By Ricky Shah, Researcher
The need for change in the education sector is outstripping the supply of financing. With limited funding, resources must be wisely directed to programmes delivering the greatest impact to the most deprived. This is happening to an extent. According to the National Audit Office, the growing body of evidence-based results, produced by the Sutton Trust/EEF, are now used by a majority of schools as a resource for identifying the approaches that are most cost-effective and advance the quality of education provision.
A November 2015 Department for Education (DfE) Research Report on “articulating success and good practice” for interventions found that the schools which were most successful at reducing the gap focused on small-group additional learning; improving feedback; one-to-one tuition, and had introduced these effective strategies earlier than less successful schools. In secondary schools, those more successful were more likely to be using metacognitive (or learning how to learn), and peer learning strategies. More importantly, in all schools, no single intervention led to success, but those that raised the attainment of disadvantaged children the most were those who adopted an “individualised approach to addressing barriers”, “focused on outcomes for individual pupils” and “prioritised quality teaching for all”.
The implications for VCSEs are significant; the opportunities clear: those organisations delivering programmes supported by evidence of effectiveness are consequently more likely to be commissioned and achieve favourable outcomes for their beneficiaries. Furthermore, evidence based programming must be a give-and-take activity for two distinct reasons: firstly, as a tool to direct improvements within the programme being run. Secondly, since there are many organisations running programmes with similar objectives, to contribute to the collective knowledge around what interventions work. Social organisations should not overburden themselves when collecting data though, instead they should focus on collecting enough to confidently demonstrate their effectiveness and impact.
Development Impact Bonds (DIBs), are an example of an innovative financial investment tool that places a noticeably high importance on a strong Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) framework. DIBs are focused on a set of ‘Social Impact Outcomes’ that are rigorously and independently measured by an evaluator and investors’ returns are determined by whether benchmarks are achieved.
July 2016 saw the release of the first-year results of the world’s first DIB, funding an education programme implemented by the NGO, Educate Girls. This publication underlined that by focusing on gathering adequate data, the service provider could run an iterative process where feedback from the field could direct improvements in the deliverance of quality education to girls in Rajasthan.
DIBs, as with other social investment, require VCSEs to be investment ready. Additionally, those organisations contemplating taking on social investment need to be fully aware of the problem they are addressing, the existing evidence for their method of intervention and their ability to manage a culture of performance – VCSEs activities must all be guided by demonstrating impact, according to Avnish Gungadurdoss of Instiglio, which is supporting Educate Girls. Service providers capable of consistently providing validated data of sufficient quality will be more likely able to access a larger pool of capital.
For charities and social enterprises interested in securing support for impact measurement, do look out for Social Investment Business’ Impact Readiness Fund (http://www.sibgroup.org.uk/impact-readiness-fund/) and Big Potential (http://bigpotential.org.uk).