Understanding and evaluating the impact of online mentoring – what next?
Brightside Head of Programmes, Laura Gray, reflects on Brightside’s impact management journey to date and sets out plans for the future:
Impact is at the heart of everything we do. When we ask young people to spend their time on mentoring programmes, we should be confident that such programmes are effective and a good use of their valuable time.
We are proud of our approach to managing and measuring impact and we have big plans for the future.
What have we done so far?
- In 2015 we developed a Theory of Change and since autumn 2016 we have been using evaluation frameworks to assess how effectively our projects were meeting our desired outcomes.
- In 2018 we brought in the statisticians to have an independent evaluation of our impact and we were pleased with the results- but we didn’t stop there!
- In 2019 we developed a performance management approach that allows us to review our impact across the portfolio on a termly basis and helps us to identify high performing projects and those that need some tweaking. We set ourselves impact Key Performance Indicators for the first time to hold ourselves to account.
- We’ve developed a transparent and honest approach to impact management where we look at both what’s going well and what isn’t, to make sure there is a robust internal verification process on any data we publish.
- Importantly we have also embedded impact evaluation into project design and built a culture of continuous improvement to ensure we really are an impact-led organisation.
Where we are now?
Until now, we’ve never been able to look at the long term trajectories of young people on our programmes. This is a critical part of understanding the impact of online mentoring and this is why we joined the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) in October 2017 and worked with them to analyse the outcomes of all the young people that we’ve worked with since 2009.
The publication of the first set of results from HEAT is a huge milestone for Brightside. It’s also a big step forward in our understanding of mentoring and its effects – a notoriously difficult area to evaluate. What is mentoring? What is included in the definition and what is not? What is the impact? How do you evaluate the impact? And how do you isolate the impact of mentoring? This data set doesn’t provide all the answers, but it does take us one step further on this journey.
Next steps – 2020: The Year of Impact
We have bold ambitions for our impact approach and we are excited to announce that 2020 for Brightside will be “The Year of Impact”. We will continue to put impact at the heart of everything we do and will share our end of project impact outcomes and case studies throughout the year. In addition, we will be developing how we manage impact in a number of ways including:
- Building an impact management dashboard into our CRM database, to collate all of our impact data in one place and overhaul how our project team manage impact on our projects. We are grateful for the support of the Fidelity Foundation in this work.
- Expanding the analysis on our HEAT data to look at the types of institution our young people are accessing and if they are succeeding when they arrive.
- Keeping a close watch on how the impact of our projects changes as we roll out improvements in our technology, such as our new mentor matching tool that gives young people the power to choose their own mentor. We are currently piloting this on a project in Manchester and will be reviewing the effect on our impact data in a few months’ time.
We look forward to sharing more data, stories and insights over the coming months. If you would like to talk to us about any of our impact data or how online mentoring can support your activities, please do get in touch.