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Guest Blog: Biting the hand…

13 December 2017

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At IIZUKA we work with many experts and specialists to ensure that Case Manager helps our customers to deliver exactly what they need. We’re currently working with Georgina Watts, Director of Capacity4Change, a consultancy which helps charities develop and grow. Together we are looking at how case management systems can help charities improve their effectiveness and measure their impact. Here are her views on what charities need:

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The Hand That Feeds…

 

By Georgina Watts

 

Anyone who has worked within the charity sector in the last few years will know how tough it can be to jump obediently through the myriad hoops set for us by funding organisations. Evidence based commissioning is now a reality for pretty much all organisations whether   funded by local authorities, trusts and foundations or government departments. Central to most funding contracts is completing outcomes measurement targets along with often detailed and lengthy reports which can be required on an annual, quarterly and even on a monthly basis.

 

I have spent 20 years working in a variety of third sector organisations, all of which have had one thing in common – none of them had cracked the nut of data management to make outcomes reporting swift and simple. I have lost count of the times I have sweated blood and shed tears in the pursuit meeting funder reporting deadlines, only for databases and spreadsheets to stop functioning or even data to have gone missing. Horrifyingly, the phenomena of charity people spending hours manually calculating annual figures is still a reality for many organisations who do not possess the wherewithal to automate this process.

 

Central to the problem is the increasing level of detail required by funders as well as the regularly shifting requirements demanded by inherently political organisations, themselves struggling to justify their commissioning decisions. Equally as frustrating can be how challenging it is for small organisations, often with a part time or voluntary work force, to efficiently and accurately record data relating to the work they do with their service users.

 

Charities are traditionally good at knowing instinctively the difference they make to the people and communities they support, it’s another challenge altogether to manage a system that not only measures quantitative outcomes but also demonstrates the effectiveness of their interventions on things like wellbeing, isolation and critically on on public expenditure savings.

 

We in the third sector are certainly up against it when attempting to resolve these issues. Problems we come up against again and again are as follows (and not limited to):

 

  • Initial and ongoing costs
  • Complexity of data
  • Uniqueness of each organisation’s services
  • Sensitivity of information
  • Challenges and expense of data migration
  • Training needs and IT inexperience in sector
  • Culture change required to implement new systems
  • Impenetrable language used by tech companies

 

The choices out there are mind boggling. Many systems are of a traditional type and are have basic mechanisms useful for managing direct debits and gift aid etc. On the other hand, many of the systems used in the sector have not been designed with not-for-profit service-delivery in mind but have instead been adapted from commercial customer relationship and sales systems designed for more profit-driven organisations. The former can be cumbersome difficult to configure whereas the latter may be more flexible but lacking in some of the basic functions needed to measure outcomes.

 

The holy grail of service user management systems would be an accessible and affordable self-configurable system that is capable of handling multi-dimensional data based on client information and relationships, case processes and actions and service outcomes. Perhaps with this capability, the data reporting induced temptation to bite the hand that feeds us could finally be a thing of the past…