New Book on Making a Difference for Public and Third Sector Organisations

New Book on Making a Difference for Public and Third Sector Organisations

Knowing whether your organisation, project or service is really making a difference is essential for public service and third sector organisations who support people and communities. Painting a realistic picture of how organisations contribute to change and establishing a practical way of understanding if you are making a difference is the focus of a new book by award winning entrepreneurs, Drs Sarah Morton and Ailsa Cook. They specialise in working with organisations that make a positive impact in the world and help them to prove their worth. Most recently, the pair scooped up the Public Innovator Award at The ScotlandIS Digital Tech Awards.

How Do You know If You Are Making a Difference: A Practical Handbook for Public Service Organisations, is published by Policy Press and is available to buy now.

Directors of Matter of Focus, a B Corporation, Sarah and Ailsa and their team, specialise in supporting public and third sector organisations by offering an alternative impact assessment approach.  They support organisations to interrogate and reflect on data which meaningfully helps them to understand the difference their initiative makes, what is going well and what they need to learn and improve.

Dr Sarah Morton explains,

“Often organisations feel that they need to ‘feed the machine’ with numbers, categories and data that seem meaningless.  We help organisations to establish a practical but robust way of understanding if they are making a difference.  We work with teams who strongly believe in the work they do and know implicitly that they do make a difference. But when it comes to reporting they struggle to bring together and evidence their contribution to change.  Quantative approaches alone can’t tell the story of what difference work makes, nor how it makes a difference.  We use an alternative approach to numbers-based software and champion learning and reflection.”

Sarah and Ailsa and their colleagues worked closely with Penumbra, a pioneering mental health charity offering services and support to people across Scotland. Penumbra champions the power of lived experience and peer support in helping people create meaningful change in their lives but lacked an overarching evaluation framework to articulate the success of their approach.  Working closely with the team Matter of Focus helped Penumbra’s staff demonstrate the power of what they do and why.  Furthermore, they are now in a position to be involved in the conversation around the development of national policies and approaches.

Matter of Focus also worked with Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, Unpaid Carers team, a local public and third sector partnership that provides and commissions care and support to unpaid carers in Edinburgh. The organisation had a clear understanding of their quantitative data but lacked the understanding of outcomes and measuring the success and impact on people’s lives.  Working closely with the team and using the special software developed by Matter of Focus to analyse and report on the qualitative data as well as quantitative, they developed a system which helped Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership to prove that the work they do really makes a difference.

Speaking about the publication of How Do You Know If You Are Making a Difference, Dr Ailsa Cook said:

“We bring together practical approaches with sound academic thinking and are passionate about working with organisations to explore how they make a difference.  We took a leap of faith leaving the university to establish our business and develop this approach.  We are thrilled that it has been received with such enthusiasm by Government teams and organisations in Scotland, the UK and beyond.”

Stephen Finlayson, Head of Innovation and Improvement at Penumbra said:

“Having worked with Matter of Focus in a previous role, I was aware of the vital work they do and pivotal change they can make to a business. At Penumbra, we come into contact with a variety of different cases which can be complex. The work with Matter of Focus enabled us to tell these complex stories, in a friendly, accessible and user-friendly way.

This gives us the opportunity to tell the honest stories in their complexity which is extremely important to us and feels ethically right.”

Katie Williamson, Strategic Programme Manager, Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership added:

“Initially, those involved were apprehensive on the work Matter of Focus were implementing and how much time this would take. After understanding the processes and seeing the benefits of the reporting, the partners realised how beneficial this would be.

“The team at Matter of Focus were clear with their approach and had a clear understanding of the third sector challenges and we cannot thank them enough for their support.”

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