This week Street League launched their new online impact reporting dashboard instead of an annual report. Their Head of Marketing, Sara McCraight, shares what she’s learned. 

  1. Why did you decide to do your annual report this way? 

Street League is committed to transparent impact reporting, and sharing our data in a real-time dashboard is our latest innovation to drive this forward.  Last year we shared our “Three Golden Rules” of reporting; we will never over claim what we do; all percentages will be backed up by absolute numbers; and all outcomes are supported by auditable evidence. We wanted this dashboard to bring our Three Golden Rules to life – it starts with sharing the young people we weren’t able to help, all percentages are full datasets and include the sample size, and every “outcome” (young person into employment, education or training) we report on has evidence to back it up.

In the sector, it is quite normal to have to wait a year or more to understand what a charity’s impact has been, but we know that in order to learn from our data and improve our programmes, we need to respond much more quickly than this. Internally, we have been using detailed monthly scorecards and dashboards to understand how well we’re doing since 2015, and sharing this publicly seemed a great next step. We know that there are other social impact dashboards out there, but we think the real-time nature of this data being pulled through directly from our database is a true step forward in transparency – none of the data is edited and if the results aren’t good, that’s what it will show.

  1. How do you think it will change your relationship with donors? 

As well as seeing how we’re doing month-to-month, the dashboard allows you to interact with and filter with the data so you can ask your own questions i.e. “How many young men in Scotland have progressed into a retail job?” or “How many young people that you’re working with experienced homelessness?”. The initial response from some previews of our dashboard has been incredibly positive, and specifically that it gives people more confidence in our data and that they are more engaged in understanding a young person’s journey.

  1. What other benefits do you think it will bring?

Hopefully it will spark a wider conversation in the sector – for charities and funders. As our Chief Executive highlighted last year, we feel that it’s time that the charity sector moves away from an over-reliance on stories and also has the hard data to back this up. We hope it will encourage even more organisations to publically endorse our three golden rules and put them into practice. This honesty should help the charity sector communicate as a whole to funders and partners that what we do is hard work and to help the people who really need our support means we need to take risks and sometimes we’ll get it wrong.

  1. What would you tell other charities who are thinking of doing something similar? 

We would encourage as many charities as possible to strive for the most transparent level of reporting. Whether that’s adopting all of the Three Golden Rules, focusing on getting evidence to support your social impact, sharing your challenges so others can learn from them, or sharing more regular updates on your social impact. One piece of advice would be to ensure that if you’re sharing real-time data updates publicly, you need to be confident in the quality of the data, which is a much bigger organisational challenge than the technical aspect of creating an online dashboard.

It has been a seven-year journey to get to this point for Street League, and there has been a lot of hard work to get our monitoring and evaluation up to a standard in which we have 100% confidence to share the data publicly. Key steps have been:

  • Developing our Practice Framework, which sets out the key points along our programme and each young person’s journey, that gives a common language across all of our teams and programmes.
  • Theory of change analysis with Impetus PEF to review and update what we measure and why
  • Implementing a participant database so we can track every single young person’s journey from their starting points, and their skills development through the programmes, through to sustained six-month outcomes. This enables us to use full data-sets in all of our reporting with no extrapolation.
  • Introducing a four-stage internal audit process to check the evidence behind all of our outcomes, for example a payslip from a young person who has moved into work. Last year we rejected 48 of our outcomes because they did not have the evidence to back them up (even though they we did achieve the outcome).
  • Data audits across the organisation on a quarterly basis that ensures the rigour of our data collection and development plans for every employee who inputs data on our database.
  • Continuous review and training to make sure that data is collected in a consistent way across the organisation.

The key thing, for Street League, has been that this journey was led and championed by the Board, Chief Executive and senior management team. This leadership means that it is a priority for the organisation and is a key part of our organisation’s strategy

  1. What’s next for Street League? 

On 15th November, Street League is leading a roundtable event with 25 charity CEO’s and industry experts to engage on the topic of creating a unified set of impact measurement principles. We’re also very excited about using predictive modelling to better anticipate the support needs of young people based on their starting points.

Take a look at Street’s League’s online impact dashboard