Helping disabled people’s user-led organisations to demonstrate the added value of their work
User-led organisations (ULOs) are led and controlled by disabled people, and their services are run for disabled people by disabled people. There are more than 120 ULOs in London, many of which are small voluntary organisations, and most employ between 1 and 20 staff, mainly part-time. As well as providing services, these organisations act as a voice for the concerns of London’s 1 million Deaf and disabled people.
The current fiscal climate means that the future of many ULOs is under threat. The majority have already experienced cuts in funding, and most expect further funding cuts.
In order to survive in this challenging climate, these organisations must be able to demonstrate their impact and value to funders and stakeholders. In particular, they must provide robust evidence that being user-led adds social and economic value above and beyond that which other providers can achieve.
OPM worked with Inclusion London, a second tier organisation working to support ULOs in London, to develop a prototype tool kit that will help them demonstrate their added value. This project is about organisations taking the lead in producing their own evidence to influence funders and other stakeholders.
What we did
Our approach is underpinned by the following four key principles:
- Empowering and collaborative
Working with Inclusion London, we recruited ULO leaders to take part in developing the prototype tool kit. We then conducted an initial scoping phase, through brief conversations and reviewing key documents, to explore ULOs’ priorities for demonstrating their value; understand their services, key stakeholders and ways of working; understand their experience of this type of work; be aware of the kinds of evidence they currently produce; and explore the types of information they routinely hold, or could secure access to, which could potentially show impact.
From this scoping phase we designed a prototype tool kit which contained a written guide, a workshop and ongoing OPM support. At the start of the guide is a bespoke process model, or framework, taking the user through four straightforward steps to demonstrate value. This systematic approach is designed to help the user meet HM Treasury requirements for economic assessment.
The model is supported by:
- An introduction which takes users through each step.
- Prompts – for example questions to ask themselves at each step, or suggestions for sources of evidence they may hold.
- Blank templates for each step, for users to complete. The templates help to ensure that evidence is collected and organised systematically.
There are tailored sections around 5 priority areas for demonstrating value:
- Support for direct payments
- Information and benefits advice
- Advocacy and casework
- Local voice and engagement
- Core (leadership, management, planning , strategy, point of focus for Deaf and disabled people’s needs and support)
Each has a tailored ‘sample’ version of the model, with more specific prompts and references to other sources of information, as well as social and monetised values where available. In appendices to the guide are further references for social and monetised values from the wider literature and, for each service type, examples of suggested approaches and possible benefits to funders and the wider system.
The tool kit is supported by workshops and ‘light touch’ support to help participants develop confidence in applying the tool kit in practice.
Participants in the programme have reported immediate impact. Crucially, they found that local authority commissioners have been responding positively to the approach set out by the tool kit, noting that it is systematic and transparent.
Participants reported feeling empowered to apply the approach and have been able to use it flexibly to meet their needs. They have been telling us that the tool feels entirely relevant, and is accessible and straightforward in practice. A service delivery manager of an independent living service told us she feels confident to share her learning with colleagues and hopes that together they can demonstrate value more widely across their organisation.
Other ULO have already applied the learning to secure new funding, with impressive results.