CENI's Open Letter in Response to Mark Friedman's Comments on June 16 issue of The View

Open Letter

1 August 2016

Mark Friedman

FISCAL POLICY STUDIES INSTITUTE

7 Avenida Vista Grande #140 Santa Fe,

New Mexico 87508 505-466-3284

 

Thank you for your letter in response to View magazine Issue 38. We very much welcome the opportunity to engage in a debate on outcome approaches and methodology for the VCSE in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it is important to make clear that VIEW is not ‘our’ publication and in fact neither CENI nor Building Change Trust have had any direct control over its content or design. VIEW is an independent digital magazine which features a different topic of social interest in each edition. The social impact edition was sponsored by the Building Change Trust with CENI providing a guest editorial and some guidance on content. I point this out to clarify that the views expressed by the different contributors do not represent CENI or the Building Change Trust.

Like you, we think it is important to encourage debate about how to improve outcomes for our communities and we too welcome the contributions in the publication. It is an integral part of CENI’s role as an infrastructure support body to provide a forum for such debate and through initiatives like the Inspiring Impact programme, which we are delivering on behalf of the Building Change Trust, we aim to inspire and support the VCSE sector and its funders with better impact practice. 

We very much appreciate your taking the time to respond and pointing out the many benefits of OBA™. I have attached the presentation I made at the launch of VIEW in which I acknowledge OBA™ as providing a unifying framework and structured approach to outcomes for the public sector. However, where we do have some concerns is with operationalising this at a performance level for the VCSE sector. We also refer to this in our response to the programme for government (also attached).

In many ways this is more about culture and language of outcomes rather than the technicalities. The numbers and narrative elements of OBA™ tend to elicit different responses from the public and the VCSE sectors. While public sector ethos supports easy adoption of the discipline of numbers, percentages and graphs, the language of collaboration, co-design and story-telling is less familiar. By contrast, the VCSE sector more often has joint working and narrative as a first language, with varying degrees of fluency in quantitative data.

As an experienced broker of the outcomes conversation within and between the public and VCSE sectors, CENI recognises the gap created by these differences in sectoral cultures. By building understanding of outcomes within the sectors and by facilitating collaboration between the sectors CENI helps to populate the space with a deeper understanding of impact and build bridges, so that the indubitable benefits of outcomes based approaches are not lost in translation between the page and practice.

Brendan McDonnell

Director

Community Evaluation NI 

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