A blog by Paul Roberts OBE
Impact, impact, impact…. It’s a bit like the “location, location, location” of the voluntary sector! We hear it time and time again, but understanding it can be a bit puzzling and frustrating. Where do I start, what do I capture, how do I do it…sometimes we allow other pressing priorities to move it to the head-scratching pile for a little while longer!
This sums up where we, and many of our members in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Plus (LGBT+) sector were last year. We knew impact was important, but were unsure of where to start.
Then along came the Consortium’s Connect Fund project. We began our social investment journey knowing there were glimmers of potential within LGBT+ organisations, but needed space to think these through before we jumped in with the solutions. I remember describing the need for our project, but being quite honest that the end product was a bit unknown.
We were delighted to be given the opportunity by the Connect Fund to allow for those supportive head scratching moments. Our project now has the potential to transform the LGBT+ sector – in terms of social investment and with much wider implications.
The light-bulb moment came at the end of the opening phase of the project, capturing where the LGBT+ sector was and what might be the solution. Of course, there wasn’t just one solution! There are many. Straightaway we knew that one of the massive roadblocks preventing LGBT+ organisations from accessing social investment was the lack of coordinated approaches to impact. How can we ask investors to engage with us if we can’t properly articulate both the financial and social returns we are offering?
Working with our fabulous consultants Traverse, who have deep understanding of diversity issues and outcomes and impact measurement, we all got rather excited when we realised what we needed was an LGBT+ Outcomes Framework.
Yes, I know, there it is, my infrastructure geekery was in overdrive. We knew there was only one way to make this work, and that was collaboration. So we pulled together a cohort of 6 LGBT+ organisations to join us on this journey. Six months later, we are ready to publish an LGBT+ Common Outcomes Framework. What it means for us is incredibly exciting. For the first time we can set the challenge to the LGBT+ sector to articulate what we all do as specialist organisations in a common way, whilst still allowing for individual nuancing.
With these common areas at the forefront, we can begin to think about the data we capture and how it is presented to create long term change for individuals. As simple as it sounds, this is game-changing for a small sector like the LGBT+ sector. It opens up new doors many having been trying to push for many years, with limited success.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the story. Now that the light-bulb is on we have no intentions of switching it off.
LGBT+ Consortium will be leading the charge by adopting this new Outcomes Framework as the basis of our Strategic Plan, and challenging others to follow suit. The hope is, by articulating impact well, we will for the first time open up future social investment, and build long-lasting sustainable LGBT+ organisations.
LGBT+ people and communities are far more visible than ever before. With this enhanced profile comes a responsibility for the sector to move to maturity. I am so very excited that LGBT+ organisations want to be at the forefront of doing things differently and articulating the difference we make for individuals in need.
Paul Roberts OBE is Chief Executive of LGBT+ Consortium, a national specialist infrastructure and Membership organisation, which focus on the development and support of LGBT groups, organisations and projects so they can deliver direct services and campaign for individual rights.
This blog has been cross posted from the Connect Fund.