Unintended outcomes and impact measurement

Peoplewhocare I had the pleasure of visiting the SSE programme in Wigan and Leigh last week, to facilitate an ‘introduction to social impact measurement’ session with the students on the programme. I do love that experience of arriving in on a train to a place you’ve never been before, wandering down the road to a building, following the signs….and finding an SSE programme there just like the ones across the network.

I think the session went pretty well: great to meet the students and their projects at different stages, and help them think about the story that lies behind their work (aka ‘theory of change’), what tools and methodologies to think about using, and how much time and resources to commit to evaluation at this stage of their work. I like the process because on the one hand it challenges you to put numbers and objectives to the activity you are thinking of doing (and to what tangible difference you hope to make), and on the other it forces you to take your head out of the day-to-day of delivery and think about the broader context and overall story. Both timely and relevant activities for early-stage social entrepreneurs as they plan, work on communications, and set up systems and processes.

In the course of the couple of hours, before heading across to Liverpool SSE’s steering group meeting, we discussed ‘unintended outcomes’ as well: being open and alive to positive and negative effects that might not have been part of the original plan. They told me of a perfect example (which I’m reporting second-hand): how one Liverpool SSE student became Facebook friends with another one on the programme; via that network and a couple of conversations, he identified that this SSE student lived near his ex-partner and, as a result, close to his son…who he hadn’t seen for almost 18 years. He was able to get back in touch, and, in an appropriate tying up of loose ends, his son then attended his father’s SSE graduation.

Unintended indeed, but a great outcome. :0)

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