by some of the current work we’ve funded. In 2008 we established

There is a danger that social impact and social innovation can become another piece of jargon in the complex world of funding

Building Change Trust to explore and test new approaches to social issues and it’s been interesting to see some of the results of this investment. In 2015 the Trust connected digital experts from the private sector and community groups to create six new social innovation projects transferring and sharing digital skills to create social impact within communities. Building Change Trust is also a lead partner in Northern Ireland on our UK-wide initiative, Inspiring Impact. This 10-year initiative is led by New Philanthropy Capital and brings together seven organisations from the voluntary and community and social enterprise sector, independent funders along with experts in evaluation and impact measurement. This type of work is providing us with great examples of shared approaches to measuring the impact of social change and developing excellent tools for organisations to track this within their communities. We are also exploring social innovation in Northern Ireland through initiatives such as the Young Foundation’s Amplify Project. Amplify is harnessing the strengths and expertise of local people and communities alongside third sector organisations, civic representatives, businesses, and public services to improve social impact. As all these approaches are developed and evaluated we will continue to stimulate and fund new solutions to social needs. This means focusing more on identifying and developing the strengths people bring. In practice it means sharing what we learn in a more open and accessible way. It also requires collaborating much more effectively with people and communities to measure the impact of the work we fund and our understanding the difference it is making in communities across Northern Ireland.

Aiming to inspire

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VIEW editor Brian Pelan talks to Aongus O’Keeffe, below, about the work of the Inspiring Impact Programme in the community/voluntary sector and the challenges it faces


ongus O’Keeffe, who is orginally from Limerick city, first started working in community development by getting involved in rural development in the west of Ireland. “I then went to work for Trocaire in Sierra Leone in West Africa where I got a good grasp of some of the issues surrounding social impact by engaging with social issues in the country. I moved to Northern Ireland about six years ago. “I am currently the Programme Leader for the Inspiring Impact programme in Northern Ireland. Community Evaluation NI (CENI) is contracted by the Building Change Trust to deliver the programme. I was hired by CENI to lead it and to drive it forward. “The programme is currently funded up to the end of 2017 but it has a longterm vision to support the sector until 2020 at the very least. “Our vision is to transform the community/voluntary sector and how it goes about demonstrating the impact of its work. We trying to shift organisations from doing lots of stuff and not really reflecting on the difference that they are making to helping them to be more strategic and reflective.” I asked Aongus what successes he had witnessed

“I think there has been a gradual shift in thinking, both in the sector and across government. A number of organisations that we support are using Inspiring Impact to help them think more strategically and shift how they do things.” What obstacles and difficulties has the Inspiring Impact programme encountered? “Many,” he replied. “It's a new way of thinking that is trying to get organisations to be more reflective. It can get technical. We want people to think about how are they helping to improve people's lives. “Many organisations do have a strategic vision but too often it is a box-ticking exercise and mission drift can take them away from their vision. Also the pressures of financially surviving means that they will do what they have to do to get funding. “Two organisations who have used our process, Community Development Health Network and Sported, have both secured funding as a result of their work being more strategically focused on impact and outcomes. “Any organisation that joins the Inspiring Impact programme, in a way, is signing up for a lifetime process. It will transform how their organisations works. We are funding seven organisations at present.”

Champion of change

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VIEW talks to Nigel McKinney about the work of the Building Change Trust in the community/voluntary sector and why they are supporting the Inspiring Impact programme


ur discussion with Nigel McKinney, Director of Operations at Building Change Trust, started with eliciting his views on the Outcomes-Based Accountability model which is at the heart of the Programme for Government in Northern Ireland. “We make a distinction about what Mark Friedman and his Outcomes-Based Acountability (OBA™) model is doing at the high strategic level and what are the implications for outcomes-based approaches when it comes down to a government department like the new Department for Communities giving a grant to a community organisation to tackle some problem in their community. “One of the things that concerns me and others is that there is no shortage of experts and companies selling ‘magic bullets’ which are based around saying: ‘We’ll tell you how to measure outcomes. But you'll have to pay for my advice and you’ll have to buy this particular piece of software.’ “That concerns us. The reasons why we are involved in the Inspiring Impact programme is that the resources and materials are free for users. That doesn’t mean they don't have to invest in time and resources or perhaps that they need consultancy. “We are concerned that the Friedman approach is almost branded and that other models may not be considered. The idea that organisations need ultimately to focus on what difference they are going to make is not radical. Loads of organisations and methodologies have reached that conclusion. Friedman has just tightened it up and codified it, put it in a book and provided manuals. “If it is an OBA™

approach from government that's going to cascade down through the whole public sector and its relationship with the community/voluntary sector then that will then be transmitted through grant funding and contracts. One of the fears would be of a civil servant sitting behind a desk and telling an organisation what its outcome is going to be. Those things have to be negotiated. “Another concern we would have is that if government start specifying the outcome they want ,and it has a right to do that, then some people will think then it is just a matter of buying those outcomes. And the way you buy outcomes is by contracts rather than grants. That would remove the need to grant fund organisations. And that would be fundamentally wrong. “When we look at social impact, it's about ultimately what positive difference does an organisation make to people and places. “Organisations, like Community Evaluation NI (CENI) have been to the forefront of looking at the question of social impact. There has always been moves and developments in Northern Ireland to say what is community development? How do we know it is making a difference? “Back in 2011, our board decided to take a longer and more strategic view of the concept of impact measurement. We started to have conversations with the Department of Social Development, NICVA and CENI. As part of our research we came across the Inspiring Impact UK initiative. They said that most organisations were looking for the 'silver bullet' which would tell them that they were doing a good job, whilst what they really needed do to was to step back and think about what is it that they are trying to do.”

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OBA ‘not the only show in town’

Maeve Monaghan: ‘We need to concentrate on what is needed for service users’

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of the social enterprise NOW, tells VIEWdigital co-founder Una Murphy that she welcomes the fact that people are now talking about oucome-based approaches


aeve Monaghan is justifiably proud of the success of social enterprise Loaf catering. We sit in the bustling Belfast City Hall cafe which gives work opportunities to people with learning disabilities and is part of her organisation NOW, a limited company with charitable status which has a head office in west Belfast and has been operating since 2001. As Chief Executive she has been talking about outcomes for years and she said it is only now that “people are interested and engaged”. But she stressed that “Outcomes-Based Accountability (OBA™) is not the only show in town”. “A Social Value Act would help to ensure government departments worked together to ensure an outcomes framework was at the heart of public s ector commissioning,” she added. Political parties in Stormont signed up

to a draft motion to introduce new legislation in January but it has not yet been debated by the Northern Ireland Assembly. A similar law has been in place in Britain since 2012 and a Social Return on Investment outcomes model has been used to measure impact. “I say adopt OBA™ and then other models based on an outcome framework. We need a Social Value Act to impact on commissioning,” she said. “Social Return on Investment, SROI, the outcomes model used in England, is the financialisation of the changes that has been made by an investment; the difference and impact made to a person’s life, she said. “We as a sector need to concentrate on what is needed for the organisation and service users not what the government wants us to do.

“We need to focus on what makes a difference for our service users. “The mission and vision of the organisation has to be on how it makes a difference,’ she added. At its most extreme an outcomes model can result in Payment By Results. This is a outcome model Maeve Monaghan has already worked with, as NOW has been in a consortium which won a government contract to move people with disabilities into employment. NOW have recently joined private company G4S in a successful tender for a contract with the civil service for catering and cleaning. She told VIEW magazine she will be taking part in the consultation on the draft Programme of Government. It looks as though she will have plenty to say to Stormont about outcomes and how they are measured.

VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

Embracing Change Public sector readiness for outcomes-based funding A scoping study and discussion paper

JUNE 2016

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Embracing Change, Public sector readiness for outcomes-based funding. A scoping study and discussion paper


nspiring Impact is one of five strategic themes that the Building Change Trust has been supporting in Northern Ireland in its work to support change and development within voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. The focus of Inspiring Impact is to support development of impact practice, a way of working that helps organisations focus on impact or the difference their work is making. In 2015, as part of this work, five statutory funders completed demonstration projects to apply impact practice to a funded programme. It was run by Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland through our strategic partner, Community Evaluation Northern Ireland, and the project evaluation reported positive outcomes and developments. Although notable progress has been achieved through the Addressing Bureaucracy project being led by the Department for Communities there remain specific strategic and operational challenges to introducing outcomes-based approaches. These include: • The emphasis on accountability and

compliance; • The disruptive link between outcomes assessment and project monitoring; • The challenge of change in a sector with well-established procedural and reporting frameworks; • The need for new skills in impact planning, assessing and analysis. While the Public sector has a critical role to play in improving practice, leadership across the VCSE sector is equally significant and there is an element of joint responsibility for shifting the dial and transitioning into new ways of working. One year on and Northern Ireland is on the brink of its third Programme for Government which is framed in terms of societal wellbeing and outcomes – through tackling disadvantage, and driving economic growth. It is clear that there is a commitment to improving and transforming across the public sector but how is that translating to practice? How are departments preparing for the effect of an outcomes-based approach on programme design, funding decisions and governance? What are voluntary and community organisations doing to adapt to potential

changes in funding and appraisal? Drawing on commissioned interviews, a discussion event and a review of relevant literature, this study finds that whilst there is interest and commitment to adapt, there is some confusion, concern and lack of clarity about outcomes-based government, funding and accountability. Preparations are at a very early stage and many players are uncertain as to how best to embrace this new horizon. While the nature of this scoping study was limited and merely skims the surface, Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland present this short paper as a platform from which to prompt discussion and informed debate about how the current opportunities and challenges can be addressed so that clarity, certainty and confidence can emerge. Maurice Meehan, Director, Building Change Trust Margaret Henry, Director, Building Change Trust • To read the full report go to

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As part of our look at social impact, above and overleaf are a series of images of iconic buidings in Belfast which deliver lasting results for citizens and, hopefully, for future generations

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Community hub: The Skainos Centre in east Belfast


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Health, education and wellbeing: Clockwise, from above: The entrance to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children; the archway at the front of Queen’s University in south Belfast; the gates leading into the Falls Park in west Belfast and the front of Botanic Gardens in the city


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Arts and reading: The Lyric Theatre, south Belfast, above, and right, the front of Ballyhackamore Library in east Belfast


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Forging a Trust out of the needs of the community

Siobhán Rogan talks to two of the key players in the Resurgam Trust about the social impact of their organisation


ucked away in the Old Warren estate in Lisburn, lies the Lagan View Enterprise Park, home to the Resurgam Trust. I am struck by the warm greeting and total lack of pretention of my hosts, Denis Paisley, Resurgam Regeneration Manager, and Adrian Bird, Trust Director. Adrian speaks passionately about the formation of the Resurgam Development Trust, their journey and their vision for the future. “The land was gifted to the community by the Housing Executive. And where previously stood two high-rise blocks of flats, money was then ‘levered in’ to build the Lagan View Enterprise Park.” “The Old Warren estate was not classified as a mainstream renewal area. But it was a community coming out of conflict. Money came in from the European Peace Fund One, Two and Three. We utilised these peace opportunities.” But in 2008/2009, the community found itself at a crossroads. “After 30 years of conflict and 10-15 years of transformation, a lot of work had been done. We asked ourselves: ‘Where do we go from here?’” The answer took them to Scotland to study their development trusts. There, the model was different to the business approach to community development and community regeneration organisations

Passionate: Trust Director Adrian Bird and Denis Paisley, Resurgam Regeneration Manager

here in Northern Ireland. “We conducted a consultation internally among all the community groups and asked them: ‘What is it that you want?’ Adrian continues. “We then carried out an independent external consultation among statutory bodies including the Public Health Agency (PHA), Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Again, we asked: ‘What is that you want?’ Because there is no point in us creating something new if it doesn’t fit with what the statutory organisations and the community organisations want.” And so the consultations gave birth to the Resurgam Development Trust in 2011. Resurgam Trust is community-led and community-owned, serving a population of 10, 000 in the Lisburn North and Lisburn South districts. It is comprised of 1,000 individual members (membership costs just £1 per year); 26 member groups/projects; six social enterprises (whose annual turnover is £1 million); 100 plus employees; and 500 plus volunteers – all of which contributes more than £2 million annually to the local economy. However, Adrian said: “It is not about empire-building. We have been accused of that. We are delivering in relation to community need.

“Our vision is to achieve core sustainability by 2020.” Which brings us to the crucial point: social impact and how to measure it. Adrian said: “I get very frustrated with this. I think the big challenge for us going forward in measuring community impact is trying to adopt a system that is holistic.” Both Adrian and Denis feel that their community development model is unique, as it adopts a ‘from the cradle to the grave’ mantra, to boost quality of life and collective self-esteem of the people Resurgam serves. Due to its success, the orgaanisation has conducted 60 site visits and 20 host visits to showcase their work to other community organisations. The best demonstration of this is the 2011 Best for Every Child Report commissioned by Resurgam which looked at educational underachievement in the area. It spawned the Early Intervention Initiative, advocating parental involvement in the child’s education from birth. It is impossible in this short space to sum up the sterling work of the Resurgam Trust. Regarding social impact measurement, Charles Dickens’s words sum it up best: ‘As from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.’


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‘A David amongst Goliaths’


Derek McCallan, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association, argues that we need to put more of the local into Government to strengthen our democracy

he Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) is the representative body for the 11 councils in NI. It promotes, develops and champions local government by developing regional (all council) approaches to key issues affecting the sector, including elected member development, collective lobbying, policy formulation, best practice events and campaigns to improve democracy and public services. Councils in Northern Ireland have completed their biggest shake up since 1973. Twenty six local government regions were wound up, and 11 new ones formed, in April 2015. That in itself is institutional change, not social impact. There is too much government in NI, and too little social impact in terms of what many people want – inclusive, connected, participative, local democracy. As the councils’ representative body, NILGA is like a David amongst the Goliaths of institutions. It rewrote the Local Government Bill to ensure that councils and government more widely would be challenged to create social impact, principally by: • Developing Community Plans from 2016/17 which demonstrably involves street and town land level involvement of local residents in the design, delivery and monitoring of them • Ensuring that government and its agencies are materially influenced by local need in terms of budget and policy decisions • Reforming the Planning system, ensuring formal community involvement Beyond those things, well illustrated by the “Big Conversations” right across Belfast on investment in public services and the community level “bottom up” council development work in Newry, Mourne and Down, there are of course other social impacts. If you employ 12,000 local people and spend £1 billion per annum in the community, you’re enabling community cohesion, driving local economies and sustaining the environment, whether it’s shared space provision in Coleraine or coastal adaptation work in Ballyhalbert. Ultimately, NILGA wants social impact which sees councils as strengthening local

There is too much government in Northern Ireland and too little social impact in terms of what many people want

democracy, as the hub of local communities and acting as an axis between (top of the pyramid) central policy level politicians and bureaucrats in Brussels, Westminster, Belfast and Dublin and (bottom of the pyramid) local people. When you see council technical services staff delivering water and provisions to villages cut off by ice/snow, or people in a tourist office helping someone with a rented housing problem, you know that you’ve got 24/7 social impact by employees and elected members who are not ‘jobsworths’. Big and small tenders awarded (Derry City & Strabane) with social clauses to put community gain into services and construction contracts, the all year, all weather, high tech Mid Ulster Sports Arena, enabled by innovative local people, many funders and a tireless “can do” approach by the council, there is social impact certainly. But we must put more of the local into government to strengthen democracy. Social impact wise, our vision and campaigns ( have no poverty of ambition. Ultimately, for councils to achieve the goal of being place shapers, dynamic decision takers, drivers of local economies, prudent but comprehensive investors across the whole spectrum of public service provision and custodians of the environment, they need to be empowered, resourced and trusted. So we will go, like fifth columnists, into the new Programme for Government and localise it for social impact. We will take the best and ditch the worst of social impact experiences from neighbouring jurisdictions, and faraway places like the City of Lowell (near Boston), Massachusetts which turned industrial and social wreckage into a great place to live, work and visit We will underpin strategies and policies with compelling work on wellbeing, as espoused by the Carnegie Trust, champion local people and places in things like Ulster in Bloom, and keep employing and buying in a way which sustains communities. New councils, just over one year on, in terms of social impact, we are at chapter one of a great new book.

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Field of dreams

Residents Aithne Kerrigan and Martin Derby in the field at Glassmullin in west Belfast

Spokeswoman Aithne Kerrigan tells VIEWdigital why residents mounted a battle to try and save a field in west Belfast and the negative social impact that will be caused to the surrounding area if it is lost for future generations


t will have a huge detrimental affect on the whole community if the field is lost. This is a very settled, densely populated area. People rely on the value of the green space they have. People need to have space. They want an area were they can relax and chill out and to take time out to enjoy the panoramic view that they presently have. Every night this week I have been out on the field with my young children, who are aged five and three. They love to run about and have the freedom to play which the field offers. Childen need that. The social interaction which this green space offers is really important. People who feel isolated can take their dog out for a walk, meet somebody on the field and strike up a conversation. That will all be lost if a 3g sports pitch is built. The influx of cars from people who will be coming to use the facility will have a huge impact on an area which is peaceful

My children saw geese in the field recently.You can’t put a price on that experience and quiet at the moment. We will have noise and lighting problems. Recently I spotted geese on the field. I was going to work at 7.30am and I stopped to watch them. My children saw them also.

You can't put a price on that experience. One eldely resident in her 90s is confined to bed. But I know that she loves to look out her window and gaze at the field. She can observe life going on and enjoying watching the children playing. There are very few green spaces left in west Belfast. We have a pay to play agenda which conflicts with the draft Programme for Government which highlights the need for high quality green open spaces. We need to protect this space for future generations. My parents have lived in this area for many years. They appreciated the value of this green space. And I want to pass this on to my children. We have high levels of chronic illness in west Belfast. We should be encouraging people to get out and get active. To deprive people of green, open areas and to ask them to pay to access it is wrong.

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Committed: Mary McManus outside the offices of the East Belfast Independent Advice Centre on Templemore Avenue in east Belfast

‘Advice centres make a real difference in people’s lives because we provide real social and economic impact’


dvice centres are a place of hope and resolution for many people, especially when they are trying to sort out welfare entitlements in the tangled web of state bureaucracy. Mary McManus is the director of the East Belfast Independent Advice Centre (EBIAC). It’s situated on Templemore Avenue – an area which has experienced widespread economic deprivation as austerity measures have taken hold. Mary said: “EBIAC has been here since 2000. Before we were formed it was felt that there was not enough advice provision in east Belfast. “We are an independent advice centre and a charity. We see ourselves very much as a grassroots organisation. “We provide a very accessible service to the public and offer advice on a range of issues, including welfare benefits, housing, employment and debt. Most of our work is benefit related because of the area in which we are based. “We provide drop-in and immediate services to the community. We find that they need advice very quickly. If people come in with a benefit-related problen, we will look at their paperwork and then phone the benefit agency and find out what has happened. We negotiate on behalf of the client and try to ensure that when

they leave here we have found out what the problem was. “At the advice centre we measure our benefit maximisation. That means that we look at the amount of money that we help people to gain in statutory social security entitlements. Most of our work is around Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance. “Our workload has grown and the complexity of the cases has increased.” VIEW asked Mary what did she know about an outcomes-dased model being adopted by Stormont in its Programme. “I have been to an information session about it,” said Mary. “I have also noticed that the Assembly says it is a framework and it is going out for consultation. After that there will be targets and measurements. “From my little understanding of the model, it is supposed to be shaped by the people. And if something is not working, then people shape it to something that is working. This sounds good on paper but I don't know how it will actually work. “Our organisation does not know enough yet about the model. The whole process seems to be happening very quickly. I would want to ask a lot more questions about it though.” Mary was asked to outline the type of

social impact that EBIAC feels it is making. “We provide our services using paid staff and volunteers. We offer our volunteers full training in advice work which includes a combination of accreditation and work experience. “Our volunteers have a high success rate in gaining employment. From 2010 to 2016, 16 of our volunteers moved into paid employment. We use a range of internal and external approaches to evaluate our services and volunteer programme. In 2013 an independent, external qualitative evaluation of our service found that: ‘EBIAC is having a clear positive impact in terms of addressing; • Mental health deterioration among the most vulnerable • Breakdown and disintegration of families • Long term economic inactivity • Community Disconnection. “EBIAC is on the frontline of dealing with the impact of austerity on people, said Mary. “It is to us and other advice centres that people who are at their wits end turn to for help. Despite the need of a centre like EBIAC we have to continuously seek funding to provide our services. “Advice centres make a real difference in people’s lives because we provide real social and economic impact. Is it not time that we were properly resourced to get on with providing our services.”

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VIEW talks to Kerry Anthony, above, the chief executive of DePaul Ireland, about her organisation’s strategy to combat homelessness and what social impact is it making?


erry Anthony, head of Depaul Ireland, looks remarkably relaxed when she arrives for our meeting in a Belfast cafe. Declining my offer of a coffee, she opts instead for a bottle of sparking water. The conversation flows for the next hour as we chat on a warm, balmy afternoon about social impact, measurement tools and does her organisation make a difference. “Depaul Ireland is an organisation which helps people who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless. Our strategic plan would be to move people out of homelessness. This is a very clear outcome for us and it is what we strive to achieve,” says Kerry. “Homelessness in my opinion is about housing, but there are other aspects to that as well. First and foremost, we need to put people into a home and then put supports in place. Organisationally our work falls into four areas; prevention, supporting vulnerable families, addiction and criminal justice. “For example if I take addiction and you look at our project here in Stella Maris hostel in Belfast. When we first starting working in the hostel we talked about harm reduction. But nobody really understood what that meant. At that time we thought it meant getting people indoors and feeding them and keeping

them safe. And then we started to ask ourselves the question what does harm reduction actually mean? So we started to look at the issue of alcohol and how could we prove we were making an impact on the lives of people who were homeless and had an alcohol addiction. “So we developed our own alcohol management standards in the organisation. So each person who is in Stella Maris now has an alcohol management plan. I can now say that 100 per cent of those clients have now reduced there alcohol consumption in some way, shape or form. “Each person is different and the impact it has had for them is different. It has increased health and wellbeing, It has increased family involvement which had declined for many years. “Each project we have is different and the outcomes that we seek.” I asked Kerry how does her organisation measure the success of these projects. “We are in probally about midway through in understanding our social return on investment. “For example, in our project in Derry – a day centre for street drinkers – we got money from the Big Lottery. We did a baseline piece of work over three years involving 50 service users. We looked at what interventions we were making and the cost benefits of it in relation to the misuse of the accident and emergency

services and the criminal justice system. “One of the big things we look at is how are we making a difference and how are we saving money elsewhere? “Research shows that our type of projects do save money in the use of accident and emergency services and the criminal justice system.” “We need to get better though at defining what are the benefits for the community in terms of the work we do.” “The largest part of the money we receive in Northern Ireland comes through the Housing Executive. It seems likely that our primary funder will still come through the new Department of Communities and the Housing Executive. As our conversatiion drew to an end, I asked Kerry would her organisation be taking part in the consultation process around the Programme for Government. “Yes, we will be taking part in it,” replied Kerry and “feeding into the discussions around it and the outcomes-based accountability process”. She went on to express her concerns about welfare reform and the reduction of benefits in Northern Ireland. “I keep to saying to my colleagues that we have no idea what the social impact of welfare reform is going to be. That is still a cloud that is looming over us. My instincts are to worry about it.”

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Supporting community development, strengthening our rural communities

Brendan McDonnell, director of CENI, talks about a pioneering approach to the evaluation of the Rural Community Development Support Service (RCDSS), which funds rural network organisations to deliver community development support in rural communities across Northern Ireland over the period 2012-2016


his exercise generated a substantial evidence base on the impact of the RCDSS and illustrated the critical role the rural networks play in improving the lives of rural communities and in delivering rural policy objectives on tackling poverty and social isolation. This is significant both for Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (now DAERA) and the networks as they now have a robust evidence base to demonstrate the value of community development support, which can be used to help inform and shape future rural development policy and support programmes. However, it hasn’t always been like this. The outcomes of community development activity are notoriously difficult to define and measure. DARD, concerned that previous evaluations had not adequately captured these outcomes, appointed CENI in

2014 to carry out a social impact assessment of the RCDSS. CENI went to work on applying its ‘Measuring Change’ methodology which had been specifically designed to capture those ‘hard to measure’ qualitative changes of development activity. The first phase of the evaluation evidenced how the networks were building community development infrastructure within rural areas by supporting groups, individual farmers and community social capital. A second phase demonstrated the difference that this made to these communities in terms of enabling them to face challenges, attract resources, access public services and participate in new planning structures. The CENI evaluation identified the value that rural support networks add by creating stepped linkages between hard to

reach rural communities and public service providers – from first contact through to trust – which improved communication and facilitated co-design. “The CENI report has been very useful in demonstrating the positive impact that the RCDSS has had in rural communities and will inform the consideration of any future support for local rural community development,” said John Waddell, Rural Development South, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Nicholas McCrickard, Manager, County Down Rural Community Network, said: “CENI’s report provides an essential evaluation of the local rural support networks, highlighting the complex nature of rural community development while capturing the myriad projects and talents that exist. We will use this to inform the development of community support for years to come.”

Making a difference VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

Siobhán Rogan looks at the Health in Mind programme and discovers some impressive results in tackling mental health issues in Northern Ireland


unded by the Big Lottery’s Live and Learn Programme, the six-year Health in Mind project was rolled out across the 96 libraries in Northern Ireland by the Health in Mind Partners: AWARE; Action Mental Health (AMH); Cause; Mindwise and Libraries NI. It reached 200, 000 people in both urban and rural settings. Why did the community of Northern Ireland need the Health in Mind project? In short, approximately 150, 000 people in Northern Ireland – between eight and 12 per cent of the population of this region – experience mental health difficulties. The most prevalent is depression. And it does not discriminate. Mental illness casts a very wide net. In the last five years, there has been a 500 per cent increase in the use of prescription drugs in the UK, standing at 49 million prescriptions issued in 2015. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2030, mental illness will be the world’s biggest burden, with depression being the leading cause of disability by 2020. And with the legacy of the Troubles, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is also prevalent among the populace. In 2006, a key recommendation of the Bamford Review of mental health stated: “Mental health services should be located in ‘appropriate, child-friendly, non-stigmatising environments.” To this end, “throughout the region, people were happy to come into local libraries, because libraries are viewed as safe, neutral and trusted environments.” (Professor Bernard Cullen, Chairperson of Libraries NI. Health in Mind 2009-2016 Final Report). In 2002, an American woman, Mary

Praise: Christine Roberts Ellen Copeland, who had experienced long-term enduring mental health problems, devised the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). WRAP is a preventative self-help tool and was just one of the many programmes rolled out by Libraries NI as part of the Health in Mind project, reaching 210 people. Other programmes delivered included Mindfulness (1,059 people); Nutrition workshops (633 people); Laughter Yoga Workshops (418 people); Personal Development (1,261 people); Living Life to the Full (331 people); and Music Therapy (249 people). Some other impressive outputs delivered were: • 96, 090 people accessed up-to-date and relevant information • 60, 777 people gained awareness of positive mental health and understanding

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of mental health issues • 29, 489 people took part in activities • 13, 170 people acquired self-help skills, knowledge and information • 41 people enhanced their skills and confidence by volunteering. However, these are quantitative measures. Benjamin Disraeli famously once said: “There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics.” So if the numbers do not speak for themselves, then the words of north Belfast woman Christine Roberts, who took part in AWARE’s Living Life to the Full course, speaks volumes of the social impact of the project and the work of AWARE, a Northern Ireland charity which tackles depression and bipolar disorder. Christine said: “I first discovered AWARE in 2013. I passed their office on Duncairn Gardens every day for months, not having any confidence to go in. One day I just forced myself to go in and started getting the help I needed. “I was made to feel so comfortable and welcome by everyone. “From then, I have attended the support group every week for three years. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. AWARE have truly saved my life. “Now I want to give back and help and support others in need. I am now a volunteer Ambassador with AWARE to make people aware of the work they do.”

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VIEW, Issue 38, 2016

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And now for another thing

Writer Harry Reid dips his pen into the strange language of ‘results-based accountability’, ‘deliverables’ and ‘theory of change’ and asks can we get back to using words we understand

Can we stop the barbed-wire babble?


f words are the clothes that ideas and thoughts are dressed in, then the enervating language around ‘measuring social impact’ makes this a sartorially wretched fellow indeed. The unsightly bloated beer belly of ‘results based accountability’ is not concealed under the ill-fitting trousers made of something called ‘feedback loops’. An expensive, but ill fitting, T-shirt emblazoned with the legend ‘metrics’ acts as a clownish showcase for his gym generated bare upper arm ‘robust indicators’. With the confidence born of knowing he has a pass to every charity event, this guy strides into the kitchen of the party you’re at, plonks down his plastic bag of ‘deliverables’, then bends your ear about ‘benchmarking’ before enquiring about your ‘theory of change’. Where, you may ask, has this thought throttling language come from? Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, this is a story of unintended outcomes. The life cycle of both Health and Safety, and what has come to be known as political correctness, are instructive when pondering this question. Each began with a legitimate and laudable aim, but morphed into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves. Similarly, a legitimate desire by funders of not-for-profit activity to determine if the services, projects and initiatives they support are effective, has over time transmuted into a carnival of the incompressible.

In contrast, the best not-for-profit organisations of whatever size have always had a clear sense of their purpose and ensured their activities were designed to further this. They also sought evidence to establish both what exactly those actions were achieving, and how their efforts could be improved to better meet the needs of the people they sought to serve and represent. This approach enabled the experiences, perspectives and ideas of their constituency members to be collected and considered so that the organisation in question could constructively:• Refine their existing activities accordingly and develop new initiatives designed to better meet articulated and observed need; • Report to funders on both the degree of effectiveness of current initiatives and the rationale for requests for future funding; • Authoritatively contribute to broader associated policy development; and, • Communicate with any pertinent audience about the needs and circumstances of their constituency, and how their work was helping to meet these. Of course many organisations didn’t take this approach, either they are too busy getting on with what they saw as their job or too lazy or egocentric to question if their approach was effective or could be improved. It is clear that the former need to

understand that reflecting in an informed and considered way on what you are, or are not achieving, is a key part of your job, while the latter need woken up to their responsibilities to both their constituencies and funders. Demonstrating that you’re efforts have tangible positive outcomes that constructively impact on people’s lives is now justifiably a non negotiable requirement of statutory and independent funders if they are to invest in your efforts. What is not justifiable is the barbed-wire babble that has attached i tself to the recommended ways of establishing impact. Rather than championing any of the thousand plus ‘tools’ that have been developed to seemingly measure outcomes, funders would do better to foster the skills involved in the craft of storytelling amongst those they invest their resources in. This would result in the skilled collection, consideration and amplification of the voices of the people designated as beneficiaries. Human experience, rather than a data driven interpretation of it, has always informed great stories. Great stories, from ancient mythology to contemporary films, novels and quality journalism, have always explored the dynamics of truths. Truths designed to help us reflect and learn, are always clothed in language we can grasp and savour.

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View issue 38  

A social affairs magazine in Northern Ireland

View issue 38  

A social affairs magazine in Northern Ireland