Top tips for using better information to scale social innovation projects

Over the past year, NPC has been working with Nesta and the Big Lottery Fund as the learning partner for the Accelerating Ideas programme. Accelerating Ideas is a five-year grant funding programme that aims to scale eight promising innovations in ageing across the UK.

The work NPC has been doing with the innovators over the past 12 months has influenced the way the eight projects have thought about evaluation and research. Typically, when we start working with organisations that are aiming to grow, we tend to find they are mainly interested in trying to ‘prove’ themselves to funders and stakeholders, but this is really only one element. Rather than seeing research as an end to a means (e.g., a robust impact evaluation at the end of the five years), NPC has encouraged a shift in how the eight organisations assess and use information on an ongoing basis - in a way that can support both the improvement and the growth of services.

Today, we launch NPC’s Knowledge and Learning for Social Projects Aiming to Grow or Scale Up guide and a checklist for social innovators looking to demonstrate their impact, improve their work, and build a learning culture, developed in partnership with Nesta. Both documents were created to support other social innovators who are looking to grow their scale and impact. We encourage you to have a look through the guidance documents before you start any scaling programme. And for those who are pressed with time, here are our top three tips based on our knowledge and learning work with the cohort:

1. People powered knowledge

Get everyone involved in knowledge and learning, from people who use services, to frontline staff and senior management. Information is powerful so make sure what you collect and what you use is meaningful to all your key stakeholders. This will help build a culture around knowledge and learning.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel

There are likely to be brilliant research professionals, academics and other providers who are doing something similar to you. Go and find them and understand what evidence and knowledge they hold. Don’t reinvent the wheel - it will be a waste of time and resources.

3. Collecting data in proportion  

More is not necessarily always better ... especially when it comes to data and information. We think there are some types of data that scaling organisations need to collect routinely (like information about users, engagement and feedback) and some you only need to collect occasionally (data on outcomes). And it is crucial to be aware of the quality of that data - bad data is not worth anything. In many cases, you can really get a lot of great insights from a little amount of good quality data and information.  

If you have any comments on the report, please contact: James Noble ([email protected]), Impact Management Lead at NPC.



Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Jullie Tran Graham

Programme Manager

Jullie worked with a number of health and ageing projects funded through the Accelerating Ideas programme, focusing on social innovations that make it possible for people to be more in…

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