There are three strands to our business:
1. We develop and run our own creative, innovative and award winning social enterprise ventures, including the Column Bakehouse (an artisan community bakery) and the Devonport Guildhall (a creative social enterprise community hub). Therefore creating jobs and enabling heritage and enterprise-led regeneration in particular ‘disadvantaged’ communities in the SW.
We then use this knowledge and experience to support others to do the same, achieving their own goals through social enterprise by:
2. Delivering a range of strategic programmes for partners focussed on creativity, culture, and social enterprise across the SW, including:
- The Bridge function for Arts Council England in the SW, providing a range of strategic support to the arts, cultural and educational sectors to ensure young people can access and engage in great arts and cultural provision.
- The lead partner for Talent Match Cornwall (funded via the Big Lottery), supporting young people aged 18-24 who have been unemployed for a year of more to move into the job market.
3. Providing a range of services to help other organisations harness the power of social enterprise to realise their ambitions, including consultancy, training and business support.
We have used a model called the Transformational Index. Working with staff and stakeholders, this has allowed us to develop and hone our own unique ‘theory of change’, as well as a set of organisational impact metrics/indicators, collection systems and processes, and an operating manual. Staff are now implementing and embedding this framework across our organisation.
The introduction of the impact framework is already providing us with:
- A tool for discussion, and focus for our attention – on the key things that we think lead to the type of social changes we wish to see in the world around us.
- An approach that helps us reflect on our practice on an ongoing basis, and that asks us: are we achieving the impact that we intend?
- Data that, over time, will begin to drive our strategic management and lead to ever more balanced decision-making – allowing us to concentrate our efforts on the work that brings us most impact.
- A way to communicate more clearly about the benefits we create for the communities we serve, as well as ways we can create more value.
Using the Transformational Index we have produced an overall theory of change or ‘DNA statement’ that runs through all our work:
The constituent parts of this ‘theory’ are as follows:
- ‘Constructive disruption‘ (solving problems) – the set of concrete, clear and meaningful problems solved in a ‘RIO way’ in the world around us. Tracked by recording the problems we solve for people through each piece of work or intervention, and the nature of the solution we provide. The aim here is to focus on the difference we make rather than what we do.
- ‘Tangibility’ – making a real difference, tracked through the direct and indirect turnover we generate through the socially enterprising solutions and work we support with our customers and partners.
- ‘Empowerment’ (individual and collective) – making a lasting difference to the a. individuals and b. organisations and communities we work with. Tracked via a range of quantitative metrics relating to longer term change in individuals and organisations.
- ‘Fun’ – do people have ‘fun’ working with us (with this deeper notion of fun taken from approaches used in the digital gaming industry): are they stretched, satisfied, challenged in a positive way? Tracked through client, beneficiary and stakeholder questionnaires, interviews, conversations and surveys using a common framework of questions focused on this area of inquiry.
- ‘Holism’ – does our work and impact in particular places and contexts, where we concentrate our activities, add up to more than the sum of its parts? Are we beginning to address issues of inequality and build individual and community potential at scale in these places? This will be tracked through more in-depth internal and external research as and when necessary and appropriate.
- Ideas and Innovation – we want all our work to push boundaries, contain new and relevant ideas, and lead to some form of practical innovation in relation to social change.
With all of these constituent parts linking together and constantly underpinned and connected together by principles of sustainability (particularly relating to the implementation of solutions that last for our clients, partners and communities of interest), and underpinned by a notion of enterprise in its broadest sense.
We have then developed a simple, consistent and concrete set of metrics/indicators for the relevant and ‘measurable’ parts of this theory. Our internal monitoring and data collection efforts are pragmatic and practice-oriented. We focus on data that will help us create more social value in areas important to the organisation and our community of interest. This internal monitoring and collection sits alongside and is informed by further research we carry out with external partners as and when appropriate, and with the evaluation and external monitoring we carry out for clients connected to the projects and programmes we run.
The theory of change and impact framework were developed in 13/14, trialled in 14/15 (giving us our first year of full data), and have been honed in 15/16 to give us more precise figures.