This weekend found me (and my dog, Belle) driving from Devon to Tintern Abbey to meet and spend the day with a couple of friends.  Despite the trials of the M5, the journey went fairly smoothly.  But two things happened that started me thinking about our lovely clients and their beneficiaries.

The first thought occurred to me as I saw the roadworks sign that read: ‘Await Rescue – Free Recovery’. At MPC we help many different people via the charities and social enterprises we support.  They range from homeless people, older people, those with debt problems, children with special needs, those isolated and those lonely. And whilst these issues are very different, for the vast majority of the beneficiaries, they have reached the point in their lives where they have done all they can to help themselves and now they need someone or an organisation to help ‘rescue’ them.  And, by and large, that help is free or greatly reduced in cost.

The next thing that happened on my journey was that shortly after reading the sign, whilst still driving through the roadworks, an HGV passed me and then abruptly pulled into the inside lane in front of me.  The load on his lorry teetered back and forth precariously, I held my breath until it recovered its balance.   Within seconds the HGV pulled out again, the load swayed, it overtook the next vehicle and pulled in again, the load wobbled, teetered and as I held my breath for a second time, finally settled.  The driver repeated this manoeuvre again and again, weaving through the narrow lanes of the roadworks, each time on the verge of causing chaos.  Having done a lot of motorway driving, I am pretty thick-skinned, but this driving caused me to cry out in alarm.

I thought about the traffic and how our lives were like it.  We pass through life, usually gently with few ripples, going up or down a gear as needed, avoiding obstacles in our way without causing too much distress to other people.  But sometimes our journey through life is more chaotic, more precarious and challenges affect us and our loved ones dramatically.  Sometimes we are that HGV.

The charities and social enterprises we work with at MPC make a wonderful difference to those they aim to help, through the support they offer.  Many charities and social enterprises are very good at celebrating and communicating the difference they make, using impact reports based on recording and measuring.  But, others find it harder to do so because time and resource make capturing and presenting that information a challenge.

For us at MPC, being once removed from the immediate beneficiaries, we have started to think about the impact we make to our clients’ beneficiaries.  We have raised £1.7 million for charities in the South West in the last 2 years.  Whilst we are incredibly proud of this, our work is about so much more than numbers. It is about the difference we make, the changes we bring about and how we engage with people to make that happen.

There is an increasing need for organisations to have a Theory of Change Model that explains not just the changes they bring about but also the precursors that enable them to do that.  A Theory of Change model starts with the end result achieved by a project and works backwards to explain what needs to be put in place to make that happen.  It helps to work out what has been termed as the ‘missing middle’ – the ‘how’ bit between what an organisation does and the result it achieves.

An increasing number of funders are asking charities and social enterprises to develop a Theory of Change model. Whilst we have developed a Theory of Change with some of our clients, we have not developed one for ourselves.   So, we at MPC, will be developing our Theory of Change model soon and we look forward to sharing it with you in a future blog.

Jane Phillips
Director of Miles Phillips Consulting