We’ve reached the end of our 12-month journey to help transform how The Cart Shed manages their data and impact.

The Cart Shed were part of a pilot project to test whether an intervention model could accelerate their progress towards data maturity.

Our Becoming Data Savvy Programme delivered an intensive 12 months of bespoke support aimed at improving the charity’s data maturity and, ultimately, their effectiveness too. See previous blogposts ‘I hate data!’ ; ‘Emerging from the Data Quagmire’ ; A Theory of Change is about Owning Your Story. These covered the data audit, review of digital tools and skills, process mapping and migrations to new cloud-based systems, and the development of their theory of change and impact measurement framework.

A difficult journey to data maturity

We’ve been reflecting with The Cart Shed on what we all achieved during the 12 months, what worked well, what we’d do differently and what the legacy of our work has been.

The process was by no means easy. Developing a theory of change was particularly challenging, as we essentially forced them to question their whole reason for being… But with hard work comes reward.

The End of the Beginning… but where did we get to?

This process was only the beginning for The Cart Shed. They have lots more they want to work on, but our aim was to kick-start their journey and set them on course for the transformation they have planned. As we assess the success of the project, we’ve found many reasons to be cheerful about the results:

  • Improved overall data maturity. The before and after assessment of their data maturity showed improvement in all 7 of the key measures of data maturity.
  • Increased capacity, knowledge and skills. This was a key priority and, through a combination of training and targeted recruitment, this area has shown the biggest measured improvement.
  • Better data. The new theory of change has helped them focus on the getting the data they need for their funders and themselves.
  • Better digital tools. Our needs assessment resulted in a prioritised 3-5 year plan for an improved digital infrastructure. This has begun in earnest, with new software, hardware and tools.
  • We supported an application that allowed them to secure funding towards their improvement project.
  • Culture change. For us, culture change has been one of the most striking and powerful outcomes of this project. More on this below!

What’s that about Culture?

Concepts like outcomes and impact are often difficult to get your head around for the average person (turns out not everyone is immersed in this subject…or even all that interested). This couldn’t have been illustrated more clearly than when we asked everyone how they felt about data at the start of the project. The overriding feeling was that it was just plain ‘difficult’.

Despite this, everyone at The Cart Shed got involved in the project – staff, volunteers, trustees, participants and ex-participants. There was lots of interaction and co-development. And, by the end of the project, there was a marked cultural shift in how people thought about data. Yes, they sometimes still see data as a bit ‘tricky’ or ‘frustrating’, but now they overwhelmingly talk about it being ‘useful’ and ‘important’.

As unashamed data geeks, that’s one of the most delightful results we could see!

Words to describe how people at the Cart Shed felt about data – before… and after

Key takeaways

So, if you’re thinking of doing something similar, what are the key takeaways that we think are the critical factors in a successful project?

Spend time up front on diagnosis of the key problems. By taking a holistic overview of the situation, we were able to set out clear priorities and plan strategically for the future.

Leadership drive is crucial to success. Notably, in our data maturity assessments, The Cart Shed scored strongest for leadership, both at the outset and at the end of the project. The Board of trustees were highly supportive and engaged in the process too.

Courage and resilience are vital for getting through the challenges. Challenges like: people’s capacity to cope with rapid change whilst the organisation continued to grow and deliver services; frustrating hurdles with suppliers and tools; and the dismantling and reconstruction of the organisation’s purpose.

Take people with you! Overall, what made the project a real success was the ‘whole organisation’ engagement reflecting both culture and leadership. All members of the team were engaged in the process, staff, trustees and volunteers. Their openness and willingness to learn, to question, and to sometimes hold ground, was crucial to the project’s success.

Collaboration is key. The relationship between Data Orchard and The Cart Shed was highly collaborative. We used a co-design approach, and worked well together.  People were communicative, responsive, friendly and kind. And we had lots of fun too!

Go ‘all-in’. One of the key reasons we think we saw such a shift in culture is that The Cart Shed really committed to the process. As well as numerous sessions, workshops and meetings, they gave over half their bi-annual summer review for us to present. This brought together around 40 volunteers, ex-service users, staff and trustees to discuss why data and analytics is such a big deal in the non-profit sector these days, what we mean by impact measurement and how The Cart Shed is going to measure and manage its impact in the future.

This level of commitment was invaluable to a project like this. It showed everyone that the leadership team were serious about embracing the changes they needed to make, and it helped get everyone ‘on the same page’ as to what and why changes were coming.

Katie Eastaugh, CEO, The Cart Shed and Sian Basker, Co CEO, Data Orchard, presenting ‘what’s the big deal about data? and the theory of change’ at the charity’s 2019 summer celebration

Find out more

If you want to find out more about Theory of change, there are some great resources on the recently launched Inspiring Impact website. Note this work has been funded by the Impact Management programme (of which Data Orchard is a registered provider) and by the Digital Impact programme, run by the Centre for Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University.

Do you want your organisation to become more data savvy?

Organisations of all sizes can benefit from taking ownership of their data story. If your organisation is interested in becoming more data savvy, do get in touch with us at Data Orchard for a no-obligation chat.