Back in January UFA were successful in their application to the ‘Big Potential’ grant programme, run by the Big Lottery. This grant was used to pay for UFA to develop their plans to take on social investment. Social investment is a new approach to funding that is spreading across the social sector in the UK.
Part of what social investors look for is a robust approach to measuring the social impact that an organisation makes. UFA is already doing considerable work on this front: it is working with a group of leading academics at the Institute of Education to build up its measurement systems.
The project with IFG had quite a specific aim: to see what research already exists that tells us about the effectiveness of programmes like the ones run by UFA. UFA’s work is all about building leadership skills among young people. UFA’s belief is that building leadership skills will help young people to become better leaders, but also to cope better with the challenges life throws at them, and to be better equipped to reach their potential in education.
My review of existing research showed that there is a lot of research into what is often called ‘non-cognitive skills’. Leadership skills are a good example of non-cognitive skills – those skills and attributes that are not tested in a maths test or an essay writing task, but which are still very important in doing well in life. The good news for UFA is that there is lots of evidence to show that programmes that develop non-cognitive skills have a positive impact on later success in life. The next phase of this work would be to look in more detail at how similar these programmes that have been tested are to the programmes that UFA run.
Why did UFA commission this project, and why is it important to spend time looking at existing research? Overall, the point of social impact measurement is to gather information about what difference a service is making to the people who use it. Studies done by other organisations are a valuable source of information about what impact other, similar, interventions have on the people taking part. Reviewing these studies is an important step in building up the case for using a certain kind of programme design. Alternatively, if existing studies show that some kinds of programme are not effective, they should be used in thinking about how the programme might be changed to improve its effectiveness.
I hope that this review has helped UFA move a step further in its journey to support young people in becoming ready for work, learning and life!
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Guest blog by Jess Daggers.