Full value: the new approach to impact and outcomes

Imagine success… …Close your eyes. Imagine that your organisation is so successful and makes such a difference to the world that it is loved and respected, attracts great trustees and staff, has a very healthy financial future and enjoys a waiting list of brilliant volunteers ready and willing to give you their time and support. Well, I’d be lying if I said that full value can make that happen…But it can help you move closer to that vision. Introducing full value The full value approach has been heralded as a revolution in the way that organisations think about themselves and their achievements. So what is it? And what does it mean for charities, community groups and social enterprises? Firstly, full value is not a tool. It’s a way of thinking. Total impact Specifically, it’s a way of appreciating the total impact of an organisation. This includes: positive and negative impact social, economic and environmental impact short-term and long-term impact momentary happiness and enjoyment as well as sustained changes impact on the full range of people affected by an organisation, including its users, its staff, its neighbours and its suppliers. Benefits of the full value approach The full value approach helps organisations to: develop a more rounded understanding of their value (the positive and negative impact they have on the world) including uncovering their ‘hidden value’ increase their value open up new ways to communicate their value to different audiences.How does it work? How does the full value approach work? The full value approach encourages voluntary and community groups (VCOs) to consider four elements of value – as shown in the diagram below. It argues that VCOs should be aware of the types of value they bring to the world, but warns against assuming that they must monitor or measure it. Description of the diagram The diagram is a grid of four boxes. In the left column are primary outcomes and primary satisfaction – these relate to core audience stakeholders. In the right column are secondary outcomes and secondary satisfaction – these relate to secondary audience stakeholders. Primary outcomes Primary outcomes are the changes, learning, benefits and other effects that a VCO has on its core audience (‘users’, ‘beneficiaries’). These are the things that most people think about when they talk of outcomes or impact. Secondary outcomes Secondary outcomes are the outcomes it has on everyone else affected by the organisation, such as staff, trustees, volunteers, relatives of staff, neighbours, suppliers, its local council, etc.  These ‘secondary outcomes’ are not the reason that the organisation exists, but they are benefits, and certain audiences may find them more valuable than your primary outcomes. Satisfaction Satisfaction involves valuing the short-term enjoyment, pleasure, happiness or satisfaction given to both a VCO’s core audiences (primary satisfaction) and its other stakeholders (secondary satisfaction).  We should care about not just the longer-term changes we make to people’s lives, but also the temporary enjoyment that we bring them on the way. Relationships matter People care about the quality and nature of the relationship they have with organisations and improving satisfaction with a service is likely to lead to better outcomes in the longer term, for example by increasing the frequency with which a client uses a service. How full value complements full cost recovery An excessive focus on the costs of a project can detract attention from its value. The full value approach encourages VCOs, when bidding for a grant or a contract, to spend at least as much time considering and communicating the value they will provide as they do calculating the costs. After all, VCOs exist to make a difference, not to spend money. How full value replaces added value The phrase ‘added value’ has been used to try to capture the benefits of our sector. But it has been used to make gross and unsupportable generalisations about the whole sector (for example, ‘our sector is innovative’) which fail to account for the diversity of the sector.Not all organisations in our sector are innovative, and that’s fine. It has also been used to compare us crudely with other sectors (for example, ‘we’re more innovative than other sectors’) when in fact many organisations in other sectors are highly innovative. As well as being false, such claims appear churlish. We are all best represented by communicating the full value of individual organisations, whether they are social enterprises, charities, voluntary organisations or community groups. So what are the implications for an organisation like yours? Learn more about full value Well, first and foremost, why not find out a bit more about full value? Discuss the full value approach with colleagues Secondly, you could encourage your colleague to discuss it with you. Here are some questions that might be useful in a discussion as a meeting: What is the ‘hidden value’ of your organisation? What is the full spectrum of people that benefit from your organisation? Are there any things of value that you do but tend to undervalue, such as supporting neighbouring charities with free advice? Could you make more of your hidden value, perhaps to certain audiences ‘out there’ in the world who might be interested? Are there things you would like to do more of, or things you’d like to do less of? Is your organisation creating as much value as it can, and for the right people? Communicate full value Thirdly, you may want to reconsider your communications. Are you good enough at telling other people about your organisation, or are there things you’re forgetting to say? No-one is suggesting that you should be boastful, but don’t make the mistake of going to the other extreme and hiding your successes away. You may be damaging the long-term future of your organisation by doing so. What matters – what is the value? Fourthly, does the world value what you do? What is of value – what matters – is always open to argument. In fact, this is exactly what our sector is about – valuing something or someone that society seems to have forgotten. Campaigning is about trying to change what people value. Campaigning? If you provide services to people because you value them, that’s great.  But could you also help to shift what it is that society as a whole values?  Working to shift attitudes so that your users or clients are valued more highly could be an alternative way to achieve your mission.

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