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Reflections from our 2017 Gathering

The day was a reminder of the critical importance of creating open spaces for discussion and reflection – for sharing our own work, that of others, and learning from those we wouldn’t automatically work with day to day

The 11th September saw our third annual Gathering – and marked the third anniversary of the establishment of the Centre for Youth Impact. We took a critical and reflective view on where the youth sector is at with impact measurement, considering current practice, reflections on that practice, the effects of impact measurement practice on work with young people, and where we, collectively, think impact measurement efforts should focus next. A lot to get through in a day!

We were delighted that it was a coming together of friends old and new – a show of hands in the opening plenary suggested about half the attendees were Centre for Youth Impact old hats, and half were joining us for the first time. Between them, they represented a huge range of organisations from across the country and across all elements of the youth sector.

The diversity of our audience was mirrored in the diversity of our content: something that was really valued by delegates and that we will repeat at future open events.

We opened with a panel of our practitioner network leads, who openly and honestly shared stories of their shifting relationships with impact measurement, leading organisational change and leading change more broadly. This was followed by a keynote from Dan Gregory, who outlined many of the issues with impact measurement as currently carried out, including the proliferation of measures that have little real world meaning and the implications of a competitive ‘market’ for impact measurement ‘products’. Dan also shared some universal principles for meaningful impact measurement, reminding us that even when we are trying to convince people of the importance of impact measurement we should never lose our scepticism or humility about what impact measurement is and can achieve – and that those who don't show this are probably not to be trusted.

We finished with panels of funders and their reflections on current impact measurement practice, and of impact specialists unpicking current challenges in impact measurement and suggesting ways forward. Panelists highlighted the importance of practitioners becoming more data literate and able to distinguish useful impact measurement practices from bad; getting better at gathering precise and robust feedback data from participants – and even using this to predict outcomes, and ensuring that we’re using impact measurement to ask and answer the right questions.

All slides from the event can be viewed here – do take a look.

We’re processing the feedback at the moment and as previously, will report back on how we use it to inform future events. Upon initial reflection, the day was a reminder of the critical importance of creating open spaces for discussion and reflection – for sharing our own work, that of others, and learning from those we wouldn’t automatically work with day to day. Many delegates were grateful for the opportunity to step out of the day job and reflect critically through varying perspectives on what all this means. As always with this type of event, the burning question for many delegates was how they could put the content of the day into practice, and we remain keen to hear more about how we can support organisations on this journey.

So – a big thank for you to presenters and attendees for their energetic participation and commitment to making the day a success, and watch this space for follow-up blogs from speakers, more details on our current projects, and details of further national, regional and subject-specific events planned for the upcoming year.