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Innovating out of adversity: A QuIP assessment of Voscur’s work in Bristol

Voscur is the support and development agency for Bristol’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE). They support organisations to increase the impact they create for their users. David Whittaker, Services Manager at Voscur writes here about a recent QuIP study undertaken with their clients in Bristol to assess what is driving change in local VCSE organisations, and how Voscur can respond to threats and opportunities to improve the services it offers.

Voscur first piloted using the QuIP in 2017, and followed up this year with a full study involving 24 in-depth interviews with organisations who have worked with Voscur over the past 24 months. The main motivation was to assesses all the factors affecting the work of local organisations, whether positive or negative, and using a ‘goal-free’ approach to the evaluation enabled us to check on the impact of Voscur’s support as well as other factors affecting change.

Rather than reminding interviewees which Voscur services their organisations had used, and asking about the effectiveness of those services, the interviews were designed to simply asked “What’s changed?; What was the effect of that change?; What caused that change?” across a series of pre-determined areas of work. Compared to other approaches to evaluation QuIP therefore aims to reduce bias, clarify causes and effects, and identify specific results for one organisation in the context of broader changes (national, regional, global) affecting all organisations.

Reading and analysing all the interviews has given us all a lot of food for thought… Some factors were linked to national policy; other changes were due to the end of related local services or a new grant or contract, and of course, changes linked to input from Voscur staff. Some of the more unexpected findings included:

·      Funding support doesn’t lead directly to new funding.

·      Organisations tend to collaborate only when they have to, but it can have lots of positive spin-offs.

·      Better planning drives the most far-reaching organisational change, even more than increased income.

Perhaps less surprising, but no less interesting findings:

·      Local organisations have embraced new ways of working to address adverse external conditions.

·      Political support is needed to sustain a fully funded, healthy social economy.

A study like this means that Voscur has improved evidence with which to influence the stakeholders of Bristol’s social economy – investors, commissioners and policymakers. It also means Voscur is better able to demonstrate the impact of its own work to the citizens of Bristol, its partners and local councillors that decide how to use the council’s resources.

A copy of the QuIP report produced by Voscur is available here.

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