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Changing Places

Changing Lives
Understanding and developing
the impact of your organisation

supporting people sustaining communities

An introduction to the
Community Alliance
Community Impact Programme
2 Introduction: Making an impact

3 Part 1: Understanding impacts, getting started

3 1 Why worry about our impacts?

5 2 Changing lives and changing places

8 3 So where do we start?

9 4 Understanding our impacts

13 5 Mapping your impacts – some key points

14 Part 2: Understanding impacts: the help available

14 A Getting started

15 B Assessing impacts and outcomes

16 C Getting the quality right

17 D Assessing economic impacts

18 Over to you

Making an impact
Everyone knows when an event really ‘makes an impact’, whether it’s a sporting
triumph, a political scandal or a natural disaster. People talk about it – at work,
on the street, on the TV.

Community groups don’t tend to make that kind of national impact. But it’s often
clear within the local community which community groups and centres make an
impact. People talk about them, they use their services, they go to their
meetings – they feel part of them. An effective community group has an impact
on people’s quality of life.

It’s easy to feel and to say that your work is making a difference. But it’s not as
easy to assess that impact or to demonstrate it to funding agencies.

This pamphlet is aimed in part at ‘community anchor’ organisations, local

organisations rooted in the communities where they work which give a solid
foundation to a wide variety of self-help action.

Many organisations have been doing this work for years but have probably
never described themselves in this way. However the government and the
voluntary and community sector now recognise the value of this work and are
looking to see more organisations to ‘develop into the role of community
anchor’. But to get this support community groups need to show they are
making a positive difference.

Understanding your impact will help you demonstrate how you make a
difference. This guide will help you get started. It provides an introduction to
what might seem to be a difficult issue and directs you to sources of further
information and advice.

It is the first step in bassac’s Community Impact Programme.

Part 1

Understanding impacts: getting started

1 Why worry about our impacts?
Community organisations matter. An effective one can make real and lasting
changes to both the local area and the people who live there. But often the
achievements and changes are not very obvious. The organisation itself may
not realise just how much has happened as result of its hard work.
Understanding your impacts will help you see the changes you’ve made.

An effective community organisation can change the lives of local people in

many ways. It can act:

• directly with people – providing and encouraging them to use services and
training that will help build their skills and confidence

• indirectly with people – working with other organisations to make sure

services are improved and available to local people

• on the local economy – helping create jobs and businesses that benefit the

• on the local environment – tackling problems and engaging people in

planning the improvements they’d like

• as an advocate – getting organised and campaigning to create a better


A well-established organisation – the kind that is a ‘community anchor’ for its

neighbourhood – is probably doing all of these. Local people may not be aware
of much of this work but they will see the results. And the results – the long-
term impacts – are also what other organisations may look for, including local
councils, funders and regeneration partnerships.

To understand these impacts it’s important to step outside the organisation, to

look at it and the issues it works on as local people see them.
For example, the local community is generally less interested to know that a
group works closely with the probation service or has three outreach workers or
runs four sessions a week for ex-offenders – people just want to feel safe when
walking the streets. People may want local training courses but they are
probably not interested in how much funding the community centre receives
from the Learning and Skills Council.

So focusing on your impacts can help you promote your organisation and help
in planning and evaluating your work. It can also encourage people to
participate actively in running your organisation by involving them in an
exercise to agree the impacts and then changes you want.

The Charity Commission suggests that ‘an effective charity considers the impact
that it wants to have and actually has on the people who benefit from it, is clear
about its objects, vision, mission and values and how it will achieve them.’
(Hallmarks of an Effective Charity, 2004)

The bassac Community Impact Programme is part of a larger programme being

run by the Community Alliance. The Alliance is newly founded network of four
national organisations that support grassroots action – bassac, Community
Matters, the Development Trusts Association and the Scarman Trust. It aims to
build value in communities of place and of interest through enhancing social
capital, a stronger community voice, community ownership of assets and
community enterprise.

2 Changing lives and changing places
If your organisation is going to act as a ‘community anchor’ it’s important to think
about what this means. Part of the role is to help change things for the better and
there’s also that other function of an anchor – to provide stability. A community
anchor organisation may help local people and organisations transform what they
do, and will also need to think about how it should change itself .

It’s therefore important to consider all the ways in which your organisation can
support local communities and deliver change. There are broadly four areas:

• Service and infrastructure provision

• Resourcing
• Advocacy
• Engagement and representation.

Section 4 looks at these areas in more detail.

What is a ‘community anchor’?

‘Community anchor’ is a fairly new term used by the Home Office and others to
describe multi-purpose community organisations that provide a range of services
and support to the communities they serve. They are seen as having four key

• they are controlled by local residents and/or representatives of local groups

• they address the needs of their area in a multi-purpose, holistic way

• they are committed to the involvement of all sections of their community,

including marginalised groups, and

• they facilitate the development of the communities in their area.

It is also important to remember an anchor’s prime purpose is to stop a ship

drifting on to the rocks. Help that keeps an organisation afloat when it’s in trouble
is often what people value most. You may not seem to be changing much but you
are helping to avoid things getting worse.

It will also be useful to consider what you do in terms of improving the local
quality of life and ‘wellbeing’. These may sound rather vague terms and be hard
to define but they are what matters to most people. The box on the next page
looks at this in more detail.

Planning and assessing what you do may sound like a long job. But support is
available, both from the organisations within the Community Alliance (see below)
and through the publications listed in part 2.
Promoting wellbeing and quality of life
National and local government are increasingly using this phrase. ‘Wellbeing’
covers what will improve a person’s quality of life – their health, economic and
social situation and environment. Most community groups would say ‘that’s
what we do!’. This is true, but it needs to be demonstrated.

The Local Government Act 2000 gave local councils the ‘power to promote or
improve the economic, social or environmental wellbeing’ of the whole or part
of the area they cover. Each council has the power to promote the ‘sustainable
development’ of its area by delivering actions, which could include tackling
social exclusion, reducing health inequalities, promoting neighbourhood
renewal and improving local environmental quality.

‘Quality of life’ can also have a variety of meanings. The Audit Commission uses
45 indicators to assess local quality of life, in terms of nine issues:

• Community cohesion and involvement

• Community safety
• Culture and leisure
• Economic wellbeing
• Education and life-long learning
• Environment
• Health and social wellbeing
• Housing
• Transport and access.

(The full set of indicators can be found at


Underlying all this are two key principles. One is the need for better and
engaged local democracy with effective leaders in and for communities.
Community organisations play a key role in developing these leaders. The other
is the idea of ‘sustainable development’.

The phrase ‘sustainable development’ is generally used to mean development

that links and integrates work to improve social conditions, the economy and the
environment. At a local level it could relate to:

• the local environment – green spaces, play areas, less waste and litter, nice
gardens, decent homes, less noise and pollution

• the local economy – jobs, reasonable prices, cheaper heat and light, no loan

• social conditions – good leisure facilities, lots of community groups, sports
and arts facilities, friendly neighbours.

Change in one area will often have impacts on the others. For example
improving the environment may mean businesses are more likely to invest and
bring jobs into an area, while better leisure facilities may encourage young
people not to drift into crime or anti-social behaviour.
3 So where do we start?
If you’re running a busy and hard-pressed group, taking time out to look at your
impacts may be a low priority. But it is necessary if you want to develop your
work and keep and increase support from other agencies – and it is likely to
become a more common requirement from funders.

The organisation should agree to do a review, which will involve four important

i What changes do we want (and why)?

This is about your organisation’s core purpose. It’s also important right at the
start to consider:

ii What impacts are we having now?

iii What impacts do we want to have (and are there any we don’t
want)? These can be social, economic, political, environmental or cultural –
they all matter.

iv How do we deliver the changes necessary to achieve these impacts?

If you know the impacts you want it should be possible to identify what your
priorities should be in order to maximise those impacts.

The next pages look at these points in more detail.

4 Understanding our impacts
What changes do we want – and why?
This may seem obvious, but it can get lost. Every organisation has a purpose
that is written down in its constitution, mission statement or its vision. That
purpose often gets neglected in day-to-day work.

Staff and trustees need a clear picture of what the organisation does and how
that links to its purpose or mission. Put time aside to discuss:

Does what you do contribute to that mission, and could you do more?

If you’re doing work that doesn’t seem to contribute to delivering what you were
set up to achieve, can you change this situation?

This may mean recognising that the mission itself has changed. If this is the
case you need to look to change it as part of this process.

It’s fair to say that most organisations have a mission to change things for the
better. That often means making something happen where nothing happened
before but it’s also about changing what other organisations (such as local
councils) do.
What impacts are we having now?
As a first step it may be useful to look at what your organisation does under the
four headings introduced on page

• Service and infrastructure – creating and supporting the structures and

organisations that can help people work together to improve their wellbeing.
Community groups are an essential part of any local infrastructure.

• Resourcing – raising the money and building the skills needed to deliver

• Advocacy – changing and developing policy, and getting decision-makers to

make the right decisions – those that will benefit your community in the long

• Engagement and representation – getting people involved and helping them

develop the skills needed to help with the advocacy and infrastructure work
and make their voices heard.

Much funded project work seems to be about building the local infrastructure,
but often the reason behind that work is to encourage engagement or to change
policies by showing what works.

It is also important to remember that your organisation is changing things just

by being there. Answering the question ‘if we weren’t here what would be
different?’ may help you see your impacts more clearly.
Ideas for action: Hold a meeting of trustees and key staff (or plan this for your
next awayday). Make a list of everything your organisation does, and group the
activities under the four headings (some may involve more than one). You may
also want to consider who is being engaged (and who is not but should be)

You could also ask:

• If the organisation disappeared tomorrow, why would people miss us?

• What do people value most about our organisation?
• What is the greatest change we have brought about and how did we do it?

What impacts do we want to have (and are there any we don’t want)?
A short answer is that you want impacts that help deliver your purpose. Another
is that you want to make impacts that improve people’s quality of life. Both
answers lead to more questions, such as ‘what do we mean by quality of life?’.

Any impact your organisation is making will be on local social conditions, the
local economy and the local environment. But ultimately the impact is on
people. It’s important to know who they are and how they are affected by what
you do.
People can be involved in many ways. They can be:

• service users – taking part in and benefiting from what your organisation

• actively engaged – helping plan and deliver what you do

• affected but unengaged – benefiting from what you do even though they
don’t link with your organisation

• engaged through other community groups – your work may have an impact
on other organisations and the people in them.

Some questions to consider when thinking about work with local people:

• What do people expect us to do? Is this the same, less or more as our

• How do we bring people together who would not normally meet?

• How is difference valued through our work?

It may also be helpful to take an overview of what you do and how it affects the
locality. You are likely to be having an impact on:

• individuals – the skills they’ve learnt, their increased confidence

• communities – more friendships, better organisations, less fear of crime etc
• organisations – more skilled volunteers, better services, more happening
• the region – better local authority policy and practice, new partnerships etc.

There are also some important impacts that will be harder to assess, because
they’re about things that didn’t happen. Much effective community activity is
‘preventative’ – stopping undesirable things happening. A project that helps
reduce unwanted teenage pregnancies or works with people at risk or helps
people take more exercise can prevent problems and change people’s lives in
very positive ways. Assessing the actual level of those changes is hard – you
would probably need a long-term survey and perhaps some academic support –
but it is clear that this work makes a real difference.

Ideas for action: Use the list of your organisation’s activities to consider their
impacts. Several of the guides referred in part 2 will help. For each activity, list
its impacts and consider how significant each impact is now and what you’d like
it to be. You could also ask wider questions such as:

• What is the atmosphere in the organisation? How would you describe its

• What is the value of the building to the area? To our staff and volunteers? To
our organisation?

• How do the organisation’s financial and human resources contribute to our

mission and could these ‘back office’ services better serve our overall

• How do we spend the organisation’s money?

• How does our work affect the local green spaces?

It’s important not to forget some other impacts – those you didn’t bargain for,
which could be positive or negative. Keep a watch on these and feed them all in
to the final analysis.

How do we deliver the changes necessary to achieve these impacts?

It is important to look forward as well as back. Most community organisations
are on a journey that (hopefully) leads to a better future. Your mission statement
should show this.If you can see your current impacts and know what impacts
you want to have it will be a lot easier to plan your future actions. Some may
simply involve doing more of what you’re doing now (and maybe doing it
better). But your mapping may also identify gaps in service provision that could
be opportunities for development. Working to fill those gaps may involve
working on new issues, which may mean people learning new skills, and involve
bringing in new resources.

Ideas for action: Go though your list of activities and impacts. Identify the
areas where you’re not doing as well as you would like to. It may be that there
are areas where you are working hard but actually having little impact. Consider
whether this means that you need to change and improve current projects and
programmes or whether you need to develop some new work areas.

Use this to identify perhaps three priority areas for the year ahead. Get staff,
managers and trustees to agree these and develop an appropriate work plan.

Much of what you have looked at is about evaluating what you do and using
this to plan for future activity. Evaluation is often seen as an ending and a
review of what’s been done. But looking at your impacts is also an important
way to start the next phase of your work. If you’re clear about your impacts, the
next stage in the journey will have better directions and it will be clearer when
you’ve achieved what you set out to do.
5 Mapping your impacts – some key points
Outcomes and impacts
It is important to be clear about three key words:
• outputs – what you do
• outcomes – what happens as a result of what you do
• impacts – the long-term changes that may take place within your community.

This guide is all about impacts. Knowing your impact moves you beyond simply
evaluating outputs, into assessing the outcomes and how those outcomes make
an impact. Good evaluation work will help you see all the outcomes, and being
clear about these is an important starting point for work to map your impacts.
The Charities Evaluation Services ‘Outcome Online’ website (www.ces- includes 14 examples of outcomes from different
types of projects.

Involving the community

A survey of local communities can be a valuable way of finding out what people
think about your work. You may want to train local people to help with this.
If you ask the right questions you can also find out if people think things have
changed and why. Many of the Audit Commission’s quality of life indicators
(see page 5) measure what people think and feel: it may be helpful to use some
of them. You may also want to approach other people directly: local councillors,
people who run groups that use space in your organisation, local media, health
and social care agencies may all have opinions about your organisation and how
well it does what it does. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. There’s
plenty of guidance available and there may be local organisations happy to

The effort will be worth it!

Mapping impacts is a significant step forward for any group. It is about being
clear why we’re here. It’s not just about good project delivery; it’s also about the
nature of your community and how it may change.

It’s also important to remember that this isn’t just about how you help people
change. It’s also about how your organisation changes, and doing this work will
help you change. The benefits of thinking through your impact will, hopefully, be
increased confidence, a clearer focus on values and priorities, greater efficiency,
more coherence for the staff team, trustees and managers, and a better shared
understanding of what you’re all doing. Getting this right really is worth it!

And don’t forget: this is also a new area of work for bassac. If you’d like to
participate please do get in touch (see the back page for details).

Part 2
Understanding impacts: the help available
There are plenty of guides, toolkits, websites and books to help you assess,
understand and evaluate your work and make the most of what you’re doing.
It’s important to choose the one (or perhaps two) that are likely to be most
suitable for what you want to do.

The tools and guides are described below in four groups:

• Getting started
• Assessing outcomes and impacts
• Getting the quality right
• Evaluating social enterprise.

All have good points: bassac is not recommending any one of them above any

A Getting started
Evaluating Community Projects – a practical guide
This simple 12-page guide was developed for work by a Joseph Rowntree
Foundation project working with 20 local organisations. It’s very straightforward
and goes into a bit more detail than this guide. It is free to download from

First Steps in Monitoring and Evaluation

This short five-step guide produced by Charities Evaluation Services helps any
organisation set out its aims and objectives and the indicators that will measure
success, and then moves on to monitoring and evaluation. It is free to download

B Assessing impacts and outcomes
Tell Your Story: Community Impact Mapping
This is a tool to help grassroots organisations measure their impact and social
return and provides all the necessary support to get started. It is available from
the Development Trusts Association for £5 including p&p (free for DTA
members) or can be downloaded from

Prove it!
This evaluation toolkit helps organisations capture their impact on the quality
of life of the communities they serve. It contains step-by-step instructions on
conducting an evaluation, ready to print surveys, guidelines and more. It was
developed by nef (the new economics foundation) in partnership with
Groundwork. It aims to help organisations measure effects of their work on
building social capital. It is free to download at

Practical Monitoring and Evaluation – a guide for voluntary

organisations (2nd edition)
This is a comprehensive guide from CES that covers almost everything you
might want to know on this subject. It costs £33.50 plus 10% p&p – you can
order on-line at

Your Project and its Outcomes

This 24-page guide explains clearly how to assess the outcomes of your work,
looks at how you can set them out in the first place and provides a lot of useful
help on measuring progress. It was produced CES for the Big Lottery Fund. It is
free to download at

Charities Evaluation Service (CES)

The CES guide (see ‘Getting started’) is a good starting point. CES has a number
of other useful publications on measurement. For details see CES’ website: An earlier and slightly simpler CES guide (with the same
name) on outcome measurement produced for the Community Fund can be
downloaded free from

C Getting the quality right
Quality assurance (QA) is an increasingly important aspect of evaluation. It can
show that your organisation works well, both for the staff and volunteers
involved and in terms of the services it provides. There are a numbers of quality
systems, including the Excellence Model, Investors in People and Charter Mark,
but these tend to be for larger organisations.

PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations)

PQASSO is a simple QA system designed specifically for small and medium-
sized voluntary sector organisations. Since its launch in 1997, over 4,000
organisations have used it to improve quality. PQASSO is available from the
Charities Evaluation Services (see ‘Contacts’). The full workbook costs £73.15
including p&p. A free demonstration CD-ROM is available, which shows you
how PQASSO works, while a fully registered copy of the CD-ROM (£45.35
including p&p and VAT) lets you access features which help organise your self-
assessment work and action plans into an overall plan.

VISIBLE Communities
The VISIBLE Communities™ framework is a Community Matters programme to
help set minimum standards for the services offered by multi-purpose
community-based organisations. The workbook and tool Becoming Visible –
Operating Standards for Community Organisations will enable local
organisations to become VISIBLE. For further information see

D Assessing economic impacts
Many larger community organisations are social enterprises that have a
significant impact on the local economy. There are several tools to help measure
these enterprise-related economic impacts.

The Money Trail – Measuring your impact on the local economy

through LM3
This is a tool to help organisations measure their impact on local economies,
which is especially important for organisations involved in regeneration or other
social activities. LM3 (Local Multiplier 3) examines how the income of an
organisation or initiative is spent and re-spent in a local economy. This helps
social enterprises to determine how well they are achieving their objectives, and
also to show funders and local government the economic value of their work.
Linked to this is:

Plugging the Leaks

This is a community-led economic development strategy tool. Ideas to plug
leaks in the local economy stem from a one-day economic literacy workshop
that enables a community to identify the economic resources in their local
economy and determine ways to use them more effectively. It is free to
download at

Proving and Improving: a quality and impact toolkit for social

This comprehensive toolkit has been developed by nef as part of the Social
Enterprise Partnership (GB) Ltd. It provides social enterprises, social
entrepreneurs and mission-driven organisations with the knowledge, tools and
resources they need to prove and improve their quality and impact. The toolkit
consists of three books and back-up materials: all can be downloaded from

Over to you…
We hope this guide has given you ideas and encouragement to work on
assessing the impacts of your organisation. bassac sees this as a long-term
project and invites you to engage with this work. For more information check
the website (see below) or send an email to We will keep
you updated as the work develops.

Charities Evaluation Services is a charity working to strengthen the
voluntary sector by offering free and below-cost support and services to
charities and community organisations.
Charities Evaluation Services, 4 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL
Telephone: 020 7713 5722 Internet:

Community Development Foundation works to help communities achieve

greater control over the conditions and decisions affecting their lives.
CDF, Unit 5, Angel Gate, 320–326 City Road, London EC1V 2PT
Telephone: 020 7833 1772 Internet:

Joseph Rowntree Foundation is a social policy research and development

charity that seeks to understand better the causes of social difficulties and
explore ways of overcoming them.
JRF, The Homestead, 40 Water End, York, North Yorkshire YO30 6WP, UK
Telephone: 01904 629241 Internet:

nef (the new economics foundation) aims to improve quality of life by

promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on
economic, environment and social issues.
nef, 3 Jonathan Street, London SE11 5NH
Telephone: 020 7820 6300 Internet:

bassac has been working to improve the lives of local communities for more
than 80 years. As a national umbrella association, we support organisations
helping deprived neighbourhoods across the UK. bassac is a member of the
Community Alliance, which is working to build value in communities of place
and of interest, through enhancing social capital, a stronger community voice,
community ownership of assets, and community enterprise.
bassac, 33 Corsham Street, London N1 6DR
Telephone: 0845 241 0375 Internet:
This pamphlet has been written and edited by Chris Church for bassac.
Thanks to Mark Parker at bassac and Steve Skinner for comments and advice.
Design by Jane Harper.
Company No: 2869337 Registered charity No: 1028784