Share & build
One of the best ways to ensure our work is useful, relevant and grounded is to develop and road test it with practitioners as part of the project process. We describe this as ‘share and build’.
If a project is likely to result in a tool or framework, we share ‘work in progress’ with a core steering group to understand how useful it is and gather input for development. We also share emerging findings in the early stages and use the insights to inform ongoing work.
The benefits are mutual – our work is firmly rooted in practice and it provides practitioners with a structured way and space to reflect on their own work and learn from the experience of others.
A framework for funders working in place
In 2015 we looked at some of the ways that UK trusts and foundations approach place-based funding. We went out and talked to people about different approaches and learned about what made them successful (including the challenges). Out of this study we have developed a framework that trusts and foundations can use to plan and implement place-based funding.
Working in Place
Share and build was a formative part of our work on place-based funding.
After interviewing 51 staff, trustees and partners within 21 trusts and foundations, we analysed the data and arrived at what we thought might be a useful tool – a framework for funders working in place.
We wanted to test and develop the framework to make sure it was as useful as possible. To do this we consulted over 70 representatives of trusts, foundations and statutory funders at events organised with ACF and ACF Northern Ireland; the Scottish Funder Forum; Yorkshire Grant Makers Forum; Wales Funder Forum; and London Funders. We shared early research findings and initial ideas for a framework, giving attendees the chance to try it out, adapt it, build it and critique it.
The result – we hope – is a more relevant and practical tool. Some of the conversations we had at these events have also built the case for the next phase of our place-based research – looking at examples of independent and statutory/public funders working together.
In 2016 we undertook a survey of evaluation design within larger UK trusts and foundations. The research flagged a number of challenges around evaluation – including getting the right mix of data and how to use the data gathered.
Part of our response was to produce a practical resource to help foundations improve the design stage of commissioning evaluations. We held a workshop with a funder steering group and turned our insights into a short paper which we then shared with a broader group to feed into.
more about the Evaluation Roundtable
Small charities & social investment
We worked with chief officers and trustees in 25 charities to understand their experiences and opinions about social investment. The voice of these charities – especially those with incomes under £1million – is absent from most debates about social investment.
By concentrating on the voice of small and medium registered charities and then communicating what we learn from them to charities and other investors as well as intermediaries, we aim to provide a bridge between these different actors in the field of social finance.
Our findings from literature searches, in-depth interviews with chief officers and trustees, and analysis of their loans and other financial data, have been shared, discussed and tested with a range of individuals and organisations with an interest in these charities and/or this form of social finance. Their reactions and reflections helped us to sharpen our findings and identify the critical messages from the research.
Learn more about IVAR