Closed eye image to illustrate measurement of qualitative data

More Than Eyes Can See? – Measuring Relationships

As our name implies, Get the Data is concerned with collecting and understanding quantitative empirical data. At the expense reprising scholarly debates about objectivity and truth, it is the Western empirical tradition that informs our research and the work of our clients who are engaged in criminal justice policy and practice. In other words, we want to measure things that can be touched, seen and realized by our senses.

Since the early 90s, much of my work has been the production of empirical data on the operation of the criminal justice system. As a young Home Office researcher, I cut my teeth in the back row of Sunderland magistrates’ court counting the reasons for cracked and ineffective trials. And it continued from there: reviewing police counting rules, measuring youth re-offending, tracking the attrition of DNA evidence from a crime scene to conviction in court.

The development of criminal justice policy demands the rigor of these empirical measures. So, I am proud of my colleagues who provide cutting-edge social impact analytics to a range of clients, from the Ministry of Justice and Sodexo Justice Services to smaller not-for-profits who work with offenders, such as Street Soccer Academy and Best for Pets.

That said, I was struck by two guest blogs that we published earlier this year.  Both Ilham Askia and Prof. Darrick Joliffe wrote about the growing interest in understanding the importance of the relationship between public defenders and offender managers and their respective clients.  Understanding the importance of these relationships is a departure from the measurement of objective outcomes that are recorded in either a police custody suite or pronounced in the court, and I am delighted that GtD is at the forefront of this innovative work.

A few years ago, I read “More Than Eyes Can See”, Rhidian Brook’s account of his nine-month journey in Africa, India, China and the U.S. to detail the Salvation Army’s response to the world-wide AIDs pandemic. By his own account, Brook was initially critical of the efficiency and effectiveness of local efforts to bring relief to those with HIV/AIDS and their families who were often ostracized by the community. Slowly he realized that for many there could be no “good” outcome: there is no cure and palliative care is too expensive for the most vulnerable.  So, in his words he admitted that, “I was slow to spot it really – focused as I was on empirical ways of measuring success – but [it was] the small acts of kindness that were holding things together. They weren’t the added extra, the bonus; they were it … After a while I stopped trying to measure the efficiency of these visits and see them for what they were: self-giving, sweaty acts of love”.

Relationships matter, even if just for their own sake. If the relationship between your organization and its clients is important to you, then please contact either Jack or me. We will be happy to discuss our ground-breaking approaches to measuring those things “that the eye cannot see”.

Make Social Impact Your Goal! - GtD and Street Soccer Academy

Make Social Impact Your Goal!

I am delighted to be working again with Street Soccer Academy (SSA) to put evidence of their social impact at the heart of their work with ex-offenders. This important work has been made possible by a grant from the Access Impact Foundation whose mission is to make charities and social enterprises more financially resilient and self-reliant, so that they can sustain or increase their impact. Without the generous funding from the Access Impact Foundation we would not able to provide Street Soccer Academy with our powerful data analysis.

Street Soccer Academy is a great client to work with. They use professionally organised sports-based programmes in the rehabilitation and reintegration of people from some of the nation’s hardest to reach groups, including ex-offenders. Our task is to prove that SSA’s pro-social models are affecting the attitudes and thinking of the men and women with whom they work, with particular emphasis on their relationships and roles in society.

In the coming months we will be using our rigorous social impact analytics to contribute to the knowledge of what makes ex-offenders desist from crime. Our previous evaluation of the academy’s prison to community service, produced evidence of SSA’s excellent engagement of ex-offenders into their programme. With the foundation’s funding we will build on that by using our advanced statistical analysis to identify who benefits from the programme, how and in what circumstances. These analyses will assist the academy to identify the most effective practice and allow it to develop its professional programmes. To ensure that it has the right information at the right time we will be building a dashboard to communicate this data to those delivering the programme, their managers and the funder.

Not only will this improve their practice, but it has important implications for government’s Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. That agenda depends on organisations like SSA being commissioned to deliver services through the private community rehabilitation companies. However, the participation of such organisations has been low as they struggle to demonstrate their impact on reoffending pathways and desistance from crime. Access Impact is helping to overcome those obstacles and by funding our work, will enable SSA to attract further funding and make the systemic changes that are essential to support men and women to desist from crime.

To find out more about our analytics services and how we can help your organisation demonstrate your impact definitively, contact us on 020 3371 8950 or email jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk

Delivering Innovative Social Impact Analytics to Sodexo Justice

We are delighted to announce a new contract to deliver our ground breaking social impact analytics to Sodexo Justice, a leading provider of justice services in the UK.

The purpose of our social impact analytics is to provide definitive evidence of an organisation’s impact on society by delivering predictive analyses and impact evaluation.  Under the newly signed contract, we will measure the effectiveness of Sodexo’s six Community Rehabilitation Companies in managing the risk associated with the offenders and delivering interventions that reduce their reoffending.

By understanding “what works?” in changing lives and delivering safer communities, our social impact analytics will also be used by Sodexo Justice to measure the impact of its services.  Sodexo Justice will be paid through a payment by results mechanism that measures its success in reducing reoffending.

Our founding director, Jack Cattell said, “We very much look forward to providing our social impact analytics to Sodexo Justice Services.  Our SIAs will provide offender managers with the information they require to manage resources and deliver high quality interventions to reduce reoffending.”

A lightbulb of cogs to illustrate service innovation

Service Innovation – Segment and Conquer

Supermarkets use data to sell us more of the things we want, and even things we don’t yet know we want – a real world example of service innovation through segmentation that we can learn from.

In social policy, we all know that there is no one programme or service that will work equally well for everyone in the target cohort. Even if it is having an impact across the board there will be some people for whom it works better than others and that’s where extra value can be squeezed out.

We might roll our eyes at the buzz-phrase ‘customer segmentation’, and of course there’s a difference between tailoring public services and selling sausages, but both require a similar approach to gathering data, analysing it, and in a sense letting it lead the way.

In the case of Tesco it’s about working out what shoppers want and selling it to them – a far easier job than convincing them to buy things in which they have no interest, a win for both parties. With public services it’s a matter of thinking in broad terms where we want people to end up – or not end up, as the case may be – and then letting what bubbles up from the data determine the most efficient route, and even the specific end point.

For example, working with one client that specialises in tackling youth offending, our data analysis found that though their intervention was effective overall, it was less effective at reducing offending among 12 to 13-year-olds than among young people of 15 and 16. By treating these two segments differently the overall impact of the intervention can be improved and more young people can be set on the right path at the right moment in their lives.

This approach challenges current orthodoxy which would have us determine our theory of change and set out clearly how we will achieve a given outcome before starting work. This can lead people to impose an analysis on the data after the fact, forcing it to fit the predetermined course. It also implies that all service users need more or less the same thing and we know very well that they don’t. The orthodox approach has its place, of course, once data has been collected and analysed, when we can start to make predictions based on prior knowledge.

Equally, it’s not efficient to design a bespoke service for every single end user, but there is a sweet spot in which we can identify sub-groups and thus wring out more value from programmes with relatively little additional time, manpower or funding. I’ll finish with another example: we have been designing approaches to impact management with a number of providers of universal services for young people and adult disability services. These agencies work with different sorts of people, with varying needs, and for whom different outcomes are desirable. Advanced statistical analysis can help us identify groups within that complex body and lead to service innovation which is both tailored and general.

Image of data being analysed

There’s no Magic Way of Measuring Impact

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of measuring your social impact across multiple projects using a single dependable statistic? Well, I’ve got some bad news, and some good.

I was recently talking to a charity who wanted to know how if they could go about measuring and reporting the overall impact of the organisation on children and families. With multiple strands each aiming to achieve different things, they asked if a single outcome measure – one accurate, reliable number – to sum up the impact of the whole organisation was either possible or desirable.

First, here’s the bad news: it’s very unlikely – I might even be so bold as to say impossible – that any such thing exists. You might think you’ve found one that works but when you put in front of a critic (or a nitpicking critical friend, like me) it will probably get ripped apart in seconds.

Of course, if there is a measure that works across multiple projects, even if not all of them, you should use it, but don’t be tempted to shoehorn other projects into that same framework.

It’s true that measuring impact requires compromise but an arbitrary measure, or one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, is the wrong compromise to make.

The Good News

There is, however, a compromise that can work, and that is having the confidence to aggregate upwards knowing your project level data are sound. You might say, for example, that together your projects improved outcomes for 10,000 families, and then give a single example from an individual project that improved service access or well-being to support the claim. In most situations that will be more meaningful than any contrived, supposedly universal measure of impact.

Confidence is the key, though: for this to work you need to find a reliable way of measuring and expressing the success of each individual project, and have ready in reserve information robust enough to hold up to scrutiny.

Measuring Means Data

In conclusion, the underlying solution to the challenge of measuring impact, and communicating it, is a foundation of good project level data. That will also make it easier to improve performance and give you more room to manoeuvre. Placing your faith in a single measure, even if you can decide upon one, could leave you vulnerable in a shifting landscape.

 

Images showing analysis, in a light bulb to illustrate project evalution

You Might Be Winning but Not Know It

Have you ever eagerly awaited the results of a project impact study or external evaluation only to be disappointed to be told you had no impact? ‘How can this be?’ you might ask. ‘The users liked it, the staff saw the difference being made, and the funding provider was ecstatic!’ The fact is, if you’re trying to gauge the final success of a project without having analysed your data throughout its life, proving you made a difference is bound to be difficult.

Of course we would all like to know before we invest in a project whether it’s going to work. As that’s practically impossible (sorry) the next best thing is to know as soon as we can whether it is on a path to success or, after the fact, whether it has been successful. But even that, in my view, isn’t always quite the right question: more often we should be asking instead what it has achieved, and for whom.

In most cases – rugby matches and elections aside – success isn’t binary, it’s complex, but good data analysed intelligently can reduce the noise and help to make sense of what is really going on.

A service might in practice work brilliantly for one cohort but have negligible impact on another, skewing anecdotal results. Changes might, for example, boost achievement among girls but do next to nothing for boys, leading to the erroneous conclusion that it has failed outright. Or perhaps across the entire group, attainment is stubbornly unmoving but attendance is improving – a significant success, just not the one anyone expected. Dispassionate, unprejudiced data can reveal that your project is achieving more than you’d hoped for.

Equally, if the goalposts are set in concrete, consistently mining that data can give you the insight you need to learn, improve and change tack to achieve the impact you want while the project is underway. Or, at least, to check that you’re collecting and reviewing the right data – if the answer to any of your questions is a baffled shrug or an anecdote (and it too often is, in my experience) then you have a problem.

I’ll be circling back for a detailed look at some of the case studies hinted at above, as well as several others covering various fields, in later posts in this series.

In the meantime, consider the project that keeps you awake at night – where are its dark corners, and what good news might be lurking there?

The Centre for Youth Impact logo

The Centre for Youth Impact – Conference 16th March

We’re pleased to announce that Jack will be hosting a workshop at The Centre for Youth Impact’s ‘The Measure and the Treasure: Evaluation in personal and social development’ conference on 16th March.

The Centre for Youth Impact is hosting the day-long conference to focus on issues of measurement and personal and social development.

“The day will explore policy, practical and philosophical debates about whether, why and how we should seek to measure the development of social and emotional skills (or non-cognitive skills, soft skills and character, amongst other terms) in young people. We are planning a thought-provoking and engaging day that introduces participants to a range of ideas and activities, and are particularly keen to draw in thinking from outside the ‘traditional’ youth sector.

The question of how to measure and evidence the development of social and emotional skills in young people remains one of the key challenges youth organisations feel they are facing, and many practitioners raise ethical, technical and practical questions about the extent to which this is feasible, desirable and even useful. As such, we want to convene a day that will bring individuals with a wide range of perspectives into the same space to share, explore and progress their thinking, with a focus on practical application.”

Kenton Hall – Communications Officer, The Centre for Youth Impact

To find out more visit http://bit.ly/2mBVOWY

 

Impact Management Programme Logo

GtD Approved Provider for Impact Management Programme

Get the Data are pleased to announce that we are an approved provider to the Access Foundation’s Impact Management Programme.

The Impact Management Programme aims to build the capacity of charities and social enterprises to manage their impact. This will help them to increase their social impact and diversify income.

Get the Data will support organisations to build impact measurement tools, develop impact plans, report performance, manage data, analyse data and design a theory of change. Please contact jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk to learn how to take advantage of the fund.

Training is being held at locations across the UK for organisations who wish to participate in the programme:

  • London 9th February
  • Liverpool 23rd February
  • Birmingham 1st March
  • Bristol 23rd March

Visit http://accessimpact.org/events/ for further information or to book onto a training session.

GtD welcomes Jay Hughes to the team

GtD is delighted to welcome Jay Hughes

GtD is delighted to welcome Jay Hughes to our Social Impact Analytics team based in our London office. Jay has a very strong background in mathematics and also management, and he is currently completing a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics at the Open University. He is a Member of the Royal Statistical Society and looks forward to developing our cutting-edge SIA practice. Jay is currently leading on our analytic work with a number of police forces in England & Wales, and when not working he enjoys rock climbing, weight training and motorcycling.

Make Social Impact Your Goal! - GtD and Street Soccer Academy

Our Social Impact Analytics Are Helping Street Soccer Academy

Our social impact analytics are being used to prove the impact of Street Soccer Academy’s custody to community programme. We demonstrated that the academy was working with the nation’s hardest to reach individuals, and that 75% of this group completed the programme and showed strong engagement upon release. Importantly the programme’s impact on reoffending translates to a £3.8m saving to the prison service. For more information on how GtD can prove your organisation’s impact, contact jack.cattell@getthedata.co.uk

http://www.streetsocceracademy.co.uk/impact-report/