This week’s RADAR is Friday’s class clown, larking around with charity rankings, social investment, and Big Society.
In past RADARs we’ve explored proposals to rank charities, an idea that has typically provoked resistance in different parts of the sector depending on what criteria are proposed to implement the rankings. Having said that, it’s also fair to say that one of the dominant trends in the charity world over the last couple of years has been a drive towards improving organisations’ ability to demonstrate and prove impact. Spearheaded by New Philanthropy Capital, who have proposed a charity league table before, this trend has only assumed more importance as money has become scarcer. Clearly implicit in that trend is that if charities are better at measuring impact it will be easier to rank them against each other, and easier for funders and donors to choose which organisations to back. This is the key point of Tania Mason’s article this week on Civil Society, who argues that the civil society organisations are going to have to get used to the scrutiny, benchmarking and comparison that organisations in other sectors take for granted.
That, of course, doesn’t mean there is any consensus on what criteria charities should be organised by, though one thing the sector does seem to largely agree on is that the percentage of income spent on overheads are not the way to rank organisations. This, regular readers will remember, was the idea Dame Suzi Leather proposed a couple of weeks ago when she suggested that a ‘good enough index’ of how much money a charity spent on administration as the ‘holy grail of charity information’. That idea provoked quite a reaction, as you can read here. Karl Wilding’s excellent ‘This is Worth Reading’ blog series this week linked to a post on the freakonomics blog on the same subject, in which the author showed that the organisations rated highly by US site Givewell had relatively high administrative and fundraising costs.
This week also saw the outgoing CEO of the Social Investment Business give an interview to Civil Society Media in which he spoke about ways of increasing social investment in the sector. In the article, which you can read here, he said “If charities and social enterprises are serious about making their society-changing solutions more pervasive, they have to make themselves more attractive to commercial lenders. They can’t expect lenders to come to them. Charities and social enterprise have to think very hard about how to make themselves commercially bankable, so, for example, resource sharing, mergers and acquisitions…”. You can get a spin-off interview here and, in the same vein, this week’s launch of a new social impact fund by CAF.
The Big Society Soap Opera
It’s heartbreaking for RADAR to watch its old friend Big Society sitting in the front row with its hand up as it desperately tries to catch attention and capture imagination. An attack from a ‘turbulent priest’ anyone, a prime ministerial relaunch? Come on! Will this soap opera never hit the big time? A trailer for the next episode was spotted this week in The Guardian, when the paper reported that the ‘Big Society Bill’, a white paper delayed since February because of the NHS car crash and internal wranglings (probably between Steve Hilton and George Osbourne), will be road tested around Whitehall in the next few weeks before being published next month. In other Big Society news, this week saw Philip Blond’s Respublica publish a report which argued that children and young people were in danger of being overlooked by the Big Society and localism agenda. Read the press release and get the report here.
- This piece on the Harvard Business Review which asks, in the context of an ‘ever-escalating war for talent’ in Silicon Valley, whether ‘great’ people are overrated. The piece got a lot of comments, prompting this follow up by the same author.
- I enjoyed this short video called ‘How Green is Your Internet’, which looks at the facts and figures behind the often ignored energy expenditure of Internet usage. [vimeo=http://vimeo.com/25329849]